A new Erasmus+ project on forest pedagogy for the Istria Model Forest

A new Erasmus+ project on forest pedagogy for the Istria Model Forest

In the next 15 months, the Istria Model Forest will be the leading partner in the project "In the forest as in the classroom", which the Erasmus + Small Partnerships in School Education program decided to finance with 60,000 euros.

Partners in the project are the Forestry Institute from Ljubljana (Slovenia), the Kindergarten "Olga Ban" Pazin, the Elementary School "Vazmoslava Grzalje" and the Buzet and Public Open University from Gospic (all from Croatia).

Forest pedagogy and outdoor education are extremely important for the children education, so the project contributes to sensitizing and train educational experts about forest pedagogy and its methods, and it lays the foundation stone for the development of this activity in Croatia” indicate Ana Fornazar, president of Model Forest Istria.

The goal is to improve the competences of classroom teachers and educators of two chosen regions in Croatia, Lika and Istria.

"With the project, we are trying to practically train educators and classroom teachers from the regions of Istria and Lika to work with children according to the methodology and principles of forest pedagogy. We are creating the core of the future network of forest pedagogues in the Republic of Croatia, but we are also strengthening the international cooperation of forest pedagogues. The tangible result of the project will be educational material in the form of an e-book intended for forest pedagogy educators as a means (tool) for planning work with children", adds Ana Fornazar.

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The Slovenian partner, the Forestry Institute from Ljubljana, will support the Croatian partners by transferring already existing practices from Slovenia and is the responsible partner for creating an e-manual that educators could use in their future work. Such material will have a long-term impact on raising awareness of the importance and benefits of forests and forest ecosystems. The e-book or manual in digital form will be intended for use in kindergarten and early school groups so partners from kindergarten and schools will be strongly involved in its creation.

The project partners Public Open University Gospic and the Istria Model Forest will, through this project, begin the creation of regional centers in Istria and Lika for providing expert support in the implementation of forest pedagogy.

This project is the beginning of international cooperation on designing a curriculum for obtaining a formal qualification for the profession - forest pedagogue. As a long-term goal, the partners will set the verification of education for forest pedagogues (like verified programs for museum pedagogues in Croatia).

Educators and teachers from partner institutions will participate in training in Slovenia, Istria and Gospic that will be organized as part of the project.

"In March 2024 we will prepare training in forest pedagogy and familiarization with good practices in Slovenia, followed by the Education of future forest pedagogy educators in Istria in May, and then in Lika in October of the same year. The final conference of the project will be held in March 2025 in Istria," continues Ana Fornazar.

The special value of this project is that in Croatia there is no structured education program in forest pedagogy that can train experts in that area and thus enable their institutions to profile themselves as ones that integrate this kind of activities.

During didactic games, children form a certain attitude towards the natural environment, because they can establish a special, close relationship with the forest. For them, it can be a place where they feel safe and at home, while at the same time offers them challenges. A positive experience in a forest environment forms a "good" relationship with nature while simultaneously developing cognitive, emotional and motor skills and abilities.

With the results of the project, the Croatian partners will get closer to modern trends in education and will respond to the expressed needs of educators, who pointed out that they do not have enough knowledge to create quality and meaningful time with children in nature and the forest.

The project will focus also on the possibility of implementing the forest pedagogy methodology with children with disabilities, so part of the activities will be dedicated to inclusion.

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