Culture Ants Project

Meltem Parlak

Cultural Awareness Foundation

(Istanbul, Turkey)
2009 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Prize for Education, Training and Awareness Raising

Cultural Awareness Foundation

Cultural Awareness Foundation (CAF) was established on March 4, 2003 by 148 founding members consisting of a diverse professional profile that includes academics, artists, archeologists, architects, art historians, and businessman/businesswoman, all concerned with historical and cultural heritage and awareness.

The Foundation aims at promoting the material cultural heritage in Turkey with an awareness of its multicultural structure. It acknowledges the diversity of these cultural assets as a common human heritage both for the Turkish society and the world, and targets to become a model institution on cultural awareness.

CAF has a mission to transmit the cultural and historical heritage to the next generations in its most accurate version which respects historical-cultural continuities and mutual borrowings. It also commits itself to the promoting of social sensibility and awareness on the conservation of historical and cultural assets.

Ants of cultural heritage
Our country is located in the most important area of the world in terms of the richness of its cultural and historical heritage. Despite the presence of serious obstacles concerning the preservation of our historical and cultural assets, appropriate resolutions have not been developed so far to acknowledge, protect and transfer these values. Taking into account the available scientific data, CAF is committed to overcome these problems through education of youth. Consequently, CAF developed an original educational program called ls"Cultural Ants.' The team that developed this model consisted of pedagogs, art historians and psychologists. The target audience of the program is children at secondary school. It is believed that knowledge, skills and attitudes earned during childhood will provide children with life-long positive attitude towards their own cultural and historical heritage. With this educational model, it would be possible to appeal to the emotional intelligence of children by stimulating awareness of and acknowledgment of their heritage existing in their surroundings.

CAF and Ministry of Education jointly decide about the students who will participate at the Program. All participants come from schools founded at socio-economically disfavored parts of selected cities. Applied methodology of the Program is ls"student centered' where students are divided into small groups and they visit, observe, touch, feel and develop their own perceptions. The training program will last 1-2 years depending on the locality of the schools, and the target audience is set as the 6th grade.
Children are encouraged to make music, paintings, ceramics, and drama during and after the site visits. By doing so, the impact of the experience that they go through will be long lasting.
In each student group, there is one instructor who is responsible for training the students. The instructors are mostly university students or graduates and they participate in the Program on a voluntary basis. They receive a two-level training at CAF's headquarters. The voluntary training program is also designed by CAW. At its first level, participants are informed about principles regarding education, general communicative skills and communication with children.

At the second level, they get instructions regarding their duties for field activities and general historical and cultural information on the sites they will visit.
On the one hand volunteers train children, on the other hand, they will themselves get a training on our common heritage, on its protection and survival, and therefore giving the project a child youth-centered form. The fact that children will share their experiences with their families and that the model provides school teachers and managers with modern training techniques will particularly increase the multiplying effect of the project.
The Project took start on May 2002. Two thousand students from 6th and 7th grade of 8 elementary schools have successfully complete program.

Cultural Ants walk towards 2010

After Istanbul's selection as 2010 European Capital city, it is targeted that the ls"Cultural Ants Walk towards 2010' project has been set to train 2010 Cultural Ants. Since its beginning, nearly 500 young volunteers participated at the project.

Based on the results of an independent professional evaluation study, personal and environmental awareness among children who took this program increased their awareness to protect cultural values developed.
Initially, CAF had been the sole contributor to the Project. However, between 2005-2006, Foundation of Development of Human Sources (DHS) made financial contribution to the project. This contribution was made possible with the grants that the DHS received from European Union. Between 2006-2007, the Project co-financed by CAF and Vehbi Koccedil; Foundation, one of the largest and most well-respected NGO in Turkey.
Based on primary research, our ls"Cultural Ants' education model is the first and only project that made its way into the "Primary education's 6th grade teacher's guide books and student textbooks" under the title of ls"Sensitivity to Cultural Heritage.'
Our efforts continue to make this education model available among less developed countries rich in cultural assets in order for them to acknowledge, protect and revive these assets.


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