Education and Engaging Youth
The sustainability of cultural practices is certainly an inter-generational issue. And therefore engaging the youth and bio-cultural education are seen as key elements in the Mediterranean Consortium’s work.
The following Case Studies from SPNL, MedINA and WWF-North Africa demonstrate this further.
Eliciting Rather Than Informing
In order to activate and use constructively the knowledge young people have individually and as a group, it is best to employ techniques which enable them to participate in the learning process and allow them to express their acquired or intuitive knowledge and critical thinking. Using activities such as brainstorming are not only crucial to stimulating interest and memorability but also to confidence building and group cohesion.
Learning Through The Outdoors
After providing learners with the context of a particular environmental topic, it is very important to take the newly gained knowledge out of the classroom and into the outdoors. Ideally, young people must then engage with some kind of hands on activity like bird watching, observing and identifying the flora, measuring water quality etc.
Interacting With Real Life Stakeholders
Talking to real people and being allowed to ask questions as well as see the reality on the ground is crucial so that young people can comprehend and experience the situation real life stakeholders are in.
Experiential Learning Through Role Playing
Experience based learning and especially role playing allows young people to develop skills such as problem solving, communication, initiative and teamwork. It also allows them to develop feelings of empathy and realise experientially the complexity of social and environmental issues.
The Society for the Protection of Nature Lebanon
The Society for the Protection of Nature Lebanon (SPNL) supports the conservation of nature with people and for people through the Hima community based approach. The youth were always given the motivation to play the biggest role in this conservation strategy. By strengthening their role, SPNL was able to achieve more success in terms of conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources. For the past three years, SPNL was keen on recording and taking into consideration the needs of the youth for building a more sustainably conserved environment through the Homat Al Hima Program.
“Homat Al-Hima” is an Arabic slogan widely used to recognize the individuals and groups acting as Hima guardians and heroes. Homat Al-Hima are motivated, well trained and equipped young people from local Hima communities, aspiring to lead on activities to give exposure to the Himas, and their community work including environmental, economic and social concerns, and to assure the conservation of the site and its key biodiversity, and the ecological and cultural services it provides.
The Homat Al Hima programme enabled SPNL to contribute further with raising awareness, delivering reliable environmental information, and concretely protecting natural areas in Lebanon, through building capacities of local communities and safeguarding their natural resources, as well as promoting sustainable income generating activities for enhanced livelihoods.
The programme has seen big achievements and developments since it was first initiated a few years ago. Homat Al Himas have showed a big interest and support to SPNL’s programmes, and have undertaken many activities within the Himas. Movements have been initiated by youth for the conservation of many endangered species – plants, animals, and birds; one of the most successful was the river otter in Hima Anjar, which was spotted and monitored on camera and the migrating storks in Anjar’s historical ruins.
A set of trainings took place under the Homat Al Hima Capacity Building Programme within Hima Anjar/Kfar Zabad between April and August 2016 specifically for Bird Identification and Monitoring, Canoeing and Safety in Water, Flora and Fauna identification, Guiding in Nature, Landscape and Hima, Social Media, Business Planning and Event Management, Water and Sustainable agriculture. The aim of the trainings was the development of management/business plans for the Hima sites where the trainings took place, economic empowerment, education and awareness for Homat Al Hima members, in addition to the protection of nature and biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of the young people.
In August 2016, SPNL, in collaboration with the municipality of Anjar, and through the generous support of the European Union and MAVA Foundation, organized the Homat Al Hima National Workshop in Hima Anjar. During the workshop, the efforts and achievements of the Homat Al Hima Capacity Building pilot project was presented, and a graduation ceremony for the attendees of the Homat Al Hima mentoring programme took place. Meanwhile, a participatory national action plan for empowering the role of local conservation groups and Homat Al Himas on the national level was developed.
As a result, the Homat al Hima Guideline Manual was published to sum up SPNL’s work with youth, Homat Al Himas, the situation analysis of Homat Al Himas in Lebanon and globally, the programme, and case studies. The Homat al Hima Guideline Manual provides the basis for upscaling and replication nationally as well as regionally.
The Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos
Education and youth engagement is a key agent in facilitating sustainable positive change within a societal context and crucial in shaping a new generation that applies civic values like cooperation, respect and autonomy as well as appreciates and actively protects its natural and cultural heritage. Being much more than just passive recipients of external influences, young people must be supported in becoming actively involved in social and environmental issues.
Through education and the many other ways in which young people can become engaged, they are given the opportunity to gain skills, self-esteem and connectedness as well as a role in shaping their own development and eventually our common future.
