News from Norway! The 2019 Forest Games

With inspiration from the Forest Olympics in Latvia, the Forest Games were established in Norway in 2015. Four different forest and nature school organisations cooperate, with the Forest Extension Institute leading the work.

The aim of the Forest Games is to increase knowledge of forests, and to create more physical activity in school. Teachers and pupils are encouraged to use their local forest during school hours, not only for hiking and playing, but also as a “class room”.

This year, the Forest Games were conducted at the national level for the third time, in Norway. All pupils in 5th grade were invited to participate, and 126 schools accepted the invitation. As a total 2360 pupils were involved in the event during 2019.

The participating schools received two different challenges: one in January with snow and winter, and one in April with spring. The first task was a nature trail that invited to pondering and wondering! The next challenge gave the schools six different tasks to choose from. While the first one was easy, the second challenge demanded quite a lot of dedication from the participating schools. Feedback from the teachers showed that although they already used the forest quite a lot, they learned a lot and got many new ideas about how they could teach about the forest to their pupils. Many of the schools also had forest days with their local Forestry Societies, which gave them an extra motivation and inspiration.

Our experience is that the teachers had very busy days. If they had to participate in an event like this, it must be more than an event. It must be in accordance with the school curriculum.
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All the schools were given individual feedback on their work. Seventeen schools qualified for the finals, which was held at the Norwegian Forest Museum on 5 June 2019. Many of the participants came the night before, giving them the opportunity to spend the night in an old forest hut or in a lavvu (sami tent).

The finals consisted of both practical and theoretical tasks, such as recognizing tree species, wading over a river, measuring the height of a tree, determining the age of the tree, recognising bird sounds, making various knots, building wooden bridges, and finding English names for different insects.

Our experience is that The Forest Games is a good way for different organisations to cooperate, and to work towards the same goals. It is also a good way to inspire and motivate teachers to involve forests and forestry actively in their teaching.

Bjørn Helge Bjørnstad, Project coordinator at Forestry Extension Institute

If you want to know more about our Norwegian LEAF member, please use this link.

LEAF Director is going to the 14th European Forest Pedagogics Congress 2019

The European Forest Pedagogics Congress is organised annually to provide a platform for the exchange of experiences and for the discussion of currently relevant topics or challenges for forest pedagogy in Europe. Barry McGonigal, our International LEAF director will be there, in Latvia, from July 1st to 4th.

This year, the central theme of the Congress 2019 is DESIGNING BRIDGES BETWEEN FOREST AND SCHOOLS. How to link the forest pedagogy programmes and regular schools? How can forest educators and teachers cooperate on pupils' learning?

The key-note speakers will be Tomass Kotovičs, Prof. Robert Vogl and Ph.D. Jan Froněk who is coordinating the #Learningaboutforests programme in Czech Republic.

Ph.D. Jan Froněk is a teacher-trainer from TEREZA Educational centre, Czech Republic. Besides coordinating the international "Learning about forest" (LEAF) programme among 380 Czech schools, he also teaches social psychology at Charles University in Prague and runs coaching trainings for school headteachers. His key-note speech will be based on interaction with the audience:

  • How to link the forest pedagogy programmes and the regular school? Both forest pedagogues and school teachers are invited to share their ideas.

  • What makes forest education successful? It is presumed that efficient outdoor learning event must be well planned, well structured and well reflected on and followed up at school. Isolated events are less useful. However, there is seemingly lack of real life examples available.

  • So let´s come up with some good examples from various countries to share and inspire new ideas of how to make the learning connections stronger for children

If you want to know more about the key-note speakers, please follow this link.

The annual Forest Pedagogics Conference brings together forest education practitioners from across Europe for the exchange of best practices and demonstrations of new teaching techniques. Once again a LEAF member will be hosting this fantastic event and it is my privilege as LEAF Director to be able to support them and learn more to help achieve our aims.
— Barry McGonigal, International LEAF Director

In this link, you can find all the information about the 14th European Forest Pedagogics Congress´programme, venue and accommodation, organizers and supporters, as well as upcoming workshops and market of activities.

LEAF at the European Forum on Urban Forestry

Barry McGonigal went to the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) in Cologne, Germany, to put environmental education on the map for Urban Forests. Together with Prof. Sylvie Nail of the University of Nantes, he presented a recently-designed project aimed at giving students an opportunity to learn about environmental challenges and good practices in Europe.

