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Training For School Ecosupporters: Steps For Greener Schools

On October 24-25 St. Petersburg hosted the first training seminar for teachers «Ecosupporters in educational institutions» in the framework of Russian-Finnish project «Step to Ecosupport» within the ENPI South-East Finland- Russia Program. The training gathered about 50 participants - future ecosupporters, who will inform students and staff, support the practical implementation of the «green» solutions in all areas of school life.

Ecosupport is a model of action aimed at promoting respect for the environment of each person at his workplace and in daily life. In St. Petersburg project «Step to Ecosupport» was started by the State Committee of nature use, environmental protection and ecological safety, the organization «Friends of the Baltic». and Kosmos Ltd in collaboration with the University of Helsinki Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education, city of Kotka.

Ecosupporters are volunteer consultants, whom administration delegates a mission to integrate environmental aspects into the everyday management of the school, office or any other organization. School ecosupporters after studies at the special training are ready to provide consulting assistance to their colleagues and students, to stimulate them to act for the benefit of environment, to reduce negative impacts on environment through increased environmental responsibility of each.

School ecosupporters have an additional mission – involve schoolchildren into the green solutions and eco-mamagement.

At the seminar the participants got acquainted with the concept of sustainable development, which was presented by Alekseev Sergey, head of the Department of pedagogy of the environment, safety and human health Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education. School may become the «core» of sustainable development, the first step towards the emergence of resistant areas and sustainable cities.

Olga Madison shared experience in promotion of «green» solutions in schools within the project «Ecoschool - Green Flag». The most successful solutions were based on the children's ideas and put into practice with the help of teachers and parents. For example, in a rural school in the Irkutsk region, children made a poll to learn how their grandparents insulated houses. Applying these ideas village saved up to 40% of electricity, or 90 thousand rubles for the whole village. And in one of the Kaliningrad schools were conducted gym lessons on theme of climate change.

Olga Senova, the head of «Friends of the Baltic» and her colleagues presented the whole range of possible environmental solutions in school: effective and economic energy consumption, reducing solid waste amount and proper treatment of the waste, which could not be avoided, the choice of household chemicals/washing powders, environmental priorities in transport solutions, creation and maintenance of natural ecosystems on the school yards. In all of these areas there are a lot of simple solutions that due to low awareness we do not use.

Role game, prepared by Friend of the Baltic experts, helped teachers to apply received knowledge. Participants were divided into groups; every group/team play a role of school Eco Council. The team's task was to choose the environmental decisions that first of all is actual and requested in your school, and find support for their implementation both within the school, and partners outside the school. Participants of this game were experts, who played a role of school Director, housekeeper, parent’s committee, technical consultant, local municipal authority or other social partner of school.

Team’s projects were very different: from replacement of lighting in the classroom with more energy-efficient and cost-effective ones and saving water, to the organization of school fair/market for waste recycling and planting tree nursing, which can be used for environmental education.

Second day of seminar was dedicated to communication training. For success of Ecosuporter work It is important to create a team of like-minded people, who will support end develop the green solutions ideas. A series of interactive exercises helped participants to understand how make interaction with colleagues better, how to find allies and motivate them, what resources will be required to create school Eco Council, what steps needed to involve all school staff and pupils to the eco-management.

Key question: what is a most effective method of information work to shift to environmental actions? Now it's popular to communicate by e-mail, Internet forums, social networks. Does this mean that such «outdated» forms of communication as a poster, stand, leaflets and personal communication relegated to the past? Interactive training exercises, where experienced teachers evaluated strengths and weaknesses of each means of communication, have shown that you cannot choose only one method, marking it as the best. Way of communication depends on the purpose of our message, general situation around, character of target group, and the result, which we expect to receive; from person in the end. In different cases, in order to inform people (pupils, parents) we should use different channels. Children may be interested in joining the group in social net, where they can read fun and clear information about green solutions; for parents it may be suitable to use personal communication and for school Eco Council you can either e-mail or telephone.

One of the key parts of the training was the interactive exercise «Ecosupport Car», where the teachers were asked to visualize the whole ecosupport process like a “movement of the car”. They analyzed and drawed what resources are needed to translate ideas into actions, what will be the barriers, obstacles, why ecosupport activities slow down, or opposite – what can speed up the process, what is the main “fuel” of the ecosupport development, what kind of help they need, and what is the end of the trip (the expected result of ecosupport actions).

The results of training showed that all participants are sufficiently skilled, motivated and ready to start and develop actions to make their schools greener.

Project web-resources at the http://www.ecoprofi.info/, manual for school eco-advisers, and other project materials, as well as the resources of the organization Friends of the Baltic http://baltfriends.ru/, http://spareworld.org/rus/ and direct consultations will be important help for school ecosupporters.

The booklet «Ecosupporters in educational institutions» with basic information about the project and directions of ecosupporter’s work is published by Friends of the Baltic.

Specially for training a pilot version of Manual for ecosupporters was developed. It will be tested by school ecosupporters, updated and published in spring 2014.

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