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Forest Climate Weeks of the Bildungswerkstatt Bergwald - Switzerland

Author: SILVIVA, Switzerland

H ow can we make the complex topic of climate change tangible for young people in the forest? Driven by this question, the Bildungswerkstatt Bergwald (“Mountain Forest Workshop”) and the Forestry Office of Basel have launched a new project: the Forest Climate Weeks.

These project weeks are based on the forest project weeks that the Bildungswerkstatt Bergwald has been running with young people aged 15+ for more than 20 years. In the spirit of education for sustainable development, the young people work in the forest for an entire week. Under forestry supervision they fell trees, tend the young forest, improve paths or build sliding snow barriers. The work is commissioned by forest districts and organised by the Bildungswerkstatt Bergwald.

During the forest climate week, work is carried out that is related to climate change: Cutting down desiccated trees, planting adapted tree species, preserving biodiversity, etc. In parallel to the work in the forest, the pupils delve into topics related to climate change, CO2 emissions, their effects on nature and people, as well as possible challenges for the forest.

Insight into a forest climate week

It is early in the morning; the sun’s rays are not yet providing any warmth. With hoods up, shoulders hunched and hands in pockets, the teenagers from the Burg schoolhouse in Liestal stand close together and listen intently. Course leader Jannis Schwärzli explains today's workplace: together they will plant sessile oaks and larches in the marked area. "Because they are better able to withstand climate change. The heat, drought and whatever else is coming," Maria (15) explains the choice of young trees.

Whatever else is coming: one of the big questions about climate change. "I love skiing, but whether my own children will still be able to ski one day? I very much doubt it," says Severin, 15, one of the 17 young people who are working this week as part of the Forest Climate Week in Homburgertal BL.

While the three boys plant trees, they discuss their ecological footprint, which they calculated in class. Parameters on nutrition, travel and consumption behaviour, living conditions and energy requirements are taken into account. The fact that Ashwin (15) would need 5.5 earths with his lifestyle shocked him and made him think. Jilian (15) points out, "I think air travel is a huge source of CO2 emissions. But it's not normal that you can fly from Basel to London for 60 euros on Easy Jet and pay more for a train ticket from Basel to Geneva”.

What is more ecological anyway? By boat? Or by train? Together they compare oil and electricity and agree that the train is definitely the most ecological. "But it also plays a big role whether, for example, Deutsche Bahn uses electricity from wind turbines or electricity from coal-fired power plants," interjects Severin (15).

Balance sheet

The issues surrounding climate change are complex - and often burdensome. Studies show a bleak picture for the future. This makes it all the more important to develop an understanding of it and to experience that one is and can be part of a change.

This week enables young people to better understand the connections around climate change and to experience their self-efficacy outdoors in the forest.

Further information

Bildungswerkstatt Bergwald

This article is part of a blog series in view of the SILVIVA annually conference 2021 and the 16th European Forest Pedagogics Congress “How to learn in and with nature in times of climate crisis? - European perspectives and solutions” in Zurich, Switzerland, 11th – 13th May 2022.

It is clear that education must contribute to combating climate change and that environmental education is predestined for this role. This is especially true for forest pedagogy and nature-based environmental education. But how can we do this and how can it be effective?
  • What does contemporary forest pedagogy look like in times of climate change? What projects, programmes and approaches are there?
  • How can/should forest pedagogy inputs/interventions be designed so that they make a contribution against climate change? And how can they be further developed?
  • How can insights from climate education enrich the methodology of forest pedagogy?
These and similar questions will be raised and discussed at the European Forest Pedagogics Congress 2022.

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