Environmental education and working-class neighborhoods

November 2019

Union nationale des acteurs du développement local (UNADEL)

The association Connaitre et Protéger la Nature (CPN) « les coquelicots » works in the field of education for nature and sustainable development. In the heart of a political district of the city of Metz (les Hauts de Vallières), it manages, animates and coordinates 3 spaces: the Eco-citizen space (an associative space that groups together different associations and activities), the Pedagogical and Convivial Natural Space (shared garden, orchard, pond, goat enclosure), the Hair and Hooves space (one hectare of land occupied by five donkeys in the process of being developed). These resources enable the implementation of weekly environmental awareness actions (nature activities, shared garden, eco-consumption workshop, nature club, etc.) for different audiences.

Backgrounds and objectives

The DNA of the association is both the environmental dimension and the socio-cultural dimension (popular education).

In order to do so, the association ensures that this dynamic is long-term, adopts a global and systemic approach (social-economic-environmental), allows networking, favours an active pedagogy, values local resources, promotes inclusion, adapts to the « right » scale, articulates local action and the challenges of sustainable development.

The implementation

To date, the Poppy NPC has 6 salaried employees (4.5 FTEs on permanent contracts), volunteers who represent 1 part time, civic services and regular interns. The association has 200 members, including 30 structures. It functions as a mini network. The structures come to seek ESDD resources within the CPN.

1500 half-days of activity are carried out in animation with also people from outside Vallières who come to the territory. 1 half-day per week, a school collection with the donkeys is carried out.

ESDD activities are carried out in various ways (discovery walks, shared gardens, edible garden, dream garden, mischievous garden, adventure activities: trapper’s spirit, vigils, treasure hunts…resource workshops: action consumption, equity, heritage, climate, biodiversity, water…), but also training (currently training teachers in nature activities, or training volunteers from the Motris association in the design of activities on waste reduction).

Finally, the association is also involved in project support (for teachers with water classes, for example, or to develop a garden as in the new media library in the Agora or at the MJC des 4 bornes).

Financing and resources

The budget (2019) of the association is 180 000 euros with :

Results and impacts

The inhabitants have a good perception of the association’s activity. They know it through their children. They have confidence when educational actions are set up by the association. The association benefits from a great attractiveness thanks to the animals.

Obstacles and challenges

Sometimes people « don’t go through the door » because they think it’s not for them. Today, the question for the association is how to allow the inhabitants of the district to take ownership of the actions and to participate in them?

All the structures make the same observation in the neighbourhood of the lack of participation and isolation (closed shutters, few people in the street).

Lessons learned and perspectives 

The association came to the neighbourhood with the desire to work directly with the inhabitants and it didn’t really work.

The CPN established itself in the City in 10 years while remaining relevant and coherent with its project and its values, and found its place by working with an active and participative approach and a strong adaptability (alternating pedagogical approaches, and adaptation to the right scale, to the public, to the place…).

On the strength of this experience, the association puts its skills in environmental education and sustainable development (EEDD) at the service of all the actors of the district who go towards their public (e.g. association French courses to whom is proposed a workshop for the manufacture of household products or the sports school of the CMSEA, an orienteering race or an Ecocathlon). All the actors in the neighbourhood are partners. The association works to decompartmentalise skills and the neighbourhood. It is recognized (by the education league for example) to do much more than just nature activities. Each time, a « nature and SD » dimension is brought into activities that are proposed to their public.

The association is in a dynamic of developing actions with and for the neighbourhood. An adult relay has been engaged since November 2019 and a process of creating a social living space is underway.

The association is also thinking about circular economy projects that could benefit the inhabitants thanks to its « attractiveness » (for example, a catering service provided by the neighbourhood could replace the picnics taken from the school bags of the classes that come to the garden).


  • UNADEL Activity Report 2019

  • Journées des territoires 2019 " Agir sans subir : les territoires relèvent le défi écologique et social " on November 25th and 26th in Paris - Workshop " Quartiers populaires et écologie ? » (Popular districts and ecology ?)

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