Full of energy – this is how the 22nd European Forum on Urban Forestry started from Tuesday May 21, 2019. The city of Cologne welcomed around 150 participates from all over Europe at the German Sport University Cologne. Policy planners, decision-makers, practitioners, researchers and representatives from different stakeholder groups of urban forest management came together to exchange views and to share knowledge.

EFUF emphasizes the connection of practice and scientific knowledge, encouraging a variety of possible formats to contribute to the conference. 

That’s why our International LEAF director went there with his colleague Sylvie Nail from the University of Nantes, France, to share practices and knowledge about education for sustainable development and environmental education. Together, they presented a blueprint for international networking for environmental education from the perspective of schools and universities.

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In 2019, the FAO chose « Forests and Education » has the main theme to celebrate the International Day of Forests. Thus, it was important to put environmental education on the map for urban forests and underline the capacity for urban forests to act as educational centers for those unable to make it to the countryside.

Barry McGonigal and Prof. Nail presented a two-fold approach in relation to young people’s environmental education.

First, they underlined the outdoor learning methodology developed by the LEAF programme and how it engages students and teachers to learn outdoors in nature and experience a reconnection to the natural world.

Then, they presented a work-in-progress project aimed at giving all the students of a university an opportunity to learn about environmental challenges and good practices in Europe, so as to be informed and responsible citizens. Indeed, the goal is to build a student network so as to promote good practices and concretely develop more initiatives for sustainability in each university.

“The literature linking exposure to natural settings and decreased mental and physical health issues is overwhelming,” says LEAF Director Barry McGonigal. “Providing oases of forested calm throughout our cities and towns should be as intrinsic a component as any when it comes to city planning. Used in conjunction with the LEAF programme, any green areas established in urban areas can act as outdoor educational hubs for schoolchildren, providing a refuge for outdoor learning in a meditative and calming space. Urban forest planners need to bear in mind the potential for their projects to address outdoor education and offer another vital service through these sites.”

You can have a look at their all PowerPoint presentation here.

You can also have a look at environmental education scientific references here.

LEAF network celebrates Outdoor Classroom Day

Students celebrated Outdoor Classroom Day


Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. On May 23, 2019, thousands of schools around the world took their lessons outdoors and prioritised playtime. 

Outdoor learning improves children’s healthengages them with learning and leads to a greater connection with nature. Play not only teaches critical life skills such as resilienceteamwork and creativity, but is central to children’s enjoyment of childhood

There are plenty of benefits when you teach children outside the classroom. For instance, an outdoor learning:

  • Improves creative thinking.

  • Helps with subject understanding.

  • Promotes self-awareness and respect.

  • Encourages social interactions and helps build healthy relationships.

  • Encourages a healthy lifestyle.

    To commemorate Outdoor Classroom Day, our LEAF member Ramona Mercieca from Gozo, Malta, shared how they celebrated the day.

    Our LEAF students had an outdoor lesson in a public garden close to our school. Students carried out various activities among which they made cloud observations and recorded weather elements using Lab disc through the GLOBE program, sat quiet for a few minutes to listen to the sound of nature and also did a tree hugging exercise. Through these actions and related projects the students learnt how important trees are to our planet and hugging them has many benefits such as filling you with positive energy and boosting your mood,” said Ramona Mercieca, Eco-Schools/LEAF link teacher.

To get more news about LEAF Malta, we invite you to read this article “Learning made fun in the great outdoors”, from the Times Malta newspaper.

LEAF MALTA, an international school and forest programme:    https://www.leafmalta.org/

LEAF MALTA, an international school and forest programme: https://www.leafmalta.org/

To know more and get involved in the next Outdoor Classroom Day, please have a look at Outdoor Classroom Day webpage.

LEAF will be at the European Forum on Urban Forestry

Barry McGonigal will spread the word about environmental education at the 22nd European Forum on Urban Forestry

The 22nd European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) will take place in Cologne, Germany, from May 22nd to May 24th. During this international forum, researchers and urban forests professionals gather to share their scientific knowledge and good practices.

Since 20 years, EFUF is a unique meeting place for forest and greenspace managers, planners, architects, researchers, public authorities and policy makers to share interdisciplinary experience and good practices within the field of urban greening, urban forests and urban forestry.

>> Our international LEAF director, Barry McGonigal, will attend this forum to promote the Learning about Forests programme. Indeed, nowadays, more children are growing up in cities and it is crucial to emphasize environmental education for them… and us! Barry will spread the word about the positive psychological impacts of the LEAF activities, as well as the formal approach of our programme. As scientific papers already proved it, it is necessary to expose children to nature, to raise environmental awareness and literature.

