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This morning, 30 students from Saint Theresa College Girls’ Secondary, Mriehel, received awards in recognition of their contribution to biodiversity protection in the Maltese Islands.
The students, aged 12, have all been appointed as Dinja Wahda Rangers as part of the pilot programme for BirdLife Malta’s Dinja Wahda environmental education programme for secondary schools, now in its second year.
The award ceremony took place in Buskett Gardens today, following an activity in which the students lead guests including the Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta, Martin Bugelli, on a guided “biodiversity tour” around the Buskett-Girgenti Natura 2000 site.
“The title of Dinja Wahda Ranger recognises the role of the students as advocates for biodiversity, nature conservation and sustainability,” said Desireé Falzon, BirdLife Malta’s Education Coordinator.
“They are not only learning themselves, they are also helping to increase awareness and understanding by sharing the skills and knowledge they have learnt with others, which is what Dinja Wahda is all about.”
Along the route, which took the visitors through the “Woodland Garden” area of Buskett, the young Rangers spoke to the visitors about the different habitat types found at the site, including maquis and garrigue. Each Ranger gave a short presentation about a different aspect of the site and its biodiversity, providing their audience with accompanying information leaflets.
Some spoke about a key plant or animal species, explaining its relationship with other species and its contribution to the habitat, while others talked about the concept of biodiversity protection and the importance of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites.
Ranger Maria Mamo explained the importance of Mediterranean Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), a native Maltese woody shrub typical of maquis habitat, whose berries are an important food source for many resident birds such as the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), while Rangers Sefora Gauci and Greta Micallef spoke about the lush bramble, whose rambling fronds and sweet berries provide shelter and food to the breeding Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti).
Speaking as a special guest at the event, Ms Desiree Scicluna Bugeja said, “This event highlights the invaluable contribution that the younger generation can make towards building a sustainable society and the importance of ensuring that the environment remains a priority, not just on the political agenda, but in our schools and classrooms.”
Today’s event marks a new milestone in the development of BirdLife Malta’s Dinja Wahda environmental education programme, which has enjoyed huge popularity and success in primary schools in both Malta and Gozo, as BirdLife Malta looks to expand the pilot project to offer the programme to other secondary schools.
Presenting the prizes, Mr Martin Bugelli said, “It is a great pleasure to be able to present the Dinja Wahda Rangers with these awards, especially after such an interesting walk around these beautiful woods and the knowledge and enthusiasm of their presentations. Through this project, the students have learnt things while enjoying themselves and today they had the opportunity to share that knowledge with us.”
The European Commission Representation in Malta supported the Dinja Wahda secondary schools pilot progamme and today’s event. Mr Bugelli also presented a number of cameras to be used in future Dinja Wahda environmental education programmes for secondary schools.
Desireé Falzon said, “We are very excited about the prospect of extending the secondary schools programme to offer schools and students a continuation and development of the Dinja Wahda primary schools programme. This will continue our focus on building a deeper understanding of biodiversity and conservation and promoting active involvement in practical conservation issues.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Dinja Wahda environmental education programme for secondary schools should contact the BirdLife Malta office.
Photos by the European Commission Representation in Malta (Daniel Cardona – Photocity, Valletta).