I am geopark – I am Interpret Europe


Having recently become the IE Country Coordinator Portugal, a country that has only two other members besides me, I took my time. I wanted to do things the right way, which for me is the slow way! (People do say we Azoreans are slow living!)

So, after about one year of letting my ideas mature and waiting to participate in my first IE conference, I finally decided on my first initiative: to present IE to a network that is very dear to my heart: geoparks. I have been a member of the Azores Geopark since 2012. Every two years we hold the European Geoparks Conference, and the next one was scheduled for this year, in Seville, from 25-27 September. All Portuguese geoparks would be there, as well as most of the European UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Being new to IE, I was inspired by the IE Conference 2019 in Sarajevo, where I saw Janja Sivec, Sandy Colvine and Piotr Idziak deliver a great practical workshop. So after some (good) advice from Helena Vièiè, I decided to propose a practical workshop to the Secretariat of the Geoparks Conference, and to put together a team: Darja from Geopark Karavanke/Karawanken, because she is from the ‘geopark family’ as well as being a recently qualified IE Certified Intepretive Guide; Nuria Mohedano, from my ‘IE family’ since we met on our Certified Interpretive Trainer Course, and because she is the IE Tourism Coordinator; and Evarist March, whom I had never met but lives in Spain and had just sent me an email inviting me to participate in a meeting for Iberian Interpret Europe Guides in September.

So, the idea was to deliver a very practical workshop, in a conference where participants are more used to traditional, oral presentations. I wanted to do things differently there, to make a buzz! And there we were, four ‘strangers’, working together. Well, Nuria and I were not actually strangers, but we had not met since the CIT course in May 2018. We prepared all the workshop by e-mail, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. An incredible amount of emails and messages for such a small workshop – I bet that if we were together in a room, we would have reached the same result in three hours! But after a few weeks/months (and some despair), asking for exercises from Janja Sivec (IE Country Coordinator Slovenia) and advice from Valya Stergioti (IE Training Coordinator), we created a workshop with a series of tasters… tapas, as they say in Andaluzia, so very appropriate!

And so, with some practical tapas prepared by each of us, we spent two hours introducing what interpretation (and Interpret Europe) can bring to geoheritage and geoparks. And it even included volcanic cookies and chocolate tasting! Let us see now if our workshop recipes left a good taste in the geoparks’ mouths, and hope we have started a fruitful relationship between these two European Networks – geoparks and IE! 

With multiple sessions simultaneously, and a scheduled start at 8h30 in the morning, more than 30 people joined our workshop (what a great turn out, I sighed with relief!). Many of them wanted to take our cards and thanked us at the end. Mission well acomplished, we felt.

And now, while I think about this some more, I am very happy with the way things came together: I was able to present myself to my Portuguese Geoparks friends as being part of IE – not just to them, but to the whole European Geopark Network – and not alone as the Portugal Country Coordinator, but as part of an IE group, as my new family. 
I think there is a saying that ‘Latins love big families’, or did I make this up? Anyway, I love big families, and I hope to help bring many geopark members to the IE family – and IE members to the geopark family! My families are growing side by side.

And I also hope to see more IE members at the 16th European Geoparks Conference, which will be held on 22-24 September 2021 in Sesia Val Grande UNESCO Global Geopark, where stone becomes culture! 

You can find the abstract of our workshop, A taster of interpretive skills for geoparks, in the Abstracts Conference Book (page 178): http://egnsierranorte2019.com/docs/15th_European_Geoparks_Conference_Abstracts%20Book.pdf

Carla Silva is IE’s Country Coordinator Portugal. She is based in Pico Island, Azores Archipelago, Portugal. She is a biology and geology teacher working for the Azores Regional Government, in the Services of Nature Conservation and Environmental Awareness, where she collaborates on educational programmes for students, municipalities and tourism companies, among other projects. She can be contacted at: carla.silva@interpret-europe.net or carla.sg.silva@azores.gov.pt.

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