Clean Rivers – „Fiumi Puliti“

Environmental education project in Sicily

In the years 2010 - 2018, we enabled children and young people from the Etna region to have memorable nature experiences at the nearby rivers and imparted interesting facts about the species-rich biotope. Manfred Hermsen Stiftung developed this project together with the Sicilian NGO Giacche Verdi Bronte and successfully established environmental education events as a continuous offer for the schools in the region. Over the course of the project, annually 800 to 2000 pupils took part in river excursions and supplementary teaching units, supported by many volunteers from the European Voluntary Service.


Bronte is located in a rural area at the West side of Mount Etna. Environmental education in schools rarely takes place; therefore extracurricular activities like  are of great importance.

The excursion destinations in this project were the rivers Flascio, Simeto and Alcantara. They derive from the Nebrodi Mountains and the active volcano Etna. The Flascio shows a unique phenomenon, mounting into a large over-and underground lake (Gurrida), which serves as a drinking water reservoir. Simeto and Alcantara outline the Etna region on its west and north sides. Their particularly diverse structures create a wide variety of biotopes: deep gorges provide breeding hollows for native birds, and the shallow water zones, especially the estuary of the Simeto, are internationally important resting areas for migratory birds. Parts of the Simeto are nature reserves.

The rivers suffer from typical human impacts such as obstructions, agricultural pollution and waste contamination. Simeto and Flascio as rivers "on the doorstep" offer examples of the ecology and impairments of rivers worldwide.

The project

The aim of this complex environmental education project was to introduce schoolchildren and youth groups from the region to the river ecosystem with all its special features, functions and typical animal and plant species, and to raise their awareness of the beauty, value and also the endangerment of this habitat.

Each turn of the project included school lessons and excursions to selected river areas. The pupils were first trained on the topic in two lessons at school. On the subsequent field trips, the pupils then used magnifying glasses, PH meters and dip nets to examine the water quality and small organisms in the section of the river they visited. While exploring the waterside areas, they learned about the geological characteristics. Another topic was wild herbs, which were collected and identified, and the children were able to take edibles home with tips on how to prepare them. Some children brought self-made rafts, which helped to determine the flow velocity.

Each excursion also included clean-up activities, supported by our donkey Gianni, who gave the children a lot of joy. A final school part was dedicated to the creative review of the experience - resulting in many beautiful pictures, some of which were exhibited at concluding events.

The project was repeated annually and each time involved several dozen primary and secondary school classes from the surrounding communities in the field trips and teaching modules. Emphasis was placed on involving and training teachers as multipliers.

In the course of the project, a signature campaign for clean river water was carried out by the farmers living near the Simeto, who water their animals there, and water analyses were carried out at the Adrano agricultural school. These measures drew attention to the pollution of the Simeto River caused by a sewage treatment plant that was not fully functional. As a result, the farm was re-tendered under stricter conditions.

Our volunteers supported "Fiumi puliti" regularly and were partly financed by the European Voluntary Service.

Cofinanced by the European Union

More information

Our voluntary programme in Sicily

Partner Giacche Verdi: [in Italian]