Slovakia has been part of the Young Reporters for the Environment programme since 2009. This year in our YRE International Competiton they received multiple awards, so to honour their successes we spoke to National Operator Klaudia Medalová.
What does the YRE Competition mean to you as an organisation?
A lot. YRE is one of the 4 pillars of our NGO, the other three being policies for the development of environmental education in Slovakia, knowledge and skills for a sustainable future on an individual level (organic farming, natural gardening, zero waste etc.), and implementation of Agenda 21 principles in the development of our city, Trenčín (nature conservation, bicycle paths etc.)
It's great that Young Reporters for the Environment in some way connect all of our programmes. YRE competition provides young people skills to be mindful of where one lives, in cooperation with educators and experts they explore sustainability solutions, and through investigative environmental journalism our reporters increase the sensitivity of local politicians and the public to environmental issues.
And, in the case of this year's stunning success, the YRE competition also means a lot of attention from involved schools, students, their parents, and all environmental activists. Perhaps the day will come when the media will show interest in the results as well. For the moment, we haven't caught up with Greta Thunberg.
On the other hand, we were very pleasantly surprised that our international success was noticed by President Zuzana Caputova. She invited the winners with their teachers to her residence in the Grassalkovich Palace. In her speech she showed great respect for the YRE programme:
How do you celebrate your winners?
We always plan our field workshop around June 5th so that we are together when the press release about international YRE winners is released.
This year, on the actual day of June 5th, we went on a hike with a National Park ranger. He explained the main issues of nature conservation in that part of the West Tatra mountains, and provided the students with a few interviews on the topics they chose to report on that day.
We announced the results right after climbing the gorge, shortly after noon. The awards for Slovak entries were so numerous that in the eyes of most students and teachers we could see the question: Is this even possible? At the end of the workshop, we celebrated our success with a cake.
Could you tell me why you think students are so good at following YRE methodology in Slovakia?
At the beginning of each school year we run a YRE seminar for new schools. We invite one teacher and three students per school. We explain the YRE 4-step methodology, and assign an autumn task for small school projects. In two months, students have to choose a local topic (related to their school or community), investigate, write an article, and upload it on the YRE Slovakia website. Before their entries are published, they receive feedback, and if necessary, they are asked to redesign the article in accordance with correct journalistic style.
Since the start of the programme, we have been working with media and environmental professionals. Our experienced reporters develop their skills mostly in field workshops, are organised in June (a 4-day stay). Here, they become experts on a particular environmental theme, depending on the workshop site (Zoo, National Parks etc.). Every day they create reports (a photo with a label or a video) and receive feedback from experts on their work published on social networks.
We pay great attention to the competition throughout the whole school year. From the possibility to consult on topic selection, through suggesting an expert who can provide an interview, up to translations by a native (bilingual) speaker.
Last but not least, we have an excellent jury, whose members not only take the time to evaluate the competition entries, but also to meet in person, and select winners with potential for international awards.