Clean Rivers – „Fiumi Puliti“

Environmental education project in Sicily

Children of different communities near the Etna participate in an environmental education project to examine river ecology, which brings them closer to nature on their doorstep. The project is being conducted by our foundation together with the Sicilian NGO Giacche Verdi Bronte and with the help of volunteers of 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 excursions to the rivers are very important and welcome. 

The rivers Flascio, Simeto, and Alcantara originate from Mount Etna and the mountain range of Nebrodi. The Flascio-river shows a unique phenomenon, mounting into a large over- and underground lake (Gurrida) which serves as a drinking water reservoir. The Simeto river outlines the Etna on its West side. It is characterized by diverse biotopes: crevices offer breeding burrows for native birds, shallow waters in the estuary zone are globally interesting resting areas for migrating birds. Parts of the Simeto are designated nature reserves. The Alcantara-river is especially known for its impressive and deep canyon “Gole Alcantara” and its hexagonal lava-columns. 

Simeto and Alcantara are both impaired by typical effects of man kind as civil works, agricultural pollution and garbage. These rivers are characteristic for the ecology and the impact by humans of rivers worldwide.

The project

„Fiumi puliti“ focuses on providing the children of Bronte and surrounding communities with an understanding of the ecosystem “river” with all its characteristics, functions, and typical flora and fauna. Another focus is the sensitisation of the participants for the value, the beauty, and the threats of this living environment.

At first the students get lessons about river ecology in school, and are getting prepared for the excursions to the rivers. There they examine small animals and insect and the quality of the water, with magnifying glasses, dip nets and pH-meters. As inspecting the watersides, they get to know the geological characteristics.

Self-made floats show the current velocity of the rivers. Another topic is to collect and determine wild herbs, and to learn how to prepare herbs for eating.

Each excursion includes cleaning up activities supported by our donkey Gianni, which is a joy for the children.

A follow up component of the project takes place in the schools where the students refine their experiences and create illustrations. The end-of-season-party in Bronte concludes the project. The participants present their pictures and take part in different activities related to river topics. There is a handicraft workshop, a simulation of the river Simeto downhill, dexterity games, horse-riding, and other possible activities offered.

The project has been repeated annually since then and each time 800 to over 2000 pupils from the surrounding area took part in the excursions and teaching modules. In the course of these projects, among other things, a signature campaign for clean river water was carried out by the Simeto farmers, who water their animals there, as well as water analyses in the Adrano Agricultural School. These measures drew attention to the contamination of the Simeto river by a sewage treatment plant that was not fully functional. As a result, the awarding of the contract was put out to tender under stricter conditions.

"Fiumi Puliti" has become an integral part of Giacche Verdi's programme. In addition to regular appointments to collect garbage and the recurring monitoring of the water quality of the three rivers Simeto, Flascio and Alcantara, another focus lies on the stronger involvement and training of teachers.

Cofinanced by the European Union

More information

Our voluntary programme in Sicily

Partner Giacche Verdi: [in Italian]