Estonian team meeting in Pärnu, Estonia

On the 18th of April, the Estonian team met again in Pärnu, at Pärnu Kesklinna kindergarten. There, Meeli and Merike first introduced us to their workplace. It was nice to see that each group had their own little shed, where they kept toys and tools for playing as it allows children to enjoy playing and learning outdoors in any weather. The yard area was very biodiverse, with all plant mapped and labelled in both Estonian and Latin.

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After the tour of the kindergarten, we sat down and shared our experiences with the activities and plans we have carried out so far. For example, Krista introduced to us the game she made herself, which we proceeded to play together. As we were in a different kindergarten, we used four pictures of potted plants instead of potted plants themselves and everyone was told to pull an item from a basket. The item could be a picture, a characteristic attribute of a plant or a plant name, and then the task was to bring it to the right picture of the potted plant. At the end of the game, we checked the answers ― this game is well suited for ending a lesson to ensure information retention. Before we left the kindergarten, Meeli and Merike had also prepared a small orienteering game in their own yard area, which was great fun.


After our lunch break, we headed to Pärnu Kuningatänava Basic School, where we also heard a little bit about the history of the school and then gathered in a classroom to continue our team meeting. The meeting was started by Kadi Hirv, who introduced us to tools that can make a Power Point presentation more exciting and also how to make games with it. Karin introduced Globisense Labdisc, an environmental data collector that can be used both in natural and urban environments. For example, environmental data collector can be used to measure distances, relative humidity, surface temperature, outside temperature, sound level, etc.

At the end of the session, we continued to experience share, and formed a group of teachers and kindergarten teachers to make two lesson plans together, which we can use in our daily work.

Hob’s adventure underway in Latvian winter

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February in Hob's adventure started with the first meeting of all project participants in Latvia.

The first international session for teachers and the second meeting for the project team took place from the 4th until the 9th of February in Riga, Sigulda and Valmiera and was aimed at getting to know each other and the central pieces of the project – potted plants, digital skills, biodiversity and outdoor learning.

More than 40 participants form Slovenia, Latvia, Iceland and Estonia started the session in Riga and took the train to Sigulda on the next day. Sigulda was chosen as a destination because of its deep connections to nature conservation – the first national park in the Baltic countries was founded here. It still attracts many visitors and the national Nature conservation agency is there as well.

The first two days were spent working together on lesson ideas with potted plants and integrating digital skills to outdoor learning. There was a visit to local pre-school “Ievina” and a chance to explore ideas for learning 21st century skills with the a local teacher Imants Kukuls, who is also an environmental scientist with a PhD. There was also a chance to use Sigulda’s natural charms as a source for inspiration for lesson plans. After some discussions, a basic concept for the project logo was also chosen.

After Sigulda, the participants had a chance to spend some time in Valmiera, visiting “Zaļā skola” (or Green

School in translation). The private school gave insights to some ideas that can be achieved with less

restrictions – both in the learning process and the surrounding environment.

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The final day of the meeting was spent in Riga, visiting the School of natural sciences and learning

creative ideas to integrate biology in games for the younger children. All photo materials with Latin names are freely available here.

The final session of the meeting took place in the Natural history museum, where all the ideas were summarized in national teams to present for others and schools staying at home. Project members can find these ideas on our Facebook page.

Setting a rather high bar for the amount of snow during a meeting, we look forward to transnational events coming up in Iceland and Slovenia. Until then, the project team and participating teachers will be working testing methods in their schools and kindergartens and discussing them during national meetings.

Contributors: Edmunds Cepurītis, Martin Aher

Project meeting in Slovenia

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On the 15th of January 2019, teachers and project team members from Slovenia met in Ljubljana at our first meeting.

In the first part of the meeting mag. Gregor Cerar, the national coordinator of Eco-schools in Slovenia, presented the project to all participants. As we are already doing a great deal on the subject of biodiversity in the Eco-schools programme, some of the teachers have also presented examples of good practises and shared their experiences.

In the second part of our afternoon workshop, we visited The Botanical garden nearby, where we had a guided tour.

