Trip will be no school holiday for Banovallum students

Banovallum students who are heading to Croatia. Photo: John Aron
Banovallum students who are heading to Croatia. Photo: John Aron

It is one of Europe’s increasingly popular tourist destinations, but when 14 students and two members of staff from Banovallum School head for Croatia this summer, it will be anything but a holiday.

They will be taking part in a vital environmental programme designed to protect and preserve two national parks, one in the mountains and another off the coast.

Dubrovnik - last port of call

Dubrovnik - last port of call

The programme is part of Operation Wallacea, a biodiversity and conservation management research organisation based in Old Bolingbroke.

The Banovallum students will work alongside academics from many European and North American universities and be part of a 100-strong survey team.

In week one, data collected by the students will be used by the Croatian government to help manage the Krka National Park, one of the main refuges in Europe for flora and fauna and a whole host of wildlife, including bears and wolves.

In week two, the Banovallum team will head to the seas off Mljet Island to study sea-grass beds and the management of local fisheries.

The trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students because places are usually restricted to sixth forms.

The Banovallum students, who are aged 15 and 16, will fly to Croatia after completing their GCSE exams.

Each student must raise £1,800 to cover the cost of the trip, but it says much for the commitment at Banovallum that the vast majority taking part are already close to, or have reached, their target.

Team members like Amy Bachelor, Daniel Zachar, Tom Fiddies and Ami Johnson have been hard at work at fund raisers, ranging from sponsored runs to fence painting and cake bakes. More events are planned before the teenagers fly out on July 5.

Ynsk Fawcett, a science teacher and ‘Opwall’ leader at Banovallum, said: “It’s a wonderful and unique opportunity. There’s a chance for them to explore caves that were only discovered five year ago, scuba dive, snorkel - the list is endless. At the same time, they know they work they will be doing will help protect vital areas of countryside and the sea-life for future generations.

“A lot of the students will be going onto further education, and this is certainly something to put on their applications.”

Before heading back to the UK, the students will spend time in Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a famous tourist destination thanks to its walled Old Town which had a starring role in ‘Game of Thrones’.