Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice

Enrolment is now open for placement hosts and participants interested in taking part in 2021’s edition of the EIT Climate-KIC programme, Pioneers into Practice.

Pioneers into Practice is one of EIT Climate-KIC’s most established educational programmes. For over a decade the programme has been connecting climate change professionals across Europe, challenging individuals and organisations committed to climate resilience to get out of their comfort zone and experiment with different methods to address the problem.

Climate change impacts regions differently, so the programme is tailored to each location’s climate mitigation and adaptation needs. Pioneers is typically delivered through a mix of placements, workshops, projects, coaching and e-learning, but given the rapidly changing circumstances, 2021’s Pioneers programme has been designed for partners to easily adapt for both online and face-to-face delivery.

“Being a host means meeting different people”

In 2020, Katarzyna Mordak took part in a four-week Pioneers programme placement at Călimani National Park in Romania, working alongside hosts Cristinel Ortoanu and Benone Gavrilas.

Călimani National Park is an IUCN Protected Area and popular ecotourism destination located in the Eastern Carpathian mountain range. Cristinel Ortoanu has worked at the park since 2006 as an ecological education specialist and has been a Pioneers programme host three times. “A local manager reached out to us and we were immediately interested,” she says. “Being a host means meeting different people from all over Europe who work on environmental protection. They support us and we also learn a lot from them.”

Katarzyna Mordak was challenged to develop an ecological educational plan for children. Cristinel and colleague Benone Gavrilas, who works as a ranger at the park, were both very impressed with her work, saying that “Katarzyna was a great fit – we wanted someone with a geology background who had experience working with children and she had experience in both fields. She helped us create an educational programme which includes ecological lessons and an introduction to geology.”

Katarzyna developed a plan for local students of different ages. “The goal was to improve children’s environmental awareness and teach them about the surrounding natural world,” she says. “I needed to get acquainted with existing lessons and games connected with the environment, improve them and come up with new ideas for activities for students. The whole cycle of lessons is connected to the Călimani National Park’s geography,” she adds.

“A fantastic challenge”

Her hosts supported her throughout the placement, says Katarzyna, adding that the biggest challenge was adjusting the difficulty levels for different ages. But colleagues at Călimani provided her with all necessary information while being very encouraging. And although the COVID-19 pandemic meant Katarzyna’s lessons couldn’t be delivered in schools, Cristinel and Benone said the programme was adapted to be virtual and delivered at the visitor’s centre when children come to visit.

Katarzyna says she learned a lot during her placement. “Working in a foreign country was a fantastic challenge, as I needed to learn a lot about the area which I was developing lessons for and how best to raise ecological awareness among young people,” she says.

Her hope is that her work will help raise ecological awareness amongst the students, while helping them understand the natural heritage related to their local area.

But she also got a lot from the placement.

“Working in an unknown environment is something everyone should try once – it opens your eyes to other points of view and problems that sometimes are completely different from yours – and sometimes exactly the same.”

Host Cristinel agrees. “There are so many benefits to being a Pioneers host – you meet new people from across Europe and experience different cultures and backgrounds. Katarzyna did a great job as a Pioneer and we learned a lot from her.”

Pioneers into Practice is now open for applications for hosts for 2021. Find out more here.

 
Location
Romania
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