I n 2019, forest lessons were attended by more than 350 thousand children in the Czech Republic. This means that forest pedagogues organized on average 10 events for them every day. Forest pedagogue is a forester who has completed a course of forest pedagogy. In the last 10 years, more than 800 new forest pedagogues from various types of forest organizations were trained.
This year’s data are incomplete so far, but we can take it for more than likely that the number of events in the forest will be lower than the last year. Even if it may seem strange, however, all the more pedagogy has penetrated the virtual world. A new “Home School” section with educational materials for both parents and children appeared on the www.lesnipedagogika.cz website immediately in March after the first closure of schools. The most popular are worksheets for free downloading, tips for art competitions and online games. These are activities which can teach the children something and entertain them, and which the children can do without the assistance of parents who often had home office work at the time of closed schools (both in spring and autumn). The shift of interest to virtual world has been manifested by a higher number of visitors to the website compared to previous years. Similarly, the greatest success was achieved on the Facebook profile of forest pedagogy (www.facebook.com/lesnipedagogika) by contributions about current art and photograph competitions, tips for worksheets or for outdoor activities such as the mapping of storks or squirrels.
Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic, forest pedagogues have had a possibility of regular training and sharing their experience at various seminars already for over 10 years (see article http://forestpedagogics.eu/portal/2019/10/15/system-of-education-of-forest-pedagogues-in-the-czech-republic). The regular follow-up education of forest pedagogues at these seminars is prepared by the Working Group for Forest Pedagogics at the Ministry of Agriculture. This Working Group consists of representatives from entities dealing with forest pedagogy in the Czech Republic and has forest pedagogy in the country under patronage in terms of methodology and coordination. In addition to the seminars, it coordinates national events within the Week of Forests or exhibitions and trade fairs focused on relevant topics. The Working Group is also responsible for the administration of forest pedagogy website and Facebook profile.
Seminars for forest pedagogues are traditionally held twice a year – in spring and autumn. This year is different. Like most of us we hoped autumn would be “normal” again and postponed the first, unrealized seminar until that part of the year. However, as the autumn did not allow the meeting of forest pedagogues from all over the country either, we launched a series of webinars.
Themes of the webinars were chosen by the above-mentioned Working Group which finally selected eight topics from a range of interesting, actual and for the forest pedagogues useful proposals. A higher number would not be realistic with respect to time possibilities of participants and realization planned before the end of the year at a broadcasting frequency once a week.
We succeeded in finding excellent lectors and covering various topics within a relatively short time. The historically first webinar for forest pedagogues was held at the end of October and its topics were carbon sequestration and emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As a lecturer, Michal Synek primarily focused on possibilities of forests and use of wood in reducing the emissions.
At the second webinar, Marcel Riedl informed the forest pedagogues about the latest results from opinion polls concerning Czech forests and forestry. According to him, a favourable fact is that Czechs have a positive relation to the forest and like it. Among other things, the research confirmed that they are really a nation of mushroom pickers. Nevertheless, it also revealed that the public does not feel informed about forestry sufficiently clearly and truthfully. As an important function of the forest, people consider to be providing a refuge for game and would like to leave a part of the forest area to spontaneous development. The forest pedagogues still have enough work before them in raising the civil society awareness about the work of foresters. The third webinar opened the issue of appropriate pedagogic and human approach to teenagers. As a lecturer, Petr Sucháček characterized 5 fundamental needs of teenagers – a so-called SCARF (Status-Certainty-Autonomy-Relatedness-Fairness) on examples of life situations, introduced well-proven teachers’ tips, and above all encouraged the forest pedagogues in working with this specific “animal species”.
Other webinars held in November (Jan Činčera, Jan Krajhanzl) were devoted to the relation to nature. Interesting was the information about how and at what age the environmental sensitivity and results of research works about benefits of contacts with nature are best to develop.
Two more webinars dealt with at the first sight difficult themes of legal context and Czech education system in relation to the work of forest pedagogues. Thanks to lecturers (Martin Flora and Radka Stolariková), the issues were presented clearly and on practical examples.
The last lecturer was Ondřej Přibyla who presented smart tips and practices for how to discuss any topic effectively on an example of discussions concerning the climate change.
Although this form of education was rather new to many participants of whom some even had light doubts at the beginning, the numbers of registered persons and the feedback from them showed that this form was in the end a decent compensation for the traditional seminars which could not be held this year. In any case, we believe to be able to meet you all in person again in 2021 and not just online.