In September I had my second AHHAAAAAAA moment. The first one happened in early July, when I flew to Tartu to give a hand in the arrangements for the youth exchange.
Knowing that a challenging and restless week was ahead of me, I decided to take a couple of days before the project to unwind and explore Tartu. I turned to the good-ol’ Couchsurfing for my lodging and was lucky to have two different beds for the two nights in the city renowned for its university and student life. I delved into the life of a Laura, an Estonian/German girl who impressed me with her sensible maturity and views of the world. We got to hangout with her fellow classmates on a fun board games night. In the blink of an eye Annika, a doctorate at the university, welcomed me into her house and with her came an amusingly chaotic family. In a very short time Couchsurfing gave me an insight to the lives of Estonians at opposite ends of the life spectrum. And how much I cherish having these opportunities!
At last, don’t limit yourself to the historical centre. The Estonian National Museum, albeit a bit far away, is definitely a must-do!
Young Researchers for Science
Coming to Tartu as the team-leader of the Portuguese entourage, I was excited to finally meet my compatriots, with whom I only had the chance of contacting via Skype and email. At last, I could match the voices and writings with the faces of Afonso, Carolina, Isabel, Magda and Verónica.
But it didn’t end there. Along with some well-known faces met in July, I got to become familiar with 30 more, from the lands of Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Italy.
The Youth Exchange was meant to be at the intersection of environmental education and science. So for a whole week we got to be environmental scientists!
One of the very first things that struck me as incredibly positive was that most of the activities and workshops were in our hands (read: the participants). Of course there was a team of awesome people – Marco, Sarah and Trifon (and Ellen!) – who were there to support us through it all. But again, the concept that we were held responsible for the success of the project a big highlight that set “Young Researchers for Science” apart.
The schedule was divided into two segments:
- The first was meant exclusively for the participants, as we got to develop activities prepared prior to our arrival in Estonia. The Portuguese group shed some light on the topic of coffee and its economical, social and environmental impact. We developed a hands-on-let’s-get-yourself-dirty workshop to create biodegradable flower pots from coffee grounds. Dirty hands aside, the pots came to be sucessfully materialised and proved that pretty much anything can be (re)used.
- The second part consisted in creating activities meant to be performed with the AHHAA visitors (the target audience being mostly children and youngsters). The group in which I was involved came up with an idea to work on: wetlands!
What is a wetland?
An ecosystem incredibly rich in biodiversity that provides a number of important services, such as: high concentration power of carbon (around 20 to 30% of the world’s total); support the cultivation of rice (a staple in the diet of half the world’s population); allow for water filtration, storm protection and flood control. It is also a significant cluster of mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, microorganisms and plants (ex.: moss) and covers 25% of Estonia (4 to 6% of the world’s surface)!
Since Estonia has such an intimate bond with wetlands, we decided to raise awareness on the importance of preserving them and explain how they work in the real world through some simple experiments.
During the workshop conception we got to an overflow of shared knowledge. We built and rebuilt our experiments until we came up with something suitable to present. The attendance was quite good and we ended up repeating the show once again, at the Researcher’s Night Festival.
The days were also sprinkled with energisers, team-building activities, intercultural evenings, one memorable night out and other tasks that involved exploring the AHHAA Science Centre.
Things eventually came to an end… But the friendships, the conversations and the amazing moments shared together will forever stay with every single one of us.
At last but not least, don’t forget to create a calendar appointment: on the 2nd of February we will celebrate the World Wetlands Day… Stay tuned!