Erasmus+ and Europe: what next?

Ruth Staples-Rolfe, Senior Project Officer, discusses her experiences working across Europe with Erasmus+

In this turbulent Brexit period, Learning through Landscapes continues doing what it does best: working in partnership. And with over half of our staff contributing to European focused projects and a quarter of a million pounds worth of support over five years, we still believe that European collaboration is possible.

I have met many different people from varied European cultures during my Erasmus+ work, and unsurprisingly the hot topic of conversation continuously comes back to the B word.

The concern has been that the longevity of our current projects will be tarnished. I’m happy to say, that isn’t the case. The impact Brexit will have on these projects is, in all honesty, very little.

That’s why I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic and inspiring cross collaborations across Europe – because we could all do with some positivity, right?

I currently have four European projects I manage within my role at Learning through Landscapes.

For me, our work in Europe has two main focuses: the first, to help countries explore how to embed the outdoors within Early Years. This is something we often take for granted in the UK, and so to share this knowledge and expertise is hugely gratifying.

Secondly, it is to look at the UN Goals for Sustainable Development and ensure that schools across the EU are using the outdoors as a way to give purposeful learning opportunities across primary and secondary.

So that all sounds very good, but on the ground what does it mean?

Our work within Europe kicks off with time spent developing bids with project partners over Skype, before securing the all-important funding application. We will then collectively agree on a shared working schedule.

Once these plans are agreed, project partners will then meet and get to know one another in person. The beauty of European projects means that, as a charity, this is financially viable.

I believe these visits are vital in helping to truly understand our mission, as well as to question our own systems based on other’s practices. For example: should UK five and six year olds be a part of the Early Years phase, as seen in Denmark and Estonia?

We’ve had some fantastic successes.

For every project, we will always have outcomes in mind that we want to achieve. Some of our biggest successes (so far!) have come as part of our Take Me Out project: our training of Slovakian Early Years practitioners resulted in them getting outdoors and connecting with nature so much more.

In Malta, we are still working with Birdlife Malta on our One World Learning project. The project focuses on breaking down the barriers against getting outdoors, re-engaging the local population and teachers with nature. We have been doing this by working closely with the Ministry for Education and through teacher training, resulting in several of their education professionals now becoming LtL accredited. This June we will be bringing some of our findings from the work in a wildlife and conservation conference in Leicester.

And we are constantly learning from our findings.

One of the greatest things I continue to take from my work in Europe, is the lessons that engaging in different cultures provides me.

Attitudes differ enormously between countries; everything from health and safety across Europe to the cultural traditions relating to the use and management of grave yards. Every new lesson fascinates me.

However, my biggest lesson has been that everyone has something to contribute and that you should always listen before sharing an opinion. Our European partners teach me so much, and I am still learning about the stages that different countries are at.

My hope throughout this time of uncertainty is that our work with European countries will grow beyond the UK government’s commitment until 2020. Let’s hope they can extend beyond that date. Erasmus existed before the EU; will it exist after?

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