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A summary of Nature’s Classroom project results.
Summer School: Establishing an Ecoremediation Course in Čatež
A trip to outdoor learning courses: project presentation
Permaculture zone: Building a Yurt
Early spring at the ERM course in Modraže
Učne table v Občini Zreče (available in Slovene only)
The Deaf and Hard of Hearing from Maribor at the ERM Course in Modraže
Okoljske škode (okrogla miza) (available in Slovene only)
Permacultural zone Dole: planting the first trees
Opening of the Nature Development Centre Poljčane
Municipality of Poljčane and the Nature Development Centre
Municipal Waste in the Municipality of Poljčane
Predstavitev projekta na občini Sv. Trojica (available in Slovene only)
Outdoor learning exercises of UM FoA students at the ERM learning course in Modraže
Autumn Activities at the ERM course in Modraže
Re-Use Centre in Rogaška Slatina
Initial Construction of the Learning Course in Dobrovce
University of Maribor, Faculty of Arts
Energy Agency for Podravje – Institute for Sustainable Energy use
Development Agency Kozjansko
Institute for Development and Improvement of Infrastructure and the Social Environment RISO
Boč forest educational trail
Quarries in the Bela valley educational trail
The subterranean treasures of Haloze
Ličenca Ecosystem educational trail
Educational trail among treasures of the trees
Educational trail through the Dravinja valley
Educational trail through the valley of freshwater crabs
Convent educational trail
Learning point on bees, herbs and their products
Vzpostavitev ekosistemskih tehnologij za izobraževanje v naravi in učnih opazovališč (Limnos)
Raziskave z namenom izobraževanja za vodne ekosisteme (UM FF)
Vzpostavitev Izobraževalnega centra o stoječih vodah – Sveta Trojica (RISO)
Trajnostno gospodarjenje z odpadki na projektnem območju (RA Kozjansko)
Učni program za raziskovanje v učilnici v naravi za 1. triado
Učni program za učenje v naravi za osnovne šole
Učni program za praktični pouk naravovarstva v učilnici v naravi
Učni program za praktični pouk na ERM poligonu
Ekosistemi – življenjska okolja
Rastline in živali v ekosistemih
Živalski svet Dravinjske doline
Voda vir življenja
Vremensko dogajanje v naravi in toplota
Voda in delovanje v pokrajini
Ekoremediacije – terensko delo
Učne poti in vodenje v naravi
Dejavnosti v prostoru
Na sprehodu ob potoku
Zasnova učne poti Spoznajmo prsti
Ekološka kmetija in trajnostni razvoj
Gozdna učna pot
Kemijska analiza vode
Načrtovanje prostora z umestitvijo rastlinske čistilne naprave
Rastlinska čistilna naprava
Zelišča na ekološki kmetiji
Spoznajmo tla in analize prsti
Recently, learning courses in Modraže and Dole were venues of a summer school entitled “Setting-Up an Ecoremediation Course in Čatež”, organised by the Centre for Educational and Extra-Curricular activities (Center šolskih in obšolskih dejavnosti) in order to transfer the acquired knowledge and experience in designing learning courses to an area where they plan to establish a similar outdoor learning course.
Andreja Tomažin, head of the Čebelica home, emphasized that outdoor education has a lot of quality value and that it is actually the best type of education that people can experience in their lives.
Participants in the “Establishing an Ecoremediation Course in Čatež” summer school, which took place at the outdoor learning courses in Modraže and Dole, expressed the desire to transfer the knowledge and experience in designing outdoor learning courses to an area, where they plan to establish a similar learning course.
Prof. Ddr. Ana Vovk Korže, Head of the Nature’s Classroom project: The objective of the summer school is for Centre for Educational and Extra-Curricular Activities to acquire an area where they will be able to carry out field work, nature science days and hold outdoor lessons and lectures in the direct vicinity of the Centre. Considering that the Centre itself has no experience in how to tackle such a project, we decided to have them organise this year’s summer school at this learning course, so that they may copy ideas, approaches and didactic recommendations and later use them in their own Centre.
The existing learning courses in Modraže and Dole had a visible effect on the designers of the future learning course near Čatež.
