A dream became reality, when the closely eighty participants showed up in the conference room of Kapuzinerhof, in Laufen. The idea of the ELENA Closing Event was born three years ago, when the colleagues of ANL (http://www.anl.bayern.de/ Bavarian Academy for Nature Conservation and Landscape Management) in cooperation with the eight other partners submitted the Comenius proposal. The project is based on the Tiere Live (http://www.anl.bayern.de/projekte/tierelive/) experiences but enlarges it to international level and the participating countries adapted the modules to their own country-specific circumstances.
The Closing Event (http://elena-project.eu/index.php/conference) started with the Plenum day, with a welcoming speech from the hosting ANL, followed by an introduction from the State Ministry for Education and Consumer Protection and the State Ministry for Education and Science about the political framework of European programmes. After the keynote speaker from BirdLife Malta, a getting together was organised when everybody had the opportunity to talk a bit with the others and make new acquaintances in informal ways. The prominent country keynote speakers, who were nominated and invited by the partners, introduced some state of the art ideas about education and conservation, the connection between ecosystem and individual; as well as the ELENA background research results from the University of Braunschweig were presented to the audience.
A worthy ending of the day was the theatre piece „King Earthworm” played by Barbara Geiger. The gorgeous play, where the art and science meet, fascinated the audience. Barbara is an excellent actress and she showed a great example of how to present scientific facts in an entertaining way. I think the participants were ensured that every school kids would remember the class for a lifespan – the best Biology class ever.
The second and the third day were dedicated to the awaited animal activities. Each participant could take part of four animal assisted workshops, where the ELENA modules were presented and explained by experts and ELENA partners. For example, on the butterfly session the participants prepared a butterfly hotel, on the dog assisted „class” we got information about how to behave with dogs, how to understand dog’s body language. On the reptile workshop we gained important information about snakes and insects and how to keep them in the school, also, we could hold the species in our hands. A real face-to-face, skin-to-skin experience!!! Some of us managed to overcome their fears and did important steps to get more familiar with the animals. Admittedly, this the best personal output of the conference.
Might be, that the most popular presentation was held by Andrea Beetz; scientific facts were „translated” to a smooth, everyday language in the topic of the psychological background of human-animal interaction. Also, on the day before, we received the ECOGON game (https://ecogon.wordpress.com/) in the conference package as a surprise, the story of the board game was shared on Friday afternoon; but is was not all! The next day we could take the advantage to play with the game and with the participants on the Market place.
Friday night the Cultural Event took place, where all countries presented their national food, drink, folklore and dances. The participants made DIY shepherd dog from Hungary, painted German gingerbread-hearts, tasted Georgian wine and Romanian sweets. Two important things were clear in the room: having fun and feeling European.
On the Excursion day, at the visited a very nice bee farm, the participants received a personalized guided tour from a hobby-beekeeper. Over the beautiful landscape of Berchtesgaden, the clouds passed out of sight slowly, and the mild October sunshine made the tour even more enjoyable. From the bus the people could admire the snowy peak of Watzmann, on the right hand side a fairy-tale like lake appeared along the trip to Klausbachtal, to the Ant activities. At the Ragertalm, a sustainable lunch that was made of the products of the local farmers awaited the guests. And how lucky they were! Two young musicians entertained them with traditional folk music; the sounds of the Bavarian songs accompanied them on the way back to the bus…
Than the moment of saying goodbye arrived for most of the participants; in Salzburg train station they waved Gruss Gott! to the ELENA Closure Event.
Briefly, ELENA closed a very joyful and useful conference, with interesting presentations, real life experiences and useable knowledge in the professional life about the animals. Thank you for participating, thank you for organizing!