Forstwärts: Forestry Education
The Shangri-la Institute has joined hands with the German Embassy in Beijing and related experts to develop a “Forstwärts” forestry education project. Teachers from 12 schools in Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan, and Beijing received training and built capacity towards organizing hands-on education activities about local forests and broader biodiversity issues. In 2013 and 2014, 6 teacher training workshops were attended by a total of 109 educators, followed by a national summary exchange in 2014. Altogether, 28 forest education activities were implemented by 5,255 students and teachers, reaching a total of 11,500 community members.
As natural carbon sinks, forests play a critical role in climate change mitigation and the well-being of local ecosystems; understanding the importance of the forests to local biodiversity, water cycle and weather patterns is an essential step in re-connecting children with nature and helping them to learn about climate change in the context of broader environmental issues.
Building a connection to their natural surroundings will gradually help to establish children as future stewards of their environment – whether as responsible consumers, community leaders or decision makers, the children will acquire knowledge and tools to engage with the ongoing climate change and sustainable development dialogue, and to apply their learning to the local circumstances. Building up local capacity is particularly important in China, due to its rapid urbanization, a growing middle class, and an increasing pressure on natural resources.
Teacher Training Workshops
Workshops focus on how to integrate Forstwärts into the existing curriculum while being locally relevant, encourage teachers to start thinking about how to promote action and research in their local community, and begin developing a range of activities allowing students to enjoy hands-on learning, centred on their communities and local forest ecosystems.
Activities and education for students will place an emphasis on enriching and documenting the children’s experience with nature, and their understanding of the connections between forests, watersheds, and biodiversity with the issues of climate change and weather patterns, pollution, pressure on the resources, and the critical role of local communities and decision makers.