Andreja Tomažin, head of Čebelica, Centre for Educational and Extra-Curricular Activities: We came here very excited to explore the learning courses in Modraže and Dole, to study them and learn what there is to be learned, to note things down and to get new ideas on how the knowledge we acquired yesterday and here today can be transferred to our area where we want to establish a similar learning course in the future.
Mateja Podgoršek, urban planner: We will try to find suitable locations for these solutions and tell an interesting story at the location we will select.
The intention to establish a new learning course would definitely not have developed successfully without the awareness of the advantages of outdoor education.
Andreja Tomažin, head of Čebelica, Centre for Educational and Extra-Curricular Activities: Outdoor education has a huge quality value, since here each student, young or old, directly experiences experiential possibilities. It is in fact the only and the best quality education that we can experience in our lives.
Summer school participants acquired a lot of new knowledge in a natural environment, under the vigilant eyes of their mentors.
Mojca Kokot Krajnc, MC ERM junior researcher: Our group’s task was to first present all the water sources located on the course and then analyse the water quality of each individual source. First we did the physical measurements, where we analysed the colour of water, then we measured the water’s temperature and pH levels and finally we analysed the water’s odour.
Alenka Sajovic, Ecoremediation Technological Centre Celje: In my group students learne about the principle of operation of a constructed wetland. That is why our field work is composed of measuring individual parameters at the inlet of the constructed wetland and at its outlet, and then we compare these data to a natural wetland. We compare the data to a natural wetland because we know that the constructed wetland as a system for purifying waste water is based on the natural wetland or swamp ecosystem. The process of purifying waste water in such a system as a constructed wetland uses the same principles as the processes in a natural swamp.
Jerneja Križan, MC ERM independent professional associate: Visitors to this year’s research camp worked in groups to learn about the properties of soil here at the course. As the landscape is quite colourful, we have a lot of soil diversity. That is why we will actually get very, very interesting results, which students will then compare with each other. We expect them to learn a lot about soil, to know all the different soil types located here, and to later actually use this knowledge in their work on the learning course, where they will dig out soil profiles and learn about soil properties this way.
At the end of the summer school in Modraže and Dole, students did not hide their excitement.
Nastja, Sevnica: We learned many new things today about water purification. Among other things we studied the water in this area, what kind of ingredients it has …
Katja, Šentjernej: Personally, I liked the mentorship most, as the workshops were organized by professionals …
Lara, Ljubljana: I like how the course is set up. How to teach children, young people and adults, how to invoke their interest in ecoremediations, in how to re-establish these natural states.
Bojana, Metlika: Yes, I liked all the workshops today. I like how everything was presented vividly and not in the form of a text, as we are used to.
Tadej, Trebnje: I like the valley itself, it’s nice and calm, and I also like the course, it looks very natural …
Partners in the “Establishing Conditions for Experiential Education for Sustainable Development” project have invited representatives from leading education-related organisations and schools, headmasters and teachers from the region to visit the outdoor learning courses in Modraže and Dole and the Nature Development Centre in Poljčane. The visitors – who were invited to see the outdoor learning courses – were taken on a guided tour of the educational environments and ecoremediation systems and introduced to the established conditions to innovative outdoor exploratory learning.
The visitors learned that the Municipality of Poljčane is an example of how we should live in harmony with nature.
In the desire to familiarize the broader public with the outdoor learning courses in Modraže and Dole and with the Nature Development Centre Poljčane, partners in the “Establishing Conditions for Experiential Education for Sustainable Development” project decided to invite special guests to the above mentioned locations.
Prof. Ddr. Ana Vovk Korže, head of the Nature’s Classroom project: First we invited representatives of the leading educational organisations. These are the Ministry of Education, representatives of Slovenia’s Eco-Schools, representatives of centres for educational and optional activities as well as schools, headmasters and teachers from this region. The objective is to show them these outdoor courses which are waiting for outdoor education, considering that the young people strongly need this kind of experience.
At the course in Modraže visitors were shown field and laboratory gear for field exploration; they were also taken on a guided tour of the educational environments and ecoremediation systems and told about the established conditions for innovative outdoor exploratory teaching.
Staška Buser, School Centre Šentjur: This is the outdoor course that can help us apply all our knowledge about nature and husbandry. I’m referring to healthy food production from the viewpoint of water protection, as the visitors here can see in person how this knowledge can be applied to their smaller or larger eco farms. Young people can also come here to learn and gain new experience in nature.
