Geoeducation: participant testimonials

10/09/2016
Julka

Between 1st September 2014 and 31st August 2016 Stowarzyszenie Kaczawskie along with three partner organizations (Associação de Desenvolvimento Rural e Integrado das Serras de Montemuro, Arada e Gralheira from PortugalHaskolafelag Sudurlands from Iceland and Lokalna akcijska grupa ”Barun Trenk” from Croatia) was conducting the „Partnership for geo-education” Project.

The project included four 5-day trainings in each of the partner countries and four transnational project meetings of the expert team that was working on establishing the geo-education methodology.

Below are testimonials from project participants:

Trainees 

Cristina Martins – Portugal

One of the project’s biggest assets is the fact that we were able to gather partners from territories quite diversified, both in respect to their heritage resources as the strategies implemented for their development. In view of this, the educational potential of the project was very significant because it allowed us to know different strategies and projects and to check on the ground its effects.

I learned that an educational project becomes more interesting when you can combine the different dimensions of the territory – geology, biodiversity, biology, but also history, culture and customs of the people who inhabit in these territories. A project gets even more importance when local communities participate and are active agents in these projects. For this reason, I would like that educational projects could be more cross and enhance the interconnection with local communities.

Graciela Figueiredo – Portugal

The Partnership for Geo-Education project represented to me as a person, citizen and professional, a crucial opportunity in the process of learning and amplifying my horizons in terms of exchange of good practices and acquire different experiences resulting from methods used by our partner countries partners that work towards the protection / recovery and promotion of geological, natural, cultural, economic and social heritage;

Regarding the experiences and skills already possessed, this project allowed also to add and enrich concepts within the strategic vision (poured into the ESTC – European Sustainable Tourism Charter) on what is actually important for the sustainability of territories and their populations, both in terms of direct relationship with the citizens either with local or agents, with young people more specifically with the educational community. The project also allowed to know other cultures, traditions, customs, in an increasingly global world and has promoted the friendship approaching and strengthening relations between people from different countries;

These learning acquired should also be discussed between the technicians involved in the Magic Mountains territory and between the technical team ADRIMAG, aiming to create high-impact actions in the territory, supported by other complementary actions to be implemented in each municipality.

Pedro Marta – Portugal

I had the opportunity to know deeply the reality of Geoparks from other countries, not only in terms of its Geo-education, as well as their functioning, organization, structures, geo-educational paths, design, mode of operation, local experiences, etc.

Assets of the project:

– Direct contact with local actors related to the Geopark and its Geo-education;

In-situ visits

– Participation in concrete actions;

– The conclusions from the final conference;

– network of contacts with people who share similar knowledge, crossed or complementary to mine and that allows me to reach them in future actions that will develop.

Project useful in my daily basis:

Thanks to this partnership, I am able to, within the municipality that I work, carry out all the studies and projects necessary to implement:

– Interpretation Centres

– Museological spaces

– Educational Center

– Signs and information boards

– Interpretation Paths

– Content and Geo-education actions

– Outdoors activities

Mariusz Foryś – Poland

The meetings were very inspiring and informative. The possibility of cooperation and contacts with foreign partners gave good suggestions for possible future actions and the transfer of many solutions to the local ground. I participated in two trips and each was different, unique and hard to compare, especially that I did not have the opportunity to cooperate with the Portuguese and the Icelandic organizations before. But if I had to decide which of the trips was more enriching and surprising, I must admit that it was the visit to Iceland, region with volcanic activity, very unpredictable. The hosts showed us the unspoiled, inaccessible land, where they can rapidly develop tourism, which is an alternative to the other parts of the economy.

Gabriela Męczyńska – Poland

The project, beyond the exchange of experiences, good practices and knowledge of the new tools used to promote geology, brought a lot of added value to indirect recipients of the project, ex. conference participants or residents of different countries. The number of people involved and participating in the project and their professional diversity confirms the desirability of the activities of individual organizations and the need for education of society in the field of earth sciences and regionalism, and the success of existing Geoparks is the best motivation for the people of our region to take firm steps towards the creation of the Geopark in Kaczawskie Mountains and Foothils. In addition, this international cooperation is likely to continue also in other areas of promotion of our regions through the implementation of the project of cooperation in the field of creation and promotion of local products in the framework of the LEADER Initiative.

