2016 International Junior Ranger Camp

15th International Junior Ranger Camp 2016: “Discover the diversity in Europe’s Parks” in Gauja National Park, Latvia

The 15th International Junior Ranger Camp took place in Gauja National Park, Latvia, from the 10th to the 16th of July 2016 under the title: Discover the diversity in Europe’s Parks.

Junior Rangers from all over Europe gathered in Latvia for a week to learn from each other and discover how protected areas work and are managed in different countries. There, they learned about nature, environmental issues and experienced the diversity of cultural and social behaviours. Young people discovered the country, its culture and traditions; they took the responsibility to represent their home parks and contributed to the conservation of another Protected Area (PA).

Check here the photo album!

During the course of the camp specific activities took place to introduce participants to the natural and cultural heritage of the Gauja National Park. Through excursions, canoeing tours, practical nature conservation activities, games and presentations from their peers, JRs, Youth and Rangers had the opportunity to discover and learn, first hand, the biodiversity of the Park.

With the support of experts on wetland and peatbogs further scientific knowledge was provided and participants discovered habitats and species not familiar for most of them. A meeting at the National Agency for Nature Conservation offered the opportunity to get a full picture of environmental priorities and work of protected areas in Latvia.

Exchanging and learning new skills

During the camp, the 13 JR delegations from all over Europe, with videos and creative presentations introduced their home protected areas, showing the activities they do with their peers and the priorities of their PAs and Natura 2000 sites. This helped participants to improve their ability to speak in public and gave a good chance to learn more about the functions and diversities of PAs in Europe.

The camp offered also a great opportunity for adult Rangers and mentors, who accompanied their Juniors, to exchange ideas and experience with colleagues from across Europe, assisting in developing new skills in Ranger staff. Specific sessions have been organised with Rangers and Mentors providing the opportunity to share experiences, knowledge and to develop new ideas to strengthen future cooperation among partners, and further develop the Junior Ranger programme across Europe.

Youth +, one step forward

For the first time Youth +, a group of young adults that have been part of the Junior Ranger programme, joined the camp to contribute to the organisation of some activities and to provide inputs for the development of a new European programme, specifically addressed to Youth in PAs. A project concept for a future Youth+ program was developed with the contributions of Youth and Rangers. The creation of a Youth Council to support the role of the Youth representative in EUROPARC Council was also proposed. The Youth+ played an important role during the camp, contributing actively to the organisation and management of some activities.

In particular they took the responsibility to manage some tasks daily with the rest of participants: educational games, preparation of posters, help guiding excursions. Further they managed most of the external communication during the camp: they made pictures, wrote short articles for the EUROPARC website and news that were shared widely on EUROPARC social media.

They also filmed some of the activities and produced on their own a small and fun documentary about the camp. Watch it to have an overview of the camp!

Daily meetings with the youth helped to coordinate the work, monitor progresses and to assess results. This experience clearly contributed to increase their communication, advocacy and leadership skills, other then improving their knowledge on Nature Conservation and PAs.

Having fun outdoors

The camp provided also loads of opportunities for direct interaction and informal learning exchange among all participants: the numerous outdoor activities offered benefits for mental and physical well-being. The camp gave a great chance to young people to improve their language skills while meeting peers from different countries and backgrounds.

The camp had also a great visibility both in Latvia and across Europe with national TV reports and wide coverage on social media and EUROPARC website.

A big thank you goes to the Gauja National Park team and to the Latvian Agency for Nature Conservation. As usual we are greatful to the Rangers and Mentors who attended the camp for their dedication, passion and great support. Last but not least we would like to thank the Youth+ team for their crucial help all over the camp!

Looking forward to see you all in Switzerland for the 2017 International Camp: Team Nature.