This year, “Forest and Education” is the main theme of the FAO, that´s why is is important for us to attend such an international forum. Urban forests professionals should think about children as a target audience too, when they create plans to make cities greener.

“The coupling between mental health and access to green space in your local area is something that should be considered even more in urban planning to ensure greener and healthier cities and improve mental health of urban residents in the future” Professor Jens-Christian Svenning from the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University

To know more about green spaces and healthy cities, we advice you to read this article: Being surrounded by green space in childhood may improve mental health of adults.

The FEE Annual Report for 2018 is ready!

discover LEAF successes for 2017-2018 through our FEE annual report

The Foundation for Environmental Education has just published its Annual Report for 2018. As always, the developments, achievements and impacts on both national and international level of all FEE programmes are pointed out.

In 2018, FEE has grown across the world reinforcing our truly global presence, strengthened by its geographic, social and cultural diversity.

>> For example, Learning about Forests expanded its membership base with new countries joining the network in Latin-America and Africa. LEAF welcomed on board Brazil and Mexico, as well as Tanzania. These countries proved themselves extremely adept at implementing LEAF and their contributions will no doubt be important.

In 2018, LEAF also attended high-level events during the year including the World Forum on Urban Forests in Italy, and the Forest Pedagogics Conference in Finland.

Attending such events helps to raise LEAF’s profile and enables valuable contacts to made.

LEAF facts for 2017-2018

  • More than 30 000 teachers participate in the LEAF programme

  • LEAF will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2020

  • Nearly 700 000 students participate in the LEAF programme

  • Drawn from the FAO’s Forestry Department, LEAF’s theme for 2019 is Forests and Education

  • From 2017 to 2018, three new countries and more than 90 000 students joined the LEAF programme

Do you want to know more? Have a look on our 2018 FEE Annual Report!

Picture from LEAF Ireland.

Picture from LEAF Ireland.

LEAF National Operators Meeting 2019

FOREST EDUCATORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD gathered in LIMERICK, ireland, for the annual meeting

March, 2019 – LEAF Ireland was delighted to host the annual LEAF National Operators Meeting 2019, which took place in Castleconnell, Co. Limerick over three days, March 26 - 28. The Learning about Forests (LEAF) programme is operated in Ireland by An Taisce; the Irish member of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE); an international non-profit aimed at promoting sustainable development through environmental education.

Delegates from twenty-eight countries including Mongolia, Malaysia, Brazil, Tanzania and many more, arrived in the village of Castleconnell, Co. Limerick, on Tuesday 26th night to take part in the international conference on forest education.

The conference agenda focused on the psychological impact of the LEAF programme and highlighted the Sustainable Development Goals and their connection to the LEAF programme. The delegates visited several Limerick schools who are leading the way in forest education and celebrated International Day of Forests and National Tree Week by planting 40 native Irish trees in Coillte’s Curragh Chase Forest Park.

The international conference provided an opportunity for LEAF National Operators to exchange best practice experiences, participate in professional development sessions and make their contributions to the development of the LEAF programme. National Operators are responsible for programme development in their own country.

As LEAF Ireland entered the 3rd and final year of the pilot programme, which is being run in 36 primary and secondary schools in Co. Limerick, hosting the international conference provided a fantastic opportunity to show case the wonderful work of LEAF schools across Limerick City and County.

>> The LEAF programme reconnects students with the natural world.

The programme is designed for schools and encourages environmental education through awareness raising and action among students, teachers and the wider community. The programme looks at all the functions of forests: ecological, social, economic and cultural.

Rachel Geary, LEAF Coordinator for Ireland stated:

“We are so proud to welcome our colleagues from around the world and are feeling inspired by their commitment to educate students about the multifunctional benefits of forests. Furthermore, we were delighted to celebrate our National Tree Week with them by planting 40 native trees in Coillte’s Curragh Chase Forest Park.”

Barry McGonigal, International LEAF Director stated:

 “Showcasing the incredible work of the LEAF Ireland team over the past three years, the undoubted highlight of the 2019 National Operators Meeting has been the visit to participating LEAF schools and the infectious enthusiasm for the programme which was so readily evident. From the dedication of the LEAF Ireland team to the commitment of the educators on the ground, there was no shortage of inspiring messages and activities for our members to take back to their countries. A magnificent meeting!”

Photographer: Clare Keogh.

Photographer: Clare Keogh.