The University Botanic Garden in Ljubljana has existed since 1810. It's comprised of 10 thematic units: Arboretum, Plant system, Ecological groups, Ecogeographic groups, Greenhouse, Tropical glasshouse, Mediterranean plants, Thematic garden and Cultivation section.

They also possess their own seed bank. Seeds of garden plants are collected for their own needs and also for exchange with other botanical gardens.

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As our project gravitates around plants – especially around potted plants, we had a tour of the garden, we talked about Meditteranean plants and we also visited Tropical glasshouse. We received some usefull tips of how to use plants in our classrooms or in the school garden as a teaching aid.

Here are just some of the usefull activities that we talked about:

-          Plant detectives: we can prepare a worksheet for each pupil that has a map of the garden with marked research stations. In small groups they walk around and try to solve different tasks: observe and smell the plants (like herbs), stick leaves, do some experiments, draw,…

-          We can bring Carnivorous plants in the classroom and we can learn about them – which conditions do they need for growth in nature, do they grow in Slovenia, what do they eat, we can observe them with magnifiers and then made some models from clay.

-          We talked about which plants are suitable for classroom growth and which are not.

-          We also received some usefull ideas about plants reproduction in classroom, etc.

 It was a very lovely and sunny day and we were all satisfied with the presentation and the tour around the Garden. We received some great ideas that we can use in our work.

We're looking forward to our next meting in March.

 Contributors: Gregor Cerar, Jasmina Mlakar

 

Bug hotels and other ideas for exploring biodiversity

Towards the end of 2018, teachers and team members from Latvia gathered in Ligatne in order to share and compile creative ideas on how to increase children’s interest in nature.

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The two-day programme included discussions held by experts who provided valuable insights and methods to familiarize children with biodiversity and our natural resources. Among other subjects were examples of environmental education in other countries and the benefits of nature studies in improving children’s mental health and learning skills, as well as promoting engagement of the young in environmental activism later in life.

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Construction of insect hotels in school premises is becoming more and more popular as an educational activity on biodiversity. One of the participating experts, Voldemars Spungis, a well-known Latvian entomologist, encouraged the teachers to adopt a more critical approach to methods used for these constructions. Most of the hotels and the materials used to build them bear very little resemblance to conditions of insects’ natural habitat. People tend to stack various dry materials such as brick, hay, dry wood and even plastic materials, often creating a fairly interesting and aesthetic environmental feature. However, in reality only spiders and ants at best would find these homely enough. Spungis stressed that the planning should follow examples found in nature: the best materials would be fallen trees or branches, holes in wood, reeds and hard rocks, while the layout should provide conditions of various levels of humidity. His insights helped teachers to learn more efficient and science-based methods for exploration and conservation of biodiversity.

In addition to the educational experience, the meeting was also a good networking opportunity for the participants, and we look forward to extending it at the international meeting which will take place in February.

Contributor: Ilze Rušmane

Project meeting in a zero-net-energy building

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We had a project meeting in Rakvere Rohuaia kindergarten on the 11th of January 2019. Their building is zero-net-energy, which means that they produce at least as much energy as they consume. We were positively surprised. This smart house knows when to turn on the lights, when to air the rooms, when to switch on the heating, and much more. The atmosphere is compounded by the whole staff caring a great deal about nature. They seem to be finding many different ways to recycle, reuse, re..., re...., re...

It’s amazing!

We could admire the colourful fairyland that Monika had created for her 3-4-year-old children. Joyful, well-planned, and perfectly designed corners of the playroom enticed children to join various activities. These kids are very lucky!

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We were lucky too, as we could do some project work in that wonderland. Working there was great, the hall is noise suppressing as they have attached soft plates onto the walls and ceiling, so discussion never grew unpleasantly loud. Furthermore, the rooms are fitted with carbon dioxide sensors, so that the buildings knows when to air the rooms for optimal freshness.

As the result of the brainstorming session, we managed to name 40 activities that pupils like and which make them happy. We also discussed various teaching methods to achive our aims. We decided to make a Google Drive document of the list of applications that everyone can contribute to.

