Bálint Anna

International Afternoon Tea, 15th November 2016

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The international tendencies of education for sustainable development (widely known as ESD) were the topic of the fifth afternoon tea of this year.

The audience was firstly greeted by István Gyula Nagy, the Head of Public Affairs Department of the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture. He was followed by Lucia Kákonyi, pedagogical developer and organiser of the International Afternoon Tea. She thanked the museum for offering its site as a venue for the event and highlighted the other outset: namely that the lectures will be concluded with an interactive workshop. Finally, Ms Réka Könczey (director of the project sponsored by Swiss Federal Funds aiming to develop the Green Kindergarten and Eco-school programs), who accepted to host the event, presented the two speakers, precising in the meantime the reason for their invitation.

The first speaker, Ms Katalin Czippán (vice-president of IUCN CEC) made her presentation on the Educational activities and initiatives about the environment protection and the safe access to water. She made clear that there are two precise issues in education which call for immediate action: a complete alteration of the current so-called pedagogies of disaster is necessary in order to demonstrate a more positive and progressive image about our environment, while strengthening the integration of the curriculum. Meanwhile, beyond the schools, we must consciously implement the importance of sustainability in the common knowledge.

She continued by numbering the seventeen goals the UN defined concerning sustainability – out of which two where subsequently detailed. First the assignment to provide clear water to every single person as part of the rest of the fundamental human rights. Secondly, the mission of protection of continental ecosystems, which turns out to be vital in both areas: to elaborate a conscious environmental education and to create sustainable cities.

A broad range of ecosystem-services, overcoming poverty, migration – these are just a few of the most pressing issues sustainability has to deal with.

Ms Czippán encountered the fact that it is particularly demanding to modify our daily routine. On the other hand, we do have to make an effort in terms of our educational work, plan ahead and predetermine very consciously, whereas we also have to strive to maintain a flexible and constantly changing educational environment. Nevertheless, two pioneering programs can assist today’s teachers: the #NatureForAll! campaign which involves students in environmental projects and the ELENA-project, which raises awareness via the contact with living animals.

The lecture was concluded with a quick group work. The audience, split into three, discussed the different aspects of the nature and water in connection to the sustainable development goals.

Dr. Attila Varga, a senior researcher working in the area of development of ESD, the head of the School Methodology Centre at the Hungarian Institute for Research and Development and also the coordinator of the Hungarian Eco-School network, began by reassuring the audience: not especially nature is in danger, but humanity itself – therefore we have to act for our own sake. The environmental degradation reached such a devastating measure that the UN has declared: it is impossible to close down the Sustainable Development action, due in 2015, as continuous, progressive work is necessary for the next generation. The number one commitment is to encourage responsiveness and openness while overcoming the customary patterns of life. Furthermore, it is insufficient to act personally or globally: both local and specifically regional initiatives are also required.

From Dr. Varga’s point of view ESD has to face several stimulating challenges, for instance the reasonable institutionalisation of sustainability, and the reconciliation between the diverse political and evaluation paradigms. Meanwhile collaboration is the key for succeeding: that’s why educational approach should be dialogue based while teachers have to stay empowered, open-minded, and self-determined. As part of their job, beyond introducing and inspiring personal social initiatives, they are encouraged to practice democratic education as a method of instruction where participatory action researches (PAR), based on the data gathering and analysing activity of citizens and students, also play a role. Yet nowadays there are several Hungarian websites (like www.vadonleso.hu) engaging many Hungarian volunteers.

Previously the lectures, participants had the chance to visit both the temporary exhibition and the permanent collection of the museum, as well to take part in a botanical walk in the garden or in a presentation about the recent application Natura 2000. It just got dark enough by the end of the lectures to join the torchlight tour of the castle led by the Head of the Museum’s Education Department, Ms Boglárka Radics.


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