At the permacultural learning course in Dole, where a yurt was recently constructed, the last days prior to the visit were used to carry out final tasks and build a greenhouse, arrange its interior and install the planned water element in front of the yurt.
Dane Katalinič, Eco-Schools for Kindergartens programme coordinator: This course features numerous processes, which are displayed so well that they could be used as textbook examples in pre-school education and all the way to university. In short, this course is a preparation for life, acquiring knowledge that you can take into your home environment and imitate it. If this happens, then we’re looking at a bright future. Not only that, I’d like to point out that the course is ahead of the time we live in.
At the end of the day visitors were also taken to the recently opened Nature Development Centre in Poljčane which acts as a centre for education on nature and environment. There they learned that the municipality of Poljčane is a model example of how to live in harmony with nature.
Stanislav Kovačič, Mayor of Poljčane: This is exactly what we imagined it to be. We’d like to continue with this work. We can boldly say that we have achieved a lot, but there is still much to do. In any case we would like to continue developing the vision of our municipality. We want to live in harmony with nature, to preserve nature and revitalize it in places where it was damaged or stunted and offer all of this to our visitors. All kinds of visitors, but mostly those coming here for educational tourism.
The outdoor educational courses in the municipality of Poljčane were also inspected by representatives of partners participating in the project, who were very excited about the results they saw.
Mateja Malek, RISO Institute for Development and Improvement of Infrastructure and the Social Environment: There are five partners participating in the project, in addition to the Faculty of Arts, these are Limnos, Energy Agency of Podravje, Development Agency Kozjansko and us, the RISO Institute. We are very thrilled about this cooperation. These kind of outdoor courses are being established all over Slovenia. Today we visited two in Modraže and this one here in Dole. Similar ones are being set up in Sveta Trojica, next to the lake Trojiško jezero, and in the municipality Miklavž na Dravskem polju, in the settlement of Dobrovce. We are really happy about this cooperation and we see that the project is progressing quite well.
At the permaculture zone in Dole near Poljčane a yurt was built, a traditional dwelling structure of Mongolian nomadic tribes, which is an improved version of the isolated tent that will – just like a more solid structure would but with a smaller impact on the environment – serve as a multipurpose room or a classroom.
Domen Zupan, the person in charge of setting up the zone, explained the importance of this object’s placement in the centre of the zone, as it will be used to simulate how to achieve nutritional self-sufficiency and how to place items in the environment to minimize energy consumption.
See the photo gallery.
At the permaculture learning grounds in Dole near Poljčane it only took a few days to build a yurt, a traditional dwelling structure of Mongolian nomadic tribes, which will serve as a multipurpose room or as a classroom.
Domen Zupan, head of zone construction: The yurt represents the centre of this estate which covers about one hectare of ground and is fully designed as a permaculture estate. This is therefore the core which in this case simulates a house, a dwelling structure that dictates the configuration of other elements of the permaculture zone.
A yurt with a diameter of 8 m was chosen mostly due to its low impact on the environment. Since it is actually an improved version of the isolated tent, it can be used during all seasons while at the same time serving its purpose just like a more solid structure.
Domen Zupan, head of zone construction: In the rear part we will add a greenhouse, which will also contain a small kitchen and sanitary facilities, but will also being used for seedling cultivation. In short – another multipurpose room. Always based on the permaculture principle, which strives to have each element in the system perform as many functions as possible and have as many elements as possible support one another.
The central location of the yurt is also very important, as the zone will be used to simulate how to achieve nutritional self-sufficiency and how to set up the environment in a way to minimize energy consumption.
Domen Zupan, head of zone construction: This central part is surrounded by a suntrap, another element supporting the whole design, which encompasses the garden with the house. It creates a warmer microclimate, which comes in handy, particularly during the coldest part of the year. This means that the suntrap is composed of the shrubbery, smaller trees and larger trees in the back, which, facing south, offer protection and create a somewhat warmer area here, which is suitable for living in. It can slightly reduce the energy use in the dwelling, which is also beneficial for the plants. After that we will add a water element, which has – just like everything in permaculture – several functions. This element of water will be located in front of the yurt and during colder weather this watery surface will for example function as a mirror and add additional energy from the sun to the dwelling or the classroom. In addition to making the surroundings more temperate, it also contributes to biotic diversity; at night it warms the area while during the day it keeps it slightly cooler. In short, we have a number of such effects that accumulate and in a permeaculture system we try to round things up, to combine as many as possible in a solid sustainable system. Everything to achieve sustainable living, so we don’t use too many resources, because our children and grandchildren will have to bear the costs, we are currently exhausting their resources and we are simply using too many of them.
