School readiness in forest kindergartens
Programme: „Erasmus+“, KA2 – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practice, KA201 – Strategic Partnership for School Education
Project No. 2020-1-SK01-KA201-078364
Partner countries: Slovakia, Spain, Romania, Lithuania
Start of the project: 2020-12-31
End of the project: 2022-12-30*
Project duration: 24 months
*Due to covid pandemic the project is extended to 2023-08-31
Forest Kindergarten (FKG) is an educational institution in which children are encouraged to learn outdoors all year round, in a safe and stimulating natural environment. The concept, although supported by science behind it, is relatively new in some countries. Therefore, the educational system does not yet see the need for development of educational tools and methodologies applicable in an outdoor environment. These deficiencies, unfortunately, may be reflected in the worsened quality of children’s school readiness.
Priority of this project is therefore to address and improve professional development of outdoors educators working with preschool aged children. Project involves FKG teachers – employees of 4 partners (Slovakia, Spain, Lithuania and Romania) and one associated partner (private kindergarten included in the state school system in Slovakia).
Besides sharing best practice among partners, the core of the project rests in educational blocks covering 5 main areas of children competences (cognitive, emotional, social, learning and psychomotor competences). The educational activities are aimed to provide participants with profound theoretical and practical knowledge of the topic and give them specific tools to be used when supporting development of given competences in an outdoor education.
The project also contains activities to promote the exchange of experience and good practice.
The expected results of the project can be characterized in several points:
- Results and outcomes directly connected with increased quality education and indirectly with children (better quality of outdoor preschool education, innovative approaches for more attractive preschool education programmes, better preparation and on fluent consecutiveness to basic education and prevention of later learning difficulties, better understanding of interconnections between formal and non-formal education).
- Results and outcomes connected with pedagogues (professional development, increased motivation and satisfaction in daily pedagogues` work, international experience, reflection and inspiration from education methodology).
- Results and outcomes connected to participating organizations (exchanged experiences regarding preschool education in direct contact with nature, new experience in international cooperation, strategic planning of professional development for staff in line with individual needs and organization’s objectives, a more dynamic, committed and professional environment inside the organization: ready to integrate good practices into daily activities).
As for the expected impact, the project plans to reach following groups:
– Direct impact on the participants – teachers (trainings have improved quality of knowledge of teachers in outdoor education of preschool aged children, experiential learning, workshops and job shadowing allowed teachers to gain skills in using specific methods and tools in outdoor education of preschool aged children, discussions and sharing of best practices expanded the range of options usable in FKG).
– Direct impact on participating organizations and their employees (international project will reinforce cooperation with partners from other countries, strengthen leadership, management and soft skills of participants, cooperation between different european regions will enhance understanding and responsiveness to social, ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity, educational materials can be used within the organizations to train and educate their employees who did not participate in the project).
– Indirect impact on preschool aged children (last but not least through improved quality of knowledge and skills of teachers, preschool children will be impacted indirectly, which will consequently improve the quality of their school readiness).
Thanks to this project, teachers will strengthen the profile of their outdoor teaching profession through an active understanding and implementation of knowledge, skills and attitudes in experiential learning. Also, the main tangible output in this project is the textbook (educational material) with specific recommendations for each area of development, useful in FKG and also in (non-forest) kindergartens as a complementary methodological material for teaching in nature. The textbook will be a joint output for all partner organizations. This material will be disseminated across several channels, will be accessible to the wide public, sent to Universities with preschool education programs, shared between educational providers and used in any outdoor education, including homeschooling.
Desirably, the project will help to open, mediate and reinforce international cooperation among FKG from different countries and the initiative behind it will rise more questions about the needs of teachers in outdoor education of preschool aged children and there will be open discussion on an European level on how to (legally) frame this group and support its needs.
Structure of the project
During the project there will be five learning, teaching, training activities in Romania, Spain, Lithuania and twice in Slovakia. Each meeting will take three days and will have a different topic. In order to cover the topic better an expert of a particular topic will be hired during each training. At the end of the project there will be a textbook published of the expert’s material of all five topics.
LTT activity in Lithuania
The very first Learning, teaching, training activity was held in Vilnius, Lithuania, at Lauko darželis in November 2021. Seven educators from three different partner countries visited our kindergarten and shared their best practices. Our training topic was “Tools and methods to support development of psychomotor competencies in preschool aged children in outdoor education”. During the training our team has shared our best practices on this topic as well as we have hired an expert a PhD Associate Professor Department of Physical and Social Education Lithuanian Sport University Rita Gruodytė – Račienė.
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