Gilly School Forest
Bring Nature into the classroom.
The 'Royal Athenaeum of Gilly’ is a public school located in Charleroi, Belgium. The surrounding landscape is marked by decades of carbon exploration and industrial sites which came to an end in the 1970’s.
In recent years, the community of Gilly has come together with the goal to create a greener identity. ‘Gilly School’ is part of it! They have introduced ecology & sustainability into their daily practice, and children have a weekly course focused on the environment.
This educational forest for ‘Gilly School’ supports the next generation in learning about native species, biodiversity and regeneration.
Nicolas de Brabandère
“I have been teaching biology over the past 8 years at ‘Gilly School’. Our goal has been to reconnect the young generation with Nature. I teach them about the environmental crisis but more so, about the solutions that give hope to this earth. A mini forest is a unique opportunity for them to learn about species, biodiversity and regeneration.”
Martial Gego, Biology Teacher and Nature Guide at 'Gilly School'.
This pocket forest has become an integral part of the school community and is a real source of pride for students. This has translated into the care the forest has received and how it has fared during the harsh summer of 2022. As with other European forests that experienced these harsh conditions, survival rate is excellent even if growth rate is a little slow. The school organised regular waterings of the forest during the hottest days and various classes has been involved in this.
Gilly School Forest is increasingly being used to support the teaching of science and geography, particularly in addressing topics such as: biodiversity, climate change, sustainability and citizen initiative.
Somehow, a few trees were broken. However, shoots are popping up which show good resilience in adversity. The trees have more than doubled in size: from 40cm on average on the day of plantation to 100 -150 cm today.
Maintenance was done once. A little watering at one point helped at the beginning of summer. However, it was decided not to do maintenance in the forest for the rest of the year so that the green cover offers protection against desiccation in times of drought. It is great to see so many wildflowers and biodiversity resulting from the decision. Adventitious plants do not harm the trees in this case because they are low on the ground.
The soil was noticeably bad before our intervention - there was a lot of rubble, and it was very compacted. We noted almost no life in the soil. I’m glad that the soil is coming back to life. We managed to regenerate the soil and provide sound ecological conditions for the trees to thrive! The school community is happy about it. We expect much more growth next year, 2021-22.
Planting a forest at Gilly School will:
- Provide an educational platform for the students
- Restore biodiversity
- Regenerate local ecosystems (soil)
- Preserve native species
- Inspire the neighbourhood
“Planting trees and watching them grow together to form a thriving ecosystem is an inspiring message for the future. Getting into action with kids is my message of hope.”
Nicolas de Brabandère, Urban Forests