The end and the beginning

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Yesterday we reported on the ongoing two-year project “EKO-Journalists” in Lesko High School and parallel at Gabijas Gymnasium in Vilnius. Let’s Save the Earth Together.” This is a symbolic end, but also the beginning of the journalistic journey of the students of Lesko High School and our friends from Gymnasium Gabijas in Vilnius.

Why ECO-JOURNALISTS?

The ECO-JOURNALISTS project was created with our planet in mind. Knowing how much the climate is changing and how it affects the environment, as well as the future of our planet was the motivation to get involved in promoting environmental awareness in the school and local community. Involving young people in the role of journalists, conveying knowledge about the dangers, but most importantly about what we can do as individuals seemed crucial to us – it’s their future….

The main goal of the project was to expand the educational offer of participating schools through the implementation of an interdisciplinary educational program called ECO-Journalists, combining elements of English language learning, journalism, and ecology.

2 years of experiences

A lot has happened during the two-year project. Lesko and Vilnius youth were involved in creating an environmental portal, but most importantly in developing their own skills, exchanging experiences, sharing culture, and creating a cool time for themselves. It was a clash with the difficult journalistic reality, requiring commitment, passion, skills and knowledge.

English Lanugage Workshops

The project began with the creation of a program of language workshops focused on journalistic and environmental vocabulary. This was a necessary introduction so that the young people involved in the project could work together in English in later journalism and ecology workshops. The classes were held locally at Lesko High School and Gabijas Gimnasium in Vilnius. At this stage, the project participants did not yet know each other.

Students working on the language workshop

First meeting – first steps into journalism

In November 2022, students and teachers met in Lesko for a 5-day study visit combined with a basic journalism course. These were very intense days of learning, working, playing together, getting to know each other, integrating and making friends.
The program of the visit included repeating the English language :), visiting the Solina Dam and taking a cable car ride, climbing Korbania mountain, making “pots” out of clay, baking “prosciutto “proziaki” [a regional type of bread from flour, sour milk and soda], practicing calligraphy, or visiting the Bieszczady National Park Museum. There was also plenty of casual get-togethers, conversations and time to themselves.

Observation tower on Korbania Mountain

The most important, however, were the journalism classes, which, while very intensive, introduced the young people to various aspects of the journalism profession.
The program was created in cooperation with two journalist-practitioners who brought their journalistic experience to the classroom. Young people discussed civic media and its role, features of journalist work and and what it means to be a journalist. They were introduced to the basic principles of a journalist’s work, like how to gather information, how to expose fake news. The principles of 5W1H, or creating a news story, were explained, and the creation of catchy headlines was practiced. Participants also learned how to prepare for an interview and how to create questions to give the interviewee space to speak.

A surprise for everyone was the work with the voice – this is a journalist’s superpower, on which the success of the material sometimes depends. One of the lecturers – Piotr Balazs, a journalist at TOK FM radio and Radio Zlote Przeboje – presented a sizable set of exercises with which we can improve the sound of our voice and diction, and also revealed the secrets of sound editing in the application.

In turn, Joanna Zwolinska from Life-Project, who specializes in online media, conveyed the principles of writing for online-media to gain “clicks” and keep readers on our portal. It was 3 days of very intensive journalistic work, which the participants used during the project by working on extracurricular activities and creating materials for the online magazine. Each participant received an editor’s ID card for the portal www.the4elements.eu and a starter kit for a young journalist. 😉

“I plan to use the skills and knowledge I’ve gained in the future, as I’m interested in the journalism profession. I also use them almost every day while working at the school radio station.”

Comments one of the girls participating in the project.

The journalism washtat program has been made available on the sub-page of the portal www.the4elements.eu under the RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS tab for teachers to use in extracurricular activities.

Eco-awareness – the key to success

We all know about the importance of climate change awareness and real action to improve the environment. What can we – ordinary people – do in this regard? We can certainly make our contribution. In March 2023, project participants met in Lithuania to explore the topics of ecology, biodiversity, wastewater treatment, energy production and climate change. Of course, there was again plenty of room for learning about Lithuanian culture, visiting historical sites and team-building

In addition to visits to a local power plant or sewage treatment plant, the workshop program in Lithuania included hands-on activities in a Vilnius University laboratory, during which water samples were tested for microorganisms, and water purification filters were created on their own.

It was another 5 intense days that gave a broader view of the environment that surrounds us.

We may wonder, what do such activities bring when we are small in the big world of business and politics? Certainly the realization that we have an impact, as journalists, as young people, as citizens of the planet. Students commented, among other things:

“I’ll probably pay more attention to simple things like not wasting water, recycling and making sure I’m not harming the environment.”

“This knowledge is valuable for our future, as it equips me and others with an understanding of the problem and the skills needed to address global environmental challenges, and opens the door to various opportunities, such as active participation in international initiatives, supporting a sustainable and connected community.”

The jouralistic journey – www.the4elements.eu web portal

The above mentioned activities were aimed at giving young people the skills and knowledge to create an ecological portal www.the4elements.eu. It took almost a year for the editorial board to meet regularly in Lesko and Vilnius. The editors were headed by female teachers also participating in the project.

Over the course of the year, a lot of material was produced, street polls and surveys were conducted in friendly schools. Journalists met with experts, conducted interviews. Sometimes the motivation dropped, but only sometimes. 😉 🙂 Certainly, there was an increased awareness of what journalism entails, how much time and commitment it requires, and what satisfaction it brings.

What next?

The result of these two years of the project is a whole set of teaching materials for teachers that can be used in any classes. These include:

  • a program of language workshops
  • a program of journalism workshops
  • a program of activities raising environmental awareness – inspiration for organizing a study visit
  • instructions for using the portal
    The materials are available on the subpage of the portal RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS

For young people, too, we have prepared several sources they can use when starting their journalism adventure.

Impressions and lessons for the future

From the perspective of the project organizers, we think it was a good two years. They taught us cooperation, commitment, patience. They allowed us to exchange experiences, openness to what is different. This is how the director of Lesko High School Anna Ceparska-Bąbel comments on her participation in the project:

“I have gained new experiences and some new ideas about school management and protecting teachers from professional burnout. There are several things that we need to change
in school and in teaching English (which I do) – I was inspired by my Lithuanian friends. from them I also received new tools and ideas for raising environmental awareness in our environment.”

Another teacher, on the other hand, looks from the perspective of implementing an EU project:

I improved my competence in planning project activities, gained experience in planning and implementing international project activities.

We also collected some statements from young people who collaborated and created the portal before these two years. We collected them in anonymous surveys. Here are sample opinions:

  • “Jurnalistic skills will help me understand society better in the future and show me why I should pay more attention to ecology in the future.”
  • “I will use my new skills in writing articles, conducting interviews, the knowledge can be useful for projects at school and in life; also the ability to work in a group is very beneficial.”
  • “I will use my speaking skills at school, at work and when traveling, I will use my journalistic skills when talking to people, and I will use everything I learned about ecology in my daily life to live a sustainable and good life.”
  • “This project has helped me develop my social skills, and I hope to use them in the near future.”

You can also listen to students’ feedback on the project in the video and join our journalistic adventure.

author: J.Z – Life-Project