Saturday, 12 October 2019

Iceland: Leikur ad læra - Play To Learn More

I love how small the world has become since social media came along, it is now so much easier to connect with people around the world and find like-minded individuals to connect with to share ideas etc. I have 'met' so many preschool teachers around the world on Facebook and Twitter and have enjoying learning from them as we discuss our practice and curriculums. 

However, nothing beats meeting up in person with someone and finding a true connection in real life. In 2013 I got the opportunity through Fafu (an Icelandic company) to go to Iceland as part of #PlayIceland with 33 other educators from around the UK and US. You can read about this visit in these two posts:

During this visit on Day 2 we visited an incredible newly built school and one of their staff, Kristín, took the time to show us around the school, give us a taster session of a new way she was trying out teaching in the school. Then at the sharing event where we gave presentations about our settings, we heard from Kristín about her new venture Leikur að læra  she was just about to launch to have young children learning core skills through movement. We became friends on Facebook and stayed in touch. 
My colleagues & me in Iceland in February 2019
Roll on 2018 and our school secured funding through Erasmus Plus KA1 for staff to attend training and courses around Europe and Kristín's course were the first I thought of. In 2019 8 of our staff both teaching and non teaching travelled to Spain and Iceland to attend one of her week long courses Smart Teachers Play More. These courses are facilitated by Kristín and Sarah (who has a business called Smart English in Spain)
This has been one of the best courses I have ever attended and I recommend this to any one working in a school. You can read about the course in this post:
Through this course another colleague, Jill, also did the course and began to offer Play to Learn More sessions locally and our school signed up all the classes for 4 weeks of activities with Jill. as both of us in the nursery are now trained we then ran sessions with our class over 6 weeks from Easter until June. 
These sessions were the most fun I think we have all had whilst learning and let's face it as a nursery teacher every day is filed with fun! But more importantly the P1 teacher has noticed that the children are much more secure in their core skills this year after lots of practice during our PTLM sessions. 
Some of our PTLM activities. 
Whilst in Iceland in February for the course, Kristín mentioned that she was running a conference in October on Outdoor Learning and wondered if I would like to come along to do a workshop. I jumped at the chance, of course. 

In May Kristín came to Belfast to run a taster session for PTLM for local teachers and stayed with me and visited my class for a morning. 
Myself, Kristín & Jill in May 2019

So fast forward to October 2019 and I found myself on a flight to Iceland via Finland (where I had just been on an Erasmus Plus mobility) and attending a conference for over 450 teachers from Iceland who spent the whole day doing workshops to help them develop outdoor play and core learning skills for young children. The conference was held in an agricultural college and many of the events like lunch, coffee took place in an old green house with fish pond and exotic plants. The workshops were mostly outdoors but also some were inside. 

My workshop was titled 'Outdoor Learning - it doesn't have to cost a lot' and I had to run it 4 times over the day with between 20 and 40 participants at a time. It took place outside in the most amazing grounds of the college and thankfully it was dry but very windy. The teachers were so receptive and engaged and willing share ideas from their practice too. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to talk with international colleagues and compare similar issues and discuss what was different about our settings and practice. 

This is my 4th visit to Iceland and each time I visit I fall in love with it and it's people a little more. They are some of the warmest people I have every met and even more hospitable than the Irish. They have a true connection to nature and a respect for their environment that is lacking in a lot of other places. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with friends old and new and learn from each other. It also helped me firm up ideas for further workshops and  most importantly I learned that I had to change my pronunciation of the words eight and shape to be understood!

A huge thanks to Unnur & Kristín (and her whole family) for picking me up, putting me up and drinking coffee with me over the few days I got to stay in Iceland. 

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