For media queries, please contact rgeary@eeu.antaisce.org

BOS+ Erasmus+ Project: Green Learning Environments

Policy recommendations for employing green environments as enabling learning environments

In the past 2 years and a half, our Belgian member BOS+ has been working on the Erasmus+ project: Green Learning Environments. The project has lead to some very significant results for what concern the benefits of playing and learning in nature for children's psychological and physiological well-being.

In the following text, provided to us by BOS+, you can find out more about this very relevant research.


There is a place
Where children who have never walked, find freedom
Where children who have never talked, find words
And more often than not, where every child finds a smile
 

Playing and learning in forest and nature stimulates the imagination, creativity and entrepreneurship. Besides, nature is a great place to gain experience for the development of social and motor skills. The positive impact of a green learning environment is even more significant when working with children with cognitive disabilities, learning disorders, attention disabilities (such as ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders. In an informal natural environment, these children learn better than in a classroom. A green learning environment therefore increases their chances in society meaningfully. From this determination, EFUF partners BOS+ (Belgium), GOZDIS (Slovenian Forestry Institute) and Merseyforest (UK), together with schools and partners from Slovenia and England, has been executing the Green Learning Environments project, with co-funding from the ERASMUS+ programme from the European Commission. 
 
Based on the experiences and expertise gathered during the three year project, the project has published a Policy Brief. With this document they aim to raise awareness on the concept of Green Learning Environments and the positive impacts of green environments on learning outcomes for children with mental disabilities. The brief starts with sketching the background and some scientific evidence on the topic, describes obstacles for implementing green learning with children with mental issues, sketches the project findings, and ends with recommendations for practice and policy.
 
The policy recommendations are particularly interesting, as they sketch how joint efforts by the education and urban greening sectors can ameliorate the lives of children with special educational needs. These recommendations include:
 

  • Non-formal learning activities in green learning environments should become part of the educational system for all children in Europe.

  • The education systems across Europe should look to provide support for more green learning, including increasing awareness regarding the benefits of learning in natural environment, the creation of sites for teaching in the natural environment and signposting to organisation that can provide support (Jelen, 2018).

  • Learning and spending time in green learning environments can make an important contribution to the increased social inclusion of children with special needs. Green learning environments promote the skills and competences that are important for lifelong learning and the social inclusion of all children.

  • Accessible green should be provided close to schools. Where possible it should be provided within school grounds to allow as many children as possible to enjoy a green learning environment.  


Next to the policy brief, the project also published a searchable database with good examples, a  toolbox for teachers and educators, and a comprehensive pedagogical approach that includes interesting background information about the advantages of green learning environments. 

LEAF Director Barry McGonigal attends 13th European Pedagogics Congress

The 13th European Forest Pedagogics Congress was held in Pudasjärvi, Finland from 2-5 October, and LEAF Director Barry McGonigal was among the 100 international forest pedagogues from 17 countries in attendance. The theme of the 2018 Congress, which was hosted by the Finnish Forest Association and the Finnish 4H Federation, was “Together - How to involve and participate children and youth in learning, decision making and planning.”

Based in Pikku-Syöte amidst the stunning Finnish landscape, I experienced the warmth of Finnish hospitality, including being welcomed to Pudasjärvi Log Campus where the world-famous quality of the Finnish educational system was on display in the incredible surroundings of the world’s largest log structure. -Barry McGonigal

Barry’s participation in the congress was an opportunity for him to collaborate with dedicated forest pedagogues from around the world and to apply what he learned to the development of the LEAF programme. According to Barry, he “gained valuable insights into how to engage students in active outdoor learning: whether exercising muscles or grey matter, the essential element was fostering a connection to the environment.”

In keeping with the theme of the 2018 event, this was the first year that youth were invited to participate. The Congress was held at the Pikku-Syöte Youth and Leisure Centre and the Pudasjärvi Log Campus, giving local youth the chance to join the pedagogues in various outdoor workshops. These activities highlighted the importance of enlisting youth in the formulation and implementation of forest pedagogy. As the world’s future decision-makers, young people must be taught to engage with nature and cultivate a sense of ownership over the environment.

One workshop that particularly resonated with Barry concerned the wide variety of forest products and how they can be used sustainably. He was introduced to new wood technologies including pine ice-cream, cloth spun from processed timber offcuts, a wood-based cast to set broken bones that has replaced traditional plaster in all of Finland’s hospitals, and plastic products made from nanocellulose to replace traditional plastic products.

In addition to the workshops and outdoor activities, the Congress also featured keynote addresses from four distinguished speakers. A common theme among the speeches was the need for greater youth participation in learning and how pedagogues can achieve this goal.

