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How education can connect youth and Alpine heritage?

The Interreg Alpine Space project YOUrALPS: Educating Youth for the Alps – (re)connecting Youth and Mountain heritage for an inspiring future in the Alps lasts from November 2016 to October 2019 and tackles the challenge to raise young people’s (10-30 yrs) awareness on Alpine heritage. Various educational endeavours and programmes already take place in the non-formal education sector, e.g. protected areas, NGOs, or other stakeholders. However, there is a tremendous need to catch up with regard to institutionalising related topics and practices in the formal education system, e.g. in school curricula, vocational training schedules or university courses. On the other hand, activities in the non-formal sector often lack of a systematic approach or sufficient funding.

YOUrALPS has the aim of addressing this deficit by establishing a transnational network dedicated to incorporating the values and knowledge related with mountain regions comprehensively into all educational practices. Furthermore, a so-called Alpine School Model (ASM) bundles all experiences made in recent activities, e.g. student projects, teacher trainings, workshops etc. Based on this, a joint methodological approach to education in the Alps is created.

One part of the project is to set the theoretical basis for this implementation. By means of empirical research, project partner University of Innsbruck / Institute of Geography surveys the status-quo of mountain-oriented education (MoE) 1 in the Alps and gives recommendations for a better integration of formal and non-formal educational interventions. For this purpose, first a collection of good-practice examples of already existing activities displays how MoE is currently implemented throughout the Alps. Then, extensive social science research including surveys and interviews were conducted. More than 560 young people aged 10-30, various key stakeholders, as well as involved educators in the entire Alpine territory were interviewed. Finally, official documents were analysed with respect to the implementation of MoE issues and approaches in legal curricula of the EU Alpine countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia). Special emphasis was placed on those approaches which are applicable for higher vocational schools striving for employment in the green jobs sector.

The results of the outlined tasks were separated into three distinct sub-reports of which report N°1 entails the best practice examples and outcomes of the young beneficiaries’ survey. Report N°2 highlights the analysis of legal documents, Report N°3 comprises the stakeholder inquiry, including involved multipliers. Additionally, a practical manual (‘handbook’) was created as a how-to for formal educators who plan to start or improve their teaching outdoors.

Some of the results of the various analyses are depicted below. For more information, please refer to the project results section of the YOUrALPS homepage.

·         Assessed good-practice examples were highly action-oriented but can rarely be adapted by the participants according to their needs. Therefore, it can be stated that they allow for only little self-determination regarding individual learning pathways.

·         Personal observations are the most important source of knowledge about nature according to young people, followed by parents, school and other experts. Youth requires more specific knowledge and means in order to tackle challenges such as the climate crisis.

·         Legal curricula shall be transformed from input-oriented to outcome-oriented without prejudging the results of the different learning tasks. In that way, youth is empowered to become critical thinkers and doers.

·         Educators shall take advantage of system inherent possibilities and find allies both inside and outside school for their purpose in the spirit of a whole-institution-approach. More administrative support such as system flexibility is needed in order to achieve the ambitious goals on a local and transalpine scale. Furthermore, adequate funding, proper training, networking and promotion of the idea is vital to allow MoE develop its unique potential.

This project is co-financed by the European Union via Interreg Alpine Space. Total eligible costs: 1.901.017 EUR, ERDF grant: 1.615.864 EUR. Project duration: 01/11/2016-31/10/2019.

MoE (Mountain-oriented Education) emphasizes the interrelations between mountain regions and society. In the Alpine context, MoE enables youth to face and shape present and future Grand Challenges in that it strengthens capacity, competencies and resilience among them based on the rich Alpine cultural and natural heritage.

11 January 2019

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