Landscape and education

Landscape Dimensions - Reflections and proposals for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention

Annalisa Calcagno Maniglio, avril 2017

The European Landscape Convention (ETS No. 176) of the Council of Europe is an innovative international treaty which makes it possible to define an approach to territory that takes account of the landscape dimension, i.e. the quality of the living environment of individuals and societies. It also makes this dimension part of the Organisation’s concerns about human rights and democracy, by inviting its member states to involve people closely in all stages of landscape policies. The Council of Europe has continued the work begun when the Convention was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and opened for signature in Florence in 2000, in order to examine and illustrate certain themes linked to the text of the Convention, certain « dimensions of landscape ». Education is at the heart of landscape knowledge and learning!


In today’s society, the theme of landscape arouses a great deal of interest, but also generates needs and expectations of various kinds, because of the many socially, scientifically and culturally complex issues linked to it: in particular because of the profound « crisis of place » that is manifested in the relationship between recent or ongoing human interventions, the natural environment and existing landscapes. The demands of contemporary society concern the need for a general improvement in the quality of life, a more balanced relationship with the natural environment and the integration of new transformations into the landscape, according to the principles of safeguarding and conservation, considered in an active and innovative sense, as well as the valorisation of landscape identities and resources. Expectations concern, for example, the rehabilitation and requalification of degraded landscapes, abandoned quarries and abandoned industrial areas, the increase of recreational green spaces in urban areas, the restoration of the stability of ecosystems, and the enhancement and recovery of the cultural identities of historical sites. Today, society is more and more aware that landscape is not a simple panorama: it is the result of the integration between nature and culture through time and in the territorial dimension, i.e. between natural structures and elements and anthropic transformations. An adequate response to these issues requires the adoption of new and appropriate administrative instruments, but also the identification and development of suitable project approaches capable of interpreting and responding to the complexity, specificity and variety of landscapes; this entails the application of methodologies capable of fostering the integration of landscape in territorial planning policies: in urban, environmental, agricultural and industrial policies, i.e. all those which may have a direct or indirect impact on landscape.

This widespread awareness in society of the need to enhance all landscapes and to adopt responsible behaviour in order to contribute to their sustainable and balanced development is based on the principles and objectives of the European Landscape Convention. With this Convention, the European States have given new attention to landscape because of the cultural and political guidelines it contains, already explicit in the definition of landscape and in the innovative proposals it puts forward from the cultural, ecological, environmental and social points of view. These are guidelines and proposals that have aroused particular interest not only among administrators, professionals and specialists in this field, but also in society as a whole at a time when the capacity to plan, modify the territory, requalify and create new landscapes is certainly more developed than in other periods of human history. The European Landscape Convention has given landscape a new strategic importance by encouraging the contracting and signatory states to ensure uniformity of rules and governance that frame landscape interventions and transformations in ways that are consistent with sustainable development; it emphasises the importance of attention to landscapes and their values, not only in parks, protected areas or remarkable areas, but in all territories, in all planning policies in general.

The Convention makes it clear that in order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary to educate people about the landscape, the elements that constitute it, shape it, characterise it, and promote an understanding of its value and continuing evolution. In order to raise awareness of actions to improve the landscape and thus involve people more in the sustainable development of the landscape, it is necessary to promote adequate training in society, from the earliest years of schooling, so that people become accustomed to perceiving the characteristics, identities and values of the landscape, starting with the places they frequent. Thanks to the Convention, landscape has become not only an important source of reflection and action for professionals and governments, but also an important new object of attention for future citizens, enabling them to better understand their living environment and, above all, to pay new attention to landscape: an attention that must transform a passive gaze into an active gaze, a gazed landscape into a landscape that is an object of knowledge. This is an educational objective which the Council of Europe Convention proposes to its member states and which must be pursued at all levels of education, from primary school to university, in order to create a European population that is aware of landscape issues and involved in their protection, management and sustainable development.

Principle and purpose of the European Landscape Convention

The European Landscape Convention is a new international treaty devoted entirely to the protection, management and planning of all dimensions of European landscapes.

In the first article, it defines landscape as « a part of a territory as perceived by people, the character of which results from the action of natural and/or human factors and their interrelations », and stresses that landscape is the result of the interaction between nature and human beings over time, but also a heritage, a resource inherited from the past which must be passed on to future generations. It also stresses, right from the preamble, the desire to promote the actions necessary to contribute to the sustainable development of the landscape, in all its dimensions, based on a harmonious balance between changing social needs, the economy and the environment. This is an important objective which requires the search for solutions to the many complex problems of today’s European landscapes, which are constantly and rapidly changing under the influence of the many activities and interventions of man: industrial, agricultural, urban, infrastructural, tourist, which modify the environmental balance, identities and visual quality of European landscapes. Decision-makers need to put in place landscape policies capable of protecting, managing and planning all landscapes while preserving their cultural identity and preserving the common heritage of European states for present and future generations. The Convention concerns all landscapes: both those considered outstanding and those that are everyday or degraded, as all can contribute to the well-being of others.

This important international instrument, ratified by many Council of Europe member states, clearly states - in a preamble and three chapters divided into eleven articles and seven final clauses - the general principles, objectives and strategies to be adopted so that each state can contribute, through protection, management and planning policies, to sustainable development based on a balance between the environment, social needs and the economy, in all European territories and in the various national, regional and local situations, by establishing procedures for public participation. It also calls for cooperation between States based on an exchange of experience and information.

General provisions, scope of application, specific measures

In order to achieve its objectives, the Convention attaches great importance to the relationship between landscape and human beings: it is mankind that has always contributed, through time and in different ways, to the formation, transformation and management of today’s landscapes. It is the landscapes of everyday life that contribute to individual and collective well-being: a well-being that satisfies the needs and aspirations of society and within which social groups recognise their aspirations, develop their actions and can access goods and services. Landscape is an « essential component of people’s living environment, an expression of the diversity of their common cultural and natural heritage, and the basis of their identity », and is an « essential element of individual and social well-being ». The Convention requires the signatory states to raise civil society’s awareness of the value of landscapes, their role and their transformation: when it emphasises the role of the population in the transformation of landscapes, it stresses the importance of active participation - which is not a choice, but a duty imposing tasks on everyone - and of effective consultation in order to better respond to the aspirations and requirements of the inhabitants. The need to set up procedures for a participatory approach to the population is one of the major innovations introduced by the Convention: it aims to involve them in identifying the values of the landscape and in carefully preventing ill-considered transformations. Participation is aimed at the « people concerned », i.e. those who recognise in these landscapes their living environment, their aspirations and the landscape interests to be protected. Alongside this need for participation, the Convention emphasises the need to develop the necessary approaches and procedures on the part of public authorities and experts to ensure that the public has informed access to a participatory process. In order to achieve these results, the Convention introduces specific measures to be implemented by the States in the framework of a major democratic opening to landscape themes and problems, to make the population more aware of the value of the places in their daily lives and more responsible for their protection and sustainable development. If the population is called upon to take part in the choices of the places where they live, they must be made more aware of the values of these landscapes, of the planned transformations and of the positive or negative consequences that may result from them.

Many activities can be envisaged to stimulate the interest of different categories of young people and adults in the landscape in terms of landscape quality objectives, and to contribute to a harmonious interaction between human beings and nature, and to the improvement of the quality of life of society. But first of all, it is necessary to promote landscape awareness at all levels of training and education. Awareness-raising, training and landscape education must therefore become, together, the necessary actions to help implement the Convention. Awareness-raising is a very important action, a field of information that encompasses many activities but does not correspond to reflections aimed at identifying and formulating landscape quality objectives or developing methods for understanding and implementing the Convention. The Convention makes it clear that this innovative democratisation of the landscape implies that institutions should promote « multidisciplinary training programmes on landscape policy, protection, management and planning for professionals in the private and public sectors and for the associations concerned », as well as « school and university teaching in the relevant disciplines on the values attached to the landscape and on issues relating to its protection, management and planning ». Awareness of landscape issues and problems must therefore be raised through school education for young people, which varies according to age. Landscape issues should be approached from primary school onwards through the learning of the first notions about the surrounding world, which enables the discovery of the natural features and human factors making up the landscape. In secondary school teaching, many subjects can contribute to illustrate the complexity of the landscape: indeed, landscape education is not a specific discipline, it involves a set of teachings that concern and can link together the heterogeneity and multiplicity of the elements that compose the landscape. Moreover, the diversity of the organisation of school and university institutions in the different European states and the diversity of landscapes, geographical situations, natural and cultural features make it very difficult to establish single rules in teaching. On the other hand, it is possible to suggest training methods and processes that can be easily exported to different countries in order to harmonise educational guidelines; it is also possible to encourage cooperation between different European schools at the level of programmes and to promote student mobility in higher education. This will be discussed in the following chapters.


