Our presentation briefs on the experience of IALE Romania in integrating Landscape Ecology knowledge in non-formal learning activities. The experience draws from two educational projects carried out in 2014 and 2016. The projects targeted young students of different social and economic backgrounds in four rural public schools and one urban private school. Activities are placed in the context of a Romanian curricula which does not develop Landscape Ecology competences and is supported only by a limited number of days dedicated to non-formal activities. Out of 36 school weeks per school year, only one week is officially dedicated to non-formal education. Consequently, teachers have limited their approach to the traditional descriptive methodology, especially educators in rural areas where, the most attractive landscapes and learning opportunities can be found.
Our presentation is structured as follows. First, we point out the importance of non-formal activities for the learning process. We show examples of how teachers can transmit scientific ideas and Landscape Ecology concepts through direct practical experience, rather than adopting the stick-to-the-book approach.
Secondly, we underpin the importance of developing Landscape Ecology competences in young learners, and by competences we include not only knowledge and skills, but also attitudes, which we believe to have a key role in the formation of responsible adults. We describe the activities we conducted with secondary school students (ages 12-18), with a focus on outdoor experiences and social interaction.
Thirdly, we present our perspective on developing educational materials of high impact, focused on visual images and hands-on exercises. During times when the richness of information is overwhelming, students’ attention and interest have proven more and more difficult to stimulate. Therefore, we stress the importance of synthetic and well-focused materials, combined with experiential learning (including fun and games, socialising activities, Photography exercises etc.). Our presentation shares a few guidelines that helped our team in preparing such educational resources.
We conclude with presenting the challenges and opportunities for promoting Landscape Ecology competences through both indoor and outdoor non-formal educational activities, based on the experience gathered during the two projects. Furthermore, we briefly discuss the opportunities for future possible collaborations on educational topics to support Landscape Ecology.