Participants: Macu Ribes, Juan Antonio Montés and Guillem Esteve
I've had that horrible nightmare again. I woke up in a cement school, without plants or animals, without smells or sounds. What good are the senses if we cannot feed them with such wonderful stimuli? I have seen four-year-old children sitting endless hours in chairs making endless chips, and I have stopped to think if that is being a child ...
Fortunately, I have been in Latvia, where I have remembered the value of being in contact with Mother Nature. A school where children can step on puddles and wallow in the mud without teachers or parents having to throw anything in their faces. A place where they can work on motor skills, laterality and orientation from an early age, picking up trunks, cutting branches, building cabins ... A space of coexistence between adults and children that allows us to recognize where we come from and how many things we have in common to take care of.
After living that dream, I want the families of my school to bet on this philosophy. Remember that nature is the best teacher that teaches us to grow and be people. I want my students to admire her and value her and take care of her as she deserves: integrating into her, being part of her. I wish my students and I could forget each week of books and tablets to learn from the only book open to everyone's eyes: nature.
I would like them to be able to feel in their hand's tools, logs and all kinds of things that we can find in the field, and not just the cold crystals of their tablets and mobile phones. Close your eyes and listen to the silence of a forest, collect our food in our garden and then cook our food. Surely they know much better after the effort we will dedicate. We could hide the ugliness of cement by planting some small trees in pots and decorating them to be true works of art; For nature is the true art of God.
It seems utopian and even a dream too naive, but why not dream? We have to start by believing in this philosophy, and after living it here, I see it possible and achievable. I return home with energy, convinced that we can turn this around. Turn this grey and the noise-filled world into something worth seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. A colourful world, because as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, nature always carries the colours of the spirit.
Benefits of nature education and the importance of sustainable development
We knew it, but surely we didn't remember it. In recent years, with the arrival of new technologies to almost every place in our lives, society has been changing to turn our relationships into something impersonal and cold.
Visiting Latvia has reminded us of the importance of interaction with the environment and, of course, with the people around us. Children are free to experiment in the woods and learn to socialize face to face.
We have also observed a good command of their motor skills, related to the fact of being able to interact with the natural environment and that they are given much more freedom than in our country despite the possible risks. If you look at our students, more and more problems are seen when it comes to walking, running, jumping or throwing appropriately.
Regarding sustainable development, we have encountered a society with a large forest mass. Our reality still has it (not at such a high level), but every year it is reduced more by different factors such as climate change, water scarcity, fires and lack of awareness of our environment.
The solution is before us. Good training of our students can lead to a change of thinking in society and to remember what is important. That is a return to nature. And the best way is to integrate it into all our curriculum areas.
What has changed in our school since we started the project?
In our school, we have always had the environment in mind. We raised awareness of the importance of recycling and in recent years we have carried out projects to protect forest areas or reintroduce animals in danger of extinction.
However, after visiting Preili I think we have realized that as important as the awareness and work to maintain our natural environment, such as being in contact with him.
In this sense, we want to implement a series of activities that help us to make our students experience nature as their own and not because the elders tell them it is important to protect it. The fact that they can enjoy everything we can find in our environment will make them much more aware of the importance of taking care of it.
Reflection on the meeting
It has been a great experience to share this week with a group so aware of the inclusion of environmental matters in the school. Also, it has made us realize that many countries take this matter very seriously and that perhaps, we should start doing so.
Not only have we seen the experiences that have prepared us since this small school in Latvia, but we have also been able to discuss and explain our own experiences with the issues that concern us.
In this sense, it has been the case that we have discovered a reality that they did not think possible, because they have certain facilities to implement some of their proposals without too much difficulty, but we cannot implement due to legislative problems, lack of spaces or lack of motivation on the part of families and teachers.
The fact of going all to one, as we saw in the process of rebuilding the Preili school, makes them a reference of what we want to reach. A place where teachers and parents struggle to achieve common goals.
Even so, the fact of being able to share these ideas, problems, concerns, has also given its results, since they made us proposals to be able to solve them or put them into practice. Things that we would not have reached on their own as they were linked to characteristics of society different from theirs. But there is the crux of the matter. To carry out the change, we must also change our thinking and some of the norms that seem immovable.
At the organizational level, we want to congratulate the teachers of this small school in Slovenia for giving us an example of how things have to be done to make the most of the time. We have enjoyed practical activities and discussion time in equal parts, where we have learned from the reflections of our colleagues from different countries.
In this sense, we have also felt very comfortable with our project partners. The fact of sharing accommodation with them allowed us to extend our discussions about what worked during the day beyond the scheduled time. Besides, when changing partners, each meeting becomes a surprise, but also a way to enrich the project by knowing new points of view.
New ideas for our school
The most important thing we are getting out of this European project is not only the experiences we live as teachers in other centres but also the ability to incorporate or adapt ideas of things or activities that we are seeing in them.
After these first two meetings, we have asked our town hall to give us a green area attached to the educational centre to condition it and be able to use it as a classroom abroad. Our idea would be to be able to carry out plastic or science classes, within an environment that allows us to enjoy nature.
Similarly, garden facilities have been improved. Every year we are incorporating new plants and the idea would be the possibility of incorporating chickens within their plot.
It would also be interesting to include a couple of hours every week so that our students could experiment with the materials provided by the environment. Currently, they do this in the classroom explores, but what better to do the same but outdoors?
Also, it would be a good place to incorporate wooden structures so that they can improve their motor skills or include activities in which they are the ones who build with natural resources what they need at this meeting place, such as the trough we made in Slovenia.
Another of the ideas that would differentiate us as a centre in our city, is to make parents choose a type of education based on Montessori methodology with natural resources for the primary education stage. In this way, we could make a change in mentality in families over time so that they could see the motor skills and benefits of working with nature.
Finally, I remember when I was little to have repopulation activities, especially after a forest fire. Lately, I don't know if they continue to promote themselves, but in my school, I think we haven't done them for years. Is it necessary to wait until they tell us that we must repopulate a certain area or can we take the initiative and manage to increase our forest mass?