When the Commission on Education of Union of Baltic Cities (UBC) held its annual meeting in April 2009 in Tallinn, representatives from different nature schools participated and presented their work. After that it was decided that we should create a formal network of nature schools with the aim to develop new strategies and new material for the pedagogical methods to be used in outdoor and natural sciences teaching in Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
The partners are:
Uppsala University, Erken laboratory, Sweden
Norrtälje Nature Conservation Foundation, Sweden
Riga Nature School, Latvia
Pärnu Nature House (LOTEH), Estonia
Nömme Nature House, Estonia
Nature School of Panevezys, Lithuania
This network was established and has been funded by Nordplus Horizontal 2010-2012 and the network has accomplished:
• Three courses on the themes:
− Outdoor teaching
− Humans and nature, where nature is represented by 3 different biotopes – i) water, ii) forest and iii) acre land
− Pedagogies in teaching climatic effects
Three pedagogical handbooks (PDF in english at www.farsnanaturcentrum.se)
• Two class exchanges (Sweden-Estonia)
• One Comenius Regio application (granted for 2011-2013) between Tallinn and Norrtälje Municipality with Nömme Nature House, Erken Laboratory and Norrtälje Nature Conservation Foundation as partners. The network aims were to grow by adding partners and increasing collaboration with local enterprises in the field of nature conservation, nature guiding, local organic food production and monitoring of the environment (researchers) as well as teachers. We had partners from teacher training (higher education, Uppsala university), Commission on Education and Environment of UBC, small enterprises and we had collaborate closely with local teachers from secondary and upper secondary schools joining our workshops and seminars.
The three main aims for the following 2,5 year (2013-2015)
1. To have two 3-day workshops/seminars every year, and to distribute the hosting of the workshops/seminars among the partners. This will enable all partners to contribute more and to make the best use of their most prominent fields of knowledge. This will contribute to high quality workshops raising the capacity of the network to a higher level to be used in all participating countries and to be spread to all members of the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) and within the network of the Cost action Netlake (EU).
2. To include small enterprises and researchers in the field of nature conservation, nature guiding, local organic food production and monitoring of the environment in the workshops/seminars together with nature school teachers, local teachers and representatives from higher education of teachers in order to contribute to cooperation between the educational sectors and to establish cross-sectoral networks involving participants outside of the traditional education sectors.
3. To produce and edit handbooks for each workshop/seminar event to be used to spread the pedagogic highlights through the networks mentioned above and via the web site.
Aims and contribution for this new project “Nature Schools network” 2013-2015
• Increase the exchange of pedagogical ideas and methods related to nature within the Baltic region leading to a higher quality in outdoor educational activities
• Develop an understanding for field education on different levels in the school system from elementary school to university using new input from small enterprises in the field of nature conservation, nature guiding, local organic food production and monitoring of the environment
• Be a part of producing pedagogical handbooks during each event and also be able to distribute them in the home country
• Transfer the hands-on knowledge of small enterprises to teachers and educational programmes in schools and in the university programmes for teachers
Sectors who are involved in the project
• Higher education
• Primary/secondary/upper secondary Schools
• Private sector
Handbook Activity 1 Nordplus Nature Schools Network Water quality monitoring.
Handbook Activity 2 Nature Schools Network Phenology.
Handbook- Garden as a pedagogical tool- Activity 3 2014 Project Network Nature Schools NORDPLUS
Handbook Activity 4 Floristry and outdoor learning
Handbook Activity 5 Ecosystem services
Anna Westerlund, project coordinator
Norrtälje Nature Conservation Foundation, Färsna farm 1, SE- 761 73 Norrtälje, SWEDEN