Discovering the power of witches, outsmarting evil spirts and finding magical remedies in the mountain wilderness… Mountain educators and guides used these elements of fantasy to immerse the almost 600 young participants across 40 destinations in the Alps and Carpathians in an imaginary world to reconnect them with nature. This was all part of the 5th edition of Youth at the Top’s common theme “Myth and Mountain Legends”.
From July 11th-12th, hundreds of Alpine and Carpathian youth went out to discover the mountains under the framework of the international project, Youth at the Top. This year’s edition brought about a completely new way to discover nature as organizers, associated with the protected area, planned exciting and artistic activities around local myths and legends. By using their natural surroundings, kids discovered more about their heritage by plunging into a world full of mystery and wonder. These stories transcend borders and language barriers, as seen with a group of French and Italian youth who met up at the top in Mont Avic Nature Park. The young participants, averaging around 12 years old, left behind their smartphones and computer screens to reconnect with the mountains through an overnight stay either in a tent, hut or by sleeping under the stars.
Myth and Mountain Legends
Myths and legends are part of the Alps’ and Carpathians’ natural heritage. The 5th edition was marked by this common theme as activities were organized such as storytelling, theater and painting. Learning about myths and legends within a local context helped reconnect the young participants to their mountain identity. This was done in unique ways as seen through the example of the Parc naturel régional de Chartreuse who hired an actress to dress up as magical beings. This theme was a hit with the young participants.
Discovering Fauna and Flora
Hiking in the mountains was a great opportunity for the young participants to discover the fauna and flora unique to the Alps and Carpathians. Some highlights include seeing herds of Ibex scaling cliffsides and marmots coming out of their holes. Some participants even tasted edible local plants. In the Naturpark Ötztal in Austria, the young participants were pleasantly surprised during their hike to discover that a bearded vulture was following them. French youth with the Parc naturel régional de Chartreuse even had a hands-on experience as they walked through the forest barefoot and blindfolded, to feel nature through their senses.
Cultural Exchange between Italian and French Parks
This year, a group of French youth, associated with the Parc naturel régional du Massif des Bauges, headed to Italy to meet up with youth from the Parco Naturale Mont Avic. The kids from the two countries took part in an artistic activity on the common theme, where they worked together to illustrate a mountain myth. The youth from Mont Avic also helped the French group create a video on a legend focused on the game loups-garous or ‘werewolf’ which came to life. There was a great exchange between the two groups as they bonded over the mountains and it was positive experience for the two parks who cooperated for the first time on an educational project. Both protected areas are already thinking of repeating the activity next year.
The international project Youth at the Top Project gives the younger generations a chance to experience the mountains by meeting up for one day and one night on a common date in several destinations throughout the Alps and Carpathians. This initiative is open to all the protected areas of the Alps and the Carpathians as well as to all the organizations working in the educational field. Each action set up by local actors aims to reinforce the links between young people and nature and to raise their awareness about the protection and conservation of the mountain environment.
The 5th edition of the project is led by ALPARC – The Alpine Network of Protected Areas, with the financial support of the German Ministry of the Environment, the Principality of Monaco and the CGET - Commissariat général à l’égalité des territoires (France).
Photo Credit: Gesäuse National Park @ Raimund Reite