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Biodiversity and Active Learning

Introduction

The threats of further climate change, habitat destruction and desertification, water shortages, overfishing  and the sea level rising combined with the growing importance of deep sea hydrocarbon exploration and extraction, make the eastern Mediterranean a hotspot for research. A considerable number of new jobs in the fields of sustainable development and environmental education will be created. “Prospects of Biodiversity & Active Learning” was a training course that aimed to support the professional development of young people interested in environmental studies, green jobs and environmental education. The training course promoted employability by encouraging the participants to develop further environmental awareness and to explore biodiversity through a holistic and experiential learning approach. During the study visits in places of special environmental significance and centers of environmental education the young people had the opportunity to improve their research skills.

The Training Course was funded by the Programme “Youth in Action” (Action 4 - Youth Support Systems/ Sub-Action 4.3 – Training and networking of those active in youth work and youth organizations). The main theme for the project was “Employability of Young People“.

The participants were youth trainers and youth workers actively working with young people on a professional or voluntary basis.

Objectives

The project met the objectives and priorities of the Youth in Action programme. The participants developed a broader understanding of Biodiversity and Environmental Sustainability. They also developed a broader understanding of a European citizen’s responsibilities to the world, its economy and environment. Moreover, the training course encouraged the active participation of young people and promoted young people’s active participation in general. The project was part of the bigger aim to develop solidarity and promote tolerance among young people. Moreover, the project promoted European cooperation in the youth field.

The Training Course "Prospects of Biodiversity and Active Learning" brought together youth workers and volunteers from very diverse countries in order to explore European citizenship as a process of becoming responsible for one’s surroundings, for other individuals and for the society in which we live, in a wider and more inclusive perspective which goes beyond national and continental limits. The objectives of the training course were accomplished as they were set by our group.

These objectives were:

·         To boost youth employability and to combat youth unemployment by supporting young people to explore the employment opportunities of new jobs in the fields of sustainable development and environmental education.

·         To encourage the participants to develop further environmental awareness and to explore biodiversity through a holistic and experiential learning approach.

·         To support the young people to improve their research skills during the study visits in places of special environmental significance and centers of environmental education.

·         To learn about the ecology of the rocky seashores, the beaches where turtles breed, the elegant pine forests, the dwarf juniper and olive woodlands, and some little-known churches and monasteries. What role do the herds of goats play in the shaping of this intimate mosaic?

·         To understand the concept of biodiversity (genetic diversity, diversity of species and diversity of landscapes). 

·         To identify the skills which are promoted by Youth in Action Programme and their value when seeking for a job.

·         To explore the Youth in Action programme develop future partnerships.

·         To boost European youth networking.

Methodology

Apart from the educational activities in the main venue where the training course took place, we visited two Centers of Environmental Education, one in Akrotiri and one in the mountain of Troodos in order to study the biodiversity of Cyprus.

Official guidance was provided by the staff of the centers.

The working methods followed the principles and the philosophy of the Environmental Education and the Non formal Education fostering team spirit and cooperation with a view to environmental sustainability. We used:

Discussions/ Plenary debates.

Small group discussions.

Exercises.

Cultural presentations with the use of theme walls. 

Ice- breaking activities.

Group building activities.

Presentations in the plenary.

Field Visits in Environmental Education Centers.

Experimental workshops in the nature.

Reflection groups as a method of evaluation.

Final evaluation in the form of discussion but also with the use of a questionnaire.

Non-formal contact making games.

Future planning & partnership building activities.

The training course was designed as a process of non-formal learning and peer education using participants’ own experiences in the fields of employment and the environment. The participants had an active input in sharing knowledge and experience, and were willing to learn new skills from the facilitators and from each other. Young people took responsibility for their own learning and were engaged actively in the process.

The participants were very engaged during the writing of the application and they started working together for the preparation and the implementation of the activity right after the approval of the application. During the preparation of the activity but also in the follow up period the participants worked together to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet.

Achievements

The project has been implemented as to reflect the needs of the participants -youth workers throughout Europe- to improve their understanding of European biodiversity and to develop their own employability. The reflection groups helped the organisers hear the needs of the participants and make proper adjustments in their everyday program and their methodological approaches and techniques.

The achievements of the participants during the project were particularly gratifying. In cooperation with the preparatory team, the participants achieved:

·         to learn about youth work and youth work in different parts of Europe

·         to develop a shared understanding of Biodiversity and Active Learning

·         to share knowledge and experience of youth work techniques that can be used in preserving the environment.

·         to be able to use the techniques of non-formal learning with young people within their own organisations

·         to have a good working knowledge of the EU Youth in Action Programme and to develop new projects together for Erasmus+

The TC was very rewarding for the participants because they enhanced their skills in order to support their target groups, in particular young people with fewer opportunities (i.e. young people from remote or rural areas, unemployed young people).

IMPACT

Learning Outcomes

The impact of the training course in the participants and the multipliers in the organisations consists in:

·         Reflection and understanding of their own society and its obstacles and possibilities for employment for young people living in both rural an urban contexts.

·         Reflection and understanding of other societies in the broader Europe.  Learning about the realities of Europe regarding employment and environment and what these realities mean for the young people’s daily lives. All participants gained from knowing and reflecting about other societies and are now in the position to use practices from other countries in order to organise future intercultural projects together.

·         Acquirement of new tools, skills and resources for motivating and encouraging young people to be more active in their local societies as well as addressing the community issues in their countries.

·         Progress regarding personal development by understanding their abilities in different contexts.

Intercultural learning

All the participants were given the opportunity to make short presentations to each other about their work and the culture of youth work in their own country; and also made a separate presentation about key cultural features of their country (e.g. typical food and drinks, music, local dances). 

The small group work which underpined the non-formal learning approach of the trainers encouraged participants from different cultural backgrounds to encounter each other and engage in dialogue, learning about and accepting each others’ differences. By going through this process they were able to achieve the tasks that had been set. As such the project was designed so that running all through it is was opportunity to develop intercultural learning for everybody.

All of these techniques contributed to the development of tolerance and an understanding of diversity; which ultimately is the key to combat prejudice and racism.

European Citizenship

We believe that the concern about the environment -and more specifically about biodiversity- is common in all European countries. Youth unemployment and the effort to sustain employability which (the main themes of the project) are the biggest concerns of the youth today. Young Europeans have lived all their lives in times of mass youth unemployment. Young adult unemployment did not fall greatly during the boom years. In 2013, those officially labelled as unemployed account for almost a quarter of all people aged under 25 across the European Union.

During the training course the participants experienced a European and intercultural non-formal learning environment within a diverse group. Inpsired by the context of 2013 European Year of Citizens, this educational activity aimed at encouraging youth to reflect upon EU values, citizenship and rights that go with it, as well as opportunities for youth provided by the EU. The dialogue and interpersonal communication among participants of this activity raised the sense of the European Citizenship and helped them understand the importance of their role in the community/society development and that regardless of the country  they play a role in the building of the current and future Europe.

 

youth in action project by SEAL CYPRUS

This project was financed with the support of the European Commission. The content of the publication is the sole responsibility of the publisher and the European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information.

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SEAL CYPRUS,
May 27, 2016, 4:44 AM
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