by Vicki Preston with Marina Fisilani-Karra, July 2003
"There will come a time when education which omits to picture man's delicate symbiosis with the land will not be considered education."
Aldo Leopold - Environmentalist, Educator and Author
As we slowly begin to become aware of the damage we are doing on a daily basis to our environment and struggle to change our habits to lessen the toll on nature, a handful of conscientious educators on Paros are striving to ensure that the next generation will never take our island"s precious resources for granted.
The future stewards of our Earth - our children - are learning about the environment and mankind"s responsibility to protect it, thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated individuals.
To mark International Environment Day (5th June), the organization "Theseus", together with the Paros Municipal Council and the Nautical Club of Paros (N.O.P.) organized an open day at the N.O.P. facility in Livadia, Paroikia for the children from all of the elementary (Dimotiko) schools of Paros and Antiparos. As well as swimming and sailing lessons, they were offered the chance to learn about the marine ecosystem from Oceanographer-Biologist Peter Nicolaides and Environmentalist Kerstin Lingk of the Aegean Diving College.
Marina Fisilani-Karra (12 years of age) from Marpissa writes:
"My cousin Marios Leonetis, who is 14, and I took the bus from Marpissa to Paroikia on the morning of Sunday, 8th June to go to Livadia for the International Environment Day.
Hundreds of children from the Dimotiko schools on Paros and Antiparos came, some with their parents, to learn about nature and the environment. They played a game sorting things on the beach into piles - which things were man-made and which things were from nature.
Because Marios and I, Gabriel Pack (11) and Panagiotis Maniotis (12) have had lessons before with Peter Nicolaides and Kerstin, the four of us showed the other kids how much garbage we could easily find in the sea. We have to tell people to keep the environment clean because without the oxygen from the sea (the posedonia), we won"t be able to stay alive.
Kerstin found an octopus which made a lot of ink in the water and she put it in a touch tank with crabs, sea cucumbers and sea shells so the children could see them. Afterwards when the children left, she put everything back in the sea because we don"t want them to die.
It was a very long day - we were there until 8 o'clock in the evening - but I was happy to do this for the other children, even though I'm a child too, because I love the environment and because it"s important - if nobody teaches the children about the environment, then nature will die and Paros will just end up full of garbage. I hope they will do this again for the other schools as well."
Just a few days later, on Tuesday June 10th, the Naoussa Dimotiko School held their end of term theatrical production at the Nireaus Hall in Naoussa. Based on a German book called "The Children in the Earth", and produced by teachers Georgos Gavallas, Vassiliki Resvani and music teacher Constantina Andreakou, the theme of the play is about pollution and recyling. They chose this play as they have been working on recycling and beach cleaning projects over the past year at school.
In the story the children go into the earth because the adults won"t listen to them when they try to tell them how they are polluting everything. Once all the children have disappeared, the adults soon see that there is no longer any reason to produce things, as without children there is no meaning to their lives any more. Only when they start to care for the environment do the children return.
One of the children, Maria Bogiatzi, wrote a song for the play called "Thalassia" which Constantina set to music, and the magnificent finale was a catchy song written by Apollonia Oikonomou who led the children in a chorus of "H Milia" (The Apple Tree). The song tells the story of how a grandfather talks to his grandchildren about days gone by when there were still apple trees (they don"t exist any longer) and children played with spinning tops and skipping ropes and didn't know anything about computers and war plans or mobile phones. He tells them how they used to get about by donkey, how the mountains and rivers were clean and alive and not filled with garbage and pollution. The chorus urges us to "Wake up and listen - it's not too late".
The following weekend, on June 14th, a presentation was held at the Municipal Library in Paroikia where the children from the Dimotiko School in Paroikia presented what they had learned about the marine environment under the programme "O Navtilos Taxidevi". Organized locally in cooperation with the University of the Aegean by Paroikia Dimotiko teachers Palasia Georgiadou and Eva Doumanidou, this is a national programme aimed at educating children about the environment.