Barry would like to sincerely thank the Finnish 4H Federation along with Sirpa Kärkkäinen and the entire team at the Finnish Forest Association for hosting him at the Congress. The 14th European Pedagogics Congress will take place next year in Latvia.

All photos by Vilma Issakainen, Finnish Forest Association

Two Inspiring LEAF Events from Turkey

Trees are our Legacy

72 LEAF students and 30 educators from Eskisehir 1. Hava Ikmal Bakim Merkezi Primary School in Turkey recently had the opportunity to participate in a four-day Nature Training Camp held at the Kizilay Hasirca Camp from 26-30 July 2018. The theme of the training camp was "Let Trees be our Trace, Let the Climate not Change."

The purpose of the event was to use nature-based activities to build participants’ awareness of the importance of forests in mitigating the impacts of climate change. These activities included games, art projects, sports, experiments, book readings and seminars, all aimed at engaging students and educators with the relationship between forests and climate change.

TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) conducted the training camp as one of their 4004 Nature Training and Science Schools Projects. The event marked the first time that one of these projects was carried out at the primary school level in Turkey.

The photos below show some of the inspiring activities that students and educators participated in during the training camp.

A Drop of Hope for Birds

On 27 December 2017, over 20,000 children from 12 countries around the world took part in “A Drop of Hope for Birds” day by creating and hanging their own bird feeders. Fatma Ayan, the teacher coordinator at Alayna Mahmutlar Kilicarslan Primary School in Turkey, initially launched the campaign as part of the school’s LEAF programme. The event has since spread to include students from Kenya, Russia, Korea, South Africa, Mali, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Indonesia and Cyprus in addition to Turkey. The students were all united by their common slogan: “let the birds be fed, let the children smile!”

In Turkey alone, students from over 150 schools participated by crafting bird feeders with their own hands and hanging them in nearby trees and other outdoor areas. The bird feeders helped to ensure that birds would have a source of food as the colder weather started to set in. The event was both fun and educational; the students learned about birds while also engaging in an enjoyable crafts project. The students were able to watch the impact of their hard work as birds visited the feeders over the course of winter. As the event’s founder and coordinator Fatma Ayan said, “from now on we have created awareness about the birds; I believe that more sensitivity will be demonstrated after this moment.”

Going forward, “A Drop of Hope for Birds” day will be repeated every year as a LEAF programme event. The photos below show LEAF students from Turkey creating and hanging their bird feeders.

Story and photos provided by TÜRÇEV- Turkish Environmental Education Foundation
 

LEAF National Operators Meeting 2018 in Lavrion (Greece)

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The annual National Operators Meeting (NOM) for the LEAF Programme was held in Greece, at the Environmental Educational Centre of Lavrion (EECL) during April 20-22. The EECL is housed within the facilities of the Technological and Cultural Park of Lavrion. National Operators from Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Russia, Tanzania, Turkey, USA and Greece participated in the NOM, which was organized by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN), FEE member in Greece.

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The meeting was launched by Ms. Lesley Jones, President of the FEE Board of Directors (BoD), who welcomed the attendees. She highlighted the constantly expanding work of FEE, which today counts with 96 members in 77 countries, having started with 4 members in 4 countries in 1981. FEE’s significant contribution to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) worldwide throughout the years is attested by its partnerships with international bodies such as UNESCO and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Mr. Nikos Petrou, President of HSPN BoD and FEE Board Member with overall responsibility for the LEAF programme, pointed out the contribution of HSPN in Environmental Education (EE) since its establishment in 1951, and emphasised the importance of LEAF, both in Greece and internationally.

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Ms. Katerina Igglezi, President of the Special Standing Committee for Environmental
Protection of the Greek Parliament, referred to the crucial role of EE for the environment and society. She also announced an initiative of the Greek Parliament for the establishment of a national forest strategy and the adoption of the Mediterranean forestry model. Mr. Giannis Adamis, Deputy Mayor of Lavreotiki Municipality, focused on environmental education as an important parameter for the local development strategy in the Lavreotiki municipality, in which the National Park of Sounio is also located.

Ms. Maria Kayafa, leader of the pedagogical team of the EECL, discussed the necessity
for partnerships in the framework of environmental educational programmes and the
pedagogical work of the ECCL. Mr. Stavros Antonakas, President and CEO of Olympic
Marine, one of the oldest marines in Greece awarded with the «Blue Flag» and HSPN
supporter, referred to their sensitivity towards environmental issues and to their
goal to improve continuously in terms of quality, safety, and environmental
protection. Mr. Barry McGonigal, International LEAF Director, after his greeting,
presented last year’s developments, emphasising the need to develop regional
cooperation.

