Originally posted in autumn 2009
An international group of 15 environmental educators visited the UK from 1-8th Sept 2009 to learn about ‘education for sustainability’ and practical demonstration eco-centres. The group, representing NGOs and environmental organisations from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Portugal, together with British participants and coordinators, spent 3 days in Bristol and 4 days in mid-Wales. In Bristol, they visited community environmental projects including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), St Werburgh’s City Farm, and met with representatives of Bristol Transition Towns and Permaculture projects, to learn about practical ways of engaging local communities in environmental issues. In Wales, the group stayed at the Centre for Alternative Technology, a leading eco-centre near Machynlleth, where they learnt about ways to educate young people and the public about renewable energy and climate change, including practical workshops on wind power, eco-footprinting, and talks from CAT staff on their ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ strategy and on how the centre was established.
Many of the participants are interested in establishing their own demonstration eco-centre in their own country, to engage with children and local communities on the important issues of climate change, peak oil, renewable energy and eco-building, and therefore had a specific interest in finding out about the work of CAT and the way the centre is run. Several of the participants, including those from Slovakia and Russia, have already begun work on an eco centre project, while others are involved in education about energy issues and climate change and wish to develop practical eco-centre projects in the future to support better understanding of these issues.
The group also spent a day in the woods with leaders from Forest School Wales, learning about the forest school approach to learning and trying out practical forest school activities such as bushcraft and carving, and held an intercultural evening where food, drink, dance and music from the various participating countries was shared and enjoyed.
It is hoped that participants gained inspiration and ideas from the projects and organisations they visit in the UK, to help them move forward with their ambitions at home. They also shared information about their own work and their own cultures, giving the UK participants a perspective on environmental issues very different to our own and an insight into little-known cultures such as those from the Caucasus region.
The training course was coordinated by Look East Wild Earth, with the support of the Youth and Environment Europe. It was funded by the European Youth in Action Programme with the support of the British Council. Participants came from a wide range of organisations including the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (Georgia); Siberian Eco Centre based in Novosibirsk, Russia; and Sosna, an eco-centre in Slovakia.