Forest wildlife and climate – how does change become visible?
Nature schools in the heart of Zurich
2. March 2022
Think climate change out of the box- make forest change a tangible experience for students
29. March 2022

Forest wildlife and climate - how does change become visible?

Author: Urs Hofstetter, Wilderness Park Zurich, Switzerland

C limate change is on our children's minds. Time and again this is reflected in the children's questions on our forest tours. In the children's heads there is often the school knowledge of carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases and global warming. But global warming, greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide can only be experienced and thus understood to a limited extent. What can we do so that these concepts do not remain a theoretical construct, but can be experienced authentically and with all the senses? How can we show the children with examples that climate change means a change - a transformation - of our accustomed environment and that we also have to question our own behaviour in the course of this change?

An answer to this can be found in the Sihlwald forest wilderness. Timber harvesting was stopped more than 20 years ago and the forest is now developing into a natural forest on 10 km2 according to its own dynamics.

In an educational programme with several excursions over the course of a year, we can show the children,
- how the already mighty trees are allowed to grow ever mightier. In this way, we can make the temporal dimension tangible.
- how deadwood accumulates and thus becomes a carbon dioxide reservoir.
- how deadwood can serve as a water reservoir and compensate for dry periods.
- how bark beetles bite their way through spruce trees weakened by drought.
- how other tree species can cope better with drought and heat.
- how other plant species sprout when light can enter the dark spruce monocultures with the help of the bark beetle.
- how the weather, the seasons, the climate influence the forest ecosystem.
- that changes and transformation are natural processes in the forest.
- how changes are influenced by different climate factors and subsequent factors: Drought, heat, increase in natural events such as storms, heavy rain, fire, landslides.
- how humans can change and reinvent themselves again and again.

The goal must be to look at climate change with the children in such a way that it does not seem threatening and paralyses action. Change does not threaten nature, but our way of life as we know it.

More information:
- Zurich Wilderness Park Foundation - YouTube

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