Interview with Ana Fornažar: Stories from the forest – workshops for children (Priče iz šume – radionice za djecu)
Can you tell us more about your project and where did you get an idea to start with it
I have a background in forestry and pedagogy, but this is not my major motivation to work in the field of forest pedagogy. I adore creative work in nature, I am fond of working with children and bringing them back to nature. My idea came from the great love for forests and a desire to give a certain input in changing the World. I feel that children and what we give to them are the most important for all the future changes that will happen on our planet and society. Today we live in a very complex time, high technology and low real connection one to each other and nature. I would love to positively impact on such a lack of real connection whit all that is around us – and this is the main drive for my workshops and my creative work.
I am a member of the EU Forest pedagogy group since 2014 where I do cooperate with forest pedagogues from all around the Europe. I was inspired by some colleagues and initiatives that are promoting educative workshops in nature for many years now.
How many people work on this project?
In the program Forest Stories- workshops for children there are besides me 8 people involved. My colleagues live all around Istria and in Rijeka and they have different backgrounds but all have one motivation- bringing children back to nature with all senses. Some of them are movement and sound therapists, artists, educators, teachers, or just people willing to work with children in the forest.
What are the main activities?
Our program’s main activities of our program are workshops in the forest that we do on weekends close to the urban areas, but in the forest. Parents bring their children and leave them with us for 90 minutes. We work in Pula, Pazin, Porec and Rovinj intending to span our activities in other towns of Istria. We also work with school children and their teachers inside the program Forest pedagogy in Istria financed by Istrian Region. We give workshops and also educative workshops for teachers in elementary schools in Istria.
What is the age span of the children involved in the workshops?
The majority of children coming to our workshops on weekends are from the age of 4 to 9 years old. In schools, we work with older children so we adapt a didactic level of our workshops to the age of children. Our workshops are comprising physical games, sensorial games, exploration, and creative work and this is a general basis of all our workshops. We have different subjects linked to forest, and different methods as sound, movement, games, creation, and different kinds of challenges in nature ( for example walking barefoot on the sensorial path made of stones, cones, branches, and leaves)
How many kids are involved?Where do you have most of your workshops?
Until now it was involved more than 300 children since 2018 from kindergartens, schools and the majority of them are coming to our weekend workshops all around Istria. If they like it they will continue coming every weekend. We have a maximum of 20 children at the workshop and two to three educators involved. Most of the workshops are in the forest as Sijanska Forest close to Pula, Punta corrente close to Rovinj, Farm Central Istria close to Pazin, and different places in Porec.
Do you think to export your idea to other parts of Croatia and beyond?
We would love to export our workshops to other parts of Croatia. We were already invited to Bjelovar in 2018 to held workshops for teachers and in Gospic in 2020 to educate a group of 20 educators and teachers. Experts from Institutions dealing with Nature Protection from different parts of Croatia are interested in our educative workshops for adults. We are constantly growing and developing new workshops, now the idea is to create a Forest Pedagogy website for Croatia and to offer different educative programs for children, adults but also nature therapy and forest therapy treatments and courses. We are pioneers in Croatia in promoting forest pedagogy workshops but such an approach is highly present for 30 years in many countries around Europe and the USA. We cooperate in knowledge exchange and sharing examples of good practices.