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Taking learning outdoors – Supporting the skills of pre-school teachers in outdoor education and care
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

In Europe, positive child outcomes are a major goal of ECEC programmes. Also, the competences of the workforce are considered one of the more salient predictors of ECEC quality. Based on the opinion of Slovak Commitee of the World organization for Early childhood Education, reviewing new State educational programme for pre-schools in Slovakia, 2015, there is a discrepancy in the number of performance standards in different educational areas, while more emphasise is put on mathematics and processing of information (47) than e.g. on health and physical movement of children (13). Therefore, the more balanced approach is recommended. Concrete educational programmes or relevant materials for teachers, supporting the elimination of this discrepancy, however, are currently missing. The need for relevant training programmes, focused on outdoor education, was clearly defined and confirmed also by the Slovak pre-school teachers, participants of the online research, in February 2016.Through this research, with 326 respondents, 286 - 88% of the total number, expressed their interest in new training materials and resources for outdoor activities. The situation with integrating the outdoor approach in ECEC, differs in European countries greatly. The idea of using this approach, originated in Scandinavia in the 50ties, is nowadays practiced in many European countries, e.g. SE, DK, UK, DE, CZ and other. So called „Forest schools“, based on this approach, providing alternative to mainstream education, are well established in the UK (over 300 schools). Few of them can be found in CZ (120), where they were officialy recognized by the law in March 2016. Very few can be found in Slovakia, too (less than 10). In Denmark, it is common to integrate the aspects of the Forest school approach, into the regular pre-school environment, linking it to official curricula. Research in the UK and Scandinavia, as well as all the other countries, where outdoor education is commonly used in ECEC as a mainstream education approach, or integrated into the mainstream, shows following benefits of this approach on child´s development: - Increase of self-confidence and self-belief- Development in social skills and awareness of their actions on others- Increased language and communication skills- A keenness to participate — motivation and concentration- Improved stamina and gross and fine motor skills- Development of respect for and interest in the natural environment- Increased health and overall wellbeing of childrenBased on these proved benefits, the project focuses on:- transfering of verified ECEC teaching methodology, built on outdoor education concept, originated in and inspired by Scandinavian educational traditions, nowadays used in the UK and other European countries, to countries, where this concept is less used and underdeveloped; - adapting this methodology for the use in the public pre-schools to make it accessible for as many ECEC teachers, and, at the same time, reaching as many children as possible, in all 4 project countries (SK, UK, DK, EE)- through developing project outputs: O1/Handbook for the pre - school teacher on outdoor education, O2/ Online training modules, O3/ Standards of the outdoor teacher and O4/ Ideas for outdoor activities - fostering the skills of pre-school teachers on outdoor education, supporting their implementation of outdoor education approach in practice- developing additional motivational tools for teachers e.g. International OUTDOOR TEACHER award, to encourage the use and implementation of this approach - to support international cooperation in ECEC and developing new thematic network focused on outdoor education, including pre-schools, public and private institutions, NGOs, Universities and VET schools, supporting the use of new teaching approaches and sharing of best practices in the sector of Early Childhood Education and Care on European levelIn order to achieve project objectives, all together 6 partners, 3 from Slovakia (2 NGOs and University, focused on informal or formal education), one from UK (educational institution), Estonia and Denmark (kindergartens with outdoor approach quite differently integrated) will be involved in the partnership. We believe the expertise of above institutions will contribute to development of a strong network, leading to successful fulfillment of project objectives, with developing bases of future long - term cooperation for the benefit of all involved. Project outputs and the structure of new training programme (based on practical use of O1&O2), developed in the project, has the potential to positively influence large group of pre-school teachers and workers with children and bring positive impact on great numbers of children across Europe, and thus contribute to Enhancing the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC).
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5 Partners Participants