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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Alto Adige Italy and the 2015 EEE Conference

This year I was very lucky to be awarded a scholarship to the Annual Experiential Educators Europe (eee) Conference held this year in Candriai, Italy.  

It was the first time I had attended the conference although I had been familiar with the eee organisation for a couple of years. 

Late in the planning stages of my trip to Italy I was also awarded a small scholarship by Reaseheath Colleges Scholarly Activity Committee to contribute towards the cost of my transport. 

Due to slightly convoluted travel plans (the cheapest tickets aren't always the most strait forward) I was left with a few days at either end of the conference I was left with a few days to explore the Alto Adige area of Northern Italy, a place I had never been before. 

 I had been delighted to discover while planning my trip that my amazingly cheap airline tickets would take me to a town called Bolzano, about 70km from the conference venue, this town just happens to be the town which houses Ötzi the ice man in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. So on my arrival in Bolzano on the afternoon of Friday the 24th of April I was able to visit the museum and look at the exhibits of Ötzi's clothes and equipment and recognise a lot of the materials and methods of construction that I use in my own practice of Bushcraft.
The Reconstruction of Ötzi
After an unplanned night in the youth hostel in Bolzano due to a bag lost by the airline (and therefore no bivi or sleeping bag) I headed onto the Paganella mountain on the edge of the Brenta Dolomites for a short walk before the conference began on the afternoon of the 26th. The scenery was beautiful, although low cloud shrouded most of the views to begin with and I never got a clear view of the Brentas there was plenty to see close at hand.
At lower altitudes I saw a lot of Star of Bethlehem (above) and Greater Celandine (below)

As I climbed higher I began to see Colts Foot (above) and where the snow had melted the Alpine Crocuses had started to appear (below). 

There was also plenty of Lungwort (above) and Vaccinium sp (below) these belong to the blueberry and cranberry family although I'm not sure exactly which species these flowers belong to, but they certainly weren't the bilberries that I'm familiar with in this country 

Most exciting of all were these tracks which I suspect are lynx tracks, they were much too high up (about 2000 meters) and much too large and heavy to be any sort of domestic or feral cat. 


 I also saw Capercaillie and roe deer on my short walk (about 20 kilometers in total) and was actually woken at one in the morning while in my bivi by a roe deer barking just a few meters from my head, it must have been startled to see my fly sheet. After a night in my bivi at about 1500 meters above sea level and a walk in which I foolishly strayed into deep snow for a few km's and floundered around before getting back to more easily navigable paths I descended to the beautiful village of Covelo 

From there I continued my walk on Country roads towards Candriai. However my encounter with deep snow at about 2000 meters earlier in the day had slowed me down and I was running out of time to get to the conference centre in Candriai before the evening meal. Luckily as I laboured up yet another hill I was met by two delegates of the conference also on their way up the hill in a camper van and who guessed I might be on my way to the eee conference as well and kindly offered me a lift for the last few km's. That was a great relief and I owe my thanks to them. 

The conference it'self was very different to what I had expected but was absolutely fantastic, the Italian team who organised it did a fantastic job. The workshops throughout the week were very informative and interesting and I learned a great deal which I hope to apply to both my formal teaching at Reaseheath College and also to the teaching I do through Bushcraft Education and the Riddy Wood Project

The workshop I delivered at the conference was a practical workshop on the kind of activities you can do with children which involve knives and hand tools both as an opportunity to help them reconnect with nature and to develop their strength and dexterity. We made kazoo's and wooden flowers and the workshop was over subscribed by almost double with people offering to bring their own pocket knives to make up for the fact that I had only brought enough knives for ten participants. I even ended up repeating the workshop on the Friday morning, the final day of the conference. The material which accompanied the workshop can be found here for the poster and here for a handout .

The theme of the conference was 'Do ut des' or give to receive and I certainly felt I received a great deal and hope that I was able to contribute something as well. In fact the atmosphere of openness and sharing was so great that it has inspired me to run a new series on this blog. I have shared ideas for using bushcraft as a tool for education ever since I started this blog but I have not shared many 'how to' type articles but in a few months I will start the bushcraft education 'do ut des' series sharing in detail HOW to carry out a range of bushcraft activities and traditional skill and will also show how I use these activities as teaching tools. 

The conference venue it'self was fantastic and offered plenty of interesting views of wildlife.

Hawfinches (above) and Nuthatches (below) were regular visitors to the bird feeders around the venue. 

   Unlike any other conference I have ever attended there was a very sharing attitude at the conference with people willing to share ideas for activities, management of educational events and businesses and just a really nice atmosphere that made everyone feel at home and able to contribute. 

After the conference I had another opportunity for a short hike and another night in the beautiful Italian countryside this time in the Monte Bondone area to the north of the mountain Il Palon. I was treated to some beautiful weather and fantastic views as well as some very interesting wildlife including sightings of Ibex and Red deer. 

A view of Il Palon

Looking out across the Adige valley

Green Hairstreak

Owly Sulfer a species of lacewing. 

 All in all it was a fantastic trip and has whetted my appetite for more trips to the area to watch the wildlife and walk in the mountains but has also started what I hope will be a long association with eee. 

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