The work conducted at the Siklósi Street Member Kindergarten of the Kertvárosi Kindergarten of Pécs is exemplary among Erasmus+ projects in the field of school education. Their achievements show that it is possible to implement high-quality activities which generate positive changes even with kindergarten pupils. We talked to Project Coordinator Éva Schmidt about their quality award winning project.
"Mental health protection is the key to a smooth everyday life" Dreams are made come true in the Suburban Kindergarten
Institution: Kertvárosi Kindergarten
Project title: Opportunities of Health Education without Borders Programme
Coordinator: Éva Schmidt
Website: http://www.kertvarosiovi.hu/erasmus-help-275 and https://www.facebook.com/Erasmus-Help-154645328390648/
The topic of the project - health protection, education for a healthy lifestyle - is in fact one of the basic functions of kindergartens, but a the project also contains a number of innovative and new elements, and implements this goal in an extensive and complex manner. The involvement of external partners has significantly contributed to the high standards of the related project activities, and for some of them the partnership proved useful, too. Another positive aspect is that the project partner also cooperated with other kindergartens, which had a beneficial effect on local professional work, as well as on the motivation of the institutions to apply with projects.
What was the driving force behind your project called the Opportunities of Health Education without Borders Programme (HELP)?
HELP was preceded by our Hand in Hand Together project, implemented back in 2010, during the time of the Comenius programme, as well as our 2013 EMAIL project, both focusing on environmental and health education. Our programme application work began with the Siklósi Street Member Kindergarten of Kertvárosi Kindergarten; in 2017, the parent institution also joined us. Based on the lessons learnt during the former programmes, as well as on the institutional impact assessment and our needs, we thought that HELP could be a solution to the complex development of children with special education needs, as well as those with normal abilities. Besides equal opportunity, tolerance, inclusion and respect for difference and each other, we consider environmental awareness a top priority. All our existing programmes are consciously built on and related to each other.
Is there a message behind the acronym 'HELP'?
The acronym formed from the initials of the Hungarian project title was a conscious reference to a cry for help. Our institutions are attended by a number of anxious, disadvantaged children with behaviour and adjustment disorders, for whom mental health protection is the key to a smooth everyday life.
You mentioned that your projects were built on each other. How is this project different from the previous ones?
Our goal is still complex personality development. Besides an environmentally conscious approach and promoting a healthy lifestyle, children's mental health protection is a priority, and here, too, we use artistic tools (music, stories, dance, drama, movement, visual tools) to implement our activities. The success of the programme was also due to training courses and accredited courses (Blum Programme, "Így tedd rá!", Talent), where we had such prestigious lecturers of the profession to help us as Dr. Sándor Pálfi and Dr. Anna Bakonyi. We also opened towards the other kindergartens in the neighbourhood, as in this region only a negligible fraction of the kindergartens are involved in the Erasmus+ programme, so we made some of our training courses available for their teachers, too.
What were your criteria for selecting project partners?
In the beginning, our opportunities were constrained by linguistic barriers, since at that time we lacked self-confident language skills. We wanted our kindergarten pupils to be actively involved in our project activities, too, so we cooperated with Hungarian institutions abroad. The foundations of the professional relations were laid in 2010, and it's an interesting fact that Csemete Rerformed Kindergarten of Cluj-Napoca has been our partner in all the following projects since then. We consider maintaining good relations with our old partners very important, as well as involving new partners in our developing projects, as it provides us new knowledge, methods and contents. Our partners implement their educational work at high standards, and they are also key additions to the partnership, as they conduct outstanding activities in various areas of education. Our needs coincide, and we don't only think in terms of one project cycle, but have been building our relations since 2010, and we make our long-term plans together for sustainability.
What are your innovations, what new tools and methodologies do you integrate into your everyday work due to the project?
We had a lot to benefit from the partnership, since in our partner kindergartens, national identity is deeply rooted in everyday life, so we have adopted many of their tradition-preserving activities, songs and rhymes, and we also adopted and integrated their "Vitálmanó" programme into our education programme. Our institution hosts the playful activity series of the Europe Direct network, where the children can learn about EU values. We have also adopted the Parents' School programme series, attended by a large number of actively participating parents. During project implementation, our events are built around particular topics, with the involvement of a kindergarten psychologist, a story therapist and NGO's.Within HELP, we also established a health education programme, where we name activities implemented during the project, broken down to months, in two-year periods. The auxiliary material developed is available on our website.
How has the appearance of the international dimension affect the children and the associates of the institution?
During staff mobilities, we introduced the associates of the partner institutions to our kindergarten pupils through playful, experiential activities, and they also got in touch with the kindergarten pupils abroad via online communication tools. Due to the special situation of our institution, we could even implement child mobility, as children attending the nearby Gerlice Kindergarten of Bellye could participate in the Kindergarten Olympics that we organised. Due to the international dimension, the children and the staff members gained a broader perspective and became more open to new things. An essential element of school and kindergarten partnership programmes is supporting mobilities, so the travels and training of staff members were funded by the project. At Kertváros Kindergarten, everyone assumes a role at an institutional level when implementing the activities, so we consider it important to involve all the staff in the mobility, too, as besides being of a team-building nature, these trips also support professional and personal renewal.
What does Erasmus+ mean to you?
Continuity and confirmation since 2010 that our projects have a positive effect on our children, their families, our environment, as well as on us, project implementers. What have implemented lots of plans which we had formerly only dreamt about. My attitude has changed a lot, my professional knowledge and relations have expanded, and I also made friends with colleagues involved in project implementation. It was a great honour for me that in the campaign organised for the 30th birthday of the Erasmus+ programme I could represent the kindergarten teacher profession, as well as the Erasmus+ programme. I want to make it as widely apparent as possible that we can also induce huge changes by implementing children's activities. I encourage kindergartens to follow our example and dare to initiate international partnerships, because they can only benefit from them.
Last modified: 08-08-2019