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During the following two days, technical issues of the programme were analysed with
presentations from the participants and selected invited speakers, good practices
were presented and the bases for the creation of educational material and prototype actions, as well as regional cooperation, were established. Students from the Doukas High School participating in the YRE programme conducted interviews with the attendees. The participants were enchanted by their specially guided visit to the
archaeological site of Sounio and the temple of Poseidon, as well as their walk on the
educational path through the National Park of Sounio that was coordinated by the
pedagogic team of the EECL.

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LEAF Award Ceremony in Greece

Fifty-seven schools from all over Greece were presented with the LEAF Award on an award ceremony that was held on March 10, 2018 at the Goulandris Natural History Museum in Athens. The prize was a rucksack, which contained useful tools for schools’ environmental outdoor activities, according to the slogan of the network «Going to the forest and learning from it».

Mrs Fali Vogiatzaki, member of Board of Directors of the Goulandris Natural History Museum welcomed all participants (teachers and students), emphasising on the long-term relationship between HSPN and the Museum. Mr Nikos Petrou, President of HSPN and member of the Board of Directors of FEE, underlined the great importance of the participation of students in the global family of the network with thousands of students all over the world contributing to the protection of forests. Barry McGonigal, the International LEAF Director, sent his congratulations to all Greek LEAF schools for their excellent work on the LEAF programme. Mrs Alexia Nikiforaki, Secretary General of HSPN, also welcomed and congratulated all participating schools. Mrs Sofia Kainourgiou, Vice President of the Greek LEAF Committee, made a presentation of the Greek LEAF Committee who evaluated the Greek schools’ reports on the LEAF Programme. Mr Dimitrios Gkotzos, President of the Greek LEAF Committee, referred to the philosophy and the network’s actions.

The thirty participating schools (kindergartens, primary schools and high schools) presented their activities from their participation in the LEAF programme through theatrical plays, PowerPoints and videos.

At the end of the ceremony, all participants enjoyed the projection of the “Globe” at the entrance of the Museum, which shows pictures of the Earth that have been recorded from space. In addition, the “Globe” shows the geological evolution of the Earth from its beginning until now.

LEAF launches in South Africa

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WESSA launches LEAF in our country member South Africa to help children develop a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between people and nature

The LEAF programme was launched on Tuesday, February 6, at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens with the introduction of the #OurForestsAreOurFuture campaign to a number of teachers, learners, local government representatives, nurseries, other NGOs and the Gauteng Environmental Education Forum.  The campaign is a joint initiative of the WESSA LEAF programme and Johannesburg-based NGO School Forest Project, who will supply one hundred trees to the ten schools from Eersterus, Mamelodi and Tshwane East participating in the LEAF programme in 2018. SANBI will provide all children from these schools with free access to the garden for the duration of the project.

Speaking at the event, special guest and 50/50 presenter Bertus Louw said that 40% of South Africa’s forests have been destroyed and that a programme like LEAF can make a big difference in rebuilding a biome that is crucial to our survival. The learners were entertained and inspired by Bertus’ stories of the different forests he has visited across the globe, where he has seen the important role forests play: from providing us with basic furniture and creating outdoor shaded spaces for enjoyment, to protecting us from natural phenomena such as tsunamis.

Participants at the launch had the opportunity to engage in several different activities in the indigenous forest of the Pretoria National Botanical Garden. These included a demonstration of the process of planting trees endemic to the Pretoria area from seeds; investigating quadrants of the forests to determine their biodiversity using technology, science and maths; and taking a closer look through magnifying glasses at the special adaptations of leaves. At the medicinal plant section of the gardens, the teachers told the learners about the plants their parents used to cure certain ailments, and highlighted the important role plants still play in the medicinal field today.

“Any school can register to participate on the LEAF programme and it therefore has the potential to reach 12,5 million learners and 125 000 teachers across South Africa. The strength of the programme is in its project-based learning, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) approach to learning about forests. The programme helps learners, teachers and communities identify practical solutions for local and global issues, enabling them to make decisions and take ownership and responsibility for their future. This is real learning today for the real world tomorrow”, says WESSA LEAF Programme Manager, Cindy-Lee Cloete.

See WESSA's comprehensive brochure about the programme here.

LEAF Malta launches "Tree your town"

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LEAF Malta commemorated this year's celebration of Malta's Arbor Day with the launch of a new project grant scheme that aims to a collaboration between LEAF schools and their community

The Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change in collaboration with Nature Trust-FEE Malta through its international Learning about Forests (LEAF) programme launched the School-Community Link Project Grant Scheme Tree Your Town on January 15, 2018.

