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Bavarian State Institute of Forestry
Section Knowledge Transfer, Public Relation and Forest Pedagogy
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Article

Author(s): Līga Abizāre, Dirk Schmechel
Editorial office: LWF, Germany
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Designing bridges between Forest and schools

"Designing bridges between forest and schools" - this was the motto for the 14th European Forest Pedagogics Congress. The main topic was how new educational standards can lead young people and students closer to and into the forest.

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Fig. 1: Always exciting - the Da Vinci Bridge. Build a walkable bridge out of 15 boards! (Picture: Latvian State Forests (Latvijas valsts meži))

The Congress took place in Riga and Tērvete from 1 to 4 July, bringing together around 170 educators and foresters from 17 european countries. The event was organized by JSC "Latvia’s State Forests" (LVM) in cooperation with international Forest Communicators Network – Subgroup Forest Pedagogics, the National Centre for Education and Riga Technical University (RTU).

The European Forest Pedagogics Congress is an annual forum for participants to exchange ideas and experiences in the field of forest pedagogy. The succession of the congress is provided by the Forest Communicators Network – Subgroup Forest Pedagogics, which is part of the UN-Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Within the framework of this international congress 50 teachers from different schools of Latvia were invited to learn from each other as well as from forest professionals and other congress participants gathered in Riga Technical university.

Content:

Over school bridges into the forest

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Fig. 2: Pedagogs and foresters from 17 european countries participated at the 14th European Forestpedagogy-Congress in Riga (Picture: Latvian state forests (Latvijas valsts meži)).

Guntars Catlaks, Head of the National Centre for Education, emphasised at the opening of the congress: "The new national education standard offers enormous opportunities for teachers to relate learning to real life, and forest is a perfect place to hold top quality learning process where students not only acquire knowledge and skills but also a number of different competences specific and crucial for the 21st century."

This idea was also supported in the opening speech by Jānis Eglītis, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Latvia: "Forest occupies more than 52 percent of the territory of Latvia, and it is our responsibility to take care of it. The professional development of teachers is very important in this area, because it contributes to a deeper understanding of sustainable forest management."

During the congress the participants discussed on 3 keynotes held by Tomass Kotovičs (Latvia), professor Robert Vogl (Germany) und Dr. Jan Fronek (Czech Republic) about trends and innovations in forest related environmental education.

In 11 workshops opportunities where offered to find out how to incorporate forest education in school programmes, how to use geospatial systems in the process of learning about the environment, how to work hand in hand with forest industry experts and teachers, and how to build top quality learning content.

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Fig. 3: Participants on the bridge to the entrance of Forests Nature Park in Tērvete (Picture: Latvian State Forests, Latvijas valsts meži)).

One day of the congress was held in Latvia's State Forests Nature Park in Tērvete, where representatives of the "Skola 2030" project and the association "Green Homes" together with the scholarship contest "LVM Bio-economy School" participants from Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium introduced their visions about how schools could build a bridge between forest and education in the future. Participants discussed practices for the implementation of competence education and challenges, such as curriculum planning, time constraints, and student performance assessment.

There were also activities organised by the participants themselves, which allowed them to become students once again and enjoy the learning process in the forest. These activities involved practical tasks, attentive listening and team work. An outdoor-market of practical Forestpedagogy-activities completed the program of the congress.

Summarizing the experience gained at the congress, the most important conclusions concerning the development of forest pedagogics in schools were highlighted:

  • Counteract nature alienation with more nature
  • Using the processes in the current education reforms for the forest
  • Strengthening bioeconomy in forest education

More in nature

Young people distancing away from nature is a global problem, as people spend more and more time indoors and in social networks. In general education schools, too, the process of learning about forest takes place mainly in premises, far away from the real forest environment, so it is necessary to promote the study process in nature, to develop competences employing all senses.

Use education reforms for more forest

For decades Latvia's State Forests has been offering diverse forest environment education programmes for schools, with around 20.000 participants annually. This is part of diverse forest pedagogics support system for schools provided by many forest related companies and associations across Europe. The education reform in Latvia, as well as in other European countries provides a unique opportunity to improve and integrate the forest pedagocis experience accumulated as a result of the forest sector and school partnership into general schools of Europe.

The EU-Network forest education for bioeconomy

As one of the most forested countries of Europe, Latvia has great potential to become a knowledge-based bio-economy country, incorporating forest pedagogy into the general education curriculum and developing students’ transversal competencies, especially entrepreneurship in relation to sustainable forestry and timber industry. Forest pedagogics network can contribute to development of bioeconmics all over Europe building stronger bridges between schools and forest.

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