1.1. Landscape education and school education

In drafting this report on landscape education, and in particular on the theme of « school and university education in the relevant disciplines on the values attached to landscape and on issues relating to its protection, management and planning », account must be taken of two important, indeed fundamental, principles laid down by the Convention: « ‘Landscape’ means a part of the territory as perceived by people, the character of which results from the action of natural and/or human factors and their interrelationships », and it is therefore necessary to take into account « the aspirations of the people with regard to the landscape characteristics of their surroundings ». These are « general provisions » which emphasise the importance of the link between people and landscape, and which stress the need for a participatory process in protecting the landscape qualities and characteristics of their surroundings. This is the basis for a new landscape culture, which aims to ensure that people understand the relationship with the natural and cultural elements of the everyday landscape around them, and share the landscape quality objectives to be achieved in human activities in order to take part in « sustainable development based on a harmonious balance between social needs, the economy and the environment ». People must be made aware that landscape is part of their daily environment and culture, and that while over the centuries human interaction with the physical nature of the land has contributed to the creation and transformation of landscapes, today people have the responsibility as well as the right and duty to play an active role in their protection, management and sustainable development. The Convention goes on to state that landscape is « an essential component of people’s living environment, an expression of the diversity of their cultural and natural heritage and the basis of their identity » and that it constitutes « an essential element of individual and social well-being ». An important objective to be achieved is underlined in the « specific measures » to be applied by each Party « in accordance with its own division of competences » to implement the landscape policies provided for by the Convention. States must promote multidisciplinary programmes in schools and universities to enable students to learn about and understand « landscape values and issues relating to its protection, management and planning ». These programmes can help to provide all individuals with an education and training that leads to a full and integrated understanding of the landscape through knowledge of its natural and cultural features, identity and resources, and that enables them to participate in the search for the best ways to manage the landscape for sustainable development.

This important document, which is now at the centre of the international debate on theoretical and practical issues relating to landscape, is a very useful tool, including for educational activities in schools, as it helps to raise awareness in society of landscape issues and to help people of all ages to gain a better understanding of the landscape in which they live. In order to implement the European Landscape Convention, the Council of Europe has sought to provide schools with the training they need to understand the landscape and develop the ability to read its characteristics, values and transformation processes. The aim is to make children and young people aware of the value of the places in which they live and to make them more responsible for their future participation in the management of their landscape, but also to develop their interest in other places and other cultures. Landscape education for children and young people is therefore a fundamental instrument that will make them citizens who can participate responsibly in decisions and choices concerning future transformations: an instrument that must be considered with interest and attention in the construction of fundamental knowledge useful for all in the field of landscape.

1.2. Landscape training pathways, educational objectives in school education

This chapter tries to set up and analyse the themes to be developed progressively in school education; the notions to be introduced at the different levels of education, for a landscape training and education; the ways of knowing and understanding the landscape to be integrated and developed during the different cycles of primary and secondary school. The main concepts concerning the object of study - the landscape - are analysed, as well as the objectives and methods to be applied in order to achieve an ever clearer and deeper knowledge of the values and particularities of landscapes, their structures, the elements and processes that characterise them and their mutual interactions: the need, therefore, to introduce and apply, from the earliest years of schooling, certain basic concepts useful for understanding the landscape, a unitary and complex organism composed of elements of natural origin and others introduced into the environment by human activity, and characterised by reciprocal structural and functional influences. The following points should first be analysed

The second theme of this chapter concerns the issues and methods to be used to help educate pupils, from primary school onwards, to recognise the elements and processes that characterise landscapes through careful observation, starting with the experiences of everyday activities and promoting cognitive curiosity and autonomy in relation to the landscape around them; it also focuses on the educational pathway to be followed to identify :

« Landscape » means a part of a territory as perceived by people, the character of which results from the action of natural and/or human factors and their interrelationships », as stated in Article 1 of the Convention. Our life on earth is in daily contact with the landscape, which manifests itself to us as an image made up of natural and man-made elements, linked together in different ways (hills, rivers, lakes, woods, trees, houses, cultivated fields, roads, canals, villages, towns, factories, etc.): an image that determines the first cognitive-subjective experience of the landscape and gives rise to aesthetic appreciations and feelings of pleasure (or rejection), specific to each of us. But the landscape is not only the image that we perceive through sight and the relationship between the various senses, because its nature is real, as are the many elements and objects that make it up: each natural element is related to other elements, according to natural laws and processes (relief, climate, soil types, exposure, hydrological resources, vegetation…) and according to the uses and actions introduced by man, over the centuries, in the environment in relation to the natural resources available and to his needs. All the European States have infinite landscape variations which are the expression of the diversity of cultures, legal and social organisations, and the ability of each people to adapt and make the most of its environment; they present landscapes of remarkable variety and beauty due to their qualities, identities, natural and historical values, and the diversity of use and transformation of the territory; to each of them correspond habits and a quality of life that are manifested in the organisation of villages and towns, in the main agricultural, industrial and tourist activities spread throughout the territory. These are unitary and complex realities that are always evolving continuously, either due to natural causes or to human intervention: over the last hundred years or so, changes have followed one another with greater speed and impact than in the past, sometimes causing serious changes to cultural identities and environmental balances. The Convention attaches great importance to the relationship between landscape and human beings. Indeed, everyday landscapes can contribute, through their aesthetic quality and environmental balance, to individual and collective well-being and can satisfy the needs and aspirations of people. But there are also places where degradation, loss of biological quality and landscape identity, caused by the poor quality of human interventions in living spaces, have contributed to create situations of unease: abandoned land, ruined buildings, uncontrolled waste, erosion of slopes…

In order to solve the major problems of contemporary European society, it is necessary to take appropriate action to ensure the protection of the natural and cultural values of landscapes, to help clean up degraded areas and, at the same time, to satisfy the population’s need for well-being in a perspective of sustainable development « based on a harmonious balance between social needs, the economy and the environment ». The Convention contains a new, important message of great common value: to awaken the interest of society as a whole in the beauty, value and identity of our landscapes. This must be achieved by starting at school - primary and secondary - to combat indifference to beauty or ugliness, by setting in motion a virtuous circle of knowledge, research, conservation, enhancement and responsible participation in the development of a landscape that is sustainable in its natural balance and cultural qualities.

1.3. Education in primary and secondary schools and school cycles

The following considerations are addressed to the European states to which the Convention is addressed and concern, in particular, the objectives to be achieved during primary and secondary education at European level in the field of landscape. It is necessary not only to define the subject matter - i.e. landscape education in primary and secondary schools - but also to specify the objectives and results to be achieved. The concept that the landscape is an important and common heritage, a cultural, ecological, environmental and social resource implies making the population more aware of the value of known and experienced landscapes, and more concerned by the activities and transformations that modify it. The first dissemination of knowledge about landscapes logically begins with compulsory school education and develops, little by little, with more articulated and appropriate in-depth studies of the natural and man-made features of landscapes and their interrelationships. However, the guiding thread, which must guide the teaching in order to develop the didactic strategies and methods chosen to achieve the objectives set by the Convention, must be clearly present from the first years of primary school. When indicating the concepts, methods and techniques to be adopted in order to promote appropriate and constructive learning and knowledge paths relating to the landscape and thus contribute to the implementation of the Convention, reference should be made to the compulsory school cycles linked to the different ages of pupils, which are the most widespread in Europe. It is obvious that in the European states there are slight differences, both in the length of the cycles and in the age of the pupils to whom the cycles and compulsory education are addressed, but the baseline wants to take into account in particular the possible learning abilities and modalities.