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The ceremony took place at Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park and Sustainable Development Centre were a number of indigenous trees were also planted to commemorate the occasion. 
During the months leading to this day, personnel from the PARKs Directorate were very busy working on a special ramp for mobility-impaired persons to be able to access the picnic area at the park. The ramp was officially inaugurated also on January 15 in the presence of Hon. Jose’ Herrera – Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

In a bid to further assist schools and the general public gain more insight on the importance of trees, Nature Trust–FEE Malta  in collaboration with the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and BOV launched the book Trees and Shrubs of the Maltese Islands.

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"At BOV, we have collaborated on various initiatives with Nature Trust. All projects had the aim of conserving Malta's indigenous flora and fauna", said Charles Azzopardi, Executive PR & Marketing at Bank of Valletta. Mr Azzopardi explained that through its extensive Community Relations Programme, the Bank invests heavily in the local community, including in the green stakeholder, to which specific reference is made in the Bank's mission statement. Referring specifically to the publication, he thanked Nature Trust and Dr Eman J Calleja for their efforts saying, "This publication has a critical role to play in cultivating an environmental consciousness among the general public, and therefore is an important contribution both from an educational as well as environmental perspective."  The book is authored by Dr Eman Calleja and a copy of each book was also distributed to each participating school as a reference guide for their Tree Your Town scheme projects.

During this school year, fourteen LEAF schools will benefit from the scheme. The scheme seeks, on the one hand, to initiate a working collaborative relationship between schools participating in the LEAF programme, their Local Council and other major stakeholders in the school community. The respective parties will work together to identify a derelict site within the confines of the locality and with the assistance of experts devise and implement a water efficient soft landscaping project.

On the other, its aim is also to foster love and respect for trees irrespective of the place they occur. It is intended to be a journey that sensitizes the community to appreciate the environmental, the economic and the socio-cultural benefits of trees.

FEE Global Action Days 2017

During November 6-12, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) once again invited everyone around the world to participate in promoting their work through FEE Global Action Days.

The Global Action Days are meant to be for all students, teachers and communities around the world to actively share their activities towards being more sustainable in their everyday lives.

On 10 November, the FEE Head Office staff gathered to collect all the inspiring and positive actions from across the world and shared them on all our social media platforms, promoting sustainable development and awareness-raising activities.

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During the Eco-Schools National Operators Meeting that took place in Paris from November 17-20, International LEAF Director, Barry McGonigal, introduced the GAD initiative and presented the results from the sharing actions performed by the FEE Head Office during November 10.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram results after the first GAD in November 10.

The next FEE Global Action Days will take place during 16-22 April, 2018. Save the dates and plan your actions for next year’s #FEEGAD!

Until then, you can join our Facebook group to stay up-to-date!
 

Treslag i Norge: Identify tree species with this new app

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Tree species in Norway (Treslag i Norge) is an application that allows you to identify the most common tree species in Norway. The target group is pupils and the explanations are therefore based on images, and not so much on words. The app is meant as an aid throughout the whole year. The species are presented with a complete set of pictures from all four seasons: buds, leaves, flowers, fruit, bark and branches, in addition to the whole tree.

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You may also identify your tree by using identification keys. Two different keys have been developed, one for the leaves in summer and one for the buds in winter. Not everyone is familiar with the biological terms of leaf and bud identification, therefore each choice is illustrated.

This tree identification app was developed by the Forestry Extension Institute in Norway. It is available for free on mobile phones and tablets for both Android and iOS operating systems.

The language of the application is Norwegian but can still be used by others, due to the many images and illustrations. As an aid, a short instruction manual in English has been made. You can download it by clicking here.

LEAF Trinidad and Tobago Kicks Off

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Two schools in Trinidad have applied to complete the LEAF programme in accordance with the LEAF cycle. Asclepius Green launched the LEAF programme in 2015 and has facilitated several LEAF related activities in five schools over the two years. Now, Asclepius Green is happy to welcome the University School and Fast Learners Academy into the full cycle of the LEAF programme. So far, both school have participated in the LEAF workshops geared towards orienting teachers and parents about the LEAF methodology, how to set up the forest committee and how to record and enter data required for the LEAF application. The participants came up with creative and innovative ways of engaging the students in activities throughout the entire year using Math, Science, Social Studies and Arts.

Fast Learners Academy will implement the programme using one class as the pilot focusing on Energy and Recycling.

