Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Active Citizenship


The program lasts for a whole year. Still, the separate phases/activities can be adapted and organised for approximately a full day each.

Learning Objectives:

"he education programme is organised around three phases:

Phase 1: Questioning with the following objectives:
Explore environmental and sustainability content and issues
Promote environmental awareness
Foster individual and group participation and cohesion
Enhance communication and problem-solving skills

Phase 2: Nature-based learning (outdoor) with the following objectives:
Immerse, observe and understand the local natural surroundings
Register of local biodiversity
Environmental awareness and assessment
Contact with thematic experts in the environmental systems
Discover community and individual connections
Promote a sense of belonging, health, and well-being
Foster individual and group participation and cohesion
Enhance communication and critical thinking

Phase 3: Community Delivering and Advocacy with the following objectives:
Elaborate on local environmental issues and concerns
Propose ideas and solutions
Evaluate and reflect together on socio-environmental change” (Silva et al., 2023, p. 5)

Duration of the learning processes and activities:

According to Silva et al. (2023), the programme is organised around the following three phases:

During the first phase of the programme, the pupils become familiar with the basic concepts and topic areas (e.g., climate change, biodiversity, circular economy) with activities that promote questioning and reflection (e.g., truth or myths with fact-checking activities, short movies, debates, and discussions). This is typically organised within a classroom. In this case, working groups called “ECOPros” were formed. This phase sets the stage for the exploration that follows next.

During the second phase, the pupils are engaged in nature walking, wandering, and citizen science (e.g., walking tours and hiking) under the guidance of facilitators and experts in specific fields (e.g., plant and bird identification). The aim is to experience nature, walk on local trails and learn about the local biodiversity. Specifically, throughout the walks, the students identify and categorise the species in the area using field guides, hand lenses, butterfly nets and binoculars. In addition, during the walks, environmental issues were identified and discussed. A mobile application has been developed within the programme's framework, allowing the pupils to capture pictures of the species and sightings.

The last phase focused on students participating in a “Citizenship, Environment, and Sustainable Development Forum” with proposals and ideas to solve environmental issues. 

Other organisations involved:

Grupo Aprender em Festa (GAF), CERVAS – Centro de Ecologia, Recuperação e Vigilância de Animais Selvagens, Agrupamento de Escolas de Gouveia, Instituto de Gouveia – Escola Profissional, Município de Gouveia, Tøyen Unlimited

Resources required:

Indicative resources for the walks: field guides, hand lenses, butterfly nets and binoculars
Optional: ECOCIDADANIA mobile application, developed by Isabel Silva, Samuel Duarte, and Bruno Esteves, available at 

More information:

Silva, I. S., Cunha-Saraiva, F., Ribeiro, A. S., & Bártolo, A. (2023). Exploring the acceptability of an environmental education program for youth in rural areas: ECOCIDADANIA Project. Education Sciences, 13(10), 982.

Other remarks:

The ECOCIDADANIA programme can be aligned with the OTTER Labs model.
Specifically, the activities of the programme's first phase, such as the fact-checking exercises, the debates and discussions, can be included in the second step of the OTTER Labs model, the orientation, to raise awareness about the local biodiversity and identify prior knowledge. Then, the second phase of the ECOCIDADANIA programme, with nature tours, hiking and walking, is ideal for the “discover” step in OTTER Labs, as the pupils observe and gather data from their surroundings. Moreover, the proposal/ideas to solve environmental solutions within the third stage of the ECOCIDADANIA programme fit the “make an impact” step in OTTER Labs, as the pupils design an initiative. A reflection can follow to discuss lessons learned and help pupils make real-life connections.