Educating for a Sustainable Future - Resources

Case Study 7.6.1 The Gyula Juhász Practicum School of the University of Szeged, Hungary
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Title: Fieldwork for City Children
Main Whole School Strand: Research and Evaluation
1. Description of the School

The Practicum School of the University of Szeged Teacher Training College Faculty is situated in Szeged, in southern Hungary. The school is used by faculty staff to trial, develop and demonstrate new teaching techniques and by trainee teachers to develop their basic skills. There are 500-550 college students who practise teaching at the Gyula Juhász School with the help of 54 mentor teachers. The college students face the beauty and difficulties of the teaching profession here for the first time. The school has 82 teachers and 900-950 pupils. There are four classes for each Grade 1-6 (ages 7– 13) and five classes in Grades 7-8 (13 – 15 year old). The pupils’ families are from different social strata but most of them are well educated. Although the children come from all over the city, they are not specially selected to attend the school.

2. Aims and Outcomes of the Project

The school is in the centre of a large industrial and commercial city and its site is cramped with only a small yard as a playground. There is little open land nearby. The teachers feel that it is important to take pupils into a more natural environment so that they can have first hand contact with wildlife. At Fifth Grade (11-12 years old) geography, biology and physics are taught as integrated science by a team of three teachers. A week-long residential fieldwork course was incorporated into this programme.

3. The Project: Content and Development
For one week, lessons were taught at the Educational Centre of the National Park of Kiskunság (the Sand-Hills of Fülöpháza). In order to make this experience as colourful as possible and to use all the advantages of this kind of teaching, colleagues from other subjects were also involved. During the week pupils took part in various activities which included:

1. Collecting and recording weather information (temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction).
2. Observing the environmental destruction caused by humans and collecting ideas about how to restore nature.
3. Learning more about recycling and its practical realisation.
4. Observing and collecting information about work on the nearby farm.

4. Drivers: a) External b) Internal

a) Collaborative field work is promoted by the Hungarian Ministry of Education. The Ministry organises an internal teacher-training course to improve both field work techniques and cooperative skills. The Ministry of Environmental Protection funds one-third of the cost of environmental field trips for all primary and secondary schools. The rest of the costs are paid by the school and pupils’ parents.

b) Because of its city-centre location, the teachers of the Gyula Juhász School are keen for pupils to experience natural habitats. The school has a special local curriculum and time is provided for fieldwork. For example, teachers who are not members of this programme helped the team to prepare for the field studies programme. They did not think that the teachers of integrated science were going off on a holiday because they saw the hard work carried out before, during and after the field study programme.

5. Assessment

During the week all the pupils’ activities were recognised by “fabatkas” (tokens). The criteria for awarding
fabatkas were:

1.

Fulfilling the compulsory tasks (e.g. collecting data about nature and interviewing National Park employees, etc.).

2. Doing the housework well.
3. Performing drama, old-time games, folk-dances and folk-songs in groups. The pupils with most fabatkas didn’t get a prize, but they had the choice of which traditional game, folk-song or folk-dance was to be performed at the leaving ceremony.
6. Evaluation

As part of the evaluation process, pupils completed the same questionnaire before and after the field trip. This survey contained questions about their attitudes, feelings and knowledge about the environment. The questionnaire included a section on peasant lifestyle. Most young Hungarian people use the word peasant as a pejorative expression for other people who are neither attractive nor intelligent. In other words, peasant working and peasant life are despised in Hungary. Before the fieldtrip lots of pupils accepted this common view, but after fieldtrip their attitudes had changed. Some extracts from the questionnaire responses follow:

Question: What do you think about Hungarian peasant life?

Answers before the field trip:

• The Hungarian peasant life is boring and hard work.
• The peasant job is dirty, unclean work.

Answers after the field trip:
• The peasant life was an environmental friendly way in olden times, because they did not have garbage.
• The peasants are really jacks-of-all-trades / handymen because they can do everything for daily life and for feast. (Food?, festivals?)
• The peasants can make toys and musical instrument for themselves.

Question: What can you do for a better and healthier environment?

Answers before the field trip:
• I never leave rubbish in the countryside and in the road.
• I do not collect wild flowers and butterflies. Many other answers indicate illegal or anti-environmental activities.

Answers after the field trip:
• I will explain to my younger sister why wildlife is important for us.
• I will collect each type of rubbish in a separate container.
• I will make gifts and presents myself from natural material for my relatives.
• I will become a voluntary environmentalist.

There were other positive pro-environment intentions among the pupils’ answers. After the field trip, some pupils asked their teachers “Why are there no shrubs and flower-beds in our school yard?” Before the trip, they had totally ignored this aspect of their local environment. After the fieldwork the teachers evaluated this visit and discussed their experiences at a staff meeting.

Their conclusions were
:

1.

The field study programme was very useful for the pupils’ learning process because the facts about nature and the environment, collected by pupils, were well- utilised during the whole school term in integrated science and art.

2. Three teachers led this field study programme that is why their teaching could be covered at the school.
3. In the future teachers would like every class to be involved in this programme but it needs a lot of money.

7. Constraints or Difficulties in Developing the Project

The Education Centre of the National Park of Kiskunság called Fülöpháza is heavily used. Other destinations will have to be found if the programme is to be expanded to involve more classes. If the programme is expanded, covering teacher absences will be more difficult.( each 5-8 grade class is taught by many different subject teachers in Hungary). The teachers have worked on some solutions to this problem but they agreed that they will not able to involve more than three classes next year. Expanding the programme depends on increasing the supply of school assistants and finding more money that requires support from the school’s patrons.

8. Benefits of the Project

In addition to questionnaire evidence, the school residential fieldwork programme was considered
successful because:

The pupils had lots of happy experiences with nature and old fashioned Hungarian peasant lifestyles.

It proved to be an outstanding tool in environmental education. For example the children learned how they could make gifts and presents for their loved ones from natural materials. At the same time they learned new values because not everything has monetary value.
The children learned that if they change their consumer habits and they reduce waste, their environment
would be more beautiful and healthier.
It also has an excellent role in improving public spirit among the pupils.
The teachers also reported that lots of pupils had asked their parents to take them to natural places
because their attitudes had been changed.


9. Future Developments

Parents from pupils in other classes have asked the staff and the School Director to expand this programme. Next year, three classes will be involved. These classes will go to different field study centres. After the visit a school meeting and an exhibition for pupils will be organised at which pupils will be able to report on their activities and experiences.

10. Additional Comments

This project only involved some pupils, so this is not exactly a whole school approach, but it is a first step. Within a few years, it is hoped that every class will be involved in this programme.


Unit 7 Case Study Index
Section 7.1
Study Guide Table of Contents or Resources Index