The role and contribution of educational activities in UNESCO mountain biosphere reserves

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Gower, Jonathan L.
Price, Martin F.
Ruck, Andy
The provision of educational activity in BRs is officially guided by Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), a UNESCO endorsed education programme. However, the independence accorded to BRs, and the diversity of circumstances they represent, mean they also innovate educational activities to reflect local characteristics. In addition, the ways in which Mountain Biosphere Reserves (MBRs), specifically, implement educational activity is less well known. This research, therefore, was conducted with the aim of exploring and understanding the role and contribution of educational activities in MBRs, with reference to the influence of institutional and local factors. For this study an online survey was conducted in 2021, with staff from 43 MBRs, from 23 countries, and followed up with 10 qualitative interviews. All data were collected from staff based in MBRs who have knowledge and/or experience of delivering educational activities to local audiences. Survey questionnaires were conducted in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and interviews were conducted in English. Results indicate that MBRs provide a diverse range of educational activities, and that outdoor experiential learning, with small audience groups, is viewed as the most effective approach. While educational aims and objectives are largely aligned with ESD guidance, some are adjusted to reflect the characteristics of the MBR, local land use and the needs of local communities. Educational content is sourced and customised independently by MBR staff, though there is widespread request for a UNESCO MAB educational content platform. Increasing knowledge and understanding is prioritised over behaviour change, and targeting behavioural change relating to local land use is more tangible than when associated with climate change, which remains a complex framing challenge. Insufficient funding is identified as the primary inhibitor of more effective educational activity, in particular for MBRs from lower income countries.
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