Having fun through environmental awareness: the youth educational center of Oristano

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"We try to keep the activities not too structured. We believe in free aggregation, the youth club and the environmental center coincide, and the boys breathe the message without filters, absorbing it naturally”. While Antonio Ricciu speaks the children chatter scattered in the desks of the large room, at the ground floor. Someone does his homework, a little girl pedals in circles alone on her bicycle in the courtyard, others have climbed the stairs towards the dance room.

The youth club "Flavio Busonera", a partisan Oristano physician executed in 1944 in Padua by the Fascists, was inaugurated in 2013. Five years later, the municipality decided to set up the Environmental Education and Sustainability Center (CEAS) in the very same facilities, and to entrust it to Ricciu, who as a professional educator had already done much to raise young people's awareness on the subject. The center is open Monday to Friday from 3.30pm to 8pm for young people between the ages of eleven and thirty. Altogether, about three hundred attend.

Numerous activities have been carried out by Ricciu and his colleague Mariangela Lutzu: study assistance, school guidance, listening desk for children and parents, training courses, meetings with psychologists, lawyers, representatives of the Forest Guard, the Port Authority and the Police Forces, food laboratories where bread and olive oil are prepared, basic physical activity (also for the disabled) a cycle-workshop and a competitive triathlon team. Surf, kayak and snorkeling courses are organized seasonally to learn about the coast and the sea through sports activities.

The initiatives most closely related to the environment sprout in this fertile educational humus for the well-being of body and mind. The CEAS of Oristano collaborates with the CNR (National Research Center) and the Marine Protected Area Sinis-Isola Mal di Ventre. Together with the latter and other environmental education centers, during the last summer, it took part to “Butterfly Effect”, a project that brought hundreds of young people and educators on the beach to meet local populations and tourists with the aim of making them aware about the fragility of the marine ecosystem.

"We walked the beaches of the Sinis with 150 students to inform people about the damage caused by sand theft, collecting in the meantime kilos and kilos of microplastics with a sieve", recalls Ricciu. On the ground floor, the plastics gathered in many clean-ups are divided by color, function and size, and compose with tempera beautiful paintings on the wall, where large informative banners illustrating the phenomenon of pollution in the Mediterranean also hang, as steps of an permanent exhibition dedicated to plastic, which continues upstairs. Outside, in the large garden where sports activities take place, Ricciu, Lutzu and the CEAS children cultivate the loofah, used and sold, as example of sustainability, in place of artificial sponges.

The latest initiative concerns food sustainability. Together with charitable organizations, the municipality of Oristano, trade associations, 400 students and 80 teachers from the province, CEAS has organized a series of theoretical and practical meetings on a topic that has not been discussed enough, says Ricciu: “Every Italian citizen wastes 60 kilos of food in domestic environment per year, 130 if we consider the other contexts. In the province of Oristano the money equivalent is 8 million euros. Children are totally unaware about the phenomenon. We discussed, created a set of guidelines for sustainable snacking and four summary panels that will remain in the schools, one for each category of the topic: waste of water, domestic waste, waste of the production system, waste in distribution”. On November 21st the youth club will host the final party, at the end of which, with the support of Fo.Re.STAS, (the regional institution for forest preservation) 40 trees will be planted to compensate for the carbon dioxide emitted during the project.