F or some time already Croatan forests (state company for forest management) have been developing a network of forest experts who deal with forest pedagogy, in the framework of project called “School in forest, forest in school”. Each of our 17 branches cooperates with kindergartens, schools and colleges in their area. For the most part, day trips to forest are organized, where, as agreed with the teachers and according to the age of our visitors, children participate in various workshops where they complement the knowledge of nature learned in school. But most important is that children experience the forest and nature from first hand, watching forest sights, listening to the sounds, smelling the trees, moss and other smells of forests, touching various forest plants and even getting their hands dirty.
Sometimes multi-day schools in forest are organized; for example, Croatian forests have excellent cooperation with the organization of Hungarians of Croatian origin, who send groups of children to Croatia, with the goal of getting to know the country and language of their origin. Of course, Croatia has wonderful forests to show, so the visit to forests is one of the most important aspects of their stay in Croatia. During the five-day-long “School in the Forest”, forest pedagogues even organized reading and storytelling of Croatian children's stories with characters from the forest, which they later tried to recreate in different techniques. The children were taken for long walks through the forests where they, apart from getting familiar with native vegetation, collected interesting natural materials (twigs, leaves, fruits...) from which they later made useful items: postcards, mobile, dream catchers… Foresters even took them to an evening wildlife spotting, where while sitting on hunting high seats with their companions, they practiced patience and silence, which was rewarded by the large number of wild animals that children could watch and experience in their natural environment.
An interesting workshop that is also worthy of mentioning was the field research and education day of schools included in GLOBE initiative of several counties in northern Croatia. In a “forest classroom” under the tree crowns, forest pedagogues from Croatian Forests introduced students to the processes of natural forest regeneration. One of the goals of the GLOBE project is to introduce regular and continuous measurements and observations in the school environment. Students are able to implement their theoretical knowledge and gain new insight on the environmental integrity, developing positive attitudes toward environment at the same time. The pupils are also getting familiar with the indigenous tree species growing in the area, as well as with why sometimes foreign species have to be introduced.
After the forestry lecture, the pupils had a great opportunity to enjoy a few outdoor workshops in biometrics, soil characterization and space management. In the first section, they determined the humidity, structure, color, consistency, texture, amount of stones, roots and carbonate in the soil. In another research workshop, they noticed the types of cover and measured the height and pectoral diameter of pedunculate oak and white pine trees. In the third section, they set up a research pixel and oriented themselves in the forest environment. After the research work, they presented and analyzed the measured data which will then be sent to the GLOBE program database (Boulder, Colorado, USA) and compared with satellite images and data. In this way, the world's scientists get the local data that the students send them, and the value of the data is invaluable as they are used for global observation and changes in climate on Earth.
All of these workshops are interesting and well accepted by children, but nothing beats good old planting of trees! Almost every workshop and forest trip end in planting a “tree of friendship”, which guarantees that children will remember that day and take care of other trees as well!