Last weekend the concluding event of the international school environment initiative of WWF and ERSTE Foundation took place in Vienna. Under the title “European Schools for a Living planet” pupils and teachers from Hungary and seven other European countries implemented environment conservation projects. The activities ranged from self-build school gardens, street events and theatre performances to exhibitions and “pupils-teach-pupils” campaigns. The award for the best projects – a nature camp week in Austria - was presented to four schools from Croatia, Moldavia, Romania and Serbia.
„With ′European Schools for a Living Planet′ we particularly want to show pupils possibilities to get active, to express their opinion in public and to motivate others to take action”, said Barbara Tauscher, leader of WWF Austria’s environmental education programme. „For us, the pupils’ overwhelming commitment is the best acknowledgement of the project.”
30 school classes from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Moldavia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and the Ukraine responded to WWF’s call to stand up for Europe’s environment and future. Seven months long the 12 to 17 year old pupils worked on their eco-projects addressing the topics “Danube – Europe’s lifeline” and “Ecological Footprint”. They did researches, discussed with decision makers and went on nature expeditions. The project ideas and realization were completely up to the pupils’ creativity. The teachers supported their pupils only as project coaches.
For the concluding event one teacher and one pupil from each class travelled to Vienna to present their nature conservation activities in a colourful project bazaar and afterwards choose the best projects. Four school classes from Croatia, Moldavia, Romania and Serbia won the competition with their projects addressing the topic “Ecological Footprint”.
Under the project title „A green step forward” the 13-year-old pupils from the Croatian „Osnova škola “from Nedelišće explored possible applications of local medicinal herbs. At several events they informed the public how the use of traditional medicine instead of conventional drugs can reduce the consumers’ ecological footprint. The 16-year-old pupils from the Moldavian „Onisifor Ghibu High School “from Orhei with their project „Adopt a park“ campaigned for a neglected and unused park in their hometown. Supported by the mayor and local companies they removed huge amounts of litter, installed benches and boards with information about the site and informed the inhabitants in local media about the new recreation area. The 12-year-old pupils from the Romanian „European School of Bucharest” with their project „Go reduce, reuse, recycle” concentrated on the topic recycling. Amongst others they organized info-days in kindergartens and street event, met with politicians and gave several interviews in the local media. The 12-year-old pupils from the Serbian „Primary School ’15.oktobar’“ as well focused on awareness raising for a sustainable und resource-saving lifestyle. Under the project title „Follow the line-go green” they amongst others started a regional campaign against plastic bags.
Five pupils of each winning class will be treated to a nature camp week in Austria in autumn 2011. „We want to encouraged the pupils’ exchange even after the end of the competition”, said Tauscher. „Thus in the long run we want to establish a cross-national network of nature conservation active young people.”
„Young people have the power to shape the future, so we should all encourage them to care for the environment and to constantly search for creative solutions for improvement. This is why ERSTE Foundation supports the ‘European Schools for a Living Planet’ cross boarder initiative, and we are very impressed by the commitment shown by both students and their teachers”, states Boris Marte, Member of the Board of ERSTE Foundation. „Supporting education means taking Europe’s future seriously. Imparting sensitivity for ecological issues within an international project is a sustainable experience for the young people as well as for their teachers.”
This year, the school environment initiative “European Schools for a Living Planet” was held for the third time. Since the beginning 1.700 pupils aged 12 to 17 from eleven European countries put their individual eco-projects into action. In the school year 2010/2011 the initiatives’ starting signal was given at a one-week pupil-teacher academy in October 2011 in Austria. Via workshops and outdoor actions WWF experts introduced the pupils and their class teachers to the project topics and presented tools for the project implementation. The progress of the nature conservation projects could be watched and commented via a publicly accessible interactive weblog www.foralivingplanet.eu. There the school classes kept project diaries, posted pictures and videos about their projects and had the opportunity to exchange experiences.