It had been a year since the OTTER project started before the team could meet in person. But as the saying goes, it was well worth the wait. For two days, we were able to reunite around the table to discuss the next steps in the project and get to know each other beyond the computer screen. Plus, having our meeting in sunny Budapest did not hurt either...
As with any other Horizon 2020 project, the beginning is always busy, as it sets the tone for the rest of the project and it lays the foundation for the project activities and outcomes. During our meeting between 20-21 September 2022, we went over what has been done so far - and discussed the strategy for implementing our activities in the upcoming months. Our priorities revolve around the development of the OTTER Hub - a platform for educators to connect, exchange good practices, and discuss challenges, and the OTTER Labs, consisting of Education Outside the Classroom activities that will take place in different schools across 4 countries in Europe.
We started our first day of the meeting, 20 September, at the CEU Library, with an opening speech given by Jelena Kajganović, the project leader from the coordinating organisation, GEONARDO, who welcomed the team to Budapest and presented the schedule of the meeting. Then, we went on to discuss the OTTER Hub and the ways in which we can enhance participation and engage even more teachers and educators from across Europe and facilitate knowledge exchange between them.
The next presentation on our agenda was given by our Expert Advisor on Sustainbility, Zsuzsanna Kray, who spoke about the many benefits of outdoor education for the wellbeing of children and teenagers, and how our project's key concept, Education Outside the Classroom, helps them build responsible attitudes and behaviours (such as reducing the amount of plastic they use). The atmophere was joyful during the lunch break and the delicious meals helped restore some of our energy, so we came back to the classroom with strengthened forces to discuss the OTTER pilots, which we will soon start to implement. Going to schools in 4 different regions of Europe, each with its own educational and cultural context, is no easy feat - but nothing scares off our experts in the OTTER Consortium, who are more than ready to take on this challenge and bring Education Outside the Classroom from paper to reality.
To round off the first day, we had a presentation by Mariana Mata Lara, the Work Package Leader on Communication & Dissemination, who listed our major achievements in this area so far, our social media strategy, the KPIs and various ways to reach them, as well as the potential collaborations with other related projects and initiatives.
It's safe to say that we had a busy day - but we were already looking forward to the next one, for which we had planned some exciting activities!
In the morning of 21 September, we came back to the venue and sat down to discuss the project tasks' overall progress with Jelena, the Project Coordinator, highlighting our priorities for the next months and establishing some groundrules for our collaboration moving forward.
We already know that Education Outside the Classroom activities improve students' performance and bring them closer to science because we have data that backs up this statement. But how will we assess the success of the activities we will implement in OTTER? Can we tell if students gain an increased appetite for sciences and if they become more conscious consumers? The good news is that we have Work Package that focuses on monitoring the efficiency of EOC activities: Nathalia Azevedo from the University of Groningen and Deirdre O'Neill from the University of Limerick shared the next steps with us.
For the afternoon, we had a special programme planned, with the help of our Consortium member, Bridge Budapest: we were invited to the ELTE Primary and Pre-school Education Faculty, where we conducted a round table discussion centred around the practical ways one can incorportate Education Outside the Classroom activities in schools. One example? You can teach chemistry with the help of...baking. Fun and useful at the same time! We were lucky enough to have more than 50 students and a few young educators join us and ask us questions about the project and the methodology behind it. It's safe to say we are taking all these lessons with us and keep working on making EOC more popular in schools across Europe!
Until next time...