The University School has expressed their delight in participating in the LEAF program because of their commitment to enlightened and self-reliant children and believe having moral and cultural values produce caring and nurturing members of society. What is also special about the University School is the entire student population will participate in the LEAF cycle for the entire year. For the tree planting exercise on September 21, there were over 303 students, teachers and parents participating. The school had a Special Assembly and Ceremony that comprised of tree planting, formation of the peace sign, prayer, and singing the Jackson Miller classic "Let there be peace on Earth".

In Tobago, LEAF National Coordinator joined the Secretary for the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment and former President of Junior Chambers International (JCI) Tobago Chapter, Councillor Kwesi Des Vignes and the current JCI President, Ms Brettney Romeo and the two Tobago schools, Bishops High School and Tobago International Academy, to celebrate the annual symbolic event. 

Asclepius Green would like to take this moment to specially thank the two Forestry Divisions for assisting us in locating the tress and thanks to Semaphore Signs BV in the Netherlands for donating the LEAF promotional materials to Trinidad and Tobago in an effort to create programme visibility and increase participation in FEE programmes.

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Fifth Graders Explore the World – a new learning resource is coming to schools

Here it is! The long-awaited toolkit for fifth grade pupils (aged 10-11) called "Under the Sky of the Earth" has just been sent to more than 320 schools which are involved in LEAF in Czechia.

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And what can pupils and teachers look forward to? The annual plan of learning activities is again accompanied by six students from a fictional Forest Class. Their characters were made to reflect six common student types according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, so we really see students identify with some of the types, which keeps them motivated.

Pupils can enjoy a lot of new discoveries and experiments, especially outdoors in nature. They will recognize various forms of the forest in different climate zones, discover new continents, taste food that grows in forests around the world and understand how plants and animals adapt to different conditions. They will observe selected habitats of our mild climate zone and compare it to other areas, play with evolution, and finally make a picnic full of exotic as well as home grown fruits.

"In this new toolkit we´re showing pupils the diversity of nature on different examples. We want to stimulate their curiosity" says Jan Fronek, national LEAF coordinator.

What research has shown

Before this resource was published, it had been tested on approximately 200 children in 10 selected schools during one school year. It also included learning impact evaluation, which showed that there was a measurable increase in pupils' understanding of the phenomenon of adapting organisms to different conditions.

"The children were incredibly excited  and I saw they wanted to know more," says Katka Vrtiskova, a teacher who tested the toolkit with her pupils during the last school year.

South Africa is the 26th country joining Learning about Forest programme

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We are delighted to announce that LEAF's presence globally is still increasing!

Foundation for Environmental Education's member organisation Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa will officially run the LEAF programme in South Africa.

Welcome to the LEAF network!

WESSA implements effective environmental, ecotourism, education and youth development programmes throughout South Africa. The organisation improves the school curriculum through education for sustainable development and provide critical work skills training, which creates job opportunities and sustainable livelihoods in local communities. WESSA's environmental initiatives contribute towards the restoration of ecosystems, while its ecolabels support tourism growth and development by encouraging responsible tourism practices and the improved management of coastline.


Learning about Forests Programme is now present in 26 countries around the world!

Find all LEAF National Offices on our website.

Forest Games 2017 in Norway

Norway has recently completed its first national Forest Games. The Forest Games is a competition in forest knowledge and outdoor activities, where all fifth grade pupils are invited to participate. Hundred schools throughout the entire country signed up, involving 2550 pupils. The first rounds were performed in the forests nearby the participating schools. Pupils participated in various activities, solved riddles and submitted reports with documentation of what they have done, found and learned. Many of the reports were made in a very beautiful and creative way, showing that the nature had inspired the classes. Based on these reports, 17 county winners qualified for the final.

On June 14, the final competition was held at the National Forest Museum. Each team was formed by four pupils. Without assistance of any kind, they had to complete various tasks. The pupils were tested in their knowledge of tree species, flora, insects, birds and bird sounds, animal tracks, wooden products, and waste management. In addition, their practical skills were tested, as they for instance had to shoot with air guns, tie a fly for fly fishing, row a boat, and make a bonfire.

In other words, winning the Forest Games required versatile skills in forest knowledge and outdoor life. Becoming the best school also required good cooperation within the team, and creativity.

The Forest Games is a collaboration between Forestry Extension Institute, Hamar Nature School, National Forest Museum, and Norwegian Forestry Society. The purpose is to increase the knowledge about forests and forestry among both pupils and teachers. Further, the goal is to give teachers ideas and inspiration to increase outdoor learning at school.