At the site they will also display new approaches to solving the current environmental problems and questions.
Domen Zupan, head of zone construction: We want to show that resources are limited. We chose an example which I believe is quite common in Slovenia. In our example there is a water spring on a hill, which is polluted, as wastewater is being drained near it. We will make a reservoir, lead the wastewater past the spring and clean it in a plant-based purification plant; we will do an ecoremediation on the spring itself in the form of a plant-based purification plant, capture the water in a larger cistern and use it later for the needs of our site. Likewise, we will install photovoltaic cells and a collector for sanitary water heating. This means that on all these levels students or whoever, the local environment, will be faced with the fact that resources are limited and that we have to act accordingly. Even though we are used to turning on the faucet or the light and expecting it to shine endlessly, we have to be aware that our children and grandchildren will be faced with limited resources and that we have to act ethically and limit our own use. Or at least be aware that even though we take resources for granted, they are not in an unlimited supply.
Spring’s awakening also awakened our learning course. Early spring activities were started which had to wait for brighter days due to bad weather and a long winter.
At the beginning of this year’s spring we installed new teaching signs on the course, which will simplify movement along the course. Furthermore, we placed additional learning boards in the forest and next to trails, which will provide visitors with information on the learning contents that are available here. In the forest two larger boards have been set up with information on tree and bush species growing on the course and which present certain learning methods.
An experimental room for safer storage of learning models is being constructed, where our models will be stored safely under the roof and protected from other external influences. We are thinking about placing bird tables and nesting boxes and we are in process of gathering ideas for a lookout post for butterflies, birds and other animals which are harder to spot.
One of the last things that were installed was an enclosure for domestic animals, which will be coming to the course when the warmer days set in.
More in the photo gallery
Members of the Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Podravje Maribor visited the ERM outdoor course in Modraže to see how certain laws of nature work. We recorded a report that was also interpreted into sign language.
During winter nature is usually resting, however, the lecturers and guides still managed to successfully present the activities and processes at the outdoor course: constructed wetlands, ecoremediation approaches, the importance of substantial development, etc. The visitors liked it so much that they decided to return during the summer.
View photos from the event.
Several days ago members of the Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Podravje Maribor visited the Nature’s Classroom outdoor course in Modraže, in the Municipality of Poljčane.
Prof. Ddr. Ana Vovk Korže, head of the Nature’s Classroom project: We wanted them to engage their understanding, their view of the Nature’s Classroom, and it’s very interesting to see that they perceive and relive these teaching methods with all their senses.
At the educational outdoor course, which combines 24 educational environments for natural ecosystems, the participants learned about new approaches to solving current environmental problems, such as cleaning waste water.
Andreja Kovjanič, member of the Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Podravje Maribor: What I found interesting was the explanation how plants purify the wastewater and how they help make it clean. I’d like to return to the course, maybe at a later time, during a warmer season, when the nature will come alive as well.
Marija Koser, sign language interpreter: The biggest problem of the deaf is communication, understanding words and concepts. Sadly, they can’t hear the words we hear through different media and they also can’t read or perceive them easier. The deaf sometimes cannot understand words, even if they are written down. That’s why we’re interpreters, not translators. Translators translate a word simultaneously, while we interpreters interpret it in a way to make it understandable for them.
Bedrija Črešnik, chairman of Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Podravje Maribor: It is great that we are in contact with nature and see how nature actually helps us and helps the environment to become what it should have been. The lecturers explained to us how this cycle works in the nature. We didn’t know much about it, as we don’t have certain options to learn more about this topic.
That’s why it’s important to allow the deaf and the hard of hearing to participate in environmental education without communication obstacles. It is our wish that in the future as many special target groups as possible visit the Nature’s Classroom. We are also planning to enable wheelchair access, so those who are bound to wheelchairs will also be able to experience a piece of the natural environment and understand its importance for human kind.
