Educating the future urban foresters

City of Trees - An inspirational package for pre-teens on the benefits of urban forests and urban trees

Cities worldwide are facing environmental problems and commit towards a more sustainable development. To achieve this, we have to change the way we organise our societies. Education is a prerequisite for this change. Today, helping students to recognise the importance of trees in our immediate living sphere is of utmost importance. This is why the CLEARING HOUSE research project decided not only to generate new knowledge on urban forests and urban trees, but also to share it with children aged between 10 and 14 years and their teachers. In this regard, the project developed the City of Trees inspirational package, which explains the importance of urban trees and forests and why we have to take care of them, introducing the concept of ecosystem services and illustrating come examples in urban areas. In addition, the package explains how trees act as guardians of the pupils’ health, and nudges students and their teachers to work on greening their school yards.

“The final aim of the CLEARING HOUSE inspirational package is to inspire pre-teens to notice, value and protect the urban trees and forests now and in the future for the health of our planet.”

A second important aspect in the package is working around nature connectedness. Nowadays, research has shown that many children have lost the connection with nature, particularly children living in urban areas. The declining nature connectedness has a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of youth. Working on improving the relationship between pupils and urban nature has a multitude of positive impacts. Moreover, CLEARING HOUSE focused also on environmental and climate anxiety. Environmental anxiety refers to a difficult feeling that is to a large extent due to environmental problems and threats, in particular climate change in particular (for climate anxiety). Some people are so worried about the state of nature, forests and the environment, that they become paralysed and feel that they lack of capacity to take action. It is important to recognise these feelings. The inspirational package gives ideas on how to work with the feelings of environmental and climate anxiety.

The package is structured along the 5 pathways to nature connectedness:

  1. Meaning – nature bringing meaning to our live, e.g. the first blossoming of the cherry tree in the street of the sunset at the beach
  2. Compassion – caring and taking action for nature, e.g. collecting trash in the forest
  3. Senses – turning to nature through the senses, e.g. listening to the bird songs, enjoying the scents of the tree leaves in the autumn
  4. Emotion – feeling alive through the emotions and feelings nature brings, e.g. experiencing a thunder storm
  5. Beauty – noticing nature’s beauty, e.g. enjoying a breathtaking forest.

Every lesson and activity include suggestions on how to reflect with the students on these pathways.

Cities, countries, schools, curricula, teachers, and pupils differ, so the 10 chapters in the package are designed in a very flexible way to allow its adaptation to different conditions. The material is developed across subject lines: besides environmental education or biology, the package can also be used in mathematics, language, art or physical activity.

The inspirational package is available in English, Catalan, Chinese (Mandarin) and Italian, and more translations are coming. It contains a workbook, a background document for teachers’ manual and an inspirational booklet for pupils.

Author:

Rik De Vreese (Urban Forestry Team Leader at the Resilience Programme with the European Forest Institute). 

The inspirational package has been developed by BOS+ in collaboration with EFI, with support of the CLEARING HOUSE partners.

The CLEARING HOUSE project has received funding from the European H2020 Research and Innovation programme under the Grant Agreement n° 821242.