4.2.2 Case study: WWF Nature Academy

Institution/Author: WWF Serbia/Sonja Badjura, Goran Sekulić

Within the project “Protected Areas for Nature and People”, the WWF have implemented WWF Nature Academy programme in five protected areas in Serbia (National Parks Fruška gora, Tara and Đerdap, Special Nature Reserve Gornje Podunavlje and Protected Landscape Avala). Teachers and students had the opportunity to study within the WWF Nature Academy for more than 8 months about: 

  • Protected areas – their importance and value, and begin cooperating with the protected area they will become ambassadors for;
  • Ecological footprint – how our lifestyle influences nature and what can we change;
  • Active citizenship – how to become active and influence others;
  • Project cycle – how to develop and implement an environmental school project in cooperation with the protected area;
  • Communication skills – how to work with various stakeholders and media.

In addition, the WWF works with protected area managers to support them in development of specific environmental educational programmes, and helps them in establishing structured and long-term cooperation with local schools. Up to now, the project has involved: 5 protected areas, 20 schools, 110 teachers, over 300 students directly involved in activities, and more than 4,000 people reached by educational programmes. This is an educational programme for high school and college students interested in biology and botanical research. It has taken place over the last 8 years, participated by 180 young people from Vojvodina. The aim of this programme is to familiarise with  the  basic  methods  of  botanical research and the popularisation of natural sciences, natural and cultural historical values,  as a prerequisite for their inclusion and engagement in active protection of biodiversity, nature protection and sustainable use. Every weekend, the seminar brings specific topics in scientific  research, with demonstration of many scientific methods, practiced directly with participants. During these seminars they go through: training on basic principles of nature protection and protection of  biodiversity, sustainable development and proper use of natural resources – phase of “botanisation”, field work, collection, determination and preparation of plant material, with special emphasis on endangered, strictly protected and protected species, with mentoring of experienced field biologists and researchers;  ethnobotanics, a specific multidisciplinary science, which collects knowledge about the use of plants by people. Ethnobotanic research is an excellent model that can familiarise the  traditions and habits of population within a protected area and thus enable the development of the existing and the creation of potentially new sustainable uses of plant resources. The seminars took place in the National Park Fruška Gora and Special Nature Reserve Koviljsko-Petrovaradinski  rit, both in  the  vicinity of Novi Sad, capital of Vojvodina. 

Goranski Eco Camps

The Goranski Eko Camps (GEKs) have been held regularly since 1997, and are intended for children of elementary school age. They get to know about different ecosystems and relationships that exist  within natural habitats. They are gaining knowledge through mini-research and fieldwork, within the protected areas (National Park Fruška gora and Special Nature Reserve Koviljsko-petrovaradinski  rit). 

Complete educational programme is adapted to school children. Since last year, camps have been thematically conceptualised, lasting for three days and dealing with various topics:

Pticoljub (Birdlover) – to get to know the species of birds nesting in the floodplains and forests along the Danube, 

Buboljub (Buglover) – to learn to identify and distinguish groups of insects,

Cvetoljub (Flowerlover) – to learn to recognise edible and medicinal herbaceous or woody plants,

Medoljub (Honeylover) – to get to know the species of bees, honey plants and beekeeping,

Drvoljub (Treelover) – to learn about types of forests and forest communities.

With the selection of these topics, we wanted to teach children about groups of plants and animals that are direct indicators of the current state of ecosystems and the environment. In  this  way,  children  through their own activity find out how much their environment  is  endangered, who endangers it, and how to engage in its preservation and protection. Over the last 5 years, over 220 elementary school students have been educated on basic principles of nature protection and biodiversity protection. 

A bag full of ecological ideas

The programme includes creation of three bags – sets of equipment for educational games in three different natural habitats – in the meadow, in the forest, and near the water. The bags are accompanied with the photographs and detailed instructions for implementation of workshops in nature. Teachers are trained to use games and methods from these courses in their everyday work and school classes in biology and nature conservation. In addition to the manual, we have prepared curricula for each class. The results show that children react very well to the described workshops, they are interested in such learning, and better acquire knowledge about nature protection, biodiversity and sustainable development.