On our tour through successful projects, we visited the organization TEREZA, which was one of the successful project promoters of the EEA and Norway Grants in the last period. Maybe you've met this organisation before. It is not a newcomer and has been working in the field of environmental education in the Czech Republic for 40 years. The organization started with its activities focused on working with farm animals and practical protection of a part of the Prokop Valley in Prague. The activity of the organization has gradually grown incredibly, not only in the field of environmental protection. Today, TEREZA educates nearly 100,000 children a year, cooperates with more than 800 schools and 5,000 teachers, and of course also involves parents in its activities. Today, the organization is active not only at the national but also at the international level and has already received several international awards. So what exactly has this reputable organization implemented within the EEA and Norway Grants?
It was a project entitled “Children Live Outside. Increased Wellbeing and Environmental Responsibility Via Play and Learning in Nature”, which succeeded in one of the open calls of the Fund for Non-Governmental Organizations administered by the The Civil Society Development Foundation (hereinafter NROS) within the EEA and Norway Grants 2009 – 2014. The interview was realized with Mr. Jan Froněk, one of the coordinators of the activities of the organization, who joined the project at the time of its implementation. As the name of the project already suggests, the basic theme is the need to promote children's contact with nature, improve their quality of life and shape children's responsible attitude to the environment. According to the long-term research, children and young people are one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of lack of time spent outdoors. For example, one of the pupil's lifestyle surveys, published in the Czech Republic in 2013, states that 15 years spend an average of 2-3 hours in front of television screens and 3-4 hours in front of screens of computers, notebooks or other electronic devices. According to Mr. Froněk, only a small proportion of children spend their free time in nature, even half of the research sample did not get into nature at all in a given week. Fortunately, TEREZA has been working on this issue for a long time and is trying to influence these worrying data on the lifestyle of our children and their parents.
The big advantage of the organization was that it did not start its project from the scratch, but it had already started many long-term activities at the time of the beginning of the project, such as the “Forest in School” project with more than 300 participating schools, already running website www.jdeteven.cz (available only in Czech language) and then mainly established contacts with parents and various schools.
The first of the project activities focused on the popularization of research results and its education among the professional public. TEREZA has involved other organizations and specific experts from the field of environmental education, psychology and education of children in the project and created a platform for professional discussion. The outcome of this activity was a study popularizing this topic and summarizing the main benefits of contact between children and nature, as well as the main obstacles and pitfalls of contemporary society. The results of the study were presented to the professional public at the conference.
The second very important part of the project was the creation of various activities for parents and grandparents of children, which they could practically test in nature. The above-mentioned website www.jdeteven.cz was also revised to a great extent. Today you will find examples of activities that you can do with children in nature, find a lot of interesting methodical materials, examples and instructions for various games. You can also learn how to stay in nature helps to develop movement, motor skills, creativity and overall physical activity and mental health of the child.
The last activity was the creation of educational programs for schools. Within that there were created and tested annual educational plans for different grades of elementary school. These plans allow children to be taught in nature. As part of the project, there was an interesting shift from the principle of “forest in school” to “school in forest”, as Mr. Froněk confirmed by his words: “We began to work deliberately with the idea that the school must provide children with contact with the real world. This means not only with nature, but also with architecture, history, etc. - basically anything can be taught outside. We want the world outside to be more attractive to children than the world inside and the world online”. Teachers thus obtained unique documents and further professional support for the implementation of the outdoor teaching. The Teacher Organization also organized several seminars.
The project also published a number of other interesting materials, which were prepared by the project partner from Norway, Skogkurs (Forestry Extension Institute), which has a lot of experience in carrying out outdoor environmental activities for children.
Even after the end of the project, TEREZA is still very active in this area and with the help of other financial sources from both national and international programs it gets support for its further activities. As already mentioned, a total of 100,000 children per year go through the environmental education programs of the organization. Fortunately, more and more schools, teachers and parents are realizing how beneficial impact has nature on our health and especially on children's development. On the occasion of this round anniversary, we wish TEREZA good luck in their work and thank them for the more than successful implementation of this very beneficial project.