Meet the Gymnasium of Astypalaia: part of the Island Schools project/ iSHRINK

The project iSHRINK aims to connect the Europe’s island schools together in order to create an innovative education based around sustainability challenges. With other project partners from Iceland, the Netherlands, the UK, Spain and Greece, the project will bring together the top universities to work on education and sustainability work with island schools to cocreate the learning materials which place the emphasis on pupils’ active citizenship and the sustainable future of their islands. On November 30th, the kick-off meeting with our partners was held digitally.

Partner: Gymnasium of Astypalaia

For Island Schools, the project partner is the Gymnasium of Astypalaia – a small secondary school on the island. The students’ ages of the school vary from 13-18 years old. The school places creativity as their major role and they strongly believe that students should learn by doing, as well as following a more traditional academic curriculum. Their main objective is to have a more attractive and engaging school.

As one of the two island schools in the Island Schools consortium, the Gymnasium of Astypalaia will be a test-case and an ambassador representing fellow island schools across Europe. They also bring broad experience of working on sustainability to the project – their previous project was the “Fish Forward Project” together with the WWF. It was an EU-co-funded project with an aim to promote more ecological, social, and economic sustainability in fishing, fish farming, and seafood consumption.

Pupils from Astypalaia and from De Jutter in the Netherlands, the other partner school in the project, will get the chance to visit each other during two learning weeks, planned for 2022 and 2023. Pupils will also work with university researchers and other experts to come up with policy recommendations for the future of their islands and schools. They’ll have the chance to present these on a European level in the project’s final conference in 2023.

The island Astypalaia

Astypalaia itself is a picturesque island located in the Aegean Sea and belongs to the Dodecanese island group. The coastline of Astypalaia is rocky with coves and beaches. A small strip of land divides the island into two parts. There are several small islands in the southeast and west of Astypalaia. The island attracts tourist mainly because of its unique butterfly-like shape and the Cycladic architecture (Cubic whitewashed houses and churches with blue windows, narrow alleys, and wooden balconies). That is why even though the island’s population is only around 1300 people, it attracts about 70,000 tourists every year.

The island has recently hit the news as part of a pilot project with the car manufacturer Volkswagen. According to Volkswagen, the number of vehicles here is around 1500 – more than the population. Realizing the island’s potential, the company has made a deal with the Greek government to invest in a pilot electric mobility system. Effectively, the current transport system will be replaced by an electric one. To be more specific, Volkswagen will equip Astypalaia with electric vehicles, renewable power generation and services such as vehicle sharing and/ or ride sharing will be encouraged more.