April 2009


On May 19th, at 19:00 in the Warsaw public library on Koszykowa street, we will have a special America Presents event with Rasma Karklins, Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois in Chicago and author of “The System Made Me Do It: Corruption in Post-Communist Societies.”  The volume was published in Polish by Sic! Publishers earlier this year under the State Department’s Books in Translation program.

We’ll have simultaneous translation into Polish, and the event is free and open to the public.  Zapraszamy!

Want to study in the U.S.?  Thinking of doing a graduate degree there — or supporting your doctorate with research — and looking for financial support?  Interested in learning more about the U.S. education system?  You’re in luck, because our friends over at the Fulbright Commission have recently launched a brand-new web page where you can learn more about all the programs administered by the Fulbright Commission as well as other information about studying in the U.S.  Check it out!

I had the good fortune to be in Zakopane, Poland April 20-23 for a national parks conference co-organized by Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, Tatra National Park Poland and the U.S. Consulate in Krakow.  We had perfect weather (as one can see from this picture on top of Kasprowy!).

Rocky, Tatra and US Consulate staff on Kasprowy

Rocky, Tatra and US Consulate staff on Kasprowy

The participants were there to hear about alternative energy in national parks.  People may not know that national parks in the U.S. and abroad are very interested in the idea of sustainable energy.  It makes sense if you think about it…parks are there to protect and teach about natural resources, so parks themselves should also be “green”.  (For more on sustainable energy and U.S. parks, please visit: http://www.nps.gov/climatefriendlyparks/)

The idea for the conference came from the ongoing sister parks relationship between Tatra and Rocky.  Five people from Tatra National Park went to visit U.S. national parks this fall.  They noticed that right now in the U.S., sustainability is a factor in all park decisions. Park visitor centers are designed to save energy, parks set up recycling facilities for visitors, and even souvenirs in the gift shops are made with recycled materials.  A popular idea in the U.S. is to minimize the number of cars in the parks through the use of free biofueled or hybrid shuttle buses for visitors.

The conference itself was packed with great presentations from both Rocky and Tatra park personnel.  Attendees came from parks all over Poland, from Tatra National Park Slovakia and five people came from Rocky Mountain, including the park director, Vaughn Baker.  Everyone’s favorite talk seemd to be the “toilet talk”;  in other words, how to provide environmentally-friendly toilet facilties in high altitude or inaccessible areas of parks.  Tatra talked about their use of solar panels in the park.  Rocky talked about their huge volunteer program: they have over 1,000 volunteers who work over 100,0000 hours annually. U.S. parks could not survive without volunteers, andTatra has now started their own volunteer program.

The conference opening was in the historic Witkacy theater in Zakopane, a gorgeous venue where we watched a beautiful documentary film called “America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie”  (http://www.lostlandscapefilm.com/lostland/).  Filmmaker David O’Shields was there to introduce his film.  Conference participants also enjoyed an evening of Polish song and theater at Witkacy on the second night of the conference.

The parks conference coincided with Earth Day (April 22) and National Parks Week in the U.S.  I came away with the realization that those people who work in parks are some of our best resources-both the Tatra and Rocky Mountain National Park staffs are devoted to protecting the parks for future generations!

We have a number of interesting webchats coming up.  Please note that all times local times in Poland.  You can join in from anywhere around the world, just as long as you have a computer connected to the internet.

1. Discussion of Obama’s first 100 days in office with Michelle Austein Brooks, the State Department’s blogger who has been covering the administration’s first steps. Thursday at 4:00 PM in Poland at https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/first100days

2. In honor of World Press Freedom Day, next week features timely discussions of the current status and future of  journalism.

W tym tygodniu gościliśmy w Warszawie 30 laureatów konkursu „Know America 2009” – uczniów  z całej Polski.  Przede wszystkim serdecznie gratulujemy zwycięzcom, jest to niemałe osiągnięcie: w tegorocznej edycji wzięło udział aż 700 osób!  Podczas 3-dniowej wizyty w Warszawie uczniowie odebrali dyplomy na uroczystym przyjęciu w rezydencji z rąk Ambasadora USA w Warszawie, Victora Ashe.  Tutaj można obejrzeć galerię zdjęć z wizyty.  W środe, 22 kwietnia, odwiedziliśmy American School of Warsaw w Konstancinie.  Uczniowie amerykańscy: Tony Schilling, Jeffrey Kuhns, Carmina O’Sullivan-Scimemi i Will Bixby oprowadzili laureatów po swojej szkole i zorganizowali dyskusję w grupach.  Podczas dyskusji polscy goście opowiadali Amerykanom o tym jak wygląda nauka w polskich szkołach i niestety… głównie narzekali.  Że nauczyciele prowadzą nudne lekcje, że w szkołach brakuje podstawowego wyposażenia, nie mówiąc już o takich luksusach jak np. basen czy korty tenisowe.  Kiedy Tony Schilling zapytał: „No dobrze, ale… czy jest coś pozytywnego co możecie powiedzieć o swojej szkole?” odpowiedź brzmiała: „Nothing!” 


Jak to: „nothing”?! 


A to że uczniowie z Polski wyprzedzają Amerykanów w takich dziedzinach jak matematyka, chemia czy fizyka?  A to, że często mówią płynnie nie tylko po angielsku, ale również po francusku czy niemiecku już w liceum?  A co ze znajomością historii, geografii i literatury?  Wiadomo, że American School of Warsaw robi na wszyskich ogromne wrażenie, ale trzeba pamiętać, że jest szkołą prywatną, bardzo drogą i absolutnie WYJĄTKOWĄ! Nie wszystkie szkoły w USA tak wyglądają…  Przyznaję że w amerykańskich szkołach kładzie się większy nacisk na rozwój kreatywności i pewności siebie wśród uczniów, a u nas nadal „nauczyciel wie zawsze najlepiej.” 


Czy polskie szkoły naprawde są takie straszne?  Zapraszam do dyskusji!


Laureaci konkursu "Know America" podczas zwiedzania American School of Warsaw



Six teams of high school students met at the American Corner in Wroclaw to compete in the second annual U.S. Challenge contest.   The students  answered questions in seven categories: famous people, geography, history, film, literature, music and American landmarks.   The contest prepared by American Corner in cooperation with Information Resource Center in Krakow revealed students’ impressive knowledge of the United States.  

Please take a look at a short video material from the contest.   As the U.S. Challenge  is an annual event, we hope to see you there next year. 

How do learn about American culture?  If you’re like most people around the world, it’s through American TV shows and movies.  The State Department would like to offer you different glimpse at American life through film courtesy of the American Documentary Showcase.  This is a touring program of prestigious contemporary U.S. documentaries and filmmakers that give a unique glimpse into parts of American society. 

Join us on Friday, April 24 at Kino Rejs (Krakowskie Przedmiescie 21 ) to see four documentaries and meet three of their creators.   
17:00 – “Empowering the Yard” (11min)
           “One Bridge to the Next” (27 min)
18:00 – “Made in LA” (70 min)
20:00 – “Street Fight” (83 min)


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