A Czech nonprofit NGO, Centrum ekologické a globální výchovy Cassiopeia (Centre of Ecological and Global Education, Cassiopeia) is located in České Budějovice in south Bohemia. Cassiopeia cooperates with schools for children of all ages more than 20 years about environmental, multicultural and social education (sharing the permaculture ethics of Earth care, People care and Fair share). The main focus of this cooperation are educational programmes for school classes, educational events for educators (as seminars and conferences) and long-term school projects. In our centre we are constantly creating natural garden with permaculture elements. It is great outdoor education space, which helps to save biodiversity and serve as space for activities and a playing space for the visitors.
The programme consists of different learning activities, leading participants to the acquisition of specific knowledge, skills or insights. Mostly they are connected by some theme and motivate the children through the story, theatre, a question or a riddle. The aim of every programme is to let children experience the topic and allow them to create a stronger relationship with nature (or people), not just to offer the information. The educator is awakening and training the children’s imagination and fantasy, fulfilling the sayings: „school’s play”, using variety of teaching methods, moments of surprise, inspirational visual and simple aids. The educator presents activities, helps children with various tasks, organizes sharing of results, discussion, provides information. In our practice, we strive to have a balance and diversity in the programme by alternating thoughtful, experiential, creative, playful, contested and physical activities. Pupils are engaged in activities individually, in small groups and together.
Cassiopeia offers programmes via websites and booklets to all schools in the region before the beginning of the school year. Teachers ask the educators from Cassiopeia to lead 1-2 hour long indoor programmes (taking place in school or in the Cassiopeia centre) or outdoor programmes of 4 hours to 3 days in length, based on active learning methods. The employment contract is made via an ordering system on the internet (educators from Cassiopeia react through e-mail or phone). Approximately 15,000 children per year attend the educational programmes of Cassiopeia.
The programmes are service to schools in accordance with the national school curriculum. Teachers often use these externally taught educational programmes for enrichment of their own education in terms of information and methodology. Programmes are paid services, but are supported from public sources (occasionally also from private donors).
Some examples of the programmes thematically connected with permaculture are environmentally friendly households, waste and recycling, food, wool-felting, gardening and the life of a tree. There are 29 programmes for kindergartens in Cassiopeia, 60 for primary school, 39 for secondary school and 9 for high school. The best opportunity to teach children is in a three-day programme in nature led by the educators from Cassiopeia in the beautiful countryside of South Bohemia, in late spring and early autumn. Schools can choose from five potential locations for these stays.