‘Roots of the future’ is an environmental education and active citizenship programme. It invites young students from neighbouring communities to take ownership of a protected area and to share its natural and cultural heritage.
The programme was launched by the Roffredo Caetani Foundation in January 2016. It is led by Maurilio Cipparone and managed with the help of a team of interpreters and environmental educators, mostly belonging to CURSA, a consortium of universities and experts in interpretive training.
Roots of the future is a ‘strategic in nature’ programme. It begins by involving children from the communities of seven small towns and teaching them to become Piccole Guide di Natura e di Cultura, supported by their teachers, families and lovers of the Pantanello Park, a small but important protected area, next to the world renowned Garden of Ninfa. They are introduced to the park’s flora and fauna, and given field experience and lessons in practical observation, helped by the interpreters to learn how to interpret the biodiversity and the cultural values of the park to their parents, relatives and other students.
The idea is prevalent in other Italian parks and borrows to some extent from the work of the National Park Service in the US, which seeks to qualify young people, after about a year of induction, as ‘Junior Rangers’. The Pantanello initiative, sponsored by the Foundation, is unique in Italy in the sense that the children will share responsibility for developing the programmes and thus pass on their knowledge and experience with enthusiasm, not only to succeeding generations but also to peer groups and family members.
Pantanello (the Italian word for little swamp) is an extraordinary setting for an extraordinary initiative: it was a 100 hectare farm, but pastures and cultivated fields have been replaced by the historical landscape of the plain, reclaiming marshes, little ponds, creeks and woods. The young heritage interpreters who have been involved in this first year of the programme have numbered 1,408, with 80 teachers: a week of ‘graduation ceremonies’ was carried out at the end of the school year. Every day, about 300 young guides have led their audiences, about 600 visitors divided in groups, to discover and to interpret the nature of the park along several nature trails.
New knowledge, new attitudes, improved competencies are the results assessed by the teachers. Enthusiasm, joy, participation may be the keywords of the evaluations made by the parents and the other people involved. Hope, to find support and resources to go on and to continue with this adventure, is the keyword of the involved team of interpreters and educators…

Information and images about the project may be found on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/Parco-Pantanello-451260881678597/ and on http://www.fondazionecaetani.org/index.php.

Maurilio Cipparone is Board member of the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, founding member and former Vice Chair of Interpret Europe’s Supervisory Committee. You can contact him at maucip@me.com.

To cite this article:
Cipparone, M. (2016) ‘Roots of the future – children sharing their park’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2016, 9

Available online: