WWF Nature Academy - cooperation of schools and protected areas

WWF Adria
Published: 17 April 2019
Last edited: 21 February 2020
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„WWF Nature Academy“ is an 8 months long environmental education program that aims to develop key competencies of teachers and their students that lead to active citizenship for nature conservation. Each school participating in the program implements an environmental project in cooperation with the management of the protected area in their close proximity. Since 2016 we have engaged 20 schools in Serbia that became Ambassadors for one of the 5 protected areas involved in the program. During the program, participants learn about protected areas, ecological footprint, project-based and experiential learning, as well as about media relations in order to promote their results. Within the 20 implemented school projects 110 teachers and 333 students were actively involved in the implementation of various activities and approximately 3900 students benefited from these activities.


East Europe
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Health and human wellbeing
Outreach & communications
Protected area governance
Traditional knowledge
Other theme
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Social conflict and civil unrest
Sustainable development goals
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Bajina Bašta, Zlatibor District, Serbia | National parks Đerdap, Fruška gora, Special Nature Reserve of Gornje Podunavlje, Protected Landscape of Avala
Show on Protected Planet


  • Lack of good quality classes in nature.
  • Lack of educational programmes in protected areas.
  • Teachers have no reference books, guidelines or recommendations (curriculum, work plan) for teaching outdoors.
  • Most parents feel that nature excursions are not safe or cannot finance them.
  • Travel agencies have  big influence on the itineraries of school excursion and are not considering the quality of the excursion programme.


# schools – 20

# educated teachers – 23

# educated students – 20

# teachers involved in project teams – 110

# students involved in project teams – 333

# students reached by school activities – 3903   

# local stakeholders involved in activities - 95

How do the building blocks interact?

Building blocks are created in a way that they each is built on the previous one and they have to be synchronised with the school year.


Selection of PAs and schools is followed by and intensive training that enables schools and PAs to start cooperation (building block 1), define their common goal and develop the detailed school project plan (building block 2). The implementation of the school project and achieving results is only possible if the schools and PAs have regular communication and support each other as some activities are being implemented in the PA. 


If building blocks 1 and 2 are implemented well and show the expected results it is possible to organize the final event that brings all participants together to exchange their success, experiences, challenges and benefits they gained through the project. 


WWF Nature Academy brings an innovative approach in advancing the competencies for environmental education and active citizenship and provides opportunities and models for a higher degree of association between protected areas and local communities. Parents and wider families whose children (more than 3900) were part of ambassador schools were covered by the programme. This led to increased awareness of locals on the importance of the protected area in their region. Local residents become ambassadors of the PAs and changed their attitude towards nature protection. For the first time in Serbia, 20 local schools with its 110 teachers connected with 5 PAs in their vicinity and started collaborating on education in and about nature. WWF academy initiated cooperation between nature protection sector and education sector (Ministry of Education). WWF Academy workplan, its approaches and methods became part of the curricula for participating schools, thereby making the programme sustainable. Parts of the program have been replicated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.


Milica Milović Kinoli

“There was a lot of difficulties at the beginning, but my greatest satisfaction was when the pupils asked me what we would be doing next. That showed me that we had got that creative energy flowing inside them,” proudly stated Aleksandra Đurić Karaklić, a biology professor at the Josif Pančić Gymnasium secondary school in Bajina Bašta, when explaining the process of creating the ‘Mini Tara Garden’ in the schoolyard. This secondary school, one of the Ambassador schools of the National park Tara, intended to bring together pupils and teachers from schools near protected areas and work together with the protected area management on how to protect the environment surrounding them.

“I never had any idea about all there is at Tara, even though I regularly came here to ski with my parents when I was younger. I am part of the biology school club, and at the WWF Academy, I learned about all the protected plants and animals on this mountain, and what this means to our region and to all of Serbia. For example, Serbian spruce grows here, which can no longer be found anywhere else in the Balkans,” said Jovana Katanić.

For Jovana and her peer Matija Žuža, staying after school was not a problem. They are happy that once they leave school, they will have left something behind, and they are pleased to see pupils from other schools coming to visit the Mini Tara Garden. Matija said that only after getting involved in the project did he begin to notice the nature surrounding him. But he has also started to notice problems.

“I have come to realise why this area is protected, there is definitely a reason. We need to take more care about how we act in nature, and towards nature. I often see garbage while I’m walking, and I think that people are not ecologically aware. I have begun to scold my parents and others if I see them throwing garbage onto the street or anywhere else,” explained Matija.

“We donated the necessary materials for the school, while our park staff worked together with the pupils to design the garden and plant the saplings. Cooperation with local schools is a strategic focus for us, as young people are quicker to accept and master new knowledge and ideas, and to enthusiastically share them with their surroundings. In the future, this will result in better connections between Tara National Park and the local population and will improve public understanding of the issues involved in nature conservation,” stated Milanović, Head of Outreach and Tourism Department.

Contributed by

Kasandra-Zorica Ivanić WWF Adria

Other contributors

WWF Adria