TOKYO: Japan’s Forestry Agency plans to set up an expert panel for promoting hands-on learning about nature as early as later this month, Jiji Press learned on August 1.
The agency hopes to call on educators to actively introduce “forest environment education” such as raising toddlers freely in nature and taking schoolchildren to nature observation trips, in an environment that avoids the three Cs of closed, crowded and close-contact settings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, informed sources said.
The panel is expected to draw up a new education program by the end of the current fiscal year to March, the sources said.
It will conduct surveys of literature on advanced examples of forest environment education and conduct hearings of related groups to investigate the effects and challenges of the initiative.
The experts will aim to compile a detailed proposal for an education program, and will also consider ways to set up a scheme to match schools with municipalities that own forests, as well as to nurture educators who are well-versed in the field.
Many elementary and junior high schools in Japan already have programs in which children spend a certain period in forest areas for studying, but many of them have been canceled this year due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Meanwhile, new government guidelines for school curriculums that are being introduced from fiscal 2020 include the expansion of hand-on programs such as those related to learning about nature.
The expert panel is expected to discuss ways to promote nature education in a way that does not lead to increased risks of novel coronavirus infections.
Specifically, the panel will consider the promotion of child care that utilizes forests, fields and other natural environments, and the active introduction of nature observation trips.
The programs are expected to promote the growth of children’s individuality and independence, as well as pique their interest in environmental issues.
The push is also expected to boost regional areas’ “related population,” or the number of people, including residents in cities, who have continuous relationships to the areas.
“The related population created through nature education may be a big helping hand in supporting mountain villages in the future,” a senior agency official said.