Instructor kit: Activity forms of environmental education

Nature experiences increase well-being

Many of the things we’re used to doing indoors are easy to take out into nature. Meetings can be held as walking meetings in the park, a personal conversation by the sea can be arranged with a young person and house meetings can be arranged for part of the year even in the youth centre yard or in the nearby forest. A green environment calms, improves moods and opens up thinking in a more positive direction. Nature has been found to be a good place for brainstorming and coming up with ideas.

Significant nature experiences are, at their deepest, experiences of life and existence. As we immerse ourselves in nature, we can be strengthened and empowered from within by wordless, sensory experiences. Such experiences can be gained by young people through camping and camping activities. You don’t always have to travel far, but you can also experience nature experiences in urban nature. What is essential is to stop by and spend time in nature, whether you are hiking in the wilderness or sitting on a rock in a nearby park.

1. A close relationship with nature activities: Atmosphere

  • Urban nature trail
    In the city, nature easily disappears behind the invisible built environment, advertising images and general noise. Many city dwellers feel that in order to be in nature, they have to travel away. The diverse nature is still in the city, right in the heart of it. To detect it, one must just stop, listen, and focus. With young people, you can go on a surprising urban nature trail in search of wildlife with cameras in the shopping centre parking lot, around the train station, Senate Square or Mannerheimintie. The results can be presented as an exhibition attached to the map on the website or on the wall of a youth centre.
  • Sensory path
    In a nearby forest, park or camp, you can take a sensational hike by immersing yourself in listening to the soundscape, focusing on looking, smelling and feeling. On such an experiential nature trail, it is important to be quiet, linger long enough and allow nature to make an impact in order to experience the “other world,” and the revitalisation of nature will begin to work.
  • Nature photography
    is an easy way to create a deep relationship with the environment. When looking for a subject to photograph, it is necessary to observe the environment carefully, and this also makes the joy of discovery possible. Nature photography can be practiced in the middle of the city – nature can be found everywhere!
  • Use adventure pedagogical methods and organise camps in nature
    Adventure methods are widely used in the work of social strengthening, and when they are carried out in nature, respecting nature, they also combine the dimensions of environmental education.
  • Club room in the middle of the forest
    Hold a house meeting or peer training in a yard. Being in nature calms and can encourage you to talk about even the most difficult things. Even the shyest youngsters will find it easier to talk in a relaxed environment.
  • Natural materials are used in demolition or membership rounds
    Sometimes it is easier to use a twig or cone as a symbol of an emotional state or event than to tell directly about yourself without “assistance aids.” Natural materials inspire the imagination and can be used to quickly describe big things.
  • An important tree at a youth centre
    Choose a tree in the vicinity of the youth centre – preferably from your own yard – whose life will be monitored and documented. The tree tells of the cycle of the seasons, aging, death, the birth and development of new life. In many cultures and births of the world, there is an important tree with symbolic meanings. The great oak of the Kalevala, the rowan that protects from lightning, and the world tree that supports the sky and connects it to the underworld are examples of beliefs about the might of trees. What kind of experiences do the young people and the instructor have about trees? Did an important tree belong to your childhood landscape? What meanings could be attached to the important tree of the youth centre?
  • Excursions and hikes
    Sometimes a trip to Lapland can be arranged, but there are also places of interest closer, such as Nuuksio, Meriharju or even a nearby forest. Through the City’s Nature Information System you can find Helsinki’s significant Nature Sites, such as bat sites, giant’s kettles and the shores of an ancient sea.
    Nature information system

2.  Acting for the environment: Working together

  • Plan a camp or excursion to be waste-free or at least low-waste.
  • Develop organic activities for the camp’s art and craft sessions
  • Find out what camp and camping equipment can be borrowed (Nuorisopalveluiden Wempaimisto, Kierrätyskeskus).
  • A natural protection area shall be demarcated from the campsite. The area is monitored, there may be some special plant or animal route.
  • At the end of the camp, the campsite area shall be restored to as it was prior to the camp.
  • Let’s take care of the yard of the youth centre together with the young people. Rake, plant or delimit a small area that is left in its natural state, etc.
  • Acquire cultivation yards for the yard or balcony of the youth centre and start urban cultivation.
  • Participate in volunteer cleaning work organised by the Public Works Department in the spring.
  • Joining the Worldwide Litter Movement.
  • Participate in critical bike tours organised by Friends of the Earth.
  • Escapades are held for the Baltic Sea. Let’s get to know Operation Mermaid and think about what we could do to protect the Baltic Sea. An event will be organised to raise money for the protection of the Baltic Sea. Let’s clean the beaches. People over the age of 18-years-old can train as volunteers in oil spill response forces. At the beginning of 2019, the SATAKOLKYT project was launched in Helsinki, with the aim of getting Helsinki residents to visit the shores and, at the same time, clean the entire 130-km long shoreline.

3. My insights: Ideas and Knowledge

  • In the midst of nature, it is good to consider how mankind is part of nature’s great network of interactions and cycles. We often feel separate from nature, but for humans, nature is a condition of life. It would not be very relevant to nature, on the other hand, if the human species disappeared from Earth.
  • Consider how humans, by interfering with the processes of nature, can sometimes impair their own conditions of life. Should man be in nature as in a village or as at home?
  • Let’s talk about the rights of other animals. Man is one animal, among others. Is fur farming right? Can other animals be eaten? Do humans have the right to take all areas for their own use and evict other animals? Why are nature reserves needed?
  • What are the benefits of a diverse nature?
  • Let’s think about what changes the camp or camping environment has brought about in us. How does the environment affect us?
  • Imagine what the current campsite or excursion destination will be like 150 years from now, or what it was like 1,000 years ago. Are there any signs of climate change at the campsite or excursion site?