Specialized educational strategy ProKARSTerra-Edu
Karst is widespread worldwide and the lives of millions of people are closely related to it. But in the 21st century, for most of them, even for those living in karst regions, it is "terra incognita" - "thanks" to the education systems. It is therefore paradoxical that the theme "karst" continues to be overlooked and underestimated in the curriculum, both in schools and Universities. This is very true for Bulgaria, where ¼ of the territory is karst.
In Bulgaria studies of karst and caves have been held since the late 19th century. Bulgarian Geographers have made a significant contribution. Karstology is a traditional field of study at the Geographical Institute of BAS (present Department of Geography at NIGGG-BAS) and it continues to be actively developed by the Experimental Laboratory of Karstology. Its team performs interdisciplinary research and integrated monitoring in one of the most representative karst regions in this country. An important achievement of the Laboratory is the application of the geosystem approach to karst research.
There is no doubt that good knowledge of karst and especially of its specificity is a global problem. It predetermines karst education as one of the main priorities of the Experimental Laboratory of Karstology. Since 2010 the Laboratory has been developing a specialized educational strategy "ProKarSTerra-Edu", in international cooperation. It is based on the integration between the research concept of karst geosystems and the concept of “Lifelong Learning”.
A favorable basis for the implementation of the strategy is the widespread distribution of highly diverse karst in Bulgaria with protected karst territories and a scientific network of model karst geosystems suitable for educational activities.
The main objective of the ProKARSTerra-Edu strategy is through innovative educational forms to provide the minimum of knowledge, skills and competencies about karst and to create the necessary conditions for the training of key karst specialists. The main priority of this strategy is the achievement of optimal land use in the karst territories of Bulgaria.
The methodological platform of the ProKARSTerra-Edu strategy is the original ProKARSTerra paradigm. By integrating the concepts of Karst Geosystems and Lifelong Learning, it combines three important components, namely scientific, research, management and educational ones.
And what is ProKARSTerra?
In 2009, NIGG-BAS started the development of an international project funded by the Scientific Research Fund, under the title "Development of an experimental model of complex monitoring for sustainable development and management of protected karst territories". It became known with the ProKARSTerra abbreviation:
1. ProKARSTerra - from English: Protected Karst Territories, but also:
2. ProKARSTerra - from Latin: Pro Karst Terra (for the karst land)
This allowed and prompted the use of ProKARSTerra in a much broader sense and it became a trademark of the Experimental Laboratory of Karstology.
Theoretical-Methodological Platform of the educational strategy "ProKARSTerra-Edu"
In the educational strategy of ProKARSTerra-Edu the main focus is on field training in the actual conditions of model karst territories using research methods.
The exceptional combination of morphogenetic karst types makes Bulgaria a unique natural laboratory for studying this natural phenomenon. Moreover, the millennial active presence of humans has left deep traces on karst. Karst, and especially its underground "study rooms" (caves), are very attractive to young people and offer opportunities for teaching out of the classroom, in the real conditions of karst territories and for applying research methods and experiments, incl. using specialized equipment.
The specific environment and learning methods generate positive emotions that stimulate creativity and lasting interest in karst. Regardless of the relatively limited time for the competition, terrain training is very effective because it forms synthesized knowledge acquired intensively in the natural environment under the guidance of highly qualified specialists.
But in addition to education about karst, terrain training in a karst environment implies another, especially up-to-date education through karst.
Due to the specifics of karst and its pronounced interdisciplinary nature, students involved in field education understand the connections between what they learn in the different school subjects and try to implement this knowledge in a real natural environment. In turn, teachers in different subjects and with different professional specializations have the opportunity to discuss and test different variants of interdisciplinary links - one of the most important contemporary educational issues.
In the development of the ProKARSTerra-Edu educational strategy, different forms of field training have been experimented with participants from different age, educational, professional and national groups. Experience has proven that the Traveling School of karst is most interesting and effective. The experience gathered in working with pupils during the 2 Traveling karst schools held in Bulgaria is also applicable to the field work of the current competition.
