General description of the project and its objectives.


Project title: Back to Nature – Developing an experiential, nature-close innovative pedagogy for primary schools
Project start date: 01-10-2016
Project end date: 30-09-2018
Project total duration: 24 months

Actions taken as consequence of the globalisation process have significant impacts to our daily lives. We are all witnesses of huge and rapid changes which are taking place mainly in our natural environment but also a number of society and technology-related advances have direct or indirect impact to the way we live. Adapting to these changes is not always a simple task and goes in hand with long-term and highly effective cooperation of professionals active in the fields of both natural and social sciences and committed to find answers to all questions affecting future societies. In order to be able to understand the interlinkage between different types of natural phenomena, a wide variety of methods and approaches applied in the different field of knowledge should be merged allowing the combination of indoor and outdoor learning activities.
Our aim is to establish a new cooperation mechanism in Europe where primary school children should be motivated to learn while acquiring key competences through applying those methodologies used in sustainability and environmental education.
The last decade (from 2005 to 2014) was declared by the United Nations as “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” meaning that 10 long years have been devoted to reach the objective of integrating sustainability principles into all forms and levels of education. Due to the above, our educational systems are based on a central school curricula defined by central governments in order to foster the acquisition of the eight key competences; this idea was previously suggested by PISA in 2000 where a global competency assessment had been carried out among 15-year old pupils with the aim of evaluating their reading and writing skills. In 2003, specific assessment was carried out focussing on mathematics and later in 2006, on natural sciences. PISA consists in a series of questions intending to assess pupils’ skills and knowledge from a multidisciplinary approach (i.e. they are not categorised by classic school subject) meaning that pupils should obtain key competences through carrying out a wide range of learning activities. Considering the fact that the results of PISA had been quite disappointing, re-organisation of educational systems and introduction of new learning perspectives fostering the separation of the terms “intelligence” and “competences” seemed to be more than justified. Therefore, significant efforts have been made to foster inquiry-based learning. In parallel, effort has been made by central governments to establish a new educational system supporting younger generations in the acquisition of skills and competences needed for being able to correspond to the ever-changing social, environmental, economic and laboral challenges and requirements as they become adults. Moreover, there was an increasing need to rethink formal teaching and learning practices since global processes also had significant impacts on new generations: they need new motivations to learn, they have new interests and preferences, they need more personalised learning opportunities and also there are children facing significant difficulties when trying to integrate into school life.
To deal with the above challenges, experiential learning pathways should be fostered and new methodologies are needed to ensure successful learning for each pupil and demotivating factors should be always avoided.
Throughout the project, we aim at fostering the acquisition of key competences through experiential learning in order to ensure that pupils obtain knowledge applicable to the varied contexts of everyday life. We also will pay special attention to the fact that competences should be transferable – meaning that they are applicable not only in one particular situation but in many other situations and contexts.
In the frame of the project, we intend to develop an innovative and flexible experiential pedagogy based on principles of environmental education and applicable in a transnational context which fosters the acquisition of key competences through a multidisciplinary approach, meaning that both pupils and teachers will be able to see the interlinkage between different educational fields through environmental educational elements. This objective is line with the EU’s 2006/962/EC “Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council 18 December on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning” and the “Education for Sustainable Development” strategy set by UNECE and UNESCO.

The project’s main objective is to elaborate, test and gradually implement a new experiential, nature-close pedagogy in participating primary educational instutitions with the aim of improving pupils basic and transversal competences.

Environmental educational elements will be integrated in schools daily teaching practices through a multidisciplinary approach where pupils aged between 9 and 11 will be able to understand interlinkage between different educational fields: i) natural and ii) social sciences, iii) arts, iv) IT and technology.

Our aim is to establish a new cooperation mechanism in Europe where primary school children should be motivated to learn while acquiring key competences through applying those methodologies used in sustainability and environmental education.

In the frame of the project, we intend to develop an innovative and flexible experiential pedagogy based on principles of environmental education and applicable in a transnational context which fosters the acquisition of key competences through a multidisciplinary approach, meaning that both pupils and teachers will be able to see the interlinkage between different educational fields through environmental educational elements.

– The main aim of the project is to provide primary schools (formal educational systems) with innovative tools for improving pupils’ key competences through applying experiential, nature-close pedagogies in a formal educational setting

– The innovative pedagogy will be completely flexible and compatible with national school curricula allowing to teachers to integrate experiential elements into school subjects whether in form of indoor or outdoor learning activities

– In implementing experiential, nature-based activities into classic school subjects we also intend to help pupils to understand the interlinkage between different fields of knowledge (e.g. natural and social sciences)

– Since the innovative Back to Nature pedagogy will be designed to be interactive, inspiring and entertaining for children we also intend, in an indirect manner to motivate them to learn contributing thus to the EU’s objective to reduce the rate of early school leavers

Activities:

• Elaboration of review analysis on current practices of experiential learning for improving the above-listed key competences of primary school children aged from 9 to 11
• Development of the experiential, nature-close innovative pedagogy for primary schools
• Implementation of the designed pedagogy with testing purposes. This activity includes the following two training, teaching and learning events:

C1: Five-day joint staff training event in Hungary in order to prepare teachers from participating schools on the new environmental, experiential pedagogy
C2: Five-day international summer school for children from the involved primary schools to foster both joint learning activities implemented in accordance with the elaborated methodology and the interaction between children from different countries

•Project closing conference in Hungary

As a result of the planned activities, we foresee reaching the below results:

– Relevant stakeholders (including policy makers, educational institutions, teacher training organisations and other organisations active in the field of environmental education, among others) have a clear understanding and are aware on current practices and challenges in terms of experiential learning applied through environmental education and/or a nature-close approach from the perspective of the acquisition of key competences
– An innovative, flexible and easily adaptable experiential, nature-close environmental educational pedagogy is developed for primary school teachers involved in study programmes addressing pupils aged between 9 and 11 with the objective of providing a new result-oriented and highly effective pedagogical approach to improve primary school children key competences
– Teachers from each partner school are equipped with all necessary skills and knowledge to be able to apply the newly developed experiential, nature-close pedagogy in their daily teaching practices (at least one teacher per educational field: natural and social sciences, arts, technical studies and IT.)
– Participating pupils with improved key competences with special focus on intercultural and foreign language skills through offering them a unique opportunity to interact, discuss, share experiences and implement learning activities together with their peers with different cultural and/or social backgrounds
– Serving as a showcase project and laying down foundations for new cooperation opportunities in the field allowing us to extend the project and its impacts to other countries on the long term

We intend to reach the following long-term impacts at regional, national and European levels:

– Improved international cooperation and exchange of best practices in the field of environmental education and experiential learning among educational institutions and other organisations
– Primary school teachers equipped with new skills and knowledge in the field of environmental education and able to design interactive, inspiring and entertaining indoor and outdoor learning activities where children will be able to new skills and knowledge while understanding interlinkage between the different school subjects and our “real world
– Stakeholders (mainly primary schools) aware on the new environmental, experiential pedagogy reach thanks to well-targeted promotional activities
– Back to Nature recognised as a showcase and schools from other countries motivated to use, adapt and/or modify our learning activities
– New cooperation opportunities for extending the project identified and exploited
– Relevant policy makers aware on the importance of taking measures for promoting environmental education and flexible learning pathways in primary schools from a multidisciplinary perspective