The trip to Croatia allowed me to get to know the culture and the richness of nature and history of this country, which is very fast growing with a strong focus on building tourist infrastructure and professionalisation of educational and tourism services. The visit program was very well prepared, which allowed us to get to know the variety of natural places of interest and also the most interesting attractions of the region. I loved the uniform way of labeling the Landscape Parks.

Krzysztof Kowalczyk – Poland

In my opinion this was a very interesting project, engaging partners from 4 countries from different parts of Europe, different culturally, as well as varying degrees of involvment in geo-education. I think that has established a strong bond between the partner and we got to know many interesting solutions to inspire further actions and to implement some in our area. I am under the impression of highly rewarding benefits of new knowledge in geodukacji in southern countries as well as in the north of the continent, where in the recent years the tourist traffic has increased, along with the interest in geo-eduaction.

Both trips I participated were very informative and enriching my knowledge. Portugal and the region of ​​our partner is a place where there are many geosites, but the tourist traffic is rather local. Icelandic geopark faced a huge increase in tourist traffic and audience from around the world, highly intense. Being shown results of many years of experience of partners in the operation of geoparks and geo-education was very important for me, especially involving learning appropriate forms of media and communication, the work of educators and education in the field, etc.

Þórdís Erla Ólafsdóttir – Iceland

This project showed me a lot of different things that I haven‘t seen before. How other countries do exhibitions, signs, construction of tourist destination and first and foremost geo-education methods and techniques. This project will be good for Katla geopark further development. The project was very useful and really an eye opener!“

Ingunn Jónsdóttir- Iceland

I went on the trainee excursion to Portugal in the spring of 2015 where we travelled between municipalities that are part of the Geo-education programme. We also travelled between different geosites around the area that are open for tourists and other travellers. At these sites, a local guide usually took us around and told us about the most remarkable things concerning geological facts and findings. The trip was overall very educational and gave me a new insight into different ways of carrying out geo education activities.

Eva Björk Harðardóttir – Iceland

This project has opened my eyes for the possibilities of increased cooperation and reinforced my belief in the importance of Katla Geopark for our area, both regarding the value of our geosites as well as more options for increasing access and better management. In my capacity as a member of the municipal council of Skaftárhreppur the project has empowered me in promoting our geopark. Visits and conversations increase solidarity, broadmindedness and ability to find solutions to problems.

Sandra Brá Jóhannsdóttir- Iceland

This project has been very useful for the municipality of Skaftárhreppur. It has generated new ideas and opportunities on how the community can utilize beeing a geopark. Being able to visit geoparks in other countries and exchange ideas and knowledge is very important for small communities like Skaftárhreppur. The network that has been created with the project will also be of great value in the future.

Mile Pavicic – Croatia

Longer stay in one area really provided us with the occasion to get to know, not only the area, but also the people. We had the opportunity to spend time with other country’s trainers and experts, to hear real life stories about the geopark promotion and its effect on the local development. Even during the free time, when the official program was finished, we were hanging out with colleagues from other countries and geoparks.

Leonardo Perinovic – Chorwacja

It was awesome. If it hadn’t been for this project, I would never have the opportunity to visit Portugal. Even if I had the time and the money to do so, I could never get a chance to interact so much with local people and local stakeholders. It was so inspiring. I brought back home so many new ideas, from the simple solutions inside the tourist infrastructure, to more complex solutions like models of cooperation with local schools. I look forward to implement them in our region.

Maja Davidovic – Chorwacja

We have visited so many different organisations, institutions and localities that I provided us with this great variety of insights. In particular, I was happy to visit the local school and to see the real life connection with geoeducation and its application in the curricula. It was fascinating how these children feel the connection with the geopark area. They already feel the sense of belonging and ownership, and this is the true guarantee they will try to preserve it in the future. Also the feeling of watching the teachers and children at work was so effective. I still remember each detail vividly and think about it very often.

Ivica Samardic – Chorwacja

Although I was looking forward to more serious lecturing and seminar-type education, I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that outdoor education has provided us with great amount of specific and contextual knowledge. It was less formal and strict that I expected, but at the same time more wholesome and interactive. I did learn that I tend to like this type of training more than the classic indoor ex-cathedra listening. Also, I have benefited from so many new professional contacts and connections established and I look forward to all the new project ideas that will come out from this.

Experts

Catarina Prado, geography expert – Portugala

The activities that I had the opportunity to participate in the GEO-EDUCATION project in particular the visits to territories that are part of the partnership, the geosites, the exchange of experiences with partners from Iceland, Poland, Croatia were essential for my reflection on the role of geo-education in the defence and preservation of rural areas.

