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.
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.”