Forest School #1: the pilot edition

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The first seeds of the Forest Schools were planted in a weekend in November: three full days in which 22 beneficiaries (teachers, educators, facilitators of activities from NGOs and other organizations) went through several workshops to help them organize activities with children and young people in the middle of nature.

The Forest School is a concept through which we try to take environmental education to another level – to provide inspiration, skills, and knowledge to everyone who loves the forest and wants to share it with their community.

Our intention is to create a network of Forest Schools in all regions of Romania, to discover and explore local forests together with young and old, and to collaborate on ideas, techniques, games, and materials that can produce memorable experiences and a lasting attachment to nature and biodiversity.

The workshops took place in the classroom and in the forest and explored themes of ecology and biology, forestry, sustainable development, and pedagogy.

In the forest, on the tracks of wolves and bears

The exercises and games explained on the first day were put into practice during a full-day visit to a magical forest in the Izvoare/Ivó area (Harghita county).

How do we experience the forest, how do we take a “forest bath”, what techniques help us discover the area’s biodiversity (not that it was difficult – the tracks of large carnivores and deers were everywhere), what does sustainable forestry mean?

The remarkable trees – some of the oldest and most majestic elms in the Eastern Carpathians we have seen – and the life that bustled in the canopy or in the leaf litter, despite the near-freezing temperatures, gave us all the answers.

“We visited a forest nearby that is very close to a virgin forest, typical for the Carpathian mountain area,” explains Tibor Kádár, project manager. “We integrate indoor and outdoor activities so that future trainers are able to design and run individual programs, set to the needs of each age group, each geographical area, both in the classroom and in the forest.”

After the feedback received, we are on the right track!

Forest lovers from all walks of life, unite!

“The coolest thing about this course was that we met people from many fields,” says Kinga Cîmpan (Romanian Ornithological Society). “Foresters and educators, professors from the university and secondary school teachers, myself and others from NGOs. It was very important for us to see everyone’s point of view from the field they come from. And we put things together, we compared our perceptions. In the end, it boils down to the same common denominator, love and protection of the nature that is next to us.”

This exchange of experiences was useful for everyone. Paul Paicu and Melinda Szábo-Sandi from Tornator are forestry engineers, yet work quite a lot with children. The company has set up themed educational trails through the forests it manages in Bacău and Dâmbovița counties, and Paul and Melinda accompany the little ones, teach them how to observe the forest and explain what they see. “I’m really glad that teachers took part in this course, and we were able to learn a lot of useful things from them, about how to interact with groups of children,” says Paul. “Children are also the target group we thought about when the forest trails project was born. We have more and more visitors each year, and we will use all the knowledge on the awareness side.”

We are growing Forest Schools in 2023 as well!

Starting from the spring of 2023, we will organize several such courses, in several areas of the country. For those interested, we will announce ahead of time, on all our social media channels and in our newsletter.

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