»Learning in nature and with nature« - the third Hob's Adventure national meeting in Slovenia

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From the 30th of May until the 1st of June, 2019, the first Eco-Schools programme coordinator camp was held in Slovenia. It was attended by 80 coordinators from kindergartens, primary and secondary schools.

On Friday, May 31st, we combined the camp with the 3rd Hob's adventure national meeting. It was attended by 24 participants from 14 participating institutions.

The meeting took place on Pohorje, one of the mountains in the northeast part of Slovenia at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level.

Pohorje is very popular with tourists, offering a lot of possibilities for recreation (hiking, skiinig, mountain biking and much more). It is one of the most untouched areas of Slovenia and Central Europe. It is the only silicate mountain in Slovenia and is important for its geomorphological, hydrological, biological and cultural landscape.

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One of the most important routes on Pohorje is Rozka's forest learning path, which we walked along with forester. Running three kilometres, with 17 marked stations, it allows one to learn about the Pohorje forest, it's growth and development.

The highest point of the forest learning path is the tower Razglednik at 1147 m above sea level, revealing a wonderful view of the valley below.

At the end of the path, we got acquainted with some games based on forest pedagogy. Participants were delighted to test themselves in games that we can easily integrate into everyday teaching and learning process. Through these games, students can in a fun way approach nature, recognize their own feelings and respond to them. Participants learned from a forestry professional how to promote childrens curiosity, creativity and competence in matters related to the forest.

 In the afternoon, the participants presented their examples of lesson plans. Again, we received many interesting ideas that we can use in our work.

We concluded the meeting with a pleasant walk to the waterfall. On the impermeable rocky base of Pohorje, the most common surface water network in Slovenia was formed. There are unique marshes, lakes and waterfalls. One of these waterfalls is Skalca, 14 m high, which was very watery due to previous heavy rainfall.

It was a very pleasant day, full of new ideas and sharing experiences. We are all looking forward to the next meeting.

 contributors: Gregor Cerar, Jasmina Mlakar

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Hob's adventure for everyone – National meeting in Latvia

In the last week of February, a significant part of Latvia's Eco-Schools sent their representatives to the Annual Eco-School Winter Forum. With more than 200 participants, it is one of the largest environmental education events in the country.

Hob's adventure for everyone – while only 11 schools officially participate, others can gain a great deal from project activities

Hob's adventure for everyone – while only 11 schools officially participate, others can gain a great deal from project activities

During the second day of the meeting some of the teachers attended the Hob's adventure workshop during which the main goals of the project were presented along with the project timeline. The workshop also mentioned the opportunities for schools that are not participants of the project.

 It was followed by short presentations from project participants during which others could explore their approaches to connecting technologies and nature education.

A lot of insect hotels have a dramatic lack of customers due to their extremely poor architecture. A famous entomologist V. Spungis tells the science based approaches to designing insect hotels.

A lot of insect hotels have a dramatic lack of customers due to their extremely poor architecture. A famous entomologist V. Spungis tells the science based approaches to designing insect hotels.

A simple task of taking group pictures outdoors at specific locations (connected to tasks) followed by some ideas how to integrate communication technologies into lesson plans. Each of the participant schools also received a Bee-bot educational robot to help integrate 21st century skills into environmental education.

 There was also another open workshop connected to the project goals – a presentation by recognized entomologist about the most common mistakes when designing insect hotels. A science-based materials for best designs were distributed to all participants.

 With some participants traveling more than 300 km and back to attend integrating the “Hob's adventure” workshop in a larger event so that was a decision many project participants appreciated.

Contributor: Edmunds Cepuritis

National meeting in Iceland, March 5, 2019

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Participants from Iceland got together online for a national training session to discuss the project, our progress and next steps. Many of the schools are well underway in creating and testing their Hob‘s activities. The teachers expressed how important it is to be creative and innovative within the parameters of the project, and to let interest, both the teachers‘ and the students‘, guide the development of the activities.

Many of the activities focus on cultivation, indoors and out, and let students learn from firsthand experience what plants need to grow. One theme that these activities share is linking cultivation to sustainable lifestyles. One interesting point of discussion that arose is the role of conservation of native species versus cultivation of imported species for consumption or other purposes. This will be an important theme to include in the lessons and in discussions with students.

Drafts of activities from all the participating Icelandic schools were submitted after the national meeting to receive feedback from Landvernd. The Icelandic Hob‘s participants are looking forward to hosting the next transnational meeting in Iceland in June and to testing out activities from other countries in our schools.

Contributor: Caitlin Wilson

Second Hob's Adventure training session in Slovenia, primary school Domžale

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On April 9th, the Slovenian Hob's team had a second meeting/workshop. This time we met at the primary school Domžale, the branch school Ihan. 30 participants from 17 kindergartens and primary schools took part in the workshop.

Our meeting was made up of two parts. In the first part, the participants were active outside. They were divided into small groups. A path was prepared, where QR codes were utilized to solve the tasks. All tasks were related to biodiversity around the school. They were learning about different flowers, trees and small animals such as ants, worms, etc. A worksheet was prepared and they had to solve it. The participants also had to take photographs of their tasks and show them to others later.

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Through this activity they have learned how to use digital technology and how to bring nature closer to students. With the use of digital technology we can motivate students to learn and it is a fact that they prefer this kind of learning. They learn outside, they are physically active and, in addition, are using digital technology.

In spite of rainy weather, the participants enjoyed and had a lot of fun. They have learned how to use QR codes and also how to create them.

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In the second part of the meeting, the participants already presented their first examples of lesson plans. We have seen a lot of interesting examples, so everyone could find some idea, which could be transferred to their everyday work/activities in kindergartens/schools.

We all shared the same opinion that it is very important that pupils are as active as possible so that they can learn best and gain more experience.

At the end of our meeting, we split up thinking positive thoughts, convinced that we are doing well for our students.

Contributors: Gregor Cerar, Jasmina Mlakar

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