The 10th European Forestpedagogy Congress in Slovakia (Zvolen) underlined that more and more states can tell success-stories about their activities in forest related environmental education. 140 participants from 15 states discussed the future challenges forestpedagogy is faced with and about how the higher steps forestpedagogues in Europe still have to take.

Societies are in a change

Philippe Pypaert, from the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, emphasized in his keynote, that various environmental, demographical, social and political changes are challenging the societies worldwide. There are many problems like

  • the supply with energy or food,
  • the reduction of the ecological footprint,
  • the preservation of biodiversity or
  • the solution of urbanization and
  • migration.

These difficulties must be solved globally. Presenting the Global action plan for Education for sustainable development (ESD) as follow-up program of the UN-decade (2005-2014) for ESD, he focused on the necessity, that forestpedagogues shouldn´t offer the topic "Forests" or "Forestry" in a separated or sectoral manner. Forest-related topics must be linked and connected with other topics (for example water, energy, ecological footprint, climate change, biodiversity) which can´t be discussed without the forest-sector, when a global and sustainable view is required. From the 17 goals of the "Sustainable Development Agenda" – United Nations 2015-2030 should be integrated as many as possible.

The way people are communicating is in a change

Internet, new media and social communities are dominating increasingly today’s concepts of communication. PR-expert and media-analyst Miroslav Kollár explained in his keynote that forestpedagogues have to use these tools in order to transfer their offers and success stories just in time. He pointed out that the messages must be actual, short, simple and positive and they should clearly show the benefit for those to whom they are addressed to.

Darina Výbohová, from the Methodical and Pedagogical Centre of Slovakia, illustrated, that learning methods and strategies of learning at school must develop, to reach the objectives of ESD. Especially interaction, self-discovering learning and possibilities for participation should be integrated in today’s school-curricula. Therefore the personal contact between pupils and the forester as an authentic practitioner shouldn´t be missing, when learning is about forests. For this purpose the congress offered ten workshops and a market of activities, with best-practice-examples in forestpedagogy and possibilities for exchanging experiences.

The dialogue about forests and forestry is in change

The increasing amount and variety of interests referring to forests and their management also leads to more discussions: What is right or wrong? How should the forest be managed or not? And which service or function should have priority?

This dialogue is showing the wish of many people and interest groups to participate, cooperate or to take responsibility for the protection of forests or species. In the public perception the "protector" often is the "hero" and the forester is the "wicked" – cutting the trees for making money. But such discussions or even conflicts can also be taken as a chance for bringing the different actors on a round table.

Quo vadis forestpedagogy?

Taking these changes into consideration, the conclusions and consequences for forestpedagogues became obvious in this 10th European congress. When the amount and the variety of interests in services and functions of forests is increasing, forestpedagogues can lead the dialogue between the different actors, their conflicts and discussions. Even if forestpedagogy won´t have the solution for every problem, it might offer free space for coming together, discussing about compromises and give impulses for the actors to find self-reliant solutions.

Therefore more cooperation and participation, not only within the forest and timber sector, but also with actors and interest-groups from education, environment, biodiversity, the social-cultural-spiritual sector or others is necessary.

Finally forestpedagogues must raise more awareness in public, policy and society. They have a lot of good stories to tell in which they don´t need to be the hero, but the moderator and mediator of forest-topics and in in forest/forestry-related discussions, conflicts or projects.