The Idea

Forest fires represent a major problem, directly affecting the environment, the economy and even threatening human lives. Recent scientific and technical advances in prevention, management and extinction are not enough to mitigate this complex phenomenon. Therefore, new approaches that integrate the whole of society, specially focusing the education of young people, are essential.

The application of innovative educational methodologies, such as Service-Learning (S-L), can play a key role. The main objective of our project “Service-Learning to improve training and employability in wildfire management” is to involve citizens in the problem of forest fires and, in this way, transfer scientific-technical knowledge and civic values to the population through educational strategies based on S-L.

The Problem

Why education and why now?

Annually, Mediterranean areas of Europe suffer the problem of forest fires and future climate perspectives are not encouraging.

It is true that recent advances in fire prevention and forest restoration help to reduce the problem but fire effects on natural resources and local economy are still of large magnitude. Thus, technical approaches must be accompanied by environmental education.

Learning process, from kindergarten to higher education, should go beyond knowledge collection to become a complete formative and transformative process. Education and training programs are necessary to address the problem of forest fires.

The Origin

The initiative Plantando cara ao Lume (PCL) started in 2016 as a collaboration between the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), a researching institution (Centro de Investigación Forestal de Lourizán), a high school (IES Lucus Augusti, Lugo), a primary school (Colexio EP Entrimo, Ourense), and a public environmental company (TRAGSA). Based on Service-Learning projects, the general objective was to develop local actions to promote awareness among young people on issues related to fighting forest fires and post-fire restoration. The underlying idea was to promote environmental awareness at different educational stages, from the most elementary level to the university stage. This awareness has an immediate effect, but it also serves as an incentive for the next generations. During the following years, academic, administrative, and local communities were actively involved in the PCL initiative: >60 university students and professors participated, >400 students and 30 teachers from high school, >15 local communities and NGOs and >10 forestry stakeholders and researchers. Noteworthy, > 30 university students were involved as active project leaders. 

After a series of annual campaigns, in 2020 the project extended its action range to the Spanish national level (Plantando Cara al Fuego: REF: FCT-19-14381). Currently, the project is nourished by the collaboration of more than 150 members, including researchers, university students and staff, students from primary and secondary schools, public and private research organizations, local and regional administrations, environmental companies and associations, or NGOs.

The Participants

Founded by the Erasmus+ program (EC, REF: 020-1-ES01-KA203-083219), we aim to develop and extend the S-L methodology into different countries of the Mediterranean area, those that have the highest fire incidence in Europe as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece

Participants on the project belong to different regions that annually suffer the environmental challenge of forest fires. Service-Learning projects bring together students, academics and community stakeholders from each country whereby all become teaching resources, problem solvers and partners.

The project is creating an extensive network of collaborators from the involved countries. S-L projects are nourished by the collaboration between professionals from different fields (scientific and educational, including universities, research and education centers, administration and social agents) to implement active strategies. This multidisciplinary list includes professionals from diverse academic areas to address multiple aspects of the S-L projects as forest management, gender equality, virtual learning, socio-economy, communication, or employment.


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