The first step is to determine the duration of primary and secondary school (also called compulsory school) and the age of the children for whom these two school cycles are intended. Consider the duration of the five-year primary school and the education in this first cycle, which is generally for children aged 6 to 11. The nursery school, which is obviously very important for the development of the child, is not considered, but it is a pre-school cycle that is usually optional. Then the duration of the first stage of secondary school, which is three or four years, should be considered as a logical continuation of primary education: the teaching of this second didactic cycle is intended for children aged between 12 and 15. The second cycle of secondary school is not generally part of compulsory schooling. However, some useful considerations are presented in the conclusion of this report.

1.4. Conceptions and theorisation of the past on landscape

In order to understand the importance of the role played by the European Convention in defining the concept of landscape, the principles and objectives that should contribute not only to its protection, management and sustainable development, but also to raising awareness of different landscapes among authorities, professionals and the public, it may be useful to look back briefly at the different conceptions, interpretations and theorisations that have characterised knowledge and understanding of landscape in recent centuries. For a long time, landscape was identified with the « visible aspect of the territory », as an image apprehended through sight: with what the geographer Eugenio Turri defines as our « universe of perception » which, elaborated by the sensitivity and culture of each individual, is based on a deep affinity with places and on the identification of their symbols and values, and is often marked by an emotional relationship. Landscapes were the spaces that could be explored and embraced with the eyes, and which characterised the interests, tastes, sensibility and appreciation of societies in different periods and cultures and histories, which have been transmitted to us through paintings, mosaics, literary descriptions and also through actions carried out in the territories. Over the centuries, poets and painters have expressed through their works the subjective feelings and appreciations that the observed landscapes inspired in them; landscapes were those described and documented by geographers, historians and naturalists through their studies of the environmental features and physical diversities of the observed places. Landscapes have long been represented in painting and literature by many artists: their works express what they observed in the spaces around them, and they reproduced the images perceived through their sensibility and personal interpretation.

The landscape was present in the background of Renaissance paintings according to the aesthetics of the century’s painting; it was reproduced in the art of gardens according to the canons of regularity and symmetry applied even to vegetation. Also in the Renaissance, Montaigne described aspects of the countries he visited during his travels, also exploring the life and work of man in the cultivated fields and terraced farmland, as well as in art and architecture. From the 17th century onwards, European aristocrats on the Grand Tour described the landscapes of the regions they visited in their travel diaries, often following in the footsteps of the ruins of ancient Rome, with idealised picturesque or romantic overtones. In the 18th century, painters such as Poussin and Lorrrain adopted a type of representation characterised by a mythical and bucolic atmosphere, populated by objects, architectures or characters from mythology. Until the end of the 19th century, the landscape was interpreted, represented and analysed as the result of vision alone, whose perceived images were transfigured by the aesthetic feelings of the time, such as admiration, regret or amazement, in contrasts of form, light and shade through wild, picturesque or sublime interpretations.

Many geographers, mostly German and French, who were dedicated to the discovery of unexplored countries, made the landscape the central subject of their attention: they developed important research by collecting data on the places they visited and information on the landscapes and the people who inhabited them. Their descriptions linked together the forms and characteristics of the territory, differences in climate, morphologies, land uses and social customs; they converted the aesthetic concepts of landscape, literature and painting into a first method of scientific investigation, which highlighted the characteristics of the environment and the landscape by analysing them through the links between the physical conditions and the way in which the different populations inhabited the territory and exploited its resources. In the subsequent interpretations made at the beginning of the 20th century, the attention paid to the landscape was extended to human presence, inhabited sites and land uses related to the different territorial situations, without neglecting the visual and aesthetic aspects and the interpretation of the symbols that characterise the places, nor the meanings and values of the different forms of the territory. During the 20th century, the term « landscape » entered the language of many disciplines, such as geography, geology and botany, agronomy and forestry, archaeology, history, architecture and urban planning, according to a precise scientific and methodological framework, taking into account the contents and meanings attributed to it by the different disciplines. Let us recall the studies of the agronomist Emilio Sereni in 1961 referring to a global framework of natural, technical, demographic and historical conditions and agents that « find their expression in the evolution of the forms of the agrarian landscape » (Sereni, 1961: 3); the important contributions of the geographer Turri who identifies in the landscape « the mutual interference of anthropic activities with the natural environment » (Turri, 1998:24); the reflections of the philosopher Rosario Assunto who replaces Croce’s concept of « landscape-scape » with the broader and extended one of « landscape, place of memory and time » (Assunto, 1994). In the 1970s, in the wake of the ecological movement, scientific thought began to analyse the possibilities of reconciling the unity of the living and non-living world in a global vision: it deepened the methods of interpretation of the complexity of the landscape, considered as the phenomenological field in which man mainly works, activating and setting in motion a great variety of interconnected processes. But the framework of landscape definitions and interpretations was still, at the end of the last century, in a rather heterogeneous and sectorial form, despite the great interest presented by the numerous books and researches conducted. In the mid-1970s, the English landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, in The Landscape of Man, pointed out that it is only in this century that ‘landscape has emerged as a social necessity’ and that ‘landscape art is progressing on a scale never before envisaged or conceived’ (Jellicoe and Jellicoe, 1975).

Kevin Lynch, in his famous book The Image of the City, drew attention to the problem of ‘perception’ of the urban landscape as a social fact and recognised legibility, identity and the ability to promote a sense of direction as the main ‘values’ of landscape (Lynch, 1964). The urbanist and ecologist McHarg, in Design with Nature, defined the landscape as a « collective good, a spatial entity in constant evolution (…) the result of the incessant combination of ecological and historical determinism », comparing it to a « great mirror » in which natural situations and anthropic transformations and their historical sedimentation are reflected (McHarg, 1995). These notes allow us to understand that landscape has always been a theme of interest and curiosity, but that, in the absence of a clear interpretation of the term « landscape » and of well-identified cultural principles on the complexity of its nature and evolution, it has generated different epistemological itineraries and has given rise to different methodologies of knowledge analysis and also of evaluation, aesthetically speaking, through perception. The great interest aroused by the Convention is due to the recognition of the landscape as a resource, as a collective asset, as we have already seen above. This applies not only to the definition of landscape and the values recognised for it - landscape is a « community asset, an essential component of the living environment of the population » - but also to the extension of the landscape focus to the whole territory, to « natural, rural, urban and peri-urban areas; landscapes, inland waters and seascapes (…) including landscapes which may be considered exceptional, landscapes of everyday life, degraded landscapes ». This attention is motivated, in particular, by the widespread observation of numerous and serious episodes of diffuse urbanisation, abandonment of the countryside, pollution of natural resources, alteration of coastal, hilly and mountainous areas for tourism purposes; by the loss of historical, economic and ecological values linked to the landscape, which represented significant evidence of human culture and civilisation. Many urban, peri-urban and agrarian landscapes show the negative effects of standardisation: in the typology of buildings, in the use of materials, in the abandonment of ancient cultural traditions and landscape identities, in the use of vegetation. The Convention, noting that all landscapes bear witness to their natural, cultural, economic and social value, and that they can exert an influence, both positive and negative, on the quality of life of their inhabitants, has established that all landscapes must be protected, managed and developed irrespective of the qualities they possess, and requires the countries that have ratified it to take on the provisions of the Convention in order to guarantee, in accordance with their own competences, the protection of these values, and to set themselves the objective of « landscape quality » to be attained in a sustainable development perspective. The Convention therefore emphasises that any operation carried out on the territory must equitably meet the development and environmental needs of present and future generations. In order to achieve these results, the Convention emphasises the need for an active role for the population in finding common and shared solutions to the major natural and cultural problems of the landscape, and for society to be adequately « sensitised » so that it can participate consciously in the objectives of sustainable development of the landscape.

In order to achieve the best results, it is necessary to develop not only awareness-raising actions but also to promote training and education activities that can form the basis for conscious and shared participation. If this important democratisation of the landscape is to be achieved by raising public awareness, the Convention’s objectives must be pursued through « school and university teaching in the relevant disciplines on the values associated with the landscape and issues relating to its protection, management and planning »: by introducing and developing specific study methodologies at all levels and at the various stages from the earliest school cycles onwards, in order to create a Europe-wide population aware of landscape issues and to make all future citizens aware of the problems relating to their living environment.

