Human interaction with the natural world has significantly shaped cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development since ancient times. Even today, the act of immersing oneself in nature or admiring natural and urban landscapes remains a source of inspiration, wonder, and influence. Nature-based education represents an innovative pedagogical approach that addresses two pressing concerns in contemporary society: delivering enduring, high-quality education and fostering awareness of the critical imperative to preserve our planet in the face of the formidable challenge of climate change.
The recent edition of the course, titled "Nature-Based Education: A Fresh Approach to Teaching and Learning," occurred in Bologna from 27/08/2023 to 02/09/2023. Participants converged from diverse regions of Europe, including Martina Machačová and Jana Černá from Zemědělská akademie a Gymnázium Hořice in Czech Republic; Gabriella Nemesi from Néri Szent Fülöp Katolikus Általános Iskola in Hungary; Ewa Pawłowicz-Sosnowska from John Paul II University of Applied Sciences in Biala Podlaska from Poland and 6 attendees from Istituto Comprensivo Statale "Anna Frank" in Italy: Laura Amadei, Alessandra Conte, Alessandra Cappiello, Mirka Pretelli, Monia Grilli and Manuela Smacchia.
Commencing with an exploration of the concept of Nature-Based Education, the course delved into various approaches to facilitate students' engagement with the natural world. Importantly, this doesn't always necessitate immersion in pristine forests; therefore, a portion of the training was dedicated to Urban Nature Education within city environments. Here, participants acquired the skills to teach a spectrum of subjects, spanning science, mathematics, music, art, language, and more, by employing activities designed to heighten their awareness of their immediate surroundings.
Another significant segment of the course focused on hands-on practice in natural settings, often in local parks. All the games and activities tested were well-received and served as a wellspring of inspiration for participants, not only for sharing their experiences with the rest of the group but also for devising their unique nature-based activities.
Participants also delved into the principles of Non-Formal Education (NFE), a pedagogical approach that closely aligns with many outdoor activities. This approach places concrete experiences at the core of the learning process, enabling students to connect newly acquired knowledge to their lives and apply it effectively. By guiding students through the entire experiential cycle and framing reflective questions effectively, educators empower them to make these connections. During our second day of the course we visited a beautiful local beach "Bollullo" where we integrated our classroom and held activities.
The culminating phase of the course was dedicated to crafting bespoke nature-based experiences tailored to the target groups of each participant. After gaining insights into the principles of nature-based learning, exploring the 10 Kurt Hahn rules and their profound significance, and immersing themselves in a diverse array of urban and natural activities, on the final day of the course, each participant designed a nature-based lesson relevant to their subject matter. Considering their students' age, aptitudes, and the subjects they aimed to address, each teacher meticulously planned their session, presented it to their fellow course participants, and received constructive feedback for potential enhancements. This week vividly exemplified the effectiveness of experiential nature-based learning; through a hands-on approach, participants obtained a tangible sense of what a nature-based education activity entails and acquired the knowledge necessary to design such experiences for their students.
Throughout this course, participants had the opportunity to explore a rich repertoire of activities and games that they can readily replicate with their students, demonstrating that learning extends well beyond the traditional classroom setting.
To learn more about this course, please visit the provided link here.
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