Teachers from seven nations headed to Abergele to swot up on lessons to create a greener Europe.
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan is spearheading a €238,000 educational programme to encourage teenagers develop a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, by harnessing the power of eco-tourism.
The three-year programme will see pupils and teachers visiting schools in Turkey, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Slovenia and Italy to develop ways of limiting the impact of tourism.
Teachers from the seven nations met in Abergele for the first meeting of the project, before heading off to some of North Wales’ top tourist attractions, including Portmeirion and Bodelwyddan castle.
Teacher Andrew Goodwin, who as the school’s Learning Achievement Leader for 11-16s is in charge of the initiative, which is part of the EU’s Education, Training, Youth and Sport campaign under the Erasmus+ project, on the theme All For a Greener Europe.
He said: “Tourism is a major contributor to our carbon footprint, greenhouse gases and global warming. The aim of the programme is to reduce the impact tourism has on the environment.
“The project idea stems from local and international demands. All of the partner schools are situated in eco-touristic areas and are all directly affected by the negative environmental consequences of tourism activities.
“Tourism is essential economically and it enables people to experience the natural environment, which is essential for the future of our students.
“It’s important for students to take early responsibility for the conservation of these places, and protect them from harm.
“Some of our schools are specialised in tourism and have knowledge, understanding and experience of various conservation initiatives. Our aim is to share this with the other groups and to have a collective range of ideas, initiatives and interventions.”
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan head teacher Lee Cummins says he was delighted to welcome the delegation of foreign teachers to the school.
He said: “Under the Erasmus plus project we are working across multiple sectors with our partners from around Europe.
“These projects enable organisations to offer structured study, work experience, job shadowing, training and teaching opportunities to both staff and learners.
“The Erasmus+ project will provide both students and teachers with a deeper understanding of responsible tourism and widen their knowledge of subjects connected to culture, history, traditions, tourism, gastronomy, English language and ICT.
“We also intend to motivate students to be socially active. The students will be involved in the study of the touristic values and sites of their own countries and of the other partners’ countries; they will appreciate the different cultures and will consciously search for ways to protect valuable tourist sites and traditions.
“In addition, this trans-national partnership will encourage young people to become responsible citizens within Europe, to be aware of and have respect for different cultures, and also understand the need to work together as part of a larger community to ensure the future sustainability of their world.”
Serdar Simsek, an English teacher who works at a large school in Istanbul, said he enjoyed his visit to Wales.
“I think the teaching methods at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan are excellent. I am impressed by everything about the school, the teachers, pupils and clerical staff. Everyone works together to make a difference.
“It is very different and I am very impressed by the support staff that help teachers. This is something we don’t have. I was very impressed by the presentation given to us by the head teacher and his vision for the school.”
He added: “The Erasmus+ project is a very good scheme which will help our students work together to protect the environment.”
Maria Grazia Zigneco, who teaches English at a school in La Spezia in northern Italy, says she had a very good impression of Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan.
She said: “In Italy we are perhaps more focused on content than student activities. I like what I have seen at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan and although we have a very different approach we are working in Italy to achieve the same results.
“We are trying to become more focused on student skills and I have learnt a great deal from seeing how, at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, the lessons are so well structured and how good the teaching is.”
The partner schools are in Istanbul in Turkey, Bremen in Germany, Bydgoszcz in Poland, Gran Canary Spain, Karlskrona in Sweden, Horjul in Slovenia and La Spezia in Italy.
The students will create mini–tour guides and itineraries, presentations and booklets, working with local, national and international institutions and organisations.
In addition, groups of Ysgol Emrys app Iwan pupils and teachers, will travel abroad to meet students from the other international schools.
Mr Goodwin added: “At this, the first meeting, we came together to plan how the project will work for the first two years as well as looking at communication and platform tools such as e-twinning.
“We looked at how learning is different and also similar in the participating schools and education systems. This was very productive and they certainly seemed impressed by what they saw at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan.
“During their visit the group also visited Beaumaris, Weavers Shopping Centre, Portmeirion and Bodelwyddan Castle.
“Next October, as lead school, we will play host and welcome students from all the other participating countries.
“The main aim of the project is to prepare our students to become open-minded, culture-conscious citizens and skilled travellers who are consciously protecting the value of their tourism environment.”
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, which dates back to 1899, has more than 1,250 learners with 140 teaching and support staff.