Nominee – Fondation Grand Paradis
Giroparchi Nature Trail is a nature trekking in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park – the oldest park in Italy – addressed to teenagers between 11 and 14 years old mainly from the Aosta Valley region but also from all over Italy. At the same time, during the trekking, teenagers acquire tools to communicate the potential of the parks, improve their vocabulary, learn English expressions and stimulate curiosity in natural resources. Since the establishment in 2013, each year has been dedicated to a new theme.
Vision, goals and objectives
The goal of Giroparchi Nature Trail is allowing new generations to acquire full awareness of the exceptional beauty of the natural heritage that characterizes the mountains, to understand the biodiversity of the Alps and to become aware of the importance to build a sustainable tourism approach by respecting the flora and fauna. At the same time, during the trekking, teenagers acquire tools to communicate the potential of the parks, improve their vocabulary, learn English expressions and stimulate curiosity in natural resources. Giroparchi Nature Trail is a nature trekking in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park – the oldest park in Italy – addressed to teenagers between 11 and 14 years old mainly from the Aosta Valley region but also from all over Italy. Two groups of teenagers will spend 5 days each, hiking on the historical paths of the Park guided by two professional English native speakers (a hiking guide and a language teacher) and by a Fondation Grand Paradis employee who speaks English.
During the trekking all activities and games will be in English in order to allow the teenagers to acquire skills and knowledge in a funny way. The participants will hike along historical Alpine trails, which have been tracked by the Royal Park guards in the 27th century, and will spend the night in local Alpine shelters based in the Gran Paradiso National Park and will have the opportunity to meet local people as well as international trekkers. The lowest point of departure is usually around 1,600 m.a.s.l. and the maximum altitude around 2,600 m.a.s.l., with amazing views on glaciers, peaks, screes, waterfalls, lakes and mines. Each year this experience takes place in the Gran Paradiso valleys, but every year the route changes to provide new knowledge and different landscape. Furthermore, every year the trekking has a different topic: e.g. to discover the 5 senses in nature, mines, geology; to learn about wildlife fauna; to focus on the history of the connecting paths used by King Vittorio Emanuele the Second during his hunting journeys in the area. Trekking routes are chosen by taking into consideration the annual topic and in the everyday trekking experience there will be an in-depth focus on flora and fauna observation, landscape and environment, historical events, cultural and natural heritages.
Expected implementation and outcomes
Giroparchi Nature Trail is a nature trekking along the Alpine paths in the Gran Paradiso valleys. It involves mainly local teenagers from 11 to 14 years old. Every year, a different theme is chosen and the educational program and trekking path planning are built upon it. The outdoor and cultural activities are both based on the annual topic, designed to make the kids aware of the beauty of the mountain territories where they live and focused on learning English in a different and funny way, improving listening, comprehension and speaking skills of the participants. Trekking plan and program are defined in winter, while activities are held during summer, to match the best weather conditions, the closure of the schools and the touristic events and holiday periods in the Gran Paradiso valley. Since many families ask for their kids to join the initiative, two rounds of the trekking are organized, also thanks to the support of the partner Gran Paradiso National Park, who finances half of the project. For this reason, the participant fees could be quite cheap, making the initiative very competitive in Aosta valley.
In order to offer a wide range of experiences, three guides are involved to give a contribution in a synergical way: a hiking guide, whose main responsibility is to lead the group along the paths, an English teacher and a Fondation Grand Paradis employee. All the guides speak English and will encourage the teenagers to do the same. Alpine shelters are then contacted to do the reservation and, as soon as the plan is confirmed, the application form is open. Giroparchi Nature Trail is promoted in schools firstly, with posters and brochures with all the information, then by releasing press, sending it to local and national press offices. In addition, news and posts are published on the website and social media. Before the departure of the experience, all families are convened to explain the project, paths, learning activities and accommodation sites in details.