1.5. Educational aspects

The Convention provides that each Party undertakes to « increase the awareness of civil society, private organisations and public authorities of the value of landscapes, their role and their transformation », and to « promote school and university teaching in the relevant disciplines of the values attached to landscapes and the issues relating to their protection, management and planning ». This awareness must be raised by raising the awareness of the population in general and, in particular, by training pupils of all ages at various levels of education. But it is from the first years of schooling that school education can promote a better approach to the landscape through the acquisition of the first knowledge of the world around us: an appropriate education in the different evolutionary phases can contribute to making the characteristics and values of the landscape known. The school activities of primary school children are the starting point to start organising landscape education, the identification and description of its natural features and human factors. Approaches to landscape are certainly divergent in the different states: they are linked to geographical, historical, cultural and political differences, but issues that affect many fields - such as landscape - are common and thus favour synergy between disciplines. Landscape education in primary and secondary schools cannot be a specific discipline, it is a general training and learning process aiming at developing in pupils an attention and an interest for a new way of knowing and understanding the landscape, starting with the one that is known and lived, in order to touch the personality of the pupil through his memory, his interests, his daily habits, and to allow him to discover progressively a new way of perceiving the things that surround him, of analysing their role and their meaning. An up-to-date education must be dynamic and innovative, interdisciplinary and holistic: it must allow the acquisition of new experiences through visual, verbal and graphic methods, adapted to the different school ages; it must help to develop the first capacities to evaluate landscapes, with regard to the practical problems of protection, management and planning.

1.6. Ways of knowing and understanding the landscape

The knowledge of the landscape can be done both subjectively and objectively, both of which are useful for understanding the levels of organisation of life on the territory. It is done subjectively through the view. Each landscape, each panorama, each set of real elements that surrounds us, is perceived by man and by the community in general in a subjective way, through the different senses, but essentially through sight, in forms and according to sensitive sequences and orders. Sight has played a fundamental role in the landscape culture of the past; it has made it possible to grasp the images of nature and the elements of the environment that entered into a perceptive relationship with man and the community in general; it has made it possible to identify the most suitable sites where to set up agricultural activity, villages, paths, ramparts and castles, watchtowers, monasteries and villas with gardens… The « fact of seeing », a capacity specific to each individual, is also linked to aesthetic appreciations, which are also subjective, and generate opinions or value judgements on the observed landscape as beautiful or ugly, pleasant or unpleasant, etc.

What is perceived through sight can be the object of a process of elaboration of the observed images according to the culture, memory and sensibility of each individual: it is a process that has led the individual to interpret the physical environment according to his values and potentialities and to transform the perceived sensorial stimuli into the behaviour to be adopted towards the surrounding landscape. However, when dealing with the protection, management, planning and sustainable development of the landscape, it is necessary to study its complexity, diversity and homogeneity from a scientific and objective point of view. It is necessary to identify and analyse the elements that make up landscapes, which are varied and different from one another, to acquire knowledge that allows us to understand the landscape in its true nature; to refer to the analytical methods of different disciplines. It is necessary to refer, for example, to the reading of geomorphological structures in order to know the structural characteristics of mountainous, hilly, valley or coastal landscapes, and their potential or fragility in the face of transformations. Hydrological phenomena, biological elements, vegetation (forests, woods, meadows, etc.) and anthropic elements must be analysed to finally obtain, through an interdisciplinary synthesis, a global vision of the main functional and structural connections of the landscape. Specific study methods analyse the genetic codes of the landscape and the processes that lead to transformations and constantly relate the structure and the geomorphological, pedological, hydrological and climatic characteristics of the territory to the vegetal colonisation of the soils and the many different developments generated and modified over time by the multiple actions and transformations carried out by man.

In the landscape, it is possible to understand the evolutionary processes that have occurred over time as a result of spontaneous mutations, earthquakes, floods, landslides… Objective knowledge of the landscape therefore needs several disciplines, linked together, to identify the significant elements of a varied and complex whole formed by the natural and anthropic parts of the landscape. In secondary education, it is necessary to access, for the most part, landscape readings through :

It is useful to refer also to other analyses, which should be considered as complementary:

All this shows the importance of gradually informing students, at the different levels of education, about the natural laws of the landscape and the different factors that influence its evolution:

On the other hand, the processes that generate the landscape and are caused by human actions and interventions interfere in a complex way with the laws of nature: these are processes that can be direct or indirect, the causes of which can often be found, but in relation to which, according to the Convention’s objectives, it is necessary to intervene a priori for sustainable development.

It is clear that in order to effectively inform primary school pupils about these concepts, it is necessary to use photographic material, specific documentaries often available in schools which, through images, begin to introduce the theme of the evolution of the landscape around us as a result of natural events and human intervention.

During the secondary school cycles (first and second levels and especially at university), it will be possible to rely on the various scientific analyses: only these allow us to determine the degree of interrelation between formal, natural and anthropic factors and psychological factors. In order to get to know the complex reality of the landscape, beyond its visual aspect, it is necessary to master fundamental notions concerning the natural elements, processes, phenomena and functions that characterise it, both separately and as a whole and in their correlations: in the natural processes of formation and spontaneous evolution and in those caused by the multiple actions and transformations carried out, over the centuries, by societies and populations to adapt the places to their needs. On the other hand, we often lack the notions that allow us to understand the landscape and to intervene on its true nature and on its evolutionary processes due to spontaneous, natural or exceptional events, and to human interventions marked by culture and by an extraordinary set of signs and traces of historical stratification. The analysis of the landscape in scientific studies should always be present in any action or process of territorial planning: only the objective knowledge of the natural, historical, social and economic components and processes that characterise the landscape can help to make the new actions on the territory and its transformations coherent.


In the field of landscape education, the objectives, methodologies and tools necessary to develop the first didactic paths aimed at making people understand what landscape is about must be identified from the first years of primary school: this objective will be reached gradually, also thanks to the subjects taught throughout the school year. It is necessary to set up didactic paths of discovery and active knowledge, of reading and understanding of the elements that make up and characterise landscapes, starting with local landscapes: it is precisely the familiar, known and experienced landscapes that help to understand the territorial context in which children live, and that allow the educational information taught to be transformed into reflections that can involve both the rational and the emotional sphere, as part of a gradual process of strengthening the feeling of belonging to a territory.

This knowledge-discovery of the landscape will enable children, during the five years of primary school - when, between the ages of 6 and 10-11, they begin to acquire a certain maturity - to become increasingly interested in the knowledge of the landscape that surrounds them and its influence on the quality of their lives; it will enable them to take an ever more active part in observing and recognising the diversity and beauty of the landscape, its values and the changes that are taking place in it. Understanding landscape as « a part of the territory as perceived by people » means that the future of landscapes depends on what the collective conscience recognises as values, as well as on the choices made by society, which may become crucial in the years to come.

2.1. The variety of European landscapes

It is obvious that it is difficult to develop homogeneous school lessons when European countries have different rural, urban or peri-urban, tourist or industrial territories; different methods of protection and management of natural resources and land use, transport, urban planning, etc. Approaches differ according to the environment and the type of landscape. Approaches differ according to the environment and the types of environmental problems, due to cultural and geographical differences and, in particular, to the transformation of landscapes. These are issues common to the different states but which affect many fields and thus suggest a synergy between disciplines related to different factors and aspects of landscape. Teaching should also take into account the ways of perceiving the landscape linked to the way of knowing it, observing it and understanding it as a common good. Landscapes have a subtle but profound influence on the way we are, see and act in the world.

2.2. Landscape for children

In introducing in this chapter a number of considerations about the didactic methodology to be developed in the framework of a first landscape training for primary school children, it seems useful to us to refer to some observations that sociologists, anthropologists and geographers have made about the relationship of children to landscape: the landscape that children have inside them, that they perceive, assimilate and memorise, and that leads them to orient their behaviour, their actions and to stimulate their imagination. The child learns from an early age to be guided by his or her own senses, not only in familiar spaces but also in urban spaces or in the countryside. Learning - that is, the acquisition of knowledge - begins at birth, develops with movement, is nourished by experience, by the exchange of information, and is constantly fed by individual and collective experiences. When it comes to the conquest of autonomy and the skills that a child must acquire, the geographer refers to three objectives: « The first is to ensure that children recognise the existing and active dependencies in their natural environment; the second is that they are capable, in this context, of orienting themselves in a personal way; the third is that they open themselves to the discovery, internalisation and practical respect of the values of the environment » (Vecchis and Staluppi, 1997:105).

