Refugee children discovering dinosaurs and mammoths at the Dinosaur Park in Thessaloniki

Refugee children in Greece visits Dinosaur Park

More than their home, when children become refugees they leave schooling behind. While the Greek authorities provide formal education, the Danish Refugee Council organizes non-formal educational activities at eight hosting sites across Greece to increase educational opportunities and boost the appreciation of learning.
 
 

29.10.2018

No matter where children come from, they love stories of magical times and creatures. And although dinosaurs became extinct nearly 65 million years ago, they are very much alive in the hearts and minds of today’s children. It is also a great subject for DRC educators who want to introduce refugee children to the topics of human history and science.

Late last month, eighty refugee children between 8 and 17 years old, residents of the Alexandria hosting site, visited the Thessaloniki Dinosaur Park, where approximately 100 exhibits of typical species of dinosaurs and reptiles of various geological periods are displayed in actual size, presenting stages of their evolution and final disappearance from our planet.

Apart from the unique mix of hairy mammoths, rhinoceros and bison fossils, with hands on, interactive and video displays, children explored Earth’s last ice age about 10,000 years ago and visited the Cave of Evolution, an impressive cave model where the evolution of the human species unfolds. Prehistoric rock art and a full collection of stone tools from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki painted a fuller picture for the little students who were mesmerized by the first steps of human mankind.

A few kilometers away, 125 children from the Nea Kavala and Veroia hosting sites visited the Olympic Museum in Thessaloniki. The young students between 6–17 years old escorted by DRC staff and a few parents spent a day outside the site learning about the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Science of Sports.  Children delved into games of imitating roles and Paralympic Games like “Boccia,” a precision ball sport, and “Goalball,” a team sport designed specifically for athletes with a vision impairment. They also practiced their own motor skills and challenged each other’s speed, flexibility, reflexes and balance.

Paschalis Valsamakis, DRC education team leader in North Greece, explains the decision behind this educational trip. “Sport pedagogy is a multifaceted approach. Through the history of sports and the Olympic Games children are encouraged to embrace the sport values and work with a team spirit. But it is also a great way to introduce them to different activities combining cognitive and kinetic elements and initiate rich learning processes in a fun way!”

Olympicmuseum

Refugee children practiced their own motor skills during the day at the Olympic Museum

Paschalis last words echo refugee children’s reactions. Ahmed, Prza, Mustafa, Slida and Elissar described the day at the Olympic Museum as “the best visit” and “a very special trip.”

After the museum visit, DRC staff in Veria organized an opening ceremony where children became torchbearers and lit the Olympic flame. They also learned more about disabilities watching videos of the Paralympic Games and practicing their name in sign language. The activities ended with children forming the motto “I am differently abled.”

These non-formal education activities were organized by DRC Greece to empower refugee children and strengthen their skills, with the support of the European Commission’s department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).