The trekking then starts. One of the many effects of GNT is the growth of the touristic flow. It is not uncommon that the teenagers, after they lived a positive experience, want to spread their knowledge walking through the mountain paths again with their families, relatives and friends, indeed. Along the trekking, sharing beautiful and wild experiences, the teenagers learn to feel their body, strengthen themselves, their self-confidence, but also making long-lasting friendships, for a better physical and mental health. In addition to this, they learn the respect for the nature and its fragile balance and enhance the awareness of the natural beauty of the Gran Paradiso National Park, with all its glaciers, lakes, wild peaks and beautiful panoramas.
Climbing, mountaineering or outdoor sport focus
Giroparchi Nature Trail will be entirely focused on walking along the paths of Gran Paradiso National Park. The trekking lasts five days and during each days the group will hike mountains along historical paths tracked by the Royal Park guards in the 27th century, from one Alpine shelters to another, reaching the maximum of 900 m in difference in height in just one day. With this perspective the trekking itself involves a complete workout, because it exercises all the body.
The outdoor approach provides a variety of benefits, not only physically but also mentally. Potentially, the trekking could encourage a more active lifestyle. Teenagers will also have the opportunity to bond and create long-standing friendships, leading a better mental health. In some of the editions, depending on the location and the planned trail and the offer of the Alpine shelters, the participants had the opportunity to practice particular mountain sports as climbing with an Alpine guide. The climbing experience challenged their mind and body, trained the balance, flexibility and mental approach to the problems. Such experience has been done in the 2020 edition carried out in Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, where participants could experience the climbing of a cliff with an Alpine guide.
In addition to this, during each trekking, education and awareness raising components are accompanied by conservation, climate change mitigation and biodiversity preservation activities like cleaning of mountain trails, improving the monitoring of park biodiversity through the program “GPNP citizen science”, cleaning of Gran Paradiso glaciers environment, etc.
Therefore, the outdoor is not only the background of Giroparchi Nature Trail, it is the field where the kids can live the experience, the key player around which cultural activities are built, the main character for creating awareness on the fragile natural heritage, the protagonist of workshops designed to deep the knowledge about flora and fauna.
Best practice in mountaineering and mountain-based sports for mountain protection
Fondation Grand Paradis chose to promote tourism and knowhow by investing in new generations, giving them the opportunity to live in our mountains, to deep their knowledge of the territory and to be in contact with local communities and with who works every day to preserve nature and culture. We believe that only by experiencing the mountain philosophy it is possible to fully understand both the difficulties and the incredible beauty of the Alps. Walking for five days in nature can be a good example for teenagers involved in the Giroparchi Nature Trail. Many trails have been organized to promote our territory but the innovation of this project is the combination of learning a new language and being in contact with nature.
Studying English outside the classroom in a real context will lead the participants to live an unforgettable experience by making the learning process easier and quicker. The aim is to train future generations with contents and experiences, to wide their knowledge and to allow them not to leave the territory by creating new jobs. Nowadays English can be consider a global language, so being able to share the local natural and cultural heritage worldwide with this common language will allow to create a balance between the permanent communities and the need to continuous renovate and innovate in the future and at an international level as well.
That is why sharing the concepts of biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource, sustainable waste management, climate change effects, the environment protection through culture and education, nature protection, sustainable tourism and respect of local traditions during this experience are benefits for all participants. The binomial “knowledge of the territory” and “language skill” represents a key resource for the future of young generations in an area devoted to sustainable and slow tourism. This project aims at enhancing the natural and cultural peculiarities of the Aosta Valley side of the Gran Paradiso spreading the knowledge on the old royal trails network and mule paths once used by King Victor Emmanuel the Second and on the natural heritage of the Park. It is important that the young generations learn the features, history and heritage of the National Park and the territory where they live because it is a valuable resource which needs to be protected and promoted.
To discover more about the UIAA Mountain Protection Award please click here.
Please note that the content published in this article is courtesy of the Award nominee. The UIAA has made minor revisions to the original submission.