The Adaptation of Forest Pedagogy in Classroom Activities as an Example of Experiential Education

Term Paper, 2020

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. Experiential Education
2.1. Historical Context
2.2. Pedagogical Significance of Experiences

3. Forest Pedagogy
3.1. Historical Context
3.2. Basic Principles of Forest Pedagogy

4. Concepts for Classroom Activities
4.1. “Nature Discovery Trails”
4.2. “Forest Classrooms”

5. Conclusion


List of Sources

Table of Figures

1. Introduction

A few years ago it was still a normal thing for children to spend their afternoons playing outside after school and doing their homework. Today, the situation is different in many families; children spend more and more time in front of screens, playing computer games or watching movies on tablets or smartphones. This is often at the expense of activity in nature.

In addition, children from urban areas generally have limited access to natural areas. However, especially in our achievement-oriented society, in which children are expected to perform to a high standard, it is all the more essential that time and space are left for activities in the fresh air. Exercise like these helps them to recover and process what they have learned more easily.

Many children spend little or no time in the forest in their free time. This means that they cannot distinguish local trees, cannot recognize animal tracks or correctly assign fruits and trees. In order to offer opportunities to exactly these children, who are not able to gather sensory experiences in nature and especially in the forest in their free time, it makes sense to integrate forest-pedagogical concepts into classroom activities.

The learning opportunities are particularly varied; in addition to pure factual knowledge, children can learn a lot about themselves and develop their creativity in nature. The psychological and physical development of the Children is also positively influenced by the time they spend in nature.

With this in mind, this work will show to what extent forest pedagogy and especially a selection of forest pedagogical concepts can be integrated into everyday school life. In order to explain this topic in depth, the second chapter following the introduction defines the term experiential education and afterwards forest pedagogy and briefly describes the historical development in each case.

Then the basic needs of children are considered and it is shown how forest education can satisfy these needs. The fourth and at the same time last main chapter deals with different concepts and examples of how forest education can be taken into account in everyday school life. The selection here is limited to “nature discovery trails” and “forest classrooms".

2. Experiential Education

Experiential education is an action-oriented method and aims to support young people in their personal development through exemplary learning processes in which they are confronted with physical, psychological and social challenges, and to enable them to organize their lives in a responsible manner.1

2.1. Historical Context

What is an experience? It is an unusual, special event that moves us internally, has a lasting effect on us and who's meaning is ultimately highly individual.2 The search or even addiction for experiences has increased in recent decades and has led to their commercialization, including the emotions associated with them. Buying in itself is also often said to be "experience shopping". But the more often a situation repeats itself, the less it becomes an experience. As a result, the experience oriented society tries to provide its consumers with ever new experiences that can be commercialized with ever new stimuli.

Should pedagogy participate in this? In order to answer this question, a rather large step back into its history is necessary. For example, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) already demanded in his guideline, often reduced to the terms head, heart and hand, that learning should not only be cognitive but also emotional and practical.3 Kurt Hahn (1886-1974) used physical training, expedition, project and service to the fellow human beings at the boarding school Salem at Lake Constance with the aim of personality development and social learning against the "decay of society".4 John Dewey (1859-1952) spoke of "learning by doing", and long before there was a scientific pedagogy,5 Confucius (551 B.C.-479 B.C.) stated that what is said is quickly forgotten and only its application leads to understanding.

So it is by no means pedagogy that is jumping on a trend of the experience society. Its centuries-old insights have long remained dormant for the rest of society and also for pedagogy itself. The fact that learning works better through positive emotion and practical application has now been proven by the neuroimaging methods of modern neuroscience.6 Only since then has this age-old pedagogical insight become modern again.

Like every method, experiential education also has its limits. Wherever the serious effects of social inequality are at stake, it cures the symptoms at best. Even the idea of a universal remedy for the solution of life's problems is not necessarily applicable to experiential education. It takes time for events to become experiences and experiences to become experiences or insights. This is especially true when years of biographical experience have previously led to dead ends. Thus, in the run-up to the experiential education work, it is always necessary to consider which setting is suitable for which target group. But even during the action, the underlying question is always whether or not this exercise with these people in this group is justifiable under these conditions.

Critics accuse experiential education of not being able to stage experiences and that a transfer into everyday life will hardly succeed.7 If experiential education is understood primarily as a competitive event with blind actionism, this is likely to be the case.

2.2. Pedagogical Significance of Experiences

Pedagogical goals operate in the field of tension between individual and social interests and are closely linked to upbringing and education. The aim is to achieve knowledge, skills and a certain basic attitude that enable participation in social life, as well as an understanding of reality and the ability to reflect on it in terms of fundamental values.7 8 In regard to the abundance of possible pedagogical contents, the difficulty is not the pedagogical sense, but the focus on a few clear goals. The following possible learning objectives are used by different authors:

Gilsdorf focuses, for example, on personality development, responsible living, growth in the sense of tapping the potential and opportunities created in the individual, discovery and exploration of personally relevant topics, and learning in the sense of acquiring knowledge, skills and values.9

For Hufenus experiential education is primarily about gaining self-confidence and trust in others, gaining independence and the ability to make decisions, discovering, using and promoting one's own resources, exceeding supposed performance limits, recognizing and accepting one's own limits.10

Muff, in contrast, focuses on increasing social skills, developing team spirit and perseverance, respect and care for others, learning to be careful with the environment and the materials entrusted to us, and expanding ecological knowledge and understanding.11

These different approaches are supposed to provide an overview on how diverse experiential education can be perceived and applied. The following chapter will deal with a special aspect of experiential education, namely forest pedagogy, and demonstrate the extent to which the latter can be integrated into everyday school life.

