Urša VILHARa, Sefton BOOTHb, Alyson BOOTHROYDb, Sien CROMPHOUTc, Jan ČIBEJd, Gudrun DE GRAUWEe, Rik DE VREESEf, Valerija EL HABASHYd, Natalija GYÖREKg, Eveline HEYNDRICKXe, Nika KOŠMELJh, Lynne LEDGARDi, Vesna MOREh, Paul NOLANj, Kristien OOMSc, Jožica PEČNIKd, Gregor PODVIZh, Jo SAYERSj, Marjeta ŠMIDh, Terry KINGi, Veerle CLAEYSe, Jan VERHAVERTk and Jef DE VROEk
Institution: aSlovenian Forestry Institute, aBluebell Park School – UK; cBOS+ – Belgium; dSpecial School Ljubo Šercer Kočevje – Slovenia; eSint Gregorius Buitengewoon Basisonderwijs – Belgium; fEuropean Forest Institute – Bonn; gInstitute for Forest Pedagogics – Slovenia; hSpecial School Jela Janežiča Škofja Loka – Slovenia; iGreen Lane Community Special School – UK; jThe Mersey Forest – UK; kMPIGO Heemschool 1 – Belgium
Keywords: Nature, Non-Formal Learning, Children, Special Educational Needs, Erasmus+ Project
Playing and learning in forest and nature stimulates the imagination, creativity and entrepreneurship. Besides, nature is a great place to gain experience for the development of social and motor skills. The positive impact of a green learning environment is even more significant when working with children with mental disabilities, learning disorders, attention disabilities (such as ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders. In an informal natural environment, these children learn better than in a classroom. A green learning environment therefore increases their chances in society meaningfully.
We present the results of the ERASMUS+ co-funded project “Green Learning Environments – Taking advantage of the Stimulating Green Environment for Non-Formal Learning with Children with Cognitive Disabilities and Learning Disorders”. In this project six specialised schools and four organisations working with environmental education from Belgium, UK and Slovenia exchanged knowledge, collected and tested the best practice in non-formal learning in the natural environment for children with special education needs. For this case studies were used and interviews with experts from the three countries in which currently there is no standardised nature-based skills on the curriculum.
We present a comprehensive Toolbox, developed and tested during the project for teachers and educators with 18 activities including useful pictures, pictograms and examples for more inspiration. With this toolbox, teachers and educators are provided with a very useful resource to maximize the benefits of forest, greenery and nature as an informal and powerful learning environment for children with special education needs.
The Toolbox is accompanied by a detailed pedagogical approach which contains background information about the advantages of a green learning environment for children with special educational needs. In addition, a policy brief was summarised with practical recommendations for policymakers, stakeholders, teachers and educators as well as organisations working with environmental education.