Early childhood is a critical period for the child’s development and education. The support provided during this period allows the child to live the rest of his life as a healthy individual. In this process, besides the child’s learning, playing games has a vital role in his socio-emotional, cognitive, physical, and brain development (Chudacoff, 2007; Regina et al., 2012). When children play games in outdoors rather than indoors, they get the opportunity to explore the environment. There is a striking need to increase the exposure to outdoor activities in early childhood life in the light of research indicating the importance of outdoor activities in early childhood education (Clements, 2004). However, there are many reasons why children do not spend much time on the street but stay indoors or spend most of their time at home in these days:
- Increasing number of programs or channels targeting children as audience
- Misuse of technological tools
- Distorted urbanization
- Financial situation
Many research results reveal that technology negatively affects cognitive and socio-emotional development in childhood (Kraut, 1998; Plowman, McPake & Stephen, 2010). It is clearly stated in studies that over-users of technology are younger users (Young, 1996), and this exacerbates personality disorders and loneliness (Hardie and Tee, 2007). Another study also found that participation in outdoor activities alleviate the potential of internet addiction in children (Park, 2011).
Thus, the OPIECE project’s main objectives are:
- to design a child-friendly educational street
- to raise awareness of in-service and pre-service pre-school teachers by informing them about the importance of outdoor activities and providing implications for their implementations.
- to raise awareness of other stakeholders by disseminating project results, for example, at a multiplier event or with booklets -to enhance children’s socio-emotional and psycho-motor development, and cultural awareness by providing them a real-life like environment as an educational context
- to design appropriate pedagogical activities for children to take part and for teachers to get an opportunity to apply for outdoor-oriented education
To achieve these objectives, following project outputs are aimed:
- Educational Design of the Street
- 3D Model of the Street
- Compiling an E-Book for Outdoor Practices
- Online Training Modules
- Designing an Outdoor Practice Course for Teacher Education Programs
With these, it is aimed to have pre-service and in-service early childhood teachers, parents, school principals, municipalities, researchers, and curriculum designers as participants of the project. The project activities will enable the target group participants be aware of the importance and ways of implementing outdoor activities for children. The location of the project (Hendek province) hosts 10669 children between the ages of 0-8. Also, 171 parents and 7 in-service teachers will receive detailed information about the outdoor practices and will be urged to implement these and keep reflection journals of the implementations. The pre- and post-tests will reveal to what extent the project results will have been effective.
The OPIECE includes 6 partner organisations: Sakarya University, Hendek Belediyesi (Municipality), Stitching Drio, University of Evora, Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, and Hendek Yenimahalle Kindergarten. All partners’ tasks and responsibilities have been mutually decided and they are informed about the tasks expected from them. Each partner will reflect their expertise in the project activities. The 24-month project will include constant monitoring and management activities, and dissemination activities will be prioritized. The international collaboration will be kept alive with the help of online platforms (Google groups, Whatsapp, Hangouts, etc.) in addition to the transnational meetings and online meetings. Each team will be responsible in the filing of reports for the conducted activities; thus, the time and budget control will be ensured. As an external auditor, SAU Quality Management Unit will regularly keep reports on the project activities in an objective manner.
Upon reaching the desired results, the project is aimed to impact stakeholders, researchers, parents, teachers, teacher educators, and school principals at various levels; local, regional, national, international and European level. To ensure the continuity of the project impact and results, open sources will be provided, and project activities with the help of partner teams will be conducted. The project activities will be sustained after the completion of the project. The website will be kept active, and the to-be-designed street will be free and open to access (the Municipality and Faculty of Education will continue providing their contribution to the street in the following 5 years of project completion).