When the sociologist analyses the child’s mental representations of space, he refers to « two concepts: perception and learning. Perception is both a phenomenological experience and a directive for action and concerns the reception and elaboration of information from the external environment. It involves all the senses, and in particular, naturally, sight, and evolves according to the actions provoked by movement », it is related to « the arrangement, in the complexity of space, of natural and anthropic elements (…). No sensation is independent, rather it develops within a system, unless the presence of dissonant conditions produces sensations of unease or ‘cognitive leaps’ (Gazzola, 2007:109). Sociologists also speak of cognitive maps in children, which refer to images of the space around them. They are constructed from information and data from different realities and are stored in the most varied situations and relationships. A « slight correspondence between the spatial characteristics of cognitive and objective representations has been found; a relatively large correspondence is found only in relation to a circumscribed space (…). Cognitive spatial maps are a part of cognitive maps and refer to cognitive images and representations of environmental space » (Gazzola, 2011:116). These are representations that constitute, according to most specialists in the field, a kind of pivot, a link between the individual, in our case the child, and the social and physical environment.

Children tend to represent the city as a set of open spaces and their neighbourhood as a set of circumscribed spaces (such as yards and gardens). In these spaces they often represent people, animals and natural elements such as trees, flowers and birds. The drawing technique used in cognitive spatial maps can be used to analyse the child’s image of the landscape - the way he or she feels and perceives reality - especially in the case of the built and urban landscape, which is more frequent in individual children’s representations.

2.3. Process of landscape awareness and education in primary schools

In landscape education, the school should take into account didactic activities and learning processes adapted to the grades, ages and different stages of mental development of the pupils. Together with the teaching staff of the primary school, and if possible with some of the teachers of the first class of the secondary school, it must build this « global didactic continuity » which will have to be developed throughout the training process, avoiding the unnecessary overlapping of notions and a lack of information necessary for the development of learning. A first weakness in the educational programmes, especially in secondary schools, is the limited space reserved for the themes of territory and the relationship between man and the environment: this makes it difficult to identify a specific area in which to develop a first approach to landscape, directly addressing, in future citizens, the construction of an ever deeper and more critical awareness of the problems concerning the landscapes that are part of their daily life. There is a need for a wider awareness-raising action, including among teachers, so that landscape, once the disciplinary limits of school activities have been overcome, can be the subject of an appropriate and continuous educational contribution. From this point of view, a major attention and an effective contribution from the relevant bodies in charge is fundamental, both as regards teacher training and as regards the coordination of activities for the acquisition of values related to the landscape and to issues concerning its protection and planning. Education in primary schools should contribute to the cultural maturation of pupils, through a pathway of different phases, through which they learn to know and understand the landscape, starting with the landscape they are familiar with. It is thus possible to establish an initial, functional and propaedeutic knowledge and evaluation of landscapes, for the subsequent development and application of the principles of landscape quality and protection, and for landscape planning (with reference to the provisions of the Convention).

The five years of primary school are sometimes organised and articulated in three cycles according to age and learning objectives: a first year, a two-year cycle, and then two years again. Landscape education in primary school, as we have already observed, cannot be the object of a single specific teaching but must be considered as a subject in which several disciplines collaborate. It is necessary to find relationships and to build interdisciplinary paths, in the broadest sense, in order to begin to recognise and interpret processes, signs and phenomena related to the nature, presence and activity of man. Among the most frequent typologies of teaching in compulsory school, we can distinguish the frontal lesson, practical laboratory activities and direct observation and knowledge experiments. In order for the frontal lesson to be effective, it must be presented in the form of an offer of verbal, iconic, concrete communications, which the pupils must be able to use to construct and elaborate concepts, disregarding the properties common to the various objects. The frontal lesson is effective when it does not propose to teach concepts but commits itself to have them constructed by the pupils: when the lesson becomes a research activity seen as a form of new discoveries and knowledge, finalised by practical activities in the laboratory.

2.4. Organisation of school activities in landscape education in primary school

At primary school level, the first steps to be taken to introduce children to the knowledge of the landscape must be through active processes, using didactic situations in which the pupil-child is transformed into a protagonist, starting from the spontaneous knowledge already in his possession and beginning with known, lived places, which are familiar to him. From the first year of primary school onwards, the child must be made the protagonist of the knowledge of a landscape, of limited dimensions, through an active participation based on a process of research, curiosity, exploration and discovery. It is a process that requires, first of all, teaching and learning to look at a landscape that is known and experienced in daily life, transforming the simple act of « looking » into an « observation » aimed at developing the ability to recognise objects that usually escape one’s attention: teaching the pupil to look with attentive eyes at what surrounds him or her and what he or she experiences in daily life. This process will be all the more significant if the place is familiar, but then the child is no longer able to activate his or her ability to discover and contemplate. It is therefore necessary to reactivate this faculty of listening, touching, seeing, recognising smells, perfumes and sounds, leaving enough room for surprise and emotion when something can still be unexpected and unforeseen.

In this first stage, it is appropriate that the journey of research, curiosity, exploration and discovery takes place on the spot, i.e. in open-air lessons, using direct observation or laboratories set up in special areas or special classrooms equipped for drawing or the projection of images and films. Direct observation, in situ, is the first phase of a process of landscape education successfully implemented in some schools: a first understanding which, starting from the known and lived landscape, is progressively applied in the following years - through school outings, trips, field surveys carefully prepared in class - to the understanding of other landscapes located outside the usual visual knowledge of the pupils and the neighbourhood they belong to. Direct observation, by transforming the usual way of seeing the landscape, favours this subjective perception which begins to bring into visual contact the elements that make up the external space seen by each person, spontaneously, through the different senses - hearing, smell, touch, and in particular sight. It is through perception that the ability to recognise the difference between natural and man-made elements can be activated, and then gradually identify, with the help of the teacher, the relationships between them. Through perception, one begins to grasp the more obvious and significant presence of natural elements and signs, objects, and human interventions which in turn allow one to begin to identify the interdependent relationships between the natural factors of the landscape and the man-made works that have modified it. The child’s sense of observation can be stimulated by identifying natural elements and objects of human activity that help him or her to recognise a familiar place: for example, the trees along the road leading to the house, the fence surrounding the garden, the school building, the church square, the tree-covered mountains in the background. Looking at the landscape, observing it carefully, thus helps pupils to begin to identify and relate the landscape to the one to be developed later.

Activities in landscape education

Sight: sometimes seeing what is too familiar prevents us from activating our capacity for discovery and contemplation.

Observation: learning to look at what is around us in a new way and with attentive eyes, creating the effect of surprise and the ability to listen, touch and discover.

Perception: it is a subjective, spontaneous visual relationship generated by the sensations provoked by the appearance of perceptible forms; an image of reality that gives rise to aesthetic judgements.

Exploration: acquiring the bases for identifying and knowing the natural and human factors that characterise the landscape.

Identification: understanding, interpreting, attributing roles and meanings to the elements, natural and human factors recognised in the landscape.

The teacher’s objective is to learn to transform the act of looking at the surroundings with new eyes. Observing the landscape is the beginning of a process that leads to the child acquiring for the first time, at the beginning of the school activity, the ability to perceive and identify the elements present in the observed space, the objects that characterize it. The child learns to recognise and identify :

In the next phase, the child learns :

From the third year of primary school onwards, the information perceived and acquired in familiar landscapes will be enriched and deepened with the help and contribution of geography, science, art history and drawing: subjects which will provide the first notions necessary to learn to recognise and learn the meanings and functions of the different elements and objects of familiar landscapes.

Geography will promote the transition from the perception of the lived landscape to its objective dimension, the identification of the different elements, the acquisition of the concept of reciprocity of the elements and objects among themselves and their meaning and use (natural or man-made).

The natural sciences will promote the observation and analysis of reality, the recognition of certain elements present in the different natural environments: from plant forms (woods, trees, shrubs, meadows…) to the evolution of the natural environment and the transformations carried out by man.

Art history will show how certain painters (Giotto, Leonardo, Poussin…) observed, interpreted and represented different landscapes in their time.

