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Europe’s ecosystem research network

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You are here: Home / News / Mobilising for sustainability: Summer schools fill gaps in sustainability science education

Mobilising for sustainability: Summer schools fill gaps in sustainability science education

A Future Earth blog by Michelle Kovacevic highlights two summer programmes that take students out of the classroom and into the Amazon Rainforest and, courtesy of ALTER-Net, the French Alps.

In her blog post, Kovacevic explains how summer schools such as ALTER-Net's successful school on ecosystems and biodiversity, are in many ways a modern version of Aristotle's Lyceum. The Lyceum was a peripatetic school (from the Greek peripatos, to walk). Aristotle enjoyed strolling through the Lyceum's tree-lined groves discussing nature, philosophy and the principles of mathematics with his students. In fact, one of our tutors once described the ALTER-Net Summer School as "A modern-day School of Aristotle, where lecturers learn as much as students - if not more".

"It’s a field of dreams – if you build it, they will come, and they will talk"
- Allan Watt, ALTER-Net Summer School organiser

The ALTER-Net Summer School, now in it's 11th year, is one of two examples chosen by Kovacevic to illustrate the value of taking sustainability science out of the classroom and into the environment, be it the Amazon rainforest or the French countryside. As Kovacevic says, "This can lead to a more profound and prolonged learning experience; summer school participants talk about the changes these programmes catalyse in their own lives and the lives of others once they return home." We have certainly seen this amongst our students.

In her article, Kovacevic quotes our current Summer School organisers, Marie Wanderwalle and Allan Watt. “Most participants have not experienced working in a project so they don’t know the struggle of discussing an idea with someone from a different background. The project is really all about teaching communication and team work,” says Vandewalle, a previous summer school student and now coordinator of the programme.

"The mountain vistas and isolation are crucial to the programme’s success", says convenor Allan Watt. “It’s a field of dreams – if you build it, they will come, and they will talk.”

You can read Kovacevic's full blog post here.