Picture: Nationalpark_Gesäuse_Kids©StefanLeitner_066
Picture: Nationalpark_Gesäuse_Kids©StefanLeitner_057
Picture: Nationalpark_Gesäuse_Kids©StefanLeitner_041
Picture: Franziska Maier

National Park schools and kindergartens start the summer term

For over 110 days a year, Franziska Maier and her team take children out of their everyday lives in ten partner schools and kindergartens. Together they go on exciting excursions into nature. They usually head to the Gesäuse National Park, because where better to bring children closer to nature than there? Franziska Maier - head of the national park partner schools project - is passionate about teaching children about nature.

Having grown up on a farm in the Murtal valley, Franziska Maier already had a great enthusiasm for animals and plants as a child and a special need to protect them. This strong connection continued and so her studies in ecology, various internships and training programmes abroad as well as a national park ranger training course eventually led her to the Gesäuse National Park. "As an intern at the Weidendom, I fell in love with the Gesäuse 11 years ago and it has never let go of my heart. That's why I returned as a permanent employee in 2022. I turned my passion into a career with nature education," says Maier, describing her path to the Gesäuse National Park.

She and her team of two permanent employees and several rangers provide the participating schools and kindergartens with free excursions and learning materials. The partner school concept is aligned with the curricula and firmly anchored there. Since a relaunch in 2022/2023, there have been 50 programmes with different thematic focuses. A special feature of this national park partnership is that a large proportion of the children are accompanied by this programme for up to ten years, from kindergarten to compulsory school graduation.

Franziska Maier's aim is to convey an appreciation of nature and explain the role played by the Gesäuse National Park. This builds on the children's natural enthusiasm for animals and plants. "Fascinating things are discovered through being outdoors and the intensive contact with the Gesäuse nature. The door is opened for a very personal encounter. This lays an important foundation for an appreciative relationship with the living world of the Gesäuse," says Maier, describing her concept.

In times characterised by biodiversity loss and climate change, this is extremely important. "The separation of humans and nature in our minds has led to borders being ignored and crossed for a long time. The fatal consequences of climate change are being felt more and more around the world.

Nature conservation is not a fashion trend, but a YES to the survival of the planet - including humans. Nature conservation is also human protection," continues Maier.

Of course, the national park partnerships are not short on fun either. Highlights are definitely the annual closing events. From sociable barbecues and theatre performances to spending the night in the wilderness at the National Park ranger camp, everything is included. In this way, children establish a relationship with our natural world that is hardly possible anywhere else.

"Children who are mindful and appreciative of the world will, in the best-case scenario, become adults who are mindful and appreciative of the world. Our world urgently needs people who recognise their connection with nature and the responsibility to preserve it," says Franziska Maier, convinced of the programme.

Enquiry notice:

Franziska Maier, Tel: 0664 - 82 52 317

Andreas Hollinger, Tel: 0664 - 82 52 305

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