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.
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.
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.