Bringing the port into the classroom
In an initiative to improve the image of container ports, Contship Italia has introduced Porto Lab into the curriculum of a number of Italian schools.
The public’s perception of a port is frequently negative – for all sorts of reasons. Container terminal operator Contship Italia, together with Bremen based Eurogate part of Eurokai Group, is working to change this, with its Porto Lab project, intended at bringing schools and container ports into closer contact. The aim of Porto Lab is to explain to school-children how cargo is transported around the world, how containerships and ports operate and what the cultural and economic benefits of the shipping industry are. Each year, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from January to May, school-children aged between 7 and 11 can participate in the project. The children are from schools located in some of Italy’s major port cities, including La Spezia, Gioia Tauro, Ravenna, Cagliari and Leghorn - and in Contship’s intermodal terminals in Rho and Melzo . The programme involves both class room based work and external visits to ports. As an introduction, the pupils are first asked to draw a picture of a port – as they imagine it to be. Then they go to visit a container terminal, to see what a real port looks like. The children are given a personal access card to the terminal, shown round the port and given a chance to speak to port employees. Safety coordinators welcome pupils and explain them the basic rules to follow in a work environment and the importance of Safety in a Port or in a Intermodal centre. They explain the cycle/distribution of goods, give a tour of the Terminal, including customs inspection of a container (often they are helped by canine unit). A videoconference sometimes takes place with another school which is doing the same visit in another Port, in a different city. Children have the possibility to talk and debate on their own experience and exchange information with their new little friends. A port diary (Il Diario di Contship), tailored to the current school year, is handed out to every pupil. In addition, pupils can stay in touch with the port world via an interactive website (www.diariocontship.it). The scheme has several important sponsors, including the broadcaster RAI and Radio 1, Emerson - Control Techniques, CVS Ferrari, MGM OMG, SKF, InforMare and BriedaCabins. The numbers of children participating in Porto Lab have become very large. Some 72 institutes comprising a total of 18,000 pupils in Italy are involved in the project – and during 2008, over 2500 students visited the company’s terminals.
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