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A brief history of the Teletskaya school of youth ecotourism

 “A young man should have an opportunity to travel and fortify himself against hardships and illnesses. He should see his great motherland to grow into a responsible and honorable citizen. Having no necessary means for that, pupils must enjoy support of the state ..”, Rudolph Leitzinger, founder of the first Russian children and youth tourist camp in Pyatigorsk (1905).  


 On 26 August 1996 members of the Inspection and Supervision Department of the Altaiskiy Nature Reserve gathered boys of the Yailu settlement and suggested establishing the Young Friends Club of the Altaiskiy Reserve (the Altaiskiy Reserve Friends Club) targeted at organizing and holding events to support the Reserve’s mission, strengthen its image and train the staff to be employed in the system of specially protected nature territories. The initiative resonated with the boys’ hearts and minds and was welcomed enthusiastically. Thus, in November 1996 members of the Altaiskiy Reserve Friends Club undertook the first expedition to the Lake Teletskoye Quiet Zone – Kamga Bay - that familiarized the participants with the life of the cordon of the Altaiskiy Reserve, work and responsibilities of the Inspection and Supervision Department. It was then that the boys took part in their first-ever small-bore rifle practice.

Over the next three years the Young Friends Club undertook a number of interesting expeditions with the support from the Reserve’s administration and Siberian scientific research institutions. Thus, the Club visited:  the viewing platform of the natural monument - Korbu Waterfall -  and cleaned up the garbage left by visitors; Kokshi cordon, where the club members assisted in planting the apple orchard; Abakanskiy Ridge spurs to collect raw data on Teletskoye Lake air basin; Belukha foothills and the Chulyshman Valley  to monitor the state of Altai’s unique natural monuments and sites; areas affected by remnants of the launch vehicle Proton №326 (impact areas) to protest against turning the territory of the Altaiskiy Reserves into a cosmic garbage dump. In the course of their visits to the cities of the Ob basin – Gorno-Altaisk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk – young friends of the Altaiskiy Reserve held meetings with eco-community representatives and media devoted to the urgent issues of nature conservation in Gorny Altai. During the expedition to the Kyga River Valley in autumn 1997 the Club got its name – “Guardians of the Lake”.

1998 witnessed the first ever expeditions of the “Guardians of the Lake” involving teenagers registered in Gorno-Altaisk Commission on Juvenile Affairs, which predetermined and laid the ground for launching the Nature and Children Program of the Altaiskiy Reserve targeted at applying methods of ecological education for prevention of children and youth’s social disorders.   

Over the period 1998-2009 the Nature and Children Program also welcomed children from the Altai Republic’s social rehabilitation center and Gorno-Altaisk orphan asylum, attendants of the republican boarding school and children with disabilities, students from Gorno-Altaisk University and other Russian educational institutions.      

In the period 2007- 2009 participants of the Nature and Children Program of the Altaiskiy Biosphere Reserve initiated and held a number of interregional research and practice conferences unveiling the potential of active ecotourism in preventing infant neglect and juvenile delinquency.    A number of projects were launched as a result of united efforts of the staff of the Altaiskiy Biosphere Reserve and Gorno-Altaisk University, experts in children and youth tourism of the Altai Republic and the Altai Region, teaching staff of specialized educational institutions and representatives of Prevention Authorities of the Altai Republic’s Ministry of Internal Affairs:

 - Altyn-Kol Trail Project ranked  among federal programs devoted to the Year of Youth in Russia (2009);

 - Health Trail Project received wide acclaim in the course of All-Russian Meeting on Youth Tourism (Sochi, September 2009);

 - Forest Robinsons Project of the Integrated Social Service Center of the Altai Republic’s municipal unit “Maiminskiy District” gained the lead in the republican contest of social programs (2009);

 - Above the Lake Project of the Barnaul State Pedagogical College ranked second in the All-Russian Open Contest “Pedagogic Innovations”, with Maria Shulepova, a project participant, taking the first place in the All-Russian Youth Contest “The First Steps”  (2009);

 -  members of the Nature and Children Program of the Altaiskiy Biosphere Reserve took part in the Children’s Climate Forum held in December 2009 in Copenhagen.

In February 2010 administration of the Altaiskiy Biosphere Reserve took a decision to establish the Teletskaya school of  youth ecotourism as a structural subdivision of the Reserve to carry on  the best traditions  of the Nature and Children Program and to hold the All-Russian Conference “Youth ecotourism as a universal means of preventing children and youth’s social disorders and a prerequisite for sustainable development of Lake Teletskoye – the UNESCO World Heritage Site”  in September 2010.  The follow-up collection of the Teletskaya school materials summarized the experience in organizing and holding children and youth eco camps and expeditions in specially protected nature territories. 

2011 was a landmark in history of the Teletskaya school for it was then that the republican Forest Robinsons Project moved to the interregional level, entailing the increase in visitor inflow and the launch of new projects.  Thus, in summer 2011 the “Forest Robinsons” camp welcomed families from vulnerable social groups of the Altai Republic and Novosibirsk Region. The first of the newly launched projects of the Teletskaya school – “Warrior’s Path” - was initiated by the administration of the Barnaul boarding school providing initial flight training, and the second – “Berendei” – by teachers of Gorno-Altaisk school №12.  That same year major boat repair was carried out and, following the agreement reached with Gorno-Altaisk State University, the Teletskoye Lake Boat Club of the Altaiskiy Reserve was established. Research and practice conference “Children, Youth and Ecology: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding” winded up the summer season.

For  many years the Nature and Children Program and the Teletskaya school of youth ecotourism of the Altaiskiy Biosphere Reserve have been enjoying support from the government and the State Assembly of the Altai Republic – El Kurultai, with the active support from the Russian Office of UNICEF, Ecocenter of Gorno-Altaisk State University and NGO “Guardians of the Lake”. But looking back at those days when the Young Friends Club was making its first steps I can’t but recall and thank our first sponsors that helped the Club move in the right direction and keep the faith in people strong, namely Ali Dadashev, resident of the Yailu settlement, who helped to organize the first expedition of Young Friends Club to Kamga Bay in 1996, and Vitaly Ionko, director of tourist camp “Altyn Tuu”, who assisted in repairing the room for the “Guardians of the Lake” in Yailu settlement in 1997.


 P.S.  In 1907 following the publication of the first children and youth tourism guide in Russia by Rudolph Leitzinger “A few words about educational excursions”, the Ministry of Public Education of the Russian Empire issued a special directive saying: “…excursions help instill love to nature in the youth providing the first-hand immediate information on its vigor and inexhaustible resources. Excursions can implant in the hearts of children and the youth the seeds of patriotic love and an urge to work for its benefit, thus contributing to the molding of healthy life ideals which constitutes the basis of school education”. 

 Yevgeniy Veselovskiy, staff member of the Altaiskiy Biosphere Reserve, coordinator for the Teletskaya school of youth ecotourism “Guardians of the Lake”. 


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