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The International Contest ”Young People in European Forests” YPEF 2010: Genesis, Basis and Concept

Andrzej Kawalec, M. Sc.
Vice-President of the Forest Friends Association
Maciej Białecki, Ph. D.
Member of the Board of the Forest Friends Association

The International Contest
”Young People in European Forests” YPEF 2010:
Genesis, Basis and Concept

The position of the forest education, defined as a knowledge of relations between forest and human beings in terms of sustainable development, addressed to the people not involved professionally in forestry, is still not clearly established in most of the European countries. The EU Forest Action Plan adopted in 2006 provides in the Key Action 10 the necessity to raise up the environmental education and information in order to ensure that the benefits of sustainable forest management are adequately acknowledged by society.

According to the Forest Action Plan the education on sustainable forest management is in charge of the member states. However, the EU Commission may facilitate the exchange of experience between the states. The tools of the forest education are quoted such as “schools in the forest” and “forest education centers” as well as “Forest Week” and “Forest Day” mentioned in the Key Action 18. The special task of the forest education is given in the Key Action 11, devoted to the protective functions of forests against natural disasters, extreme weather events, erosion and desertification problems. Another educational topic is the Key Action 17: to encourage the use of wood and other forest products from sustainably managed forests.


The Genesis - “Clean Forest”

The number of tools for the forest education is still not sufficient. The Forest Friends Association (Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Lasu) lead by Prof. Tomasz Borecki, the former rector of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) - leading school educating the Polish foresters, started up wide range of initiatives in the field of the forest education. For five years the main action has been the national contest on forest education for pupils in Poland “CleanForest”, organized in cooperation with the State Forests National Forest Holding (PGL Lasy Państwowe). The contest is basing on volunteer schools’ activity and is engaging yearly some 100,000 pupils that visit forests, clean them up, are taught by teachers and teach their younger mates the knowledge of forests and forestry. The success of this initiative is founded on the enthusiasm of teachers and foresters. However, 100,000 pupils in Poland is still far from Finland, where 20 % of young Finns have participated in the annual National Forest Quiz (Metsävisa) since 1981, from about 70 % of age classes in the country.

A brief description of “Clean Forest” is given here to present our approach to the organization of pupils’ contests in the field of ecological and forest education. This contest has been organized by the Forest Friends Association and the State Forests National Forest Holding since 2004. The actual participants are schools although other organized groups such as ecological clubs or age classes are also welcome. The contest is announced with its rules each year and the invitation to participate is distributed. The schools are informed via e-mailing, messages from their educational administration and in direct contacts between schools and proper Forest District administrations.

The Directorate General of the State Forests and the Forest Inspectors managing the Forest District administrations are helpful in organization of “Clean Forest”. As the contest concerns ecological actions and educational activities in a forest, the results to be marked are given in the form of reports. The reports are submitted to the nearest Forest District administration that sent them to regional contest commissions. The regional contest commission consists of foresters, teachers and other persons engaged in the forest education. It appoints the best reports, i. e. the best schools in the region. These best reports are sent to the central contest commission that appoints the winners of the contest. The organization of the contest is based on the volunteers - the administrative work is performed by only one employed person. The awards for the winners are financed by the State Forests and the publishing houses specializing in ecology.

This approach is based on the enthusiasm of foresters and teachers. The organization of “Clean Forest” is a win-win cooperation. The foresters get assistance in one of their statute goals - the forest education and spreading of the ecological awareness in society. The teachers get more diversified school curriculum and the results important for their professional carriers. The schools get valuable awards. The pupils get attractive lessons and also - some of them - the awards.


The Basis - “Young People in European Forests”

Being encouraged by the success of “Clean Forest” we have developed the joint initiative for the international competition for pupils that we have named “Young People in European Forests” (YPEF). The task of the contest is a promotion of the knowledge of European forest areas, especially those protected by Natura 2000 network, of the sustainable development in forestry and of the biodiversity in European nature. The first edition is planned for the school year 2010/2011.

The YPEF contest is addressed to European pupils that compete in their countries on the first level (National Stage Contest) and subsequently the national winners compete on the second level (European Stage Contest). There are two age categories. “Senior” is for pupils from high school (in Poland liceum) that means the age range 16-18 in the beginning of the school year. “Junior” is for pupils from secondary school (in Poland gimazjum) that means the age range 13-15 in the beginning of the school year.

The general body responsible for the organization of the contest will be the International Committee YPEF 2010. The International Committee shall consist of representatives of the national forest institutions and of the non-governmental organizations engaged in forest and ecological education that declare the will to organize the contest, one person from each institution. The course of the contest will be supervised directly by the International Contest Commission which will be appointed by the International Committee YPEF 2010.

We hope that during the working conference in Goluchów in October 2009 the basic documents such as “Rules of the Contest” and “Program Basis” will be accepted and a declaration of intend will be signed by the participants of the conference. Afterwards the letters of intend from authorized representatives of the institutions and organizations declaring participation in YPEF are necessary to be completed.

The contest is run on two levels: the National Stage Contest and the European Stage Contest.