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World Trends that the PProKerSTerra-Edu Strategy envisages:
- Development and distribution of karst educational materials most often do not use the concept of the karst systems, but focuses on caves only. Furthermore, most of today's educational events concern primarily bats;
- In the various educational initiatives, Speleology is predominant, not Karstology. This leads to a number of misconceptions about the nature of the karst and neglects something most important, namely the social systems in karst areas
- The purpose of educational efforts should be focused primarily on the very high degree of karst vulnerability, especially against the background of active global change and the risks of growing human intervention in the development of karst systems;
- For a wider introduction of the Karst topic in education, a combination of innovative approaches and cooperation between representatives of all karst-related sectors is required, namely scientists, lecturers, rulers, politicians, tour operators, NGOs, journalists, etc. ;
- In addition to formal education, the opportunities of non-formal education about karst should be actively used, to fill in the gaps in the population knowledge about karst (Lifelong Learning).
Further information on the ProKARSTerra-Edu strategy and its initiatives:
- Stefanov P., Stefanova D., Mikhova D., Štefka L. 2013: “proKARSTerra–Edu” – a karst-educational project. 16th International Congress of Speleology, July 21-28, 2013, Brno, Czech Republic – Proceedings, Vol. 1., Praha, p?. 307-311.
- Stefanov P., Stefanova D., Mikhova D. 2013: International competition “Karst under protection – Gift for the generations”as a part of the educational strategy “proKARSTerra-edu”. IGU Kyoto Regional Conference, August 4-9. 2013.
- Stefanov, P., D. Stefanova. 2014. The educational strategy "ProKARSTerra-Edu" – an integration of contemporary scientific concepts about karst and the Concept of Lifelong learning. In: Collection of Reports from the International Scientific conference "30 Years of the Department of Geography at the Veliko Tarnovo University” (28-29.11.2014, V. Tarnovo). Ed. "Ivis", Veliko Turnovo, pp. 82-89. (in Bulgarian)
- Stefanov P., D. Stefanova. 2015: Results and Conclusions of the International Competition "Karst under Defense – Gift for the future generations". Q: Sat. Scientific papers by the Third International. Conf. "Geographical Science and Education" (12.09.2014, Shumen), Sofia University "Shumen", pp. 296-304. (in Bulgarian)
- Stefanova D. 2015: Travelling summer scool for karst in Bulgaria - first results. In: Proceedings of the International Scientific-practical conference “Protected karst territories – Education and Training” (September 23-26, 2015, Sofia, Bulgaria). NIGGG-BAS, Ter-ART, Sofia, pp. 129-133. http://prokarstterra.bas.bg/forum2015/proceedings.html
- Zaykova E., S. Dimitrov. 2015: Emotional impact of karst objects on pupils aged 13 to 18.: In: Proceedings of the International Scientific-practical conference “Protected karst territories – Education and Training” (September 23-26, 2015, Sofia, Bulgaria). NIGGG-BAS, Ter-ART, Sofia, pp. 134-152. http://prokarstterra.bas.bg/forum2015/proceedings.html
- Stefanov, P., D. Stefanova. 2017: A Traveling School of Karst "- a new form of Lifelong learning. - 5th International Scientific Conference "Geographic Sciences and Education" (4-5.11.2016, Shumen) - Collection of reports, Univ. ed. "Ep. K. Preslavski ", Shumen, pp. 380-389.
- Stefanov, P., D. Stefanova. 2019: Innovative Education for/through Karst. SocioBrains, (International Scientific Online Journal), Issue 54, February 2019, pp. 600-627 (in Bulgarian), www.sociobrains.com
- Stefanova D., P. Stefanov: Fourth International Competition “Karst under protection – gift for the future generations” `2019 ( results and conclusions). - SocioBrains, 2020, 66, 180-198
- Stefanov P., D. Stefanova: The First International Competition for students "Karst - the last white spot on the planet Earth" – results and perspectives. SocioBrains, 2020, 66, 199-230.