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Salford academic helps to rebuild education for Ukrainian students

A summer school for school and university teachers in Ukraine led by the University of Salford is aiming to help get education back off the ground in the war-torn country.

Since the Russian invasion teaching, and especially field-trips in subjects like geography and environmental studies have been severely disrupted.

Taking place this September in neighbouring Romania, the training will offer talks from a range of experts covering a variety of approaches of the use of digital tools, helping to support learning and accessibility in environmental education, despite the huge disruption facing the country.

Speakers from a several countries will attend the event, starting this week, supplementing practical training with support from Thinglink, an online education platform, to provide skills in an innovative approach to fieldwork that will also help support accessibility and inclusion in environmental education.

Dr Simon Hutchinson, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences at the University of Salford, will be leading the summer school alongside Marcel Mindrescu, a Romanian Geography lecturer.

It will be delivered in a hybrid format with the event being streamed online due to the restrictions on entering and leaving Ukraine. Promoted by the Royal Geographical Society and the Manchester Geography Society, the summer school will be held in the University of Suceava’s facility in the Carpathian Mountains in North Eastern Romania, with participants coming from across Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, the Republic of Moldova and Romania.

Dr Hutchinson said:

“My hope is that the event will help ‘train the trainers’ and empower staff members to develop their own digital tools to enhance their classes and student engagement.

“Right now, it is more important than ever to support Ukraine’s Higher Education System. With the summer school, we will be able to bring digital skills that will open up new doors for students starting yet another term with a war ranging in their country.”

Earlier this year Simon helped to create Virtual Field Trips (VFTs), a digital learning tool that has allowed Ukrainian students virtually complete field-based work to support a range of geographical studies, as in the current climate, fieldwork is almost impossible in many areas.

The University of Salford teamed up with Karazin Kharkiv National University and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv to deliver co-creation workshops so students could learn to create their own Virtual Field Trips, and this summer school, funded by the Central European Initiative, is showing Ukrainian geography teachers how to make and use VFTs to continue to support students and their Higher Education.

Dr Hutchinson added:

“Despite some field-based learning beginning to surface again, Higher Education in Ukraine continues to be severely disrupted. With this kind of support, the education system for students and staff can slowly start to be reconstructed.”

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