Global Network of National Geoparks

Youngsters raise geopark profile

Source : Source: Published :July 18, 2008

From left to right are Emma Adam (Achfary), Niamh O'Driscoll (Kinlochbervie),
Darren Gordon (Lochinver), Matthew Edwards (Achiltibuie) enjoying some time
 out from the geopark conference near the main square in Osnabrück, Germany

THREE Sutherland pupils and one from Wester Ross represented young people from the North West Highlands Geopark at the World Geopark Conference in Osnabrück, Germany, from June 20-29.

Emma Adam (Achfary) and Niamh O'Driscoll (Kinlochbervie) of Kinlochbervie High School, and Ullapool High School pupils Darren Gordon (Lochinver) and Matthew Edwards (Achiltibuie), accompanied by Kinlochbervie teacher Murdo MacPherson, participated in an international youth camp, "Meet your Geopark", organised by Germany's Terra Vita Geopark as a special section of the conference.

Along with students from ten European geoparks in Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Portugal and the United Kingdom, they engaged in a range of activities and made presentations about their own geopark to their fellow students and the main conference delegates.

The north-west pupils proved to be excellent and confident representatives of our geopark and the Highlands of Scotland in general, reports Mr MacPherson. The four received high praise from conference delegates for their ability to portray effectively the physical landscape and what it means to live in Scotland's first geopark through their presentation, "North West Highlands Geopark - not just a pile of rocks!" Matthew and Emma were both resplendent in kilts for the occasion. In addition the four were asked to make a further presentation, representing all the participants, outlining what had been learned and achieved throughout the youth camp experience.

"Through a range of activities Emma, Matthew, Darren and Niamh readily engaged with the young people from other countries and a number of international friendships and links were made which will no doubt be developed further" said Mr MacPherson. "The activities were related to features of the Terra Vita Geopark and were designed to foster co-operation among the young people and give them an enjoyable experience. Included were: learning to identify and release fossils from rock, experimental archaeology involving forging, tool making and pottery, producing mineral-based natural paint colours, nature photography and land art involving creating patterns from quarry profiles. There were also active pursuits including climbing, archery, cycling, bonfires, barbecues and football. With Germany making it through to the Euro 2008 final there was an intense atmosphere, although the Croatian pupils were saddened to see their team being knocked out, a feeling the Scots knew too well!

"Our pupils were also expected to produce a representative dish from their area as part of an international dinner. They chose to make Cullen skink (thanks to Niamh's mother for the recipe) and, along with a wide range of dishes made by the other pupils, this didn't last long once the eating started.

"All four pupils had a good immersion in German life, and amongst the features they particularly noticed were: the high level of recycling, the lack of taps (sensors are used to turn water on and off for conservation), the neatness of streets and buildings including perfect reconstructions after war damage, efficient public transport, graffiti which is more artistic than disfiguring, obedience to traffic rules (don't walk against the "red man" at all costs), the need to watch out for bikes, you can't escape McDonalds, cold meat and cheese for breakfast, the continental summer heat, and getting completely soaked in seconds by sudden intense thunderstorms.

"Their time in Germany not only helped raise the profile of the North West Highlands Geopark, but more importantly it has helped them develop a confidence in an international setting and expanded their horizons."

Emma Adam said of their trip: "Going to Germany for the conference was a great experience. As well as coming away with knowledge of other parts of Europe, we also left with new friendships."

Matthew Edwards commented: "For me the trip was one which will not easily be forgotten. I learned a lot about different European cultures, found out about geoparks from around the world, and have also made friendships with people which will hopefully never be broken."

Said Darren Gordon: "It was an unforgettable experience, to be appreciated in the future. The trip allowed us to be educated about other geoparks as well as appreciating our own, and at the same time having fun and meeting many new people."

Niamh O'Driscoll added: "It was a fantastic experience meeting people from other countries, learning about their cultures and having a great time whilst doing so."

The pupils are now considering forming a geopark youth group to carry the momentum forward, by further developing the international links which have been made and encouraging activities within their own geopark.