One of the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos’ (MedINA) project sites for the Mediterranean Consortium project was the Messolonghi – Aitoliko lagoon in Western Greece; a National Park under Greek law, a Natura2000 site and a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, inscribed however in Ramsar’s Montreux Record due to its threatened status. As part of the project activities, MedINA in collaboration with the Management Body of the Messolonghi lagoon (FDLMES) and the support of the Secondary Education Directorate of Etoloakarnania, decided to launch a wetland education initiative in a local school, on the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2017. Using the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative’s (MedWet) Role Playing Game on wetland management, an educational activity was organised that aimed to teach students about wetlands but also to experientially demonstrate the complexity of managing shared natural resources as well as the value of dialogue, science and team work.
The activity unfolded over three days and was completed in the space of two weeks. The first day the organisers visited the local school and discussed with the students the values and functions of wetlands, the second day the students received a guided tour of the area and lagoon led by FDLMES during which they got the opportunity to enjoy birdwatching as well as visit a traditional fishing area and discuss with the fishermen. On the final day, the organisers went back to the school and organised the Role Playing Game. In groups of five, the students took on the roles of fishermen, stockbreeders, farmers, investors, scientists, environmental organisation and citizens’ association representatives. After preparing their roles and arguments, the students collectively discussed how to manage their fictional wetland based on a pre-defined scenario. The students very passionately defended the interests of their assigned stakeholder and attempted to find common ground and solutions. In this way, as described by their teacher, they experienced how personal interests can often cloud our decisions and make us go against the common good as well as the difficulties of reaching common decisions on a shared resource. She also added that ‘overall the students felt that through this activity they had gained knowledge; they loved their place a little more and felt more responsible for the conservation of their unique ecosystem’. An extended version of the above-mentioned activity has been approved by the relevant authorities and is now available for use by local teachers, to be applied as part of the curriculum for environmental projects.
The World Wide Fund for Nature, North Africa
Environmental education in childhood includes the development of a sense of respect and acceptance of the natural and cultural identity of spaces. It also includes the development of problem-solving skills and and an appreciation of the world around us. Since 1994 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) North Africa (NA) has been working on the conservation of ecosystems, including environmental education as a key pillar for nature conservation.
WWFNA has experience in organizing training weeks for academics and professionals and has know-how of developing outreach materials and tools. Within the scope of the Mediterranean Consortium project a series of trainings, meetings, events and partnerships were organised to raise awareness of the importance of cultural practices in conserving nature.
WWFNA supports the conservation of cultural practices by engaging youth through:
Reinforcing Collaborations: between groups of stakeholders in Ghar el Melh such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, local Centres and schools, and decision-makers not only at a local level but also at national and international level.
Signing a Memorandum of Collaboration (MoC):aMemorandum of collaboration was signed between 3 key partners: La Maison de la Culture, WWF and the Primary school ‘Intilaka’ in Ghar el Melh.
Engaging Youth: by linking stakeholders around the common objective of reflecting deeply on how to integrate culture into nature conservation and on how to implement a new educational approach at local as well as at national level.
During the project WWFNA played a key role alongside the Ministry of Culture in:
Organizing Yearly Events: such as the Month of Heritage for two years in a row during which different activities were proposed such as workshops with schools to promote the products of El Guettaya by creating packaging with used nets, participation in local markets, real-time painting workshop, lagoon cleaning sessions, photo exhibitions, guided visits to the museum andexhibition of local artisanal products.
Organizing Training Sessions, Such as the ‘Week of the Sea’: for several years WWF NA has been organizing training courses on marine biology for students called la Semaine de la Mer. The theme of the 2016 training course was Culture and Nature and took place in Ghar el Melh. The training was attended by 18 Tunisian students from various universities and 4 foreign students from Algeria, Morocco and France. The students were asked to develop a methodology on how to conserve cultural practices in marine areas.
Aiming to Integrate a Cultural Approach in the National Environmental Education Programme: a national workshop was organized for educators coming from all 24 governorates in Tunisia on the question on how to integrate cultural practices having a positive impact on the environment into the official school curriculum. The Ghar el Melh school serves as a model which will subsequently be consoldidated at national level for the primary school education programme. The objective was to exchange knowledge and experiences between the 24 educators at national level.
Learning about Morocco’s Experience in Environmental Education: and studying the possibility of integrating environmental education into the official national education curriculum.
Raising Awareness on the Importance of Conserving Cultural Practices for Nature: by celebrating World Wetland Day every year on the topic of cultural practices around wetlands and to raise awareness about the importance of conserving cultural practices in Ghar el Melh and present progress on “Ramsar Wetland City Accreditation”.