Following the example of the children's forest in Sicily "Bosco Brignolo" in Sicily, the foundation Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung initiated a project for children to plant their own forest in Bremen.
This forest has been planted and maintained by children and young people on the grounds of the children's and youth farm of the foundation Hans-Wendt-Stiftung since 2012. The MHS regularly carries out environmental education activities with Bremen schools, independent groups and local residents in the children's forest.
The project site covers about 2 hectares and is located near the River Wümme, a right tributary of the River Weser. The land is provided by our project partner Hans-Wendt-Stiftung which offers many educational activities in different districts of Bremen. Children and socially disadvantaged teenagers of the neighbourhood are visiting the farm regularly and receive educational help. They can experience adequate animal keeping, learn how to cook and participate in creative activities.
The interactive programme is aimed at young people between the ages of 6 and 18. With this project we would like to give children from socially disadvantaged families the opportunity of experiencing nature, as such experiences are not very much encouraged and supported in their environment and the children otherwise hardly come into contact with the idea of nature conservation.
The reforestation has been carried out successively since 2013. The aim of the project is to ensure that the children accompany and care for the trees over longer periods of time, and each school integrates this into its teaching curriculum to a different degree.
Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung regularly organises environmental education activitites on topics such as animals in the forest, native trees, tree care and much more with school classes involved in the project. During the school holidays, we also offer children the opportunity to discover nature, play and let loose with us. So far 11 different schools with a total of 22 classes and 6 organisations are involved.
"There is hardly a more intense experience in nature than planting a tree yourself and accompanying its growth. This strengthens the personality of the child and can be formative for the further development", explains Rainer Köpsell, former forestry director of the Nds. Landesforsten and forest pedagogue, who advises the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung in the advisory board.
Aims of the project
The Children's Forest Project pursues goals of international importance.
1. Environmental education in the sense of ESD (education for sustainable development) in the following areas:
- Sensitising children, young people, teachers and locals to the value of the forest as a habitat and the problem of climate change.
- Recognition of natural relationships, knowledge of species, etc.
- Nature experiences close to the city
- Creativity in the realisation of your own ideas
- Practical handicraft activities (e.g. construction of pasture tunnels, signposts)
- Promotion of the community spirit
- Strengthening the self-confidence of the children by assuming responsibility for their own tree, involving them in planning processes and passing on their knowledge.
2. Recreational function for the population
3. Climate protection / CO2 binding
4. Improvement of the water balance
5. Improving the microclimate and the quality of life
6. Example of near-natural afforestation (planting in mixture with local species)
Further activities on the children's forest site
In addition to planting a new forest area, we offer children and young people even more opportunities to experience nature and shape the terrain.
In surveys carried out during the planning phase, the majority of children and young people considered a fireplace important, followed by water in any form and huts to hide. Little by little, these desires were turned into reality and built together with the pupils: the now very popular fireplace, a wooden hut, a willow teepee and a willow tunnel. The latter will be used especially by the smaller ones, but also by many young people to romp and hide.
The ground water pump for watering the trees and making great mud holes was installed in 2015. The former flat terrain has been enriched by some slight depressions, in which water accumulates during the rainy periods. The excavated soil was piled up to some hills, another popular landscape element with which children like to play. A barefoot path invites you to feel with your feet. Wooden blocks of various sizes can be used for various activities.
In addition to expanding the experience opportunities for children, the foundation also attaches great importance to creating habitats for the various plant and animal societies by modelling the terrain in this way. The diversity of species on the area of the children's forest has already visibly increased.
Children's Forest rally for the World Play Day in May 2020
With beautiful weather, the children's forest offered the ideal conditions for children and families to spend a few hours in nature, free and unconcerned. The rally had easy and difficult tasks, so there was something for everyone. Throughout the day, several children participated, some with their friends, others with their families. There was a lot of positive feedback - and the Children's Forest gained some new fans!