Drawing will teach to explore the forms and objects of the child’s landscape; to recognise the colours, shapes, materials of the different elements; to reproduce those in the foreground, background or second plane. The pupil, through drawing and colours, should be able to express his/her emotions freely, explore the observed landscape, representing the images and the different elements that characterise it.

The same images, shapes and objects of the landscape can be drawn again the following year on the basis of the new knowledge acquired and a better understanding of the relationship between natural and man-made elements.

2.5. Learning methods and objectives

In learning methods, there is a first phase of direct observation and a second phase of indirect knowledge. In landscape education, the child, from the first year of primary schools, must become an active protagonist of the knowledge of a landscape, with limited dimensions, through an active participation based on a process of research, curiosity, exploration and discovery of a place that is familiar to him/her, because he/she knows and lives it daily. We must not overlook the fact that most children today live in urban areas or suburbs where natural elements are rare, or even totally absent, and where the landscapes observed are dominated by traffic noise and filled with things that are difficult to analyse at primary school; but in any case, these are landscapes that children recognise because they refer to places that are familiar to them, close to their homes and their living environment.

The aim should be to restore to children, who often live in an urban environment, a relationship with nature, to help them develop their ability to listen to the sound of nature, of the wind in the leaves, to pick up leaves, to touch tree trunks or meadow grass, and to smell the scents of nature: to leave enough space for discovery, surprise and emotions in the face of all that we do not always manage to perceive in our everyday lives. This first phase of research, of curious exploration, should be carried out in open-air classes, through direct observation; when this is not possible, in the city for example, because of car traffic, laboratories can be used in spaces set up for this purpose: specialised rooms equipped for drawing and for the projection of images, which should form the - visual - basis of the exercise. During the phase of research, curiosity, exploration and discovery, it is necessary to select, with the help of the teacher, the best observation points in order to capture as much information as possible about the observed landscape, to make easier this first approach of observation-perception-elaboration of information: the best places are generally those situated on an elevated position or at eye level and without intermediate obstacles. It is also necessary to take into account the parameters of the space, linked to the child’s visual field, set according to his or her stature: spaces that can be observed from a child’s height, i.e. 100 to 150 centimetres. Some details at height, e.g. road signs, tall buildings, hills in the background, are difficult to perceive.

It is undoubtedly useful to develop gradually, during the last years of primary school, some didactic activities in landscapes different from those frequented daily. These are landscapes that can be visited, observed and experienced during short excursions prepared in class: in this way it will be possible to make comparisons with the landscapes of the cities, suburbs or villages with which they are familiar. This will be an opportunity to get to know and discover, for example, hilly, rural, seaside and lakeside landscapes where different situations can be encountered due to the presence of typical morphology (undulating terrain, terraced farming along steep slopes, large cultivated plains, etc.), various natural elements or man-made objects for different functions. The forms and elements that characterise an urban landscape and a rural environment can certainly contribute to developing curiosity and stimulate the child’s visual experiences and interest in new discoveries. This is also the best way to implement the first interdisciplinary activities in the classroom: to get to know and give names to the elements and objects observed, to understand their uses and meanings in relation to a landscape where the community lives.

Stages of understanding

Direct knowledge/observation

Seeing - observing - perceiving through the different senses

Elaborate on the information perceived, recognise it

Learn meanings and uses

Represent - tell

Direct knowledge is developed in successive phases, when it is a question of being able to tell what has been observed in a new landscape that has just been visited with the teacher and the other pupils in the class. In this first phase, a typical landscape reading scheme should be proposed, which can be adapted each time, according to the age and class for which it is intended and according to the objectives to be reached (see scheme below). The use of the diagram in reading the landscape can also be an exercise to be carried out in successive stages to stimulate attention to the things observed in the landscape and at the same time to carry out a self-reflection process on the observation activity. For younger pupils, the diagram can be adapted in terms of form, words used and objectives to be achieved; however, it is important to maintain the basic structure and pay attention to the steps proposed. Through this exercise, it is possible to acquire and internalise a method of reading and an approach to the landscape which, although lacking in the cultural depths that can be acquired later on, allows the development of a more responsible relationship with the landscapes that will be encountered later on.

A new landscape - Telling what was observed

Significant natural features

Man-made elements

Activities carried out

Quality of the landscape

Dominant colours

Land use

Observation of a new landscape helps to recognise through direct experience the significant features of the landscape, the land uses and activities that take place there, and to understand how it is used and by whom. It provides an opportunity for discussion not only in the classroom with the teacher and other students but also with the family. It will be possible to begin to explore through drawing the organisation of spaces and their visible correlations, as well as the child’s relationship with his or her landscape: for example, the route to get home and the route to school; the trees, the meadow, the swings in the garden, the road and the pavements, the people going to work, the child’s own home and the homes of other pupils can be seen…

The first step is to discover, through the observation of everyday landscapes, the relationship between the natural environment and man-made structures, and to develop the skills necessary to establish the relationships between them. It will be necessary to explore progressively some keys of reading the landscape in different and even more complex situations: the relations between the natural landscape and the interventions carried out by man in the road or industrial landscapes, in order to relate the different ways of transforming the landscape to each other. The knowledge, exploration and discovery of other landscapes observed and travelled through will allow the identification of natural elements and human activities, using the skills acquired while observing the usual landscape, and the children can begin to understand that the landscape must be known and analysed through different phases:

2.6. Drawing and representation of space in primary school

Drawing is the most direct way for the child to transpose on paper his or her subjective-passive perception following the observation of the main elements that make up the landscape with their shapes and colours. It allows the child to begin to distinguish the elements in the foreground: natural elements such as groups of trees, bushes, waterways, and human activities such as houses, cultivated fields, roads, bridges. The aim is also to begin to distinguish between those that characterise the background and the landforms that are in the background. The external world represented by the children can be seen as an instrument that explains to the teacher the acquisition of perceived things and the way they are recognised. In addition to the importance of direct observation/knowledge, the importance of indirect observation/learning through frontal lessons and the use of images, photographic exhibitions and awareness-raising meetings should not be neglected.

The landscape education started through the process of observation and perception, discovery and knowledge, should be continued and enriched in the classroom through the projection of significant images of different places. It will be possible to observe and recognise the colour, shape and characteristics of the various natural elements; the main functions of man-made structures and of the various objects present in the known space. The child should be helped to recognise the use he or she makes of these places and elements that are part of his or her experience in the everyday landscape, to discover his or her personal relationship with the place. It is possible to start illustrating in class some simple cards on the main morphological, vegetal and anthropic aspects present in the landscape, first perceived and then known thanks to direct observation, then explored and elaborated through the search for initial information. This is a phase in which the use of documentary material is important, as well as the creation of didactic exhibitions, also created with the help of the work of the children in the upper classes. But the meeting with cultural and environmental animators, tourist and naturalist guides or with people such as farmers, breeders, builders, who work in the field of the landscape, is particularly useful and interesting for the observations they can make. These are opportunities that can stimulate a wider interest in the landscape, but they are not always easily realised within the framework of the educational and formative projects offered by the school. Furthermore, the story that the child can tell to his/her family about what he/she has done and learned at school should not be underestimated, also showing the work done with the cards, drawings and other methods that the teacher has adopted.

2.7. The contribution of the different subjects

In indirect observation, the contribution of the different subjects that are part of the teaching (elements of geography, natural sciences, art, history, drawing) has a very important role. In primary school, one can begin to observe and recognise the morphological aspects of the natural environment that identify mountains, hills, slopes, the shape of valleys, the articulation of sea and lake coasts; to analyse the relationship between the different physical forms of the natural environment, the location, shape and extension of built-up areas: villages, country houses, roads and cultivated fields. It is important to emphasise these facts from primary school onwards, in relation to the observed landscape, and to begin to perceive the relationships between the physical forms of the environment and the use of the land: the transformations made by man near a river to protect the banks and make them usable, the earthworks built along the slopes of hills to make them arable; and to recognise the alterations of large rural areas to make them into commercial or industrial facilities.

2.8. Proposals for formative paths to be followed and abilities to be acquired in the five classes of the primary school

It would be advisable to acquire in itinere, in an appropriate manner and at the right time, the notions necessary to orientate oneself and to understand the landscape experienced by the community to which the pupils belong.