YPEF National Stage Contest

The National Stage Contest should be jointly organized by the organizations and institutions participating in the International Committee from the given country. They should appoint a national Contest Commission which will supervise the course of the contest.

All the pupils from all the participating countries will face the same questions concerning the forests in all the European countries. The differentiation is only for age categories.

The procedure for preparation of the questions is proposed as follows. The organizations and institutions participating in the International Committee from every country prepare two sets of questions concerning the nature, forests and forestry in their own country, one set for each age category. The questions should refer to the “Program Basis” applied to the topics and problems of forests and forestry in the country of the authors of the questions. The questions for age categories should differ in the level of difficulty. Each set should consist of twenty questions at least. The sets of questions from all countries are sent to the International Contest Commission which selects the list of questions for each age category by a draw, separately two questions from each national set. Each participant in Europe shall answer the same list of questions, in number twice as large as the number of the participating countries.

The organizations and institutions participating in the contest should produce textbooks and other materials on YPEF topics. These materials will be distributed and circulated in all the participating countries. The full sets of the contest questions should also refer to these materials.

During the conference in Goluchów there must be established what is the official language or languages of the contest. It is particularly important statement when thinking of names of species and scientific terms to learn.

The course of the first edition of YPEF is planned for the school year 2010/2011. In each country in the beginning of the school year the call for YPEF will be produced by the national Contest Commission and/or by the organizations and institutions participating in the contest from the given country. The calls in form of a public announcement or mailing or any other way are addressed to schools. The schools should respond to the call declaring that in their places the pupils will be allowed to learn for the contest from the YPEF materials. We recommend the rule that the pupils from forestry professional schools do not participate in this contest.

The participation in the contest does not need to cover all the pupils from a school. It can be classes, ecological clubs or just young persons declaring the will to run in the contest. In the autumn semester 2010/2011 these declared pupils will study the YPEF textbooks and other materials.

The National Stage Contest willbe held in the spring semester 2010/2011 on the same day in all the countries, in all the declared schools. Directly before this day the list of questions will be sent to the schools. The declared pupils will answer the questions and the results will be sent to the national Contest Commission where they will be consolidated for each category. The national winner of the category will be the pupil with the highest number of points.

In the case when few pupils have obtained the same highest number of points in one country a run-off contest should be organized for them. The list of questions for the run-off should be selected in analogous draw from the previously completed sets of questions sent from all the countries.


YPEF European Stage Contest

The second level is the European Stage Contest. In the first edition in the school year 2010/2011 it will be hosted by Poland in one of the State Forests educational centers. For next editions of the contest the International Contest Committee should appoint the host country.

The European Stage Contest will be organized in form of a workshop. The participants of the workshop will be the winners of National Stage Contests. They should present the knowledge and promotion of the nature of their own countries. The task of the presentation produced by each pupil is to convince other participants that his/her country possesses forests of the highest value and charm. The presentations should refer to the “Program Basis”. The winner will be the pupil that will have recommended the charm of his country to the rest the most effectively. The winner will be appointed in secret ballot by all the young participants of the workshop. The workshops for different agecategories should rather run separately.

The International Contest Committee has to decide which way the contest should be financed. There are some possible ways of financing it. Some elements of YPEF may be organized at low expenses. For instance, the National Stage Contest will take place in the declared schools. The minimal administrative costs in each country may be covered by the state forests institutions or, in the countries where private forests prevail, by the organizations of forest owners. The European Stage Contest may be mostly organized by the hosting country. The promotional profits of the host country forestry would balance the costs.

However, in order to make the most of the tasks of the contest the external source of funding is recommended. We propose that the consortium consisting of institutions and organizations participating in the International Committee would apply for EU granting that could cover the prizes for National and European Stage, the costs of travel for teachers and pupils participating in the European Stage Contest and the tools, textbooks and materials for promotion of the forests and forestry.


The Concept - Future

As much as the European Stage Contest workshop is going to train young people to cooperate and discuss the problems of nature and environment above the state boarders and barriers, the YPEF is going to make the forest institutions and organizations cooperate closer in the field of forest education in Europe.

The European Forestpedagogics Network founded in 2004 in Vienna was developed by foresters. The forest pedagogics was defined there as a forest-related environmental education. Our approach draws into activity another very important professional group: teachers. Although the forestpedagogics or forest education should cover all human relations with the forest nature, it should start with young people. The environmental education is the most efficient with pupils which are also the most available to educational effort at their age. We are looking for the best tools to achieve it. The YPEF project is one of them.

 Looking to the future we see two goals of the project, both of them of a great importance. They are the integration of young Europeans and the universal forest education. In fact we are talking about one common action - integration by education. We decided to start with a very simple but universal contest. The questions coming from different countries are the same all around Europe. It is obvious that only teachers and schools can assure the proper realization of the contest. Therefore a transfer of information to them is necessary. Forest education centers, where the teachers from different European countries can meet the forest educators would be very useful to the project. The Polish forest centers such as these in Gołuchów, Jedlnia, Janów Lubelski or the new one in Celestynów are open to participants of the YPEF project.

We believe that our experience from the YPEF 2010 will help to develop the next YPEF editions and soon we will meet together with the young winners of the contest in a new European Forest Education Center.