We also received homework: coming up with specific lesson ideas for the next meeting.

Contributors: Katrin Kurvits, Sirje Aher, Martin Aher

Potted plant ideas

Substantive work is on the way. On the 29th of November 2018, teachers and project team members from Estonia met in University of Tartu Botanical Gardens. As Hob’s adventure gravitates around potted plants, gardener Kristine Fenske gave a tour of the gardens, showing different tropical plants that could be grown in classrooms and used as teaching materials.

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Not all plants are suitable to be grown in classrooms and near children. Kristine first showed plants that ought not to be used in classrooms. These include poisonous plants such as euphorbias such as poinsettias (popular around christmas time), dieffenbachia and clivia. The latter are phototoxic, i.e., their juice together with sunlight causes burns on human skin.

Some plants just grow too large to be suitable for classrooms. These include palm trees, Monstera. And other plants have large thorns that could be dangerous, these include cactai. Curiously, she was more worried about cactai with small, difficult to notice thorns, as these often become airborne or stuck in skin, causing infections and irritations. And some plants merely spread a large quantity of spores which might irritate people with allergies or just cause trouble for cleaners. These include some popular ferns.

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She recommended several species suitable as potted plants in classrooms. One of the more interesting suggestions was water moss, or Salvinia which grows in water. These can be planted in aquariums in such a way that children can observe all parts of the plant, including its roots that would be hidden away with a standard potted plant. Another suitable species, water lettuce or Pistia, can be problematic weeds in tropical climates, causing bodies of water to fill up, which allows teachers to explain interesting environmental issues.

She recommended trying to grow pineapples and avocadoes. Both can be first consumed and then planted. This link shows how one can take a store-bought pineapple, plant a leaf and expect it to grow in a classroom setting. Similarly, an avocado seed can be planted as a potted plant.

Kristine recommended that each class would draw up a schedule for watering and fertilizing plants by species. Each plant requires a slightly different watering and fertilization schedule, and overwatering or underwatering can be lethal to a plant. Children might want to share the duty of watering the plant properly.

The next meeting will take place in January, and we’re looking forward to the transnational meeting in Sigulda in February.

Hob's adventure is under way

The first transnational project meeting of the Erasmus+ project Hob‘s Adventure was held from 15th to 19th of October 2018 in Tallinn, Estonia. Project partners traveled from Iceland, Slovenia and Latvia to attend the meeting, which was hosted by the two Estonian partners NPO HARED, Center for Training and Development, and Lehola Environmental Education Centre. All in all, there were 12 project partners in attendance.

The first day was dedicated to getting to know each other and then diving right into the project tasks and roles. Sirje, Georg and Martin Aher from HARED facilitated the meeting beautifully, and ensured the group also got to take in the inspirational new indoor and outdoor facilities of Lehola EEC in Pirita Kose kindergarten with our hosts Mairi Enok and Kadri Ott.

In addition to the 12 project partners, many kindergarten and primary school teachers from Estonia that will participate in the project attended part of the meeting to share their experiences working with environmental education. Partners from abroad got to ask questions about how they are working with the Eco-Schools framework in Estonia and how each school uses their unique approach to nature-based learning and environmental goals for their school.

The group also got the great privilege of visiting two secondary schools in and near Tallinn to experience those schools and their school cultures firsthand. Both were large, urban schools for children aged 7-18.

The project partners were impressed with how they emphasised movement and health as part of their environmental projects in addition to ambitious goals for recycling, eco-friendly transportation, and using nature as a learning tool as well as a learning goal. We even got to take part in a dance break.

The team surmised that the teachers and schools have already incorporated hands-on learning methods, digital tools and physical activities in their daily routines. This will provide for an excellent stepping stone for our project, allowing us to build on past successes and connect trailblazers from different institutions and countries.

Finally, the project team ended the meeting at Lehola‘s Mustamäe location to finalise project business as well as learn how kindergartens and schools utilise bots for engaging pupils in learning about biodiversity and nature.

After a fantastic three days of meeting, the group said good-bye to each other until the next transnational meeting in February 2019 in Latvia.