In the 21st century, communication skills for natural scientists, experts and professionals, are essential.
It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the 21st June 2017, and the sunlit forest behind the Slovenian Forestry Institute is full of children. Each group of children is observing and performing experiments under careful supervision of researchers. The wide-eyed children ask bright, yet sometimes seemingly unrelated questions, which researchers happily answer. Later, they are going to visit the laboratories and conduct experiments related to photosynthesis, observe tree rings using a magnifying glass, or inspect fine root growth under a microscope. At home, they are going to tell their parents about what they have experienced and learned and maybe, just maybe, some of them will treasure this experience and choose a path in their life that is connected to forests and nature.
The Forest of Experiments was initiated in 2011 by Dr. Mirko Medved, at that time the director of the Slovenian Forestry Institute. It was designed as an educational trail in urban forest of the City of Ljubljana, which is part of the Landscape park Tivoli, Rožnik and Šišenski hrib. With the help of a group of passionate young researchers, working on different research, demonstration or applied projects, The Forest of Experiments grew into an innovative environmental education center. Constantly developing fresh ideas and testing innovative knowledge transfer approaches, researchers joined the Slovenian Network of Forest Kindergartens and Schools and cooperate closely with the Forest Pedagogy Institute. The Forest of Experiments was presented at several workshops for teachers for kindergartens and schools, Nature science days, Fascination of plants days, European Researcher’s nights, Week of Slovenian forests, etc. and even traveled to „Walderlebnistag“ in Austria and the European Forest pedagogy Congress in Slovakia and Norway.
Most researchers tend to avoid this way of communicating to public, because they find it stressful, difficult and very different from what they are used in their daily busy work schedule. Fear and uneasiness usually accompany public performances, clashes of facts and opinions can be tiresome and unpaid hours of work when preparing messages make most of us wonder if it is worth it. However, the days of “ivory tower scientists” are behind us and it is the time for empowered and self-confident scientists, professionals and experts to make themselves heard and make their knowledge useful; locally and globally.