Forest teacher from Xanten offers children nature experiences in Sonsbecker Tüschenwald

Xantenerin allows children to experience nature in the Sonsbecker Tüschenwald
“The forest has a healing effect”

Xantenerin Janine Parplies offers nature experiences for children in Labbecker Tüschenwald. The forest educator’s courses are in great demand. In an interview, she explains why it is so important to play outdoors.

A picnic on the forest sofa or a wooden microphone, exploring the animal kingdom in the ground or imitating the larger forest dwellers – the play possibilities in nature are almost inexhaustible. Forest educator Janine Parplies is responsible for taking a close look at everything the forest has to offer and how it can be protected. She offers courses so children can get to know the green lungs in our region better. Even children under the age of three can participate. In an interview, the woman from Xanten tells why she finds these nature experiences so important for children and why she prefers to be out in Sonsbecker Tüschenwald.

Was there a key experience for your love of the forest?

    How does the forest floor feel in relation to the road surface?  The small children are allowed to stamp their feet well for the nature experience.

How does the forest floor feel in relation to the road surface? The small children are allowed to stamp their feet well for the nature experience.
Photo: Ostermann, Olaf (oo)

Janine Parplies As a real village kid, I spent many hours outdoors in nature. After school I went on a backpack to Australia. Through the intense nature experiences, I felt a great change in myself. The pristine, varied landscapes of Australia and the way people live with and in nature have made a deep and lasting impression on me. After the trip, I made the decision to relate to the tension between man and nature in the future.

How did you become a forest educator?

Parplies My studies in forest science at the University of Sustainable Development in Eberswalde helped me understand the complexity of the forest ecosystem and how important it is to protect forests worldwide. The continuing education as a certified forest educator taught me the craft of connecting people and nature. As a forest educator, I have since 2013 put what I have learned into practice. As the end of my parental leave approached in the summer of 2021, I asked myself how I could pass on my enthusiasm for the forest to children and young people and still be there for my own children. With the founding of “WunderWeltWald” I found a way. My children (3 and 5 years) follow me to my forest play groups and are already real nature experts.

What is important to you at work?

Parplies Unfortunately, many children and young people have lost touch with nature and spend most of their time in artificially created cultural spaces. My goal is to bring people and nature together. The forest in particular has a healing and de-stressing effect. The children in my playgroup are allowed to be themselves and do not have to follow any fixed routine. If a child would rather climb a tree or see an insect than participate in my offer, that’s all right. Parents do not miss it either. After a stressful day, they like to come to me in the woods and often tell me how relaxed they go home. I believe that only those who know and appreciate nature will preserve it.

How old should the children be?

Parplies I currently offer two parent-child playgroups. Since we mostly stay in the forest area and not on the trails, the children need to feel comfortable in the rugged terrain and be able to walk well. The children in the group are three to six years old. They can visit my playgroup until they start school. After the summer holidays, I offer an extra group for children from six to ten years, unaccompanied by an adult. Among other things, I will visit the new climate adventure trail at the Sonsbeck lookout tower with them.

You helped set up the climate adventure trail.

Parplies I am working on this project together with the German Forest Protection Association (SDW). The aim is to design a learning place outside the teaching – a “green classroom” – where teaching offers on the subject of forest and climate are designed and implemented in the sense of sustainable development. The goal is to make an abstract topic like climate change tangible.

Do you accept all children who are interested in your forest school?

Parplies Unfortunately, my offer is not barrier-free. Due to the age of the participants, experiences in nature come first. This also includes playful elements like frolicking, climbing, hiding and balancing. As a starting point, I also develop individual offers for groups and try to do justice to all target groups. During my time at the Nabu Nature Conservation Station on the Lower Rhine, I gained my first experience in the field with two inclusive projects. There I arranged excursions for people with visual impairments and mental disabilities. I also had the opportunity to spend three weeks in the woods with children and young people from the LVR clinic in Bedburg-Hau. Since I do not have a socio-pedagogical education myself, I am grateful for the support of special staff when it comes to spacious offers.

Why do you primarily go to Tüschenwald?

Parplies Although I was born in Issum, I grew up in Sonsbeck through my best friend. The Sonsbecker forests are among the most beautiful on the Lower Rhine and in some cases still so original. I especially like Sonsbecker Switzerland. I now live with my family in Wardt. So these forests are just a stone’s throw away. I’m primarily in Tüschenwald because that’s where my forest playground is. Sometimes I also do adventure trips in the woods with my groups. We also discover other forest areas near the Hasenacker forest ranger or in Sonsbecker Switzerland.


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