As the group of 19 Scottish school children from the “Children in Permaculture” (CiP) project, all wearing matching green baseball hats, waited in the Otopeni airport in Bucharest for their delayed flight home, they decided to use the opportunity to interview each other about their experience over the previous five days in Romania.
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” enthused one of the boys, “I hope to come back, and meet all my friends again.”
“I really loved the Romania trip” another girl said, then proceeding to list her favorite memories of the trip.
“I got to learn a lot about permaculture and the ethics and principles. It was great fun!”
“I hope to come back with my family, because I think they would really like it too.”
What made the experience so memorable?
Every day was packed with learning through novel adventures, exploration and hands-on outdoor activities in nature. It was not your typical touristic trip, visiting monuments and museums. Rather, the children had an experience from the “inside”, playing alongside Romanian children their own age at the “Fountain of Hope” afterschool center in Panatau, a small rural village in the mountains of Buzau county.
The children spent most of their time, interacting with other children from the projects of AMURTEL Romania, which include the afterschool center and the “Familia AMURTEL” children’s home. They were also invited to visit and eat at the homes of local families, who impressed them with the warmth and hospitality of the Romanian people, as well as giving them a direct experience of small-scale traditional village lifestyle and agriculture. They ate homemade “cozonac” (sweet bread), and “mamaliga” (polenta) with freshly made sheep cheese.
At AMURTEL’s “Fountain of Hope” after-school center, the children participated in a variety of workshops: collecting clay from the nearby river and sculpting it, making wooden magnets decorated with woodburning and handpainting, learning archery, embroidering bookmarks and weaving willow branches to make a shelter. A local beekeper visited one day, letting them taste honey directly from the hive, and make candles and a type of waxed cloth as an ecological replacement for plastic wrap.
Indeed, the children delighted in every moment, even unexpected surprises such as the popping of a tire during a horse and cart trip to an apple orchard was an exciting highlight for one of the children.
They also visited nearby historical sites, such as the Carnu Monastery and the Alunis Amber Museum and Caves, as well as the rare geological phenomenon of the Mud Volcanoes in Berca.
Although the school children came from the rural communities of Gatehouse and Tynholm in Scotland, rather than an urban setting, they explained that in their country, only a few people own very big farms, with hundred of animals and only a few workers using mechanized tools, while in Romania almost everybody had their own vegetable plots and a few animals.
When visiting AMURTEL’s Bio Garden – the children also learned more about permaculture ethics (People care, earth care and fair share) and worked on translating the permaculture principles into child-friendly language.
The experience concluded with a lively evening of cultural exchange as the Romanian and Scottish children shared traditional dances and songs, and on the last day the children also visited a kindergarten and middle school in Bucharest that had created permaculture inspired gardens together with the children, as outdoor learning spaces.
Several children were involved in editing the video, selecting music and their favorite highlights from this unforgettable trip.
The exchange experience was organised on the Romanian level by Neohmanist Education Association, one of the partner organisations within the “Children in Permaculture” Project. The Children in Permaculture Project (CiP) is a 3-year project funded through Erasmus+ Key Action 2: School Education. The partnership is across 5 countries: UK, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Italy.
CiP is an innovative project of international cooperation bringing together key educators (from different schools, nurseries, non-formal education practices and permaculture experts) in order to cross-fertilise, share and synthesize ideas, which will strengthen the capacities of all involved. The CiP project is an Erasmus plus Strategic Project financed by the EU.