On Thursday morning the group met early to travel to the state of Saxony-Anhalt in order to visit a number of learning places where the participants could witness ESD in the region in various forms. Saxony-Anhalt, the group were told, has a largely industrial past. It was considered the most modern and advanced state in terms of industry but after the collapse of East Germany this declined greatly and left in it’s place an empty state with a lost identity. However in recent times the region has been focused around it’s biospheres (which were to be visited by the group) and the goal of the organization’s behind them was to implement ESD into it’s parks. It is true to say that the biospheres and natural reserves and very important to the states cultural identity.
The first learning place to be introduced to the participants was Mittel Elbe, a biosphere and forest park featuring greatly around the Elbe river. In this park the group were told how the flood plain meadows are critical for the region in terms of biodiversity and it was even stated that the flood plains are the tropical forests of the EU. This means that the biosphere is rich in species of flaura and fauna. The group had the chance to visit the education centre within the park and had the organizations’ programme for ESD presented to them. They were told of how the region wants to become a model for ESD and therefore is an important aim.
The centre can support around 12,000 visitors every year and everyone is welcomed there free of charge. However they are more interested in educating children (the mulitpliers of the future). Therefore one of the main projects taken on by the organization is that of the ‘Junior Rangers’. Through this the children are shown around the biosphere and allowed to experience nature freely. The movement has been adopted all over the EU and is set to expand further. As well as this they are involved in a project where guided tours are given to the blind. Around the forest the group could see how this works where information is written out in braille along with other special methods of teaching.
The participants were then given a tour around this forest in order to see for themselves the different methods used to educate the visitors to the area. This included a model of a beavers habitat where children can watch education videos. Unfortunately once the group had entered this hut, it was near impossible to lure them back out of the comfort. It was however a good way to show how the children are taught in the biosphere.
There was then a chance to grab some lunch at the site of the next stop of the trip, Ferropolis (which means metal city). A tour was given by Martina Wormuth where she shown the connection of the region’s industrial Culture with ESD and it included a museum of the huge mechanical structures used here in the past. The group were shown how the open cast coal mine which had originally stood there had gradually been flooded and now consists of a large lake surrounded by biodiversity. There are a number of these mines which have now become lakes and the next stop was another example of this.
When the participants arrived at Goitzsch they were given a tour by a former green party politician who now works for the NGO BUND. They have been able to buy up degraded land in order to allow it to remedy itself back to health. This cultural preservation site was once seen as a lost cause, a dead landscape after the coal mining had ended. But the formation of a lake and work done my BUND to preserve it had lead to a large increase in biodiversity which has brought the area back to life.
The group were then treated to a walk up a tower to get a birds eye view of the area and view the natural lakes from above. Anyone who was already scared of heights could not have been helped by the swaying of the tower but for the majority this a an enjoyable experience.
Overall the field trip allowed the participants to get a real sense of the work done in these learning place towards educating not just young people but anyone visiting the area.