Grade 1

To know, explore, discover, through direct observation, the places/landscapes of one’s own territorial reality and that of other children, and to compare the different situations: analogies and differences. To master the organisation of spaces, the distribution of natural elements, objects and people in a known territory.

Year 2

Ability to orientate and place oneself in an experienced landscape. Know how to recognise the most obvious modifications made by man in the places/landscapes of his/her own territorial reality. To describe verbally, to represent graphically through drawings, sketches (see questionnaire relating to the laboratory).

3rd year

Know how to recognise the relationships between the environment, resources and quality of life and the activities carried out by man in the space he lives in, and then progressively apprehend them in other landscapes of the municipal territory. Know how to locate on a simple map their own landscape and the municipal territory where it is located.

Grades 4 and 5

Analyse a landscape; know how to recognise and identify on a map the recent modifications made by man to certain landscapes in the own neighbourhood. Formulate proposals for the reorganisation of known and experienced landscapes; describe and/or represent the proposals formulated.

2.9. Laboratory proposals

1. Describe the route that children take to go to school by answering a series of questions:

2. Compare the description with that given by other pupils in the class.

3. Draw what the children see through the window of their house.


4. Prepare a small exhibition of the drawings made during the year.


The secondary school, through its didactic organisation, is predisposed to landscape education in the last classes of the compulsory school cycle, taking as a reference the basic knowledge already acquired in the primary school and aiming at providing pupils with a complete training on the value of landscapes, their role and their transformation, in the framework of a development coherent with the objectives contained in the European Landscape Convention. According to the Convention’s « Specific measures », each Party must undertake to promote « school and university teaching in the relevant disciplines on the values attached to landscape and issues relating to its protection, management and planning ». As far as the concept of landscape is concerned, the path followed will aim at deepening the complete knowledge of it, introducing paths and modalities of understanding and research, always more articulated and specific: both as far as the visual-sensorial knowledge is concerned (and the perceptive process that follows from it) and the analytical, scientific understanding of the landscape that allows to know its structure and its natural and anthropic elements and their reciprocal links, also introducing the first operational deepenings. The greater maturity of secondary school pupils (aged between 10 and 16) makes it possible to develop teaching methods that can contribute to a more complete understanding of the landscape - as a part of the territory whose character results from the action of natural and/or human factors and their interrelationships - through diversified approaches, capable of providing more appropriate responses to the various problems posed by the variety of geographical, cultural, historical and economic situations in European territories. Pupils should therefore be made aware of the way in which the landscape has been perceived, represented, analysed and considered in the past, during the most important and significant historical phases, up to the current concept of landscape introduced by the Convention; above all, they should be made aware that the problem of the landscape is part of our everyday environment, that it is part of our human development and that participation in the search for better ways of managing it and contributing to its planning should be considered a human right and duty, as well as a social responsibility. It will therefore be necessary to show students how and why the Convention arrived at the current notion of landscape: the considerations that have been illustrated in the introduction to our report. The didactic organisation of secondary education should favour the integration of the different disciplinary sectors which, with suitable teaching materials, can contribute to analysing and deepening the characteristics of the environment and the structure of territories: the dynamism and evolution of natural elements, the formation of towns, the history of landscapes and the knowledge of their characteristics, resources and identity. Teaching in secondary schools should help pupils to appreciate the cultural, ecological, environmental, economic and social value of landscape (see diagram in Appendix 2) so that they are aware of the problems of their living environment. It will also be necessary to analyse when and how the landscape, because of its differences, peculiarities, identities and values, began to have an influence - subtle but profound - on the way it is perceived by society; how and to what extent it has played a role in the interventions carried out over the centuries and in the different societies and geographical realities.

An important objective is to consider the pupils of compulsory education as future citizens of a community that must learn to know better their living environment in order to participate, as conscious actors, in its preservation, planning and sustainable development; a community that must be sensitised, informed and trained in an adequate way on the main problems - natural and cultural - of the landscape in order to participate competently in an enhancement and/or requalification of the inhabited and lived landscape.

3.1. The approach to landscape knowledge

In the last years of secondary school, the concept of landscape, which is often confused with that of view, image and space, must be studied in an articulated and comprehensive manner. The landscape is the part of the earth space that can be seen from different points of observation or, as the great geographer Paul Vidal de La Blache said, « what the eye embraces with its gaze »; but in this reflection, the difference between the vision of the landscape and the analysis of the relations of man and the community with the part of space and all the elements that are seen cannot be understood: visual knowledge is only a part, an aspect, certainly important, of the knowledge of the landscape. In teaching landscape, the difference between seeing and observing the landscape - considered as an image of the territory, an overview, a panorama - must be clearly defined and carefully considered, which makes an enriching and useful contribution to visual knowledge, but does not allow an understanding based on an analysis of the landscape as a physical entity, real, complex, organised in natural and artificial systems, and subject to spontaneous events and human actions, influenced by cultures, signs and traces of historical stratification. It is the landscape « whose character results from the action of natural and/or human factors and their interrelationships », as defined by the Convention. Landscape is a diverse reality that evolves over time, a set of organisms and living systems linked together by relationships of various kinds, which make up the world in which we live; it is a set of phenomena and functions that interact with each other; it is the result of countless actions carried out in ancient and recent times by humankind in order to adapt the various places to its requirements. And it is, at the same time, the result of the spontaneous evolution of nature. It is in the continuity of the landscape that interventions linked to construction, agricultural production, forestry uses, and transformations induced by the social and economic evolution of communities have been stratified. These interventions can often be recognised in the traces left by archaeological remains, urban settlements, historical architecture, agricultural patterns, terraced cultivation and ancient routes. The analysis of the structure and the different components of the landscape allows us to understand the many configurations adopted, in different places and over the centuries. It helps to identify the processes that have generated its main transformations; to know the natural situations that have made possible the multiple actions and transformations carried out by man on the landscape: itineraries, concentrated or scattered settlements, agriculture, pastures, reforestation, industries, etc.

The first reading of the landscape must refer to the natural form and inert structure that characterise the territory, using the support of geology, geomorphology, pedology and hydrology to understand the shape of the slopes: from the flat, gently or steeply sloping slopes, to the eroded valleys carved out by the furrows of the torrents and rivers, or to the different coastal articulations. Through the analysis of the soils, we can learn about their fertility, their permeability, their potential for multiple uses and identify the original vegetation cover (trees, shrubs, grasses), which is still sometimes identifiable in some parts of the territory. The reading of natural developments must be integrated with that of the anthropic colonisation of the territory in order to understand the relationship between the landscape and the community that lived there or lives there: the succession and multiplication of actions, transformations and different behaviours generated over time by the characteristics and peculiarities of the places, which have, in turn, generated the current landscapes.

3.2. Subjects contributing to the knowledge of landscape

The study of landscape in secondary schools involves the teaching of many subjects which contribute, in different ways and using specific languages, to the knowledge of particular aspects of the landscape reality. There is scope for cross-curricular co-operation between the different subjects to help the pupil to become aware of the values, characteristics and identities of landscapes; to understand the issues which may have a direct or indirect effect on the landscape and which concern protection, management, planning and sustainable development. In the absence of specific teaching devoted to landscape knowledge, the didactic action that develops through the interaction between different disciplines becomes particularly important, precisely on the basis of the cultural demands contained in the « Specific Measures » of the European Landscape Convention.

Geography is a theoretical and methodological pathway that provides students with the basic elements for recognising the geographical differences that characterise territories and environments; that can explain the current physical physiognomy of the Earth as a result of the action that has developed over the centuries; that can provide information on the different situations and levels of development produced by the interaction between human actions and the environment. Cartographic representation, an integral part of geography, visualises, at different scales, the fundamental information for understanding territories, their morphology, the origin of spatial relationships and the modifications made by man.

History introduces pupils to the knowledge of the cultures that characterise the territories and the identities that define the different landscapes; it allows them to understand the historical evidence present on the territory, the environmental and cultural conditions that generated them and which in turn derive from them; it can also help them to acquire, on the basis of the main evolutions identified, the first forecasting capacities for future developments.

