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European Experiential Learning Lab on Soil Science
Start date: Sep 1, 2015, End date: Aug 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The project at a glance: 2015 is the International Year of the Soils (IYS). On this occasion the project EELLSS offers a “European Experiential Learning Lab on Soil Science” which aims at: o interlinking natural sciences with “soils” as a practical, concrete and “living” lab and innovative learning field o combining scientific knowledge and skills with state of the art learning technology o creating an entrance to soil science in European schools both for teachers and for the students o introducing a competence oriented learning approach in which students from different regions in Europe work and learn together o establishing a growing open and cooperative learning and development space for teachers and learners The EELLSS partnership consists of partners from DE, NL, TR, LV, SE, IT, ES; five schools, a teachers’ training University, formal and informal training institutes and networks and a school maintaining authority. Context and Background Soil is one of the most important spheres (pedosphere) of our planet, combing biosphere with atmosphere and the rocky underground. Most of the life processes take part in the soil. Soil is a living lab for all kinds of biological, chemical, physical processes. Hence it is more than any other substrate a rich source of natural science learning but also maintains a huge creative potential, which makes it ideal for interdisciplinary learning projects. Since soils are highly influenced by human action (land-use, pollution, sealing of soils etc.) they have a high potential to serve as locations for a problem and needs driven education which fits to our complex world in which interdisciplinary competences are utmost important. All these aspects and properties make soils an ideal field of learning and study. In an educational situation when Europe is confronted with phenomena like: • early school leaving, • decreasing attractiveness of learning in school and natural sciences and • low achievement of basic skills soils (and the connected soil sciences) offer rich and contextualised learning environments for basic and science education, for practical and problem based learning and for interdisciplinary learning projects. As they also differ from region to region and influence the local and regional environment and climate, soils are an interesting field for practical comparative research for students (and teachers) in joint European learning projects. Hence the soil is the “biggest and most practical learning laboratory” for a large range of subjects. The consortium regards the International Year of the Soils (IYS) as a unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive, versatile and extendable approach to integrate soils as a substantial learning field in European school education. Activities and envisaged outcomes EELLSS will firstly connect relevant contents from natural sciences to aspects of soil science. A competence matrix for soil science in schools will be established in order to facilitate competence oriented teaching and learning on soils, both in discrete sciences and in interdisciplinary learning projects. Didactics and specific instructional design approaches for different settings (e.g. age groups, subjects, curricular/extracurricular) related to soils as learning filed will be developed, mostly based on experiential learning principles. A rich open learning environment that connects e-portfolio, learning management system and planning and validation software will be established as learning and collaboration environment for European schools, teachers and students. A specific teachers’ training will be developed in blended learning methodology and delivered as 5 day course for 30 teachers including an extended transfer phase as practical project at the workplace (in the school). These pilot projects will be carried out for approximately 200 students at the partner schools and in other interested institutions. Students receive soil related learning units, lessons, learning projects, both as subject related units and/or as interdisciplinary projects. Each participating school will also establish joint transnational learning projects on regional soils in which students teach their transnational peers about specific aspects and scientific properties of the soils in their regions. The approaches and outcomes will be thoroughly evaluated internally and also externally. EELLSS is embedded in well-known networks of climate friendly and environmental schools (GREEEN) that will maintain the project results, tools, teaching and learning opportunities also after the project lifetime. EELLSS will disseminate its approaches and findings to the European School Community and beyond. It will offer a lasting knowledge pool and a repository for materials and tools not only for schools working with soils as learning field but also a market place for KA1 course providers who offer continuing professional development courses for teachers and educational professionals in this field.

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