Nature as classroom: only a 30 min. train trip from Dresden, the National Park Sächsische Schweiz (Saxony Switzerland Website) offers a unique and fantastic landscape which attracts tourists from all over the world. Guided by the Park Ranger Jens Posthoff, Doctoral student Pyi Soe Aung and Lecturer Dr. Eckhard Auch, students of the Master program Tropical Forestry course walked a transect through the National Park Sächsische Schweiz (Saxony Switzerland), to learn about the many aspects of protected area organization and management. Here are some of the student’s impressions:
We started in the National Park Information Center in Bad Schandau, and were introduced to the geological process leading to the formation of the park’s unique sandstone cliffs and towers. Also about the extreme habitats and the specialists from fauna and flora which are living and surviving in their niches. Not only biodiversity, also the didactical methods and concepts to communicate the values of the National Park (NP) were discussed intensively. Highly impressive was the special 3D multimedia room in the center, where visitors became part and parcel of the natural space and discovered shy animals. This highly motivated and urged us to respect nature and work for conservation.
After the visit, we walked to the Schrammsteine, walking through magic valleys and climbing up on ladders and handles. It was a hot day, and it was exhausting to climb up to the peaks, but we were rewarded with fantastic views and impressions. On the way, our Ranger provided information regarding ecology, tree and forest management related to the zoning concepts, stakeholder groups and their interests, the increase in the number of visitors and the related side effects, climate change affects the park and several other aspects.
By hiking to the peak, we experienced fantastic nature and landscape, which motivate us to protect nature not only for our generation, but also for the next thousand years. It was impressive to see the landscape and to learn with first-hand information from rangers on ongoing issues and challenges. While the rangers have struggled to declare the area as National Park after the political turns in 1989, it is now the turn of our generation to take over the responsibility to protect and stand for nature heritage, here and in our home countries.
The trip was a good experience, by sharing time and climbing together – with the conclusion that a forester cannot perform alone, only in a team, which was an exiting experience and learning.
From the didactical point of view, the search for information from resource persons and information material and the task to process, synthesize and summarize it in a poster is a pro-active way of learning. To draw a poster with paper and pen only, without computer and software, reflects the situation in many tropical countries and promotes the skills to transfer academic knowledge to local people. Students have to acquire these skills to become successful change agents for “the future we want”!
By Eckhard Auch