This participation also has contributed to consolidate knowledge and contact with good practices, which are essential to the development of the tourism strategy of the Magic Mountains territory.

Daniela Rocha, geology expert – Portugal

The Partnership for Geo-Education project allowed me to know the work that has been done in the area of Geo-education in very countries (Iceland, Croatia and Poland) and in different geological contexts. This has increased my knowledge in this area and allows me to, currently, propose to update the good examples observed within the Arouca Geopark territory and Magic Mountains. In my opinion, this reality is extended to all the trainees that participated on the project because they work in the different municipalities of the intervention area of ADRIMAG. At the same time this project allowed me to share a lot of work over eight years in the area of Geo-education in Arouca Geopark, a reference in the UNESCO global Geopark network. I’m pleased to feel that I have contributed to promote Geo-education within the intervention area of ADRIMAG and other European contexts.

João Carlos Pinho, ADRIMAG coordinator – Portugal

This project was very important because allowed me to understand better the concept of Geo-Education implemented in different countries/realities. Even if we live in the same continent, the geological features can be quite different and demand different interventions and action plans. This project allowed to realize it and learn with that. It’s very important to share what’s done best, but also to learn with the bad examples and learn from it. All the partner countries had huge potential and presented good geo-educational material. I think that the work, the geo-educational methodology developed within the project will allow of us, the institutions involved in this project, enhance the geo-educational work done in each country. The different areas of expertise also allowed to have a wide vision of the geo-education and think/re-think the geo-education activities.

Piotr Migoń, geography expert – Poland

It was a very good and timely initiative, particularly for the Polish partner, whose experience in geoeducation was most recent. The project gave us the opportunity to learn from experience of the others, not only from verbal communications but also from practice. Visits to educational centres, thematic trails, geosites were invaluable. This allowed us to compare solutions and approaches used in different countries and to reflect on best practices that can be implemented in Poland. Personally I benefited a lot from seeing three contrasting geological settings and collected unique materials for my lectures and informal talks. First-hand contact with local cultures was an added value of the visits.

I enjoyed very much all study visits and each had its highlights. Furthermore, each was perfectly prepared by the local organizers. From the professional standpoint, Iceland enhanced my experience most as a highly dynamic environment, with features I have never or rarely seen before (divergent plate margins, geothermal fields, ice-volcano interactions).

Ewelina Rozpędowska, geography expert – Poland

I met new people and got to know new places, to which I would not have access, by visiting these countries privately. I got new friends. I’ve learned that in Kaczawskie Mountains and the Foothills we are close to the establishment of a geopark is based on the idea of ​​UNESCO. I learned how to persuade, engage local governments to develop the idea of ​​geopark in the region. I experienced that the geological heritage can be interpreted so that it becomes interesting for adults. I learned that you can lead geo adult education, by involving them even in real scientific programs. I learned to build residencies on the basis of geological resources. Participation in trips convinced me that the expertise gained on the need for geo-education can become not only an element of personal development, but also a source of income for residents in our region. Problems in the development of geoeducation we all have similar. Good practice which we share, after a slight modification to the realities of the country, are valuable result of the project, although they were not the main goal.
I took part in two trips. Both were carrying the baggage of new experiences. However, a visit to Iceland, where the action geopark is less supported by the state, and therefore organizational problems are closer, was more important. This happened also because the region Kaczawskie Mountains and Foothills is the Land of Extinct Volcanoes. Very cognitive was getting to know the country and the people who live in the shadow of volcanoes, feeling their direct dependence on the strength of the planet Earth. Because I teach adults, I have to be very credible. It is very important to me, that now about natural phenomena, which can not be observed in our region, I can speak from personal experience.

Wojciech Biernacki, geography and tourism expert – Poland

The project was very beneficial for me. It gave me the opportunity to see new places, to know new people, but first of all to see how geological phenomena can be used to build a tourist product and develop tourism in less popular regions. All study visits were very interesting and profitable. As a teacher of tourism and hospitality I use many examples of good practices from visited places as case studies in my classes and lectures.

