Summer 2020. After months of lockdown and a long period of online courses and learning activities, everywhere, and also in the Alps, children and young people needed to return to nature and experience it. Above all, they needed to run and walk through meadows and forests again, to enjoy large spaces and rediscover the rich biodiversity of the mountains.
So, in order to allow young people to experience an authentic immersion in nature, in 23 protected areas between the Alps and the Carpathians, mountain guides, rangers or educators participated in the 6th edition of Youth at the Top. In total, 28 events were held between July 16th and the beginning of October, in 5 Alpine countries as well as in 2 Carpathian countries, Romania and Slovakia. Around 250 children and young people were able to go on a mountain hike with other peers, often bivouacking in tents or in a hut, along educational activities that allowed them to reconnect with nature and increase their awareness of sustainable development.
An unusual edition
Due to the global context, the 2020 edition was a bit different than usual. In order to allow several protected areas to join the initiative, the events were no longer held on a single date but throughout most of the summer. The number of participants per event was limited, often no more than 10 young people and bivouac in tents or in the open air was preferred. However, the health crisis did not stop the curiosity and enthusiasm of the young people who participated with great interest in the activities proposed under the common theme "Fauna and climate change".
The theme "Fauna and climate change" guided the activities
Many actions have been proposed to the young participants to enable them to understand the importance of protection and conservation of the territory, focusing on the impact of climate change on Alpine fauna: role-playing games, expert interventions, viewing the melting glaciers on the ground, sharing experiences and stories. In the HoheTauern National Park (Austria), the close encounter with a group of chamois was an opportunity to discuss the impact of seasonal warming on the species, in the Julian Pre-Alps Nature Park (Italy) the presentation of the impact of climate change on wildlife by local experts was followed by an excursion to hear the roar of the deers.
Among the many activities, in the Piatra Craiului National Park (Romania), the young people built kites that flew along the large areas of the park, while in the Pfyn-Finges Nature Park (Switzerland), the youngsters had a truly unusual experience: the group went into the heart of the mountain with a small train along the path of an old mine. The enthusiasm was so great that many said they were ready to join the adventure with "Youth at the Top" next year too.
The 6th edition of the project is led by ALPARC – The Alpine Network of ProtectedAreas, with the financial support of the German Ministry of the Environment, the Principality of Monaco and the French National Agency ANCT.