The OTTER project has been from the beginning under the auspices of the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that our kick-off meeting, albeit very joyful and productive, was entirely held online. Exchanging stories over the coffee breaks turned into quick messages on Teams - and it seemed like this would go on for a long time. Not the case though! While the pandemic is not yet over, the restrictions over face to face meetings have been gradually lifted, and we were able to have our first in-person meeting in the gorgeous city of Budapest.
For two days, we assessed our progress in the project, we discussed the implementation of our next activities - mainly the OTTER Labs in schools and the development of the OTTER Hub - and we built strong connections that will surely play a big role in the success of the project!
We started our meeting early in the morning of 20 September 2021, at the CEU Library - 16 people from all our project partners, eager to discuss what we've done so far in OTTER, and also to envision the many fantastic activities that are still left to do. After a short opening spech by Jelena Kajganović who is the project leader from our company (GEONARDO is the coordinator of OTTER), we went on to discuss the OTTER Hub and how we can further promote it to engage educators from all across Europe and transform it into a thriving platform for knowledge exchange.
We were incredibly lucky as well to benefit from the charismatic presence of Zsuzsanna Kray, our Expert Advisor on Sustainability, who walked us through the benefits of outdoor education to the mental and emotional wellbeing of children and their academic performance, and reminded us of the links between Education Outside the Classroom - the project's core concept - and the development of responsible behaviours in children. After a delicious lunch, we came back to our designated classroom and planned the OTTER pilots, where we go to different schools in 4 countries (Ireland, Finland, Spain, and Hungary), in 4 different regions of Europe, and actually implement Education Outside the Classroom activities with the students.
Mariana Mata Lara, the Work Package Leader on Communication & Dissemination in the progress, conducted a presentation on the communication activities in OTTER, including topics such as our social media efforts, the KPIs and ways to reach them faster, and future collaborations with related projects and initiatives.
It seems like we've done quite a lot in one day, right? But the project meeting was not yet over - and we had great activities in the pipeline for the second day...
On 21 September, we gathered again for the second day of the OTTER meeting. We started by going through the project tasks' overall progress (a small hint to the conclusion: everything is going according to plan).
Education Outside the Classroom activities are all fun and games, but at the end of the day we still have to monitor their efficiency: is there an increased appetite for STEAM subjects in science? Are students more aware of the small actions they can take to protect our planet? Luckily, we have a Work Package that will deal with exactly this, and Nathalia Azevedo from the University of Groningen and Deirdre O'Neill from the University of Limerick shared the next steps with us.
Thanks to the efforts of Bridge Budapest, one of our partners, we were also grateful to be invited to the ELTE Primary and Pre-school Education Faculty, where we received a warm welcome from the vice-dean and conducted a roundtable discussion on the practical ways to include Education Outside the Classroom activities in schools. For example, did you know that you can teach physics by taking your students to a skate park and explaining the science behind it? Our audience was made up of more than 50 students, future teachers and educators, who had a chance to learn from our examples and expertise, ask questions, and take OTTER's mission back with them and make it their own! The perfect wrap up of Budapest meeting, we'd say...