When it comes to face-to-face collaboration, OTTER was a project that was widowed from the start: with its inception still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to kick-off the project entirely online and start working on our tasks from behind our computer screens. But there's just something about meeting in person that is so special and helps us get the extra-motivation and drive to reach our project goals and advance our work on making education outside the classroom not just a phrase that looks good on paper, but an actual reality across schools in Europe...And with this being said, we couldn't have been happier to see each other again after last year's meeting in Budapest and assess the progress that we've made whilst in a country that is known worldwide for its commitment to providing high-quality education to its younger generations: Finland.
Our General Assembly meeting took place in Tampere between 12 and 13 September and gathered our team which is spread throughout Europe for two days of intense discussions and co-working sessions that left us hopeful for the future, aka the last months of the project. While we are certainly sad to be approaching the end, we are also joyful at the thought of having accomplished already the big bulk of our work: the OTTER Hub which has seen zealous activity in the past few months, the OTTER Labs which took us to our four countries of focus (Spain, Finland, Ireland, and Hungary), and last but not least, the OTTER Learning Platform that aggregates all the lessons we've learned and all the knowledge an educator might need to start implementing such activities in their own classrooms. It was amazing to have to discuss these achievements all together, and nonetheless, in a Finnish school close to Tampere that is no stranger to Education Outside the Classroom practices: Toivion koulu, renowned locally for its focus on sustainability education. And the most special part? We got to see these practices in action, as we watched older students teach the younger ones how to bike safely and we marveled at their opportunity to walk around the school's surroundings freely, building a connection with nature that would otherwise not be possible.
Our own encounters with the Finnish education system did not end there. Before we embarked on our co-working session to plan our efforts regarding accreditation, as part of the work undertaken in the fifth work package of the project, we set off to see a Finnish kindergarten close to Tampere, Kurikankulma day care centre, and witnessed children aged 3 to 6 were gaining essential skills by spending time in the forest, learning the value of collaboration and developing a sense of responsibility and a taste for adventure. We are certain that the fresh air contributed to our own curiosity, as we spent the next hours in passionate discussions on how to best approach our work on accreditation and make our dream come true: a Europe where every student has the chance to learn about STEAM outside of their usual surroundings, in museums, science centres, botanical gardens, or even in nature, as the Finnish example has shown us...
We would like to thank once again our partner, Learning Scoop, for the excellent organisation and their continuous support and we invite you all to continue following our journey as we are getting closer to the end of the project, as we still have many surprises in store and milestones to achieve!