8 March Conference, Lithuania – School for everyone. Inclusive education: theoretical approaches and undiscovered opportunities

Spring began with the inspiring cooperation between the Naujamiestis School and the Panevėžys District Education Center implementing the activities of the project “LETS CARE: BUILDING SAFE AND CARING SCHOOLS TO FOSTER EDUCATIONAL INCLUSION AND SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENTby the “Horizon Europe” program in Panevėžys district. On the 8 of March, the conference “School for everyone. Inclusive education: theoretical approaches and undiscovered opportunities” was held, the purpose of which was to review the actualities of the implementation of the principle of inclusion, get acquainted with the possibilities of applying innovative strategies, and share experiences about the successful and proven practices of inclusive education.

The participants of the conference were welcomed by Antanas Pocius, the Mayor of Panevėžys District Municipality and Jurgita Vaitiekūnienė, the Director of Education Center. All speakers of the first part of the conference are professionals with extensive experience in inclusive education.

The first lecturer s Assoc. Dr. Asta Lapėnienė gave a presentation “Environment as a third educator: practices of creating contexts”. The speaker presented the following prerequisites for creating an inclusive educational environment:

  • a changed concept of environment creation: from visual space to multisensory atmosphere creation;
  • the potential of the environment as a third educator (overcoming and transforming the environment);
  • strategy of universal design for education (spaces with different functionality, spaces adapted to different learning styles);
  • embodied education as a system of educational science and practice: educational architecture, ergonomics and environment.

Assoc. Dr. Asta Lapėnienė invited teachers to move from visual-based space to creating a multi-sensory environment. Also, the lecturer, based on H. Schmitz, presented two types of spaces:

  • spaces with a defined location and area (measured and associated with visuality);
  • spaces of the feeling body and emotions (strictly undefined, intended not for viewing but for experiencing).

Assoc. Dr. Asta Lapėnienė emphasized that students are encouraged to experience, discover, research, learn and create by themselves through the activation of senses.

The second presentation “Inclusive education – problems or opportunities? Experiences of informal education”, read by Nida Gruodienė and health psychologist Agnė Benikė, talked about what determines the education of an exlusive child. According to the lecturers, inclusive education is a continuous process in which all three actors are important: teachers (knowledge, acceptance, creativity, flexibility), parents (guardians, caregivers) (responsibility, cooperation) and the child (involvement, change). The project “Writing on Ice” presented by the lecturers is an inspiring example for teachers of how professional and persistent work can achieve excellent results in the education of different children.

Elena Kasperavičienė, a member of the Lithuanian Art Therapy Application Association, in her presentation “Guidelines for children’s self-expression: style of playing and educator’s position”, not only revealed different methods of educating children with suggestive examples, but also read excerpts from the book “Children with Emerald Eyes” by Mira Rothenberg. The lecturer, quoting V. Lowenfeld, said that art provides an opportunity to release emotions and use them meaningfully and constructively. According to her, emotional outbursts have to be limited at school, so it is necessary to include feelings in activities by creating conditions for their expression. The lecturer spoke about the possibilities to educate together. According to her, while the child is forming his schema, it is more important for him to communicate with himself, and the emergence of the schema marks the beginning of the ability to feel and understand others. It is interesting what position an educator should take? The answer is simple – allow the child to recreate his experience and express it in his own way.

The conference was attended by 60 teachers, assistants, managers who understand the concept of a safe school and safe learning and nurture it.

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