Hobsian team meeting in Varstu, Estonia

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On the 17th and 18th of August, teachers from Estonian schools and kindergartens met in Varstu, in southern Estonia for a national meeting on Hob’s adventure. As it was a beautiful sunny day, the teachers focused on physical activities and learning by doing, both in theory and in practice. They used the opportunity to develop new lesson plans and hone old ones in the wild, where most of them would be put to practice. This proved to be a fruitful strategy as the teachers made good progress and seemed to be genuinely inspired. Our experience demonstrates an important facet of this method – people tend to work better when they combine physical exercise with mental work.

Another important goal was to further develop a sense of cooperation and teamwork. So in between meetings and educational hikes, teachers got to play disc golf, a relaxing physical activity. We want to achieve a future for our children where they grow up in an environment that is cooperative and supporting, and this often requires practicing doing competitive activities in a friendly and nurturing setting. While our teachers clearly didn’t have problems with cooperation, everyone seemed to have a good time putting this idea into practice during the game.

During the sit-downs, we took stock of progress on project goals, seeing which lesson plans cover which topics and aims, and which require additional lesson plans or amendments to existing drafts. We were surprised to find that most goals were already covered in one way or another, and very few changes have to be made. This allows for a more free and creative approach in the months ahead.

In the same vein, we discussed the two projects that were not finished in Iceland: one on photosynthesis and another on insects and plants. Teachers came up with new ideas for these lesson plans, including games such as the “photosynthesis incantation”, which goes something like this:

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Slurp water from earth,

suck gasses from air,

feed using the sun!

Give us back lifegiving air,

green leaves to eat and share,

lest the Earth ends up bare!  

Due to the fact that the project is nearing the national and international lesson plan testing phase, we went over the planned schedule once again. There will be several rounds of testing. First, a national testing phase with a deadline on the 12th of September. Then an international testing phase concluding on the 4th of October. The question of distributing lesson plans for testing was raised. We decided to allow teachers to pick some of each other’s lesson plans to test. It was interesting and useful to see which lesson plans were chosen and why, as it gave an indication on which ones are going to be universally applicable and considered innovative by teachers themselves. There was so much enthusiasm, some teachers wanted to do preliminary testing immediately.

This is a run-up to perhaps the most interesting transnational meeting coming up in Slovenia, where we finally get to discuss all the lesson plans and make a preliminary selection for the handbook of all the different ideas and resulting lesson plans we’ve been working for over a year to compile.

 

Between volcanoes and barren lupine fields; HOB’s Adventure advances in Iceland

The project’s second transnational session took place from June 10 to 14 in Iceland. With the main goal of the session being testing and working further on lesson plans, the programme was carefully planned to also incorporate visits to several participating educational institutions and activities showing the idiosyncrasies of Icelandic nature.

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The session opened with all participants meeting and warming up for an activity-filled four days. While teachers were given some time to relearn each other’s names and catch up, the project team held a meeting where several key topics were discussed, such as publicity, the status of lesson plans for each national team and assessment procedures, among others.

The agenda for the next four days involved visits to three preschools and a primary school each in a different environmental setting. During which project participants were introduced to each school’s methodology and activities they have already tried out for the HOBs project. For instance, at Tjarnarsel Preschool, located in the industrial town of Keflavik, children are comparatively less familiar with growing their own food products than those who live in more agricultural areas. Accordingly, children at Tjarnarsel grow vegetables, greens and wild strawberries and learn more thoroughly about the life cycles and the variety of some of the most common produce.

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Pupils at Þjórsárskóli Primary School focus more on biodiversity and sustainability issues pertinent to the whole island, such as reforestation. At Arkasel Preschool children practically live in the local park – such is the amount of time they spend outdoors! This is an inspiration to many teachers who often have to deal with a lot of resistance regarding outdoor learning from both their colleagues and parents. Skýjaborg Preschool, in turn, showed beautiful examples of teaching about biodiversity through art and further showcased their work and ideas on sustainability to the whole community.

Since preschools are still running in June, the participants had the chance to observe first-hand outdoor activities and play-based learning, which is essential in Icelandic education for preschool age groups. Continuous positive feedback from teachers prove visits at local schools and preschools to be truly worthwhile; not only do they provide ideas for different educational approaches and practical solutions for various social, material and environmental issues schools might be facing, these visits also give a clearer perspective of the topics that need to be addressed the most and the level of adaptability the lesson plans must have.

Activities on the third day were focussed mainly on trials and detailed assessment of lesson plans from each country. During the 30-minute lessons the participants took on various roles and then analysed their impressions in mixed groups. The assessment involved noting the positive aspects of the lesson plans, possible add-ons/alterations and compliance to the frame and goals of the project, as well as outlining potential difficulties other teachers feel they would have to tackle. These discussions helped to further develop existing ideas and sparked new ones whilst clearing some practicalities that need to be taken into account to ensure the applicability and novelty of the final material.

The last day kicked off with more educational games as the Estonian team introduced teachers to the new material they had created. The activities provided some ideas on how the material can be used to teach children about the most common potted plants. All teams then engaged in further discussions on both new, jointly developed ideas for lesson plans and the commitments in the following steps - rounding up, implementation and evaluation.

With the number of trips from one place to another (and rather astonishing luck with the weather!) we had a wonderful chance to see a variety of Icelandic scenery. Crossing two Ts with one stroke of pen, our photo-stops and short walks provided much needed outdoor refreshment and highlighted some important biodiversity-related topics such as invasive species and the multi-levelled role of forests in a country’s landscape. Similarly, the visit at the Hespa natural wool-dyeing workshop was a surprising treat not just for those handy with knitting pins but anyone looking for more creative takes on education about biodiversity / use of plants in our daily life.

While most of us are enjoying a break from work during the summer, we are looking forward to the next transnational meeting in Slovenia in October when two rounds of lesson tests will be already done and we will continue to improve the ideas to turn them into the final material.

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»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