Brynja Davíðsdóttir, biology expert – Iceland

The project was highly enlightening for me as a director of a Geopark – particularly as we still have room to improve on the geo educational side. The Project had a few different effects through its complexity:

  1. The teamwork while working on our own teaching programmes in Iceland as presented in the final result of the project. The teamwork itself helped us to make the project a communal effort. This was very positive for the personnel working with the Geopark and will allow for a positive integration of the teaching material.
  2. The output of our own teaching programmes as presented in the final result of the project. This work will come of great use for welcoming groups of adults from abroad and also for integrating onsite education to GeoSchools in the making.
  3. Cooperation between countries and personnel within other Geoparks: Learning from other partners about their Geo education has given me valuable insight into the diverse ideas Geopark have been working on in the past as well as what they have done during this project to improve their output in the future.
  4. Visiting parks in different countries has given us valuable contacts and ideas on the running of Geoparks, the outdoor activities and pathmaking for the protection of nature and geological features so important for the outdoor geo educational activities.

Eiríkur Vilhelm Sigurðarson, tourism expert – Iceland

These projects inspired me. To see what others were doing and how they did it is always a good thing. In Poland there was a lot going to happen and projects starting, to see and hear how they were planning and doing their new educational center inspired me – the power of the village of Dobkow was obvious, same with the „stone park” in front of the Papuk vistior centre in Velika in Croatia and to see the amazing and well organized geosites in Portugal. For me as an expert coming from Iceland I noticed two very important things, no 1. People – people who dedicate themselves to the project,  no 2. Money, to have access to these great funding’s from EU is very important to be able to do things properly. These two things stick together. In Iceland we have no 1 but we need number 2. To see, feel and taste the different culture was also very important. When I came back to Iceland I was always inspired. I had seen different methods in geosites, hiking paths and overall how to promote knowledge. I was also amazed to see how much we have been able to do in Katla Geopark and that’s because we have people that have been dedicated to the projects. This project was very useful and I’m a stronger and more educated person than I was before.

Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, geography expert – Iceland

I was on three trips from Iceland, to Polland, Portugal and to Croatia.

I was one of the people that founded Katla Geopark in Iceland and I work much for both Vatnajökull National Park and the Icelandic Environmental Agency and I am therefore quite familiar with the management and running of nature areas. Even so I found the trips very useful and they sparked many thoughts and gave me many useful ideas. Some rather trivial, but useful, about planning and maintainance of visitor facilities and production and presentation of educational and information material. Others about more fundamental ideas, as which visitors the parks should serve and what should they emphasize in their work and presentation to the public. In all the countries it was useful to learn about the emphasis being placed on being useful for the local community and serving their interests. On all trips the hosts gave us very useful information and the instructors and guides were competent and well prepared.

Zdenko Ivankovic, geology expert – Croatia

Geology often tends to direct its focus on more practical and common fields (like the exploitation of stone for commercial purpose or construction). However, many geologists decided to follow their professional and academic career primarily because of the love for geology itself (like myself). This project gave me the opportunity to recall this first love. Geo-education is an astonishing educational field and we all gave a small contribution to its promotion with the implementation of this project. Also, I was happy and proud to contribute to writing the geo-education methodology part.

Bosko Obradovic, pedagoy expert – Croatia

Although I had many occasions in my work so far to travel and to participate in educational activities, this project has provided me with the once in a life time opportunity to get really close look inside the geopark locations. We did have to make some compromises regarding the time spent at each location, so in order to visit many different phenomena maybe we had to spend less time at each location. I would prefer some deeper insight into some of the geosites (like the vulcanoes or the birthing stones). All together, it was so educational that has enrichened us for the whole life.

Dijana Ferkovic, coordinator – Croatia

What an extraordinary project it was! I believe even our Polish partners had to be pleasantly surprised with the fact that all the project partners were so engaged and enthusiastic. Me in particular, I was very interested in learning about individual developmental initiatives that might be applied even back home. Not in the same way or scope, but definitely with the similar objectives and methods. Geo-education is truly a concept that can become a competitive advantage of each of our regions. Portugal is definitely the leader that we all could follow in this sense.

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Erasmus + „Partnership for geo-education” is a project implemented by Stowarzyszenie Kaczawskie with partners from Iceland, Portugal and Croatia. All three partner organizations are working for the promotion of their regions and geological education in three geoparks: ADRIMAG in Arouca Geopark, Portugal, Local Action Group „Barun Trenk” in Papuk Geopark in Croatia and Haskolafelag Sudurlands in Katla Geopark in Iceland. The project aimed at the exchange of experiences, good practices and establishing the outdoor geo-education methodology.