Recently, nutritional self-sufficiency has become an increasingly popular topic, as Slovenia currently produces only slightly less than a half of the food its citizens consume. Based on Eurostat data, Slovenia is ranked 24th in the EU in regard to the size of its farming surfaces. Sadly only a minor part of these surfaces is being cultivated according to ecological standards, which are the only ones ensuring healthy nutrition, sustainable management and independence.
If we want to preserve a healthy habitat and equal chances of survival for our ancestors, we have to take radical steps toward sustainable management and improve awareness raising efforts on local production and exchange. Permaculture is a planned system trying to establish a sustainable habitat by mimicking patterns from natural ecologies. Even though it is most often connected with food production, it can be applied in all fields. It is an ethical system of planning that is also suitable for using surfaces for housing. Permaculture combines elements of ecology, landscape, organic farming, architecture and agroforestry. It emphasizes connections between individual elements in order to achieve synergy effects.
At the microlocation Dole near Poljčane we are setting up a zone with permacultural gardens. Work has already started: we planted 35 tree seedlings: apple, pear, cherry and plum trees (additional trees will be added later). Part of the zone will be a “forest garden” the other part a meadow orchard. During the summer months additional work is planned.
See a few photos from the first working day at Dole.
In the centre of Poljčane in a fully renovated, more than a hundred years old house, the Nature Development Centre was recently opened, where a public institution with the same name will operate from now on. Among its tasks will be the coordination of outdoor learning courses located in the Poljčane area and promotion of tourism. The renovated building will become a focus of activity, as it will host cultural events, educational seminars and promotions of natural and cultural heritage. The citizens who attended the opening were full of expectations and did not hide their enthusiasm for the new acquisition.
Approximately two years ago we came up with the idea of the Nature Development Centre, which has finally opened its doors in a fully renovated, more than a hundred years old house in the centre of Poljčane.
Stanislav Kovačič, Mayor of Poljčane: It took us a lot of small steps to arrive to where we are today, to be able to make this first large step, when we actually open the Development Centre building, which is only a part of the whole project called Nature Development Centre.
Prof. Ddr. Ana Vovk Korže, Head of the Nature’s Classroom Project: Considering the fact that the project “Establishing Conditions for Experiential Education for Sustainable Development” is mostly being carried out in this municipality, we urgently needed a building, which was financed by the municipality, so we can hold seminars, workshops and courses for teachers, students and pupils here. Nature provides us with experiential possibilities, but the background theory has to be thought and learned in a certain environment.
Jerneja Križan, independent professional associate working for MC ERM: The Nature Development Centre in Poljčane will be a connecting unit, a linking point which will organize and coordinate all zones and outdoor courses here in the Municipality of Poljčane. An info point will also be located here, where children and visitors will be provided with directions and combined into groups to visit the zones and educational courses.
Nina Hriberšek, independent expert: Cooperation will be continued at school level, because Nature’s Classroom is located here, which is very interesting for other municipalities who don’t have it. Then there will be cooperation at a regional level with various regions and of course we want to establish national and cross-border cooperation as well.
Nature Development Centre will also be aimed at educational tourism.
Bojana Korez, proffesional associate working for MC ERM: Tourism as a branch also comes up in this context, because we want to include it, attract people and in a way show them what can as a potential activity be offered to potential guests, future guests, tourists and visitors who will come to see both the cultural and the natural heritage, and how to combine all of this into an integrated whole with the learning grounds and with the Nature’s Classroom.
The citizens of Poljčane participated in creating a vision that also represents their intent to be recognizable for their attitude towards the environment.
Bojan Mažgon, co-owner of a counselling agency: The citizens of Poljčane are well aware of their advantages and disadvantages, but what is important are the values of these citizens. First among them, high above the others, is environmental awareness and their attitude towards the environment. It is followed by the realization and awareness that successful development requires integration within the municipality as well as to the outside.
The Municipality of Poljčane is also a best practise example on how to treat energy.
Dr. Vlasta Krmelj, Director of the Energy Agency of Podravje: The centre will provide data on public sector energy consumption in the municipality, at the same time it will also offer counselling to the citizens and to everyone interested in how to save energy and how to use renewable energy sources.
