The ‘Plants and Play Producing Universal Skills’ project, or ‘PaPPUS’ for short, takes its name from the Greek word given to a bearded seed in the Dandelion family.
The numbers of children actively engaging with the natural world has been declining for
some time now. However, there are huge undisputed benefits of being outside in the
outdoor world. Scientific studies have shown that contact with nature improves children’s
engagement in learning as well as offering increased physical and mental restorative
aspects. These benefits also have the potential to reduce early school leaving, which is a
recognized problem across the whole of Europe, thereby significantly impacting on a young
person’s future life chances.
PaPPUS involves six partners across five partner EU countries collaborating together to
explore how plants from both the natural and horticultural worlds can be used playfully to
connect young people to their outdoor environments. This connection will not only
increase their future expectations and long term understanding of the Natural World; but
will ultimately develop wider skills and competencies and unlock more of an awareness and
understanding of potential linked future career paths.
The initial phase of the project will be for partners to engage with school teachers and youth
group leaders and children in their own countries in order to explore the ‘hooks’ that inspire
attention and interest of young people; whilst also unearthing what support teachers and
play/youth workers need in order to use the natural world for their activities more
effectively. The initial research should reveal valuable evidence from a range of angles and
cultural backgrounds that will help the project fashion a toolkit of ideas to support teachers
and youth workers in engaging children with plants in a more playful way.
The second phase of the project will then be to test out and refine this new playful toolkit by
seeking feedback from an advisory committee of relevant experts in conjunction with
teachers, youth workers and young people. There will be free access to the toolkit for all
who wish to use it in their work.
The final development phase of the project will be the creation of an ‘On-line’ PaPPUS
training course with embedded Playful Plant focused learning materials that will be available
freely to all. In order to refine the course for full public access, the project will run country
led pilot workshops that train teachers and youth workers in its use. The final accredited
course will then be promoted at a number of national workshops in each country designed
to roll it out more widely while also helping to signpost youngsters to potential career paths.