1. Practical learning through nature
The Planet Friendly Schools project focusses on practical learning activities and projects that can bring the issues around climate change, and their solutions, to life. We aim to provide inspiring examples where schools have developed real-world learning opportunities in their school grounds and beyond to inspire children as future change-makers.
There are many benefits that children can gain from outdoor learning, both educationally and physically. Outdoor learning stimulates all of the senses and these experiences engage children and can leave long lasting impressions upon them. Practically, outdoor learning can offer opportunities for physical work, which can have a wide range of positive physical and mental health benefits. In addition, food and growing activities expose learners to a wide range of vegetables, fruits and animal products, allowing children to develop a fuller understanding of their climate-friendly eating habits. The principals of gardening and farming, as well as ecological principles and other aspects of the natural world can also all be taught and learnt about through direct observation and involvement.
Tasks such as planting food in a school garden, harvesting the produce and then cooking food from this produce, immediately become more meaningful when children have been given ownership of the process. It is when these tasks have a meaning and a purpose, children often feel more compelled to contribute and to take ownership of the work. These types of projects also provide opportunities for follow up work back in the classroom. Teachers have noted how a child’s passion for their outdoor learning often shows through in written assignments and other classroom-based projects.
Some children, particularly those is urban areas, may not have access to the natural world. School wildlife areas offer unique opportunities for children to have regular contact with nature. This contact allows children to develop a relationship with the natural world and allows them to start to understand the positive benefits of creating a partnership with nature and producing food for themselves. Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” The opportunity to contribute to creating wildlife areas in the school grounds offers a unique chance to experience the joy of working with nature.
Benefits for pupils
If you were to ask those teachers who have experience in outdoor learning what the benefits were, they might say the following:
- “Our pupils are more active and curious when they are learning outdoors”
- “The children use all of their senses whilst out in the garden”
- “Pupils often demonstrate different talents whilst working practically outside“
- “There is no subject in the school curriculum that cannot be linked to food and nature”
- “Oral work, written texts and maths is easier when they have experienced something in the garden”
- “Sharing outdoors tasks gives pupils a chance to form new relationships in addition to those formed in the classroom”
- “Mastering practical activities gives the pupils more self-confidence and belief in what they can manage”
- “Working outside and taking responsibility for the school garden gives the students a chance to learn to love the natural world and believe that they can contribute to taking care of it”
2. Integration of disadvantaged youth
Practical, real-world learning offers particular benefits to those individuals who sometimes struggle in mainstream education. Groups of children and young people with special educational needs, such as those with learning disabilities or those at risk of exclusion from mainstream education, can often benefit from learning in a new environment. One of the core aims of this project is to re-engage young people by providing alternative experiences to mainstream schooling and to approach learning from a broader perspective. Often in cases where practical activities have been offered, teaching staff and education officers have identified profound improvements in physical and mental health, as well as educational development.
Over the last few years, European countries have had to face the challenge of integrating large numbers of refugees into their societies. Planet Friendly School activities offer refugees new perspectives on life outside the refugee camps that many have lived in and an insight into European life and its associated food culture. It also enables them to share their food culture and traditions with other children in their host country. Refugees will have the opportunity to ask questions about society, whilst at the same time providing incentives to learn new vocabulary that is connected with food and farming activities.
3. Digital CPD and learning for teachers
‘Planet Friendly Schools’ aims to provide innovative and high-quality tools to help the Continuing Professional Development of educators so that they can develop and demonstrate best practice in their teaching. We have developed a number of best practice examples demonstrating how climate change and environmental projects can be developed and embedded into the school curriculum. The project will support schools in extending their farm experiences by developing free to access resources for use by schools. These resources will explore a range of subjects from food and farming enterprise learning, through to how the farm can be an ideal venue for educators and their pupils to use digital technology to record their experiences, as well as exploring food culture and investigating environmental and social issues.
4. Educators/teachers/training professionals in formal/informal education
The Planet-friendly School website will support a professionalisation of teachers and educators in gaining familiarity with the practicalities and technicalities of delivering real-life learning opportunities in schools in the topics of sustainable food, environmental protection and climate-change mitigation.
Teachers will become familiar with how these topics can link with the school curriculum, the different subjects and types of schools. This will enable them to relate the practical projects and activities directly to the curricula and to integrate it. By the OERs they will be better equipped to meet the needs of the learners and engage them in an inspiring and practical way.
Educators will use new and innovative ways, e.g. best practice examples from other countries and different types of media. The project output will enable teachers to integrate and better serve new target groups, such as disadvantaged learners and intergenerational learning. The project outputs will also enable educators from various EU countries to see best practice examples from other countries and see how to use digital tools in teaching about food culture.
5. Teaching profession candidates, vocational colleges and universities
It is expected that the project will encourage teaching profession candidates to become interested in the potential to use food and environment as a basis for teaching and cultural integration, and become confident enough to start inspiring new projects in the school, thus improving their qualifications in general. The project outputs will also enable teaching candidates from various EU countries to see best practice examples from other countries and see how to use digital tools in teaching about food culture.
6. Education for Sustainable Development
Planet Friendly School projects enable all aspects of Education for Sustainable Development to be addressed. This includes the economical, ecological, social and cultural issues that will have an effect on our future. By developing ongoing farm link projects in the school, the complex nature of sustainable development will become more evident and understandable for pupils and teachers.
7. Community links
The project will create new tools on topics that are of interest to those in the community around the school who seek to make a difference. These may be parents who are engaged and active in a 'friends of the school' capacity, or members of the community who are keen to volunteer on climate- change projects. The project will offer best practice examples and tips to inspire them, and equip them with tools that they can effectively employ in the school and local area.