The natural sciences (a very broad field of teaching) guide pupils towards a knowledge of the phenomena and elements that enable them to interpret the natural environment as a complex reality, resulting from multiple interactions between abiotic and biotic components. They study them both through natural situations and in relation to modifications induced by anthropic interventions. In secondary schools, it would be advisable to start informing students about the effects of climate change and the concepts of biodiversity. It would also be very useful to involve them in simple hands-on activities, such as creating a drawing and photo album to study the characteristics and morphology of plants and the different habitats of vegetation.

Art education can help to study the different ways in which painters have interpreted and represented landscapes over the centuries, in different cultures and in different parts of the world. It can therefore help to develop the ability to read works of art and to better perceive and appreciate the landscape in its aesthetic aspects and as a cultural asset. Drawing gives students the ability to transfer to paper the portion of the landscape that they can see from a certain point of observation; it also allows them to analyse and represent the structural elements, lines and main characteristics of the objects of the observed and analysed landscapes. It is through drawing that students can begin to trace and communicate the first ideas and reflections on possible « interventions » in the landscape.

3.3 Useful materials, techniques and documents for teaching landscape

It is particularly useful to provide secondary school students with up-to-date systems for landscape knowledge, understanding and analysis, such as landscape slides, photographic documentaries, thematic maps, orthophotomaps; also to offer the possibility of using new technologies, to consult, for example, websites available in many states, containing information and images of the region and municipality where the school is located. It is necessary to teach how to read and use graphic and iconographic documentation containing information for the study of the landscape in relation to the territory of reference; to acquire the instruments necessary to consolidate basic cognitive skills and to acquire new knowledge of the landscape and of the relationship between man and nature in order to begin to carry out, through the integration of the analyses, the cognitive syntheses required for operational proposals on the landscape It can be very useful to promote the visit and analysis of new landscapes, different from the familiar ones, and to organise meetings with associations and landscape operators in the area under consideration: designers, municipal technicians, farmers, agronomists, foresters.

3.4 Cartographic teaching aids

In secondary schools, it is very important to use cartographic representations and to consult aerial photographs, because the data and information they contain help to understand the morphological features, environmental characteristics and anthropic transformations of the territories analysed. Geographical maps are a didactic instrument that effectively communicates, through conventional representations and symbols, the spatial knowledge necessary to locate reliefs, plains, rivers, coastal articulation, islands, and to identify cities, roads, motorways, ports, etc. The great wealth of cartographic production - physical, topographical, political and thematic of national, regional or municipal territories - can satisfy the multiple requirements for fundamental information on the territory and its particularities; it is therefore necessary to promote its use according to the requirements of knowledge.

The map (or plan), as it is commonly called, is a fundamental instrument for knowing the reality in which we live, in more or less detail, depending on the scale used:

The existing cartographic material, easily accessible in public services, libraries and bookshops, can help students to acquire a lot of information about their own territory and to locate the analysed landscape:

Photographs (often more difficult to find) or other aerial observation tools give a clear overview of the conformation of the territory, the characteristics of the natural environment and the relationship between nature and anthropic activities. In order to analyse a landscape, it is necessary to be able to locate it on the « map » and to find the references with the place (in a valley, on a hill, along a river, at the confluence of two rivers…); to understand its morphology, its characteristics and its location. ); to understand its morphology, the course of the river, the orientation of the valley, the hill slopes, the agricultural crops, the network of communication routes, the activities that characterise the communal territory; that is to say, to know the information contained in a physical and political map at a scale appropriate to the size of the territory and the portion of the landscape to be analysed Pupils in the last year of secondary school will start to be trained in the use of cartographic representations not only to deepen the analysis of the landscape but also in the very first considerations related to projects, planning, design and management of the landscape, which will be an important activity of the 2nd cycle of secondary school.

3.5. Methods of observation and visual knowledge of the landscape

The action of « seeing », a cognitive act par excellence, is not only about receiving, through sight, images from objects. It is a « cognitive process » that consists of elaborating the images and forms perceived by the « observer » through different senses but also certain mental processes such as aesthetic evaluation, memory, curiosity, personal culture, as well as interest in particular historical, architectural, naturalistic conditions and sensations aroused by being in a given place. In the case of the visual reading of the landscape, however, it should be considered that, from the position where the observer is located, the human eye perceives only a part of the landscape: in order to obtain the useful information, it is necessary to carefully choose the position on a map of the appropriate scale that allows to see a certain number of things. Obstacles of various types, natural or man-made, located between the observer and the part of the landscape observed, can generate hidden spaces that prevent the complete vision of the area of interest for the observation. An observation point located in an elevated position can allow to see larger parts of the landscape studied; to observe the orientation of reliefs, the size and shape of plains and water bodies; to understand the relationship between natural and anthropic elements and the main characteristics of the landscape.

In the foreground, between fifty and a few hundred metres, it is possible to clearly identify the panorama, the elements of the visual basin in their shape, pattern and colour; to distinguish the different crops, the shape of the trees and buildings (and also the doors, windows, colours and building materials).

In the area defined as the background, from a few hundred metres to a few kilometres, the visual capacity decreases. It is possible to clearly distinguish the ridge lines of the relief, but the elements of the landscape, vegetation, crops, buildings gradually fade away: it is still possible to see the shape of urban settlements, the limits of the forest and agricultural areas, large elements, isolated objects, such as a large tree on a ridge.

In the background, a few kilometres away from the observer, and only on a clear day, the field of vision widens, the shape of reliefs, valleys and large morphological systems becomes clearer, but the visibility of the elements that make up the landscape decreases, until it is cancelled out.

The choice of the point of view must be made earlier on the map, in relation to the depth and width of the visual basin, i.e. where it is possible to locate the shape of objects, details, materials, colours and where the understanding of the elements and their relationship to the context is clearer and more evident. These visual analyses are fundamental to know the characteristics of the landscape in the considered visual basin and to begin to evaluate the visual impact that new interventions can cause on the landscape: they aim to contribute to the choice concerning the interventions of transformation, valorisation, recovery or requalification of the landscape.

3.6. Reading and analysis of the landscape

The understanding of the landscape obtained by the scientific analysis of its objective reality must provide for a logical sequence of cognitive approaches adapted to each specific landscape and territorial situation (rural, mountainous, hilly, coastal, peri-urban landscape…).

It is developed through :

The analyses, apart from leading to the description and knowledge of the landscape, must also have the objective of guiding and supporting the choices of interventions for the transformation, enhancement, requalification of the landscape and the identification of methods for the protection and conservation of its balances for a sustainable development.

The following should be considered as very useful and complementary to landscape knowledge

Some evaluation criteria, of a general nature, can be applied to both natural and man-made systems, for example: rarity, representativeness, integrity, variety.

These are values that can be distinguished as follows:

The first stage of the survey should concern, in broad terms, both the physical structure - abiotic and biotic - and the anthropic structure, breaking down the landscape into the main « systems » that constitute it: the major morphological and hydrological structures, the systems of living elements, the anthropic systems, and the historical and cultural fabric imprinted on the landscape by human civilisations. It will be possible to gradually reach an analytical phase of the complex landscape by deepening, with the help of geography, natural sciences, history and ecology, the knowledge of the natural and anthropic environment.


General principles in the school teaching and learning process

The acquisition of knowledge is one of the objectives of school education. It must take care of the learning processes and rhythm of the students, promoting knowledge paths in accordance with the ages and the different phases and stages of the student’s mental development. It must understand the value of overall didactic continuity that will continue throughout the school experience, avoiding the unnecessary superimposition of notions already acquired and forgetting others. Finally, it must succeed in finding, throughout the various school cycles, the right relationships between the subjects taught during the year and offer all pupils, in the various educational institutions, the possibility of reaching an adequate maturity and preparation. From this point of view, the theme of the landscape has multiple interests in the education of the pupils and constitutes an important vector for the knowledge of the landscape that surrounds them, so that it is considered a familiar subject. It teaches them to look with new eyes at what is well known but which they are used to « seeing » without « observing », or « smelling » without « feeling », to frequenting without understanding that it is a natural and cultural heritage, common to all and which is, consciously or unconsciously, a source of well-being for the community. Above all, it is an opportunity to make students discover the role of each person within the landscape as an inhabitant of that place: as guardian of its identity and culture and as a conscious protagonist of its future development.


En savoir plus


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