Learn, grow, protect – environmental education in urban forest

Written by Vera Knill

Don’t underestimate the ability of children to help drive change!
Jo Sayers (The Mersey Forest)

Urban forests serve as a biodiversity hub and enhance resilience to environmental changes. As one of the most significant ecosystems for CO2 reduction from the atmosphere, forests do not only mitigate climate change. They also increase societal benefits, improve the quality of life and shelter the declining species of manifold flora and fauna. To spread this knowledge and to preserve and restore forest ecosystems, education for sustainable development is key.

The importance of strengthening forestry education was examined by the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), held at the beginning of May in New York. Also, the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) 2019, held last week in Cologne, put a spotlight on environmental education. The topic was widely discussed among urban forestry researchers and practitioners, managers and policy-makers. Within the scope of EFUF 2019, valuable insights and experiences were shared at the Leidenhausen estate (Gut Leidenhausen), a center for environmental education. Along with Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald Köln e.v., this area involves more than 5000 children per year in forest school activities – learning about nature in nature.

Implementing urban forests in nature pedagogics involves many benefits, as highlighted by Barry McGonigal, International Director of the LEAF (Learning About Forests) Programme: Frequent forest visits, e.g. among school children, enhance a healthy and holistic child development while hands-on learning methods increase knowledge retention and promote stewardship of natural resources and their ecosystem services.

The daily surroundings of many children living in urban areas are often characterized by concrete playgrounds, asphalt, passive movement in strollers or cars and much time spent indoors. The Natural Childhood Report by National Trust (2017/2018) states that children spend half the time playing outside than their parents did. This results in higher stress levels and a desperate need for movement and free play among dirt, water and bushes, which cannot be fulfilled in the concrete jungle of a city. So why not shift the everyday playground into urban greenery?

Jo Sayers stressed the importance of bringing children into green areas, by providing a natural, soft environment, where children are given time and space to play outdoors in an unstructured way, leaving out pressure, obligations and competition. Also, it enables children to unfold in many ways, collecting valuable experiences which influence life-long connectedness with their natural environment. Such skills, acquired at an early age, turn out to be crucial in later stages of life: increased social competence, natural confidence, personal resilience and trust, team-building, as well as skills to assess and cope with risks. This becomes even more valuable when skills are later on shared with family and friends.

Intact forest ecosystems are linked to essential aspects of life on earth: Soil fertility, biodiversity and carbon stocks. Therefore, restoration of degraded land and nature conservation are high on the international agenda. But a holistic approach to tackle climate change calls for action starting from the bottom: creating consciousness about the importance of ecosystem services and natural resources can be achieved by implementing environmental education programmes in urban forest areas worldwide.

Hungry for more? The presentations held at the sessions for “Learning Forest – Environmental Education” and “The healthy Forest – Urban Forests as healing spaces” within the scope of the European Forum on Urban Forestry 2019 are accessible here and here. All presentations are accessible here: https://efuf2019.wordpress.com


Full of energy – dive into the vibrant topics of the European Forum on Urban Forestry 2019 in Cologne. This video presents some of the delegates, exchanging views and sharing knowledge on the importance of green space governance in shaping future cities.

Vera Knill is a Master student in the Sustainable Resource Management Program at Technical University Munich.With a focus on Management and Protection of Forest Ecosystems, she aims to understand forest ecosystems and their inter-dependencies. As part of the IFSA Youth Delegation, she attended EFUF2019 along with two other international students. By supporting the EFUF communications team,she shares her view on the importance of urban forests and environmental education.

Photos and video: Vera Knill

European Young Urban Forester of the Year Award 2019 – Nominate before 21st of May

By Vitor Mazuco (Own work)

The European Young Urban Forester of the Year Award (YUFA) is made annually at the European Forum of Urban Forestry.  The award is intended to recognise excellence by a young person in either (i) urban forestry practice and/or (ii) urban forestry research.

Eligibility and Conditions

  • Open to all urban forestry researchers or practitioners who are under the age of 40 at 17th May 2019.
  • Eligible activities are those that have occurred or have impacted within one or more of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
  • The applicant does not need to be European by birth or residence.
  • Applications can be made on this form only.
  • Applications can be made either by the (i) named applicant themselves or (ii) submitted on behalf of a named applicant by a Proposer (such as a Senior Manager, Professor or person of recognised standing).
  • For the purpose of this award urban forestry is considered as including trees, woodlands, forests, natural green space and green infrastructure in an urban or peri-urban setting.
  • All applications are treat as confidential.
  • The decision of the awarding committee is final and cannot be challenged and correspondence will not be entered into.
  • Applications should be made in English; the quality of the language will not be a factor in making the award.
  • Lobbying will lead to disqualification.

Awards

  • European Young Urban Forester of the Year (cash award of €200), free subscription for one year to Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.
  • Commendations: certificate of commendation

Application

Candidates can nominate themselves or can be nominated through the European Young Urban Forester of the Year 2019 application form (Word-version), before 21st of May (extended deadline).

Support

The European Young Urban Forester of the Year is sponsored by MD² Consulting Ltd and the scientific journal  Urban Forestry & Urban Greening (published by Elsevier).

                                    

#EFUF2019 Book of Abstracts online

The #EFUF2019 team has been working hard last week, and that has been awarded by the online publication of the Book of Abstracts (colour versionblack-white version).

If you are planning to attend #EFUF2019, you can start preparing and select the sessions you will attend. Each participant will receive a printed copy of the book. Unfortunately the conference is fully booked, but with our book at hand and by following or sociale media posts, you can imagine that you are attending.

The State of the World’s Urban Forests

Resilience Blog

Every couple
of years, the Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(FAO)
publishes a series of reports under the name of The State of
the World’s Forests
(SOFO). These documents compile current
information on key issues concerning the forest sector to facilitate decision-making
and management processes in relation to the world’s forests.

The last SOFO,
published in 2018, for the first time ever discusses
the role of urban forests under the framework of the Sustainable
Development Goals
(SDG). In response to the accelerated urbanisation
coupled with climate change dynamics, urban forests are viewed as a valuable
contribution to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient
and sustainable” (SDG 11). Both in theory and practice, urban forests and trees
have a positive impact on urban environmental conditions and citizens´
livelihoods and well-being.


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EFUF2019 registrations temporarily suspended

Due to the very high number of Early Bird bookings, we unfortunately had to pause further registrations. Priority is actually given to non-registered presenters, please send an e-mail to 2019@efuf.org if you are a presenter and still need to register. Other interested potential participants can register on the waitlist through http://efuf2019.eventbrite.com. Those on the waitlist will be informed when places become available.