Education through cultural landscapes

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Cultural landscapes are recognized to improve long-term educational outcomes (Great London Authority, 2003) at several levels: connection to landscape allows hamonious cognitive development, but landscape is also at the center of educational practices.

In the Mersey Forest, forest school allows children to play in the natural environment, to acquire basic practical skills, and learn about the environment. The forest school concept is imported from Scandinavia and can be adapted to all age groups. In Denmark, it began as a good teaching practice using the external environment, giving children the freedom to play and discover nature. The concept has arrived in the UK in 1993, when a group of British teachers returned from Denmark with an enthusiasm for this new educational approach. Since 2009, project participants have worked with other schools or centers of education for adapting websites for school sessions in the forest, and are able to build accredited training projects, and coordinating practitioners. In their school setting, children can participate in two-hours weekly sessions over a minimum of six weeks. The sessions, which include activities such as building huts, cooking over a campfire, the artistic use of natural materials, help to fight against the growing alienation of children from the natural world, resulting from freedom wandering greatly reduced and increased risk aversion in society. Classes are taught outdoors in a wooded area, or within the walls of the school to help children build confidence and improve their team behavior. The Mersey Forest program helps schools and other organizations to access, create and adapt woodlands to their academic sessions in forest areas, having already made the process more than half of Merseyside schools and the North Cheshire, and helps teachers and practitioners to acquire the necessary teaching qualifications (the Mersey Forest Plan, 2014).

An important part of another program, Urbanbees, around discovery of wild bees, is reserved for education and training. School interventions, exhibitions, nature walks, lectures, nest box building workshops and professional training courses were organized to introduce wild bees to a wide audience: children, citizens, elected officials and professionals (green areas and farmers). Under the Urbanbees program, school-based interventions are programmed cycles. Different actions are proposed for students and children in Lyon metropolis. The program also offers a collection of resources for teachers (Urbanbees, 2014, teaching files and games).

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Urbanbess Life program, Lyon (left, source Geneviève Girod), and Kodavere uavits (right, photo Krista Karro)

Landscapes offer a fecund imagery in language learning. In Vooremaa Kodavere study landscape, heritage was celebrated on Cultural Landscape Day with the publication of Kodavere dialect study book: “Kodavere Uavits” is an ABC book of the local dialect was published for children in 2015. Much of the vocabulary in the book is landscape related, featuring both object and traditions/practices.

Through the Dartmoor Vision, a multi-agency, stakeholder-driven process is developing and achieving a vision of the Dartmoor landscape in the year 2030. To achieve a vision reliant on the continuation of traditional stone working, farming, and upland practices, the Dartmoor Vision collaborates with local and regional educational facilities, and farmers, to sustain through education and practice, the functioning of the landscape. In Romania, Pogany Havas is an association of local governments, NGOs, and businesses which supports traditional agriculture through training programs and study tours for farmers, as well as involving young people in the Life-School Program, which is an opportunity to learn new skills, get involved in the local community and environmental protection projects, and take part in study tours abroad.

The Grand Parc Miribel Jonage, other HERCULES study landscape, has built a new educational environmental center L’îloz’, that organizes from spring several events around the discovery of the river Rhône and associated natural areas, on vegetable growth in the local garden, and on wild food discovery.

All these examples are elements to illustrate how the link between landscapes and education system helps strengthen the attractiveness of the area by developing heritage, social cohesion through inter-generational exchanges, well-being by the practice of educational outdoor activities, learning about the responsible use of resources and environmental protection, and resilience in the transmission of knowledge to future generations.

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