For those of you who knew, I was in Zaragoza, Spain, last week. The image above is of a painting I was instructed in while in a park in the city - more of that to come.
So, why was I in Spain? An excellent question. I was approached by Eurospeak, what I knew as an English school in Reading, to see if I'd be happy to take part in training, a meeting and brainstorming for one of their Erasmus projects. But what is an Erasmus project? Having been on one, and maybe more in the future, I know a little bit, but I can direct you to the Erasmus website here. It's an EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. Organisations submit project ideas and if accepted, get a budget to carry it out. I'm more interested in the education projects.
I'd heard a little about Eurospeak's projects with Sandy Millin when we attended a talk about Teaching Grammar for Spontaneous Communication. In fact, the research lead of many of the Eurospeak projects, Gonzalo Galian-Lopez wrote a blog post for Sandy here. You can also have a look at Eurospeak's Erasmus projects here.
Again, why Spain? One of the partners of the project is a Spanish organisation, along with Eurospeak and a Turkish partner. The name of the project is Highlighting Urban Green Spaces for Education (HUGS - great acronym). There will be a website and Facebook page coming soon. We met over three days in the beautiful city of Zaragoza, about an hour and half away by train from Madrid.
The objective of the project is to create a guidebook for teachers to help them get the best out of outdoor education. It should include guidance on planning, risk assessment, where to go and how to exploit what is outside, the benefits of outdoor education, as well as a few things I may have missed. It remains to be seen whether I'll be involved further, but I may well be. It was an interesting experience.
The partners from Spain were lovely and were focused on the organisational and financial aspects of the project. William, from Eurospeak who wrote the project, was also there and gave guidance on his vision for the project. The trio from Turkey were from a small school near Denizli and had some good practical ideas for the project too. All in all, it was a good introduction to the world of Erasmus and has got me thinking about potential projects I'd like to be involved in (speaking of inclusivity as a big incentive).
On Thursday, we went to the Parque Grande José Antonio Labordeta for a walk around and an activity organised by the Turkish party. This was fantastic, and was an excellent example of outdoor education. They brought an Ebru set from home, which is like water painting with special paints and water. The water is put into a rectangular box and then you add some paint in different colours, by tapping the brush, dropping the paint or swirling it around. Once finished, the paper is placed on the water and then dragged over the edge of the box, revealing the paint on the paper rather than the water! Incredible! We all had a go, and even two small children and their mother had a go - they have something special to take home too. I do too - not only a painting I made, but a certificate of attendance!
I think in our world of mainly living in cities, highlighting urban green spaces is essential, not only for the benefits to education, but also for mental wellbeing. Getting our children and ourselves outside when we can is something we should all take advantage of and this project aims to give further guidance to those who may not know how to start.
I believe Eurospeak may be looking for teachers / educators to get involved in their projects and to help share the information and projects they're involved with. Do get in contact with them if this is of interest.