3. Forest Pedagogy

The forest is one of the most common near-natural habitats in our cultural landscape. Sustainable forestry of our ancestors has maintained and increased the forest stock. Many people therefore have a special relationship with the forest. Fairy tales and myths entwine themselves around forests and trees.

In our society the forest has important ecological, economic and social functions. The connection between ecology and economy can be illustrated particularly well using the example of the forest. The forest is therefore suitable as an extracurricular learning location for holistic learning and for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

Whether forest days in kindergarten, core curriculum in primary school, forest life and getting to know each other, forest ecology and forest functions for secondary school - forest education can cover many areas.

3.1. Historical Context

The beginnings of today's forest pedagogy can be traced back to the 19th century. At a time when many people from the middle and lower social milieu in Germany, Italy and France, who lived in towns and suburbs, went to the forest to recover from hard physical industrial work.12 The beginning of the 20th century was another significant turning point, when the pioneer of forest pedagogy, Swiss Han Coray, founded the first forest school. In the new age of the machine, Coray wanted to set a counterweight in education and raise the youth to appreciate the nature and their homeland.13

At approximately the same time, the Swedish Ellen Key, who proclaimed the "Century of the Child", was a pioneer in the educational reform movement. In the course of this movement, concrete nature-related educational concepts and diverse back-to-nature movements were created. The reform pedagogy demanded that education should protect the nature of a child and eliminate harmful influences.14 The reform pedagogical boom and the founding of the first Forest Schools can be accounted for by the fact that at the beginning of the 20th century it became apparent that school attendance did not strengthen the health of rather weak children. It also became apparent that many classrooms were not ideally suited as learning environments, since there was a lack of light and opportunities for movement for the pupils.15

A further turning point in the historical development was the founding of the first Forest School Homes after the Second World War. At the same time the German Forest Protection Association (Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald) was established, which is of great importance for forest education to this day. The term "forest pedagogy" was first mentioned in forestry journals in 1986.16 This was preceded by a conference on forest education on 20 October 1986, organized by the Foundation "Wald in Not" and the Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald.17 This movement of forest pedagogy was triggered by the impending forest extinction in the 1980s and the increasing importance of the forest as a place of relaxation and experience for people in society.18

With the introduction of the term, the pedagogical and educational aspect of environmental education was brought into focus. The 1992 UN Environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro resulted in a new inspiration for environmental education and forest pedagogy. The UN Environment Summit also gave rise to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)19, and at a seminar on forest-related educational work in Switzerland in Zurich in 1992, an initiative was taken to group together various forest-related educational programmes under the term "forest education".20

Forest pedagogy is thus a collective term that combines a wide variety of forest-related activities, which means that there is no consistent definition.21 Each definition has different emphases and specializations of the individual authors. As a possible reason for the lack of a fixed definition of forest-related education, Schwegler- Beisheim mentions that forest-related education only developed in the 1990s and that financial means were limited at that time. This, according to him, had the consequence that forest education was neither systematically recorded nor based on scientific theory.22 One definition that can be found is: „Waldpädagogik definiert sich als waldbezogene Umweltbildung im Rahmen einer Bildung für Nachhaltige Entwicklung.“23 Disaster scenarios are ignored in forest education. Environmental education and training is an important part of the overall education and aims to promote environmentally friendly behavior. According to Klafki, the topic forest is one of the typical themes of the epoch, since it is one of the questions of human survival.24

Forest pedagogy is generally understood as a part within nature and environmental pedagogy.25 In addition to the classic forest walks, forest pedagogy also includes offers such as Forest School Homes, Forest Kindergartens, Forest Nature Trails and exhibitions on the subject of forests.26 The individual forms of practice and methods all have in common that they take place in and with the forest.27


1 See Michl (2015), p. 11.

2 See Felten (1998), p. 35.

3 See Friedrich (1991), p. 9.

4 See Heckmair/Michl (2008), pp.36 et seq.

5 Ibid.

6 Spitzer (2007), p. 32.

7 See Heckmair and Michl (2012)

8 See Ehni (2001), pp.176 et seq.

9 See Gilsdorf (2004), pp. 15 et seq.

10 See Hufenus (1997), p.88.

11 See Muff (2001), pp. 29 et seq.

12 See Berthold (2002), p. 107.

13 See Bolay/ Reichle, (2018), p. 32.

14 See Bolay/ Reichle, (2018), pp. 31-32.

15 See Scheibe (1984), p. 293.

16 See Bolay/ Reichle, (2018), pp. 31-32.

17 See Duhr (2009), p.23.

18 See Bittner et al. (2005), p. 52.

19 The ESD are based on the global approach to sustainability. It aims to unite ecology, economy and social issues in educational work. These three pillars summarize what makes humanity fit for the future.

20 See Duhr (2009), p.23.

21 See Duhr (2009), p.23.

22 See Schwegler-Beisheim (2005), p.103.

23 See Bolay/ Reichle, (2019), p. 64.

24 See Bolay/ Reichle, (2018), p. 31.

25 See Köllner et al. (2000), pp. 101-104.

26 See Bittner et al. (2005), p. 52.

27 See Schwegler-Beisheim (2005), p.104.

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The Adaptation of Forest Pedagogy in Classroom Activities as an Example of Experiential Education
Technical University of Braunschweig
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adaptation, forest, pedagogy, classroom, activities, example, experiential, education
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Kristina von Kölln (Author), 2020, The Adaptation of Forest Pedagogy in Classroom Activities as an Example of Experiential Education, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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