The project “Establishing Conditions for Experiential Education for Sustainable Development” also successfully attracts the local population.
Ferdinand Vouk, ERM course in Modraže: It has been going on for two years and the response is constantly growing. I am convinced that my children and everyone else will participate and see and experience nature the way it is and start respecting it more.
How did the idea of a Nature Development Centre come to life?
Alenka Sajovic, Ecoremediation Technology Centre Celje: The idea came from the realization that we no longer know how to live in harmony with nature. In the past people knew how to live with nature, they didn’t subjugate it, they only took what they needed. Today man demands more and more from nature. It is only right then that we are aware that there is much to learn from nature, that we have to live hand in hand with it and it is this idea that the Development Centre wants to spread among the people, so we will live in harmony with nature.
The cost of renovating the Nature Development Centre building, which will become a focus of activity, as it will host cultural events, educational seminars and promotion of natural and cultural heritage of this area, amounted to 300,000 euro including the required equipment. The citizens, who already had the chance to see the new acquisition, are full of expectations and do not hide their enthusiasm.
Respondent 1: Of course it’s important for our town, as people will be able to gather and congregate here and develop new ideas.
Respondent 2: I believe that there is enough opportunities in the town of Poljčane for this to develop.
Respondent 3: In the future we have to attract more associates and inform people from surrounding villages about where interesting activities are taking place, so they can participate and inform a larger population group.
Respondent 4: I believe that our town will profit from it, however, it depends on how well we will be able to motivate and educate our citizens.
Respondent 5: Many people will come from the countryside. The centre will help people train for other purposes, so they will start to realize that nature is important.
Respondent 6: I am overjoyed and I believe this is what was needed for our environment, for our municipality, for our citizens and that it will be great for the young people as well as for us who are no longer that young!
A large section of the Municipality of Poljčane is part of the Natura 2000 network. In the video the mayor explains how the features of the landscape are used and integrated into projects. That is followed by a presentation of the Nature Development Centre, which will connect natural and cultural heritage with tourism activities in the municipality.
The authorities of the Municipality of Poljčane are aware that raising awareness of the environment, ecoremediation approaches and nature protection also helps them promote their home area. That is why they were among the first to implement certain innovative projects, one of them being the outdoor educational course.
Stanislav Kovačič, Mayor of Poljčane: We are taking a serious approach to protecting our environment, which is a logical consequence of the fact that 60 % of the Poljčane area is part of the Natura 2000 network. Therefore, we have to use the advantages of Natura 2000, integrate them into various projects and I am proud to say that we were quite innovative in this regard and received praise from all over Slovenia. Our largest investment was the Nature Development Centre; however, it is not merely a building, which we physically adapted for future operation, but a combination of projects related to it. This year we have already installed two constructed wetlands with suitable drainage systems in Podboč and Krasna. Next year two more buildings will become functional – the former school in Studenice as a geomorphologic centre and a structure in Zgornje Poljčane, a former blacksmiths workshop, as a nature centre in the sense of preserving the Boč Landscape Park.
Klavdija Majer, Municipality of Poljčane, project manager: The centre will provide visitors with information on the natural heritage of the Bela valley and on the cultural heritage of this whole area. At the same time, visitors will be able to bake bread in this building and learn about our ancestor’s way of life in this area.
An educational trail along the Dravinja River will also be established, featuring four info points and a hide for watching birds. Info points will contain information on the treasures and particularities of the valley, the Dravinja River and the Boč Landscape Park.
Klavdija Majer, Municipality of Poljčane, project manager: We will also restore the Convent Educational Trail with fourteen info points where visitors will be able obtain information about the natural and cultural heritage of Studenice.
Klavdija Majer, Municipality of Poljčane, project manager: This building will house the Nature Development Centre administration. The project will next year be institutionalized as a public institute – the Municipality of Poljčane is going to found the public institute “Nature Development Centre”, whose main objective will be to connect natural and cultural heritage of Poljčane and create added value for tourism in the Poljčane area.
Stanislav Kovačič, Mayor of Poljčane: Ever since we started working on these projects, we tried to involve a large circle of people, so, in a way, these projects reflect their opinion. People connected with that and I believe that these projects will bring to our parts the opportunity for a better life, better income and, of course, activities related to the operation of the Nature Development Centre.