In 2007, the “Etang de Mauguio” (known locally as “Etang de l’Or” or ‘lake of gold’) was declared a Natura 2000 site, triggering strong opposition from local users. The local authorities made major efforts to encourage dialogue between all stakeholders in order to overcome these initial concerns. This proved to be successful. Over time, a general consensus and positive attitude was built up regarding the management and use of this valuable natural site.
To mark the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Etang de L’or as a Natura 2000 site, the Syndicat Mixte du Bassin de L’Or (Symbo) decided to involve all of its collaborators and local schools in a joint project: to create a travelling exhibition to be designed by, and for, children. Teachers and more than 340 schoolchildren from thirteen primary and secondary schools within the districts surrounding the Natura 2000 site, got involved in the preparation of the exhibition.
Over the 2016-2017 school year, the teachers and pupils developed the contents of the exhibition to showcase the multiple facets and unique features of the “Etang de Mauguio” Natura 2000 site. Each class worked on a specific theme corresponding to one panel of the exhibition. Local site users -farmers, hunters, fishermen, scientists - assisted the schoolchildren in this process by giving them lectures and organising numerous field visits to the site to explore the individual elements in greater detail.
In addition to the primary objectives of raising awareness amongst pupils of the exceptional natural heritage of the “Etang de l’Or” and creating a lasting educational tool, the project also offered an opportunity for pupils to find out about careers related to the environment, by involving external contributors (managers of natural areas, site users, researchers, etc.).
The travelling exhibition, composed of 12 self-supporting panels, was inaugurated in spring 2017. The pupils presented their work to elected representatives, the services of the State and other stakeholders of the Natura 2000 site. The exhibition has since been shown in various public buildings in the region (library, high school, elementary schools, tourism office). It is estimated that around 8300 people including 700 school children have seen or been made aware of the exhibition locally and learnt something about the Natura 2000 site.
Local politicians and mayors from surrounding villages have also ‘appropriated’ the site and become more interested in its conservation. Next year, the Symbo will make the exhibition freely available to other schools within the area.