Schule Natur (Nature School): Experiencing the energy transition in a practical way in Essen‘s Grugapark

With its “Schule Natur” (“Nature School”), the city of Essen is offering experience-based courses in the fields of biology, ecology and the environment. Under the motto of “Living and understanding Nature”, children and adults can now also research and discover the many facets of the energy transition in a playful way. Every year more than 45,000 school pupils make use of these opportunities.

The biological education centre, “Nature School”, was founded in 1995 as an institution of the city of Essen with the aim of explaining natural and environmental relationships in a vivid and practically relevant way; it was directed mainly at children, but also caters for adults. Alongside learning, the centre has always placed great importance on the participants having fun doing research, discovering new things and getting actively involved. Employees trained in the field of biology offer specially-designed courses for school groups, which link the various topics and subject areas together in a meaningful way and sensitise the children to the energy transition, inspiring their interest. The pupils learn in a natural environment – in Essen’s Grugapark and in the woods of this city in the Ruhr district.

Engine for progress:

  • an audience of 45,000 children per year
  • wide range of topics
  • new research-driven courses offered on the subject of the energy transition

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Photo: Grugapark Essen

Children experimenting on the topic of the energy quiz

First experiences as energy collectors

In a lesson aimed at pre-school and young primary school pupils, the children discover what energy is. They operate equipment to set things in motion or to produce light. They research the relationships between sun, light, shade, heat, wind, water and energy through model experiments. Or they discover the differences between energy sources such as coal, wood, oil and the sun. All these experiences relating to energy are collected as gold nuggets in a piggy bank and are later lucratively converted into an energy song about solar power.

On the trail of the energy transition with an energy quiz

Older pupils in grades 4, 5 and 6 are confronted with more challenging questions through an energy quiz: What are renewable energies and where do fossil fuels come from? How do we use coal? What are the components of a coal-fired power plant or an electricity power station? How is crude oil produced and where can it be found in the world? How can you generate electrical current with a lemon? These questions are answered here along with many more.

Accomplish a lot and make a great difference

The examples described above are two courses amongst more than 1,500 events that are now organised by the Nature School every year, for a total of more than 45,000 pupils. Seminars and guided tours are also offered for adults. Opinion leaders who take part spread the knowledge they have learned beyond the immediate participants.

Parents, friends and siblings also benefit from the educational content and their support is gained on issues relating to nature, the environment and the energy transition. In collaboration with the EnergieAgentur.NRW and through the programme “Energy collectors in action”, the Nature School has also organised 40 events within the scope of the competition “KlimaKita.NRW” (climate-focused childcare facilities) both in the Grugapark and in childcare facilities across North Rhine Westphalia.

“When we turn children into researchers on our courses, we see how interested and curious the children become while investigating the topics. We are delighted about this, because they are discovering that learning is fun.”

Dr Verena Schmidt-Eichholz and Dr Martin Gülpen, Managers

Partners and sponsors

  • Grugapark Essen
  • Universität Duisburg Essen, Didaktik der Biologie
  • Grün und Gruga Essen, Waldungen
  • EnergieAgentur.NRW (KlimaKita-Projekt)
  • Emschergenossenschaft Essen
  • Kreisjägerschaft Essen e.V.
  • Kreisimkerverband Essen/Mülheim e. V.
  • Natur- und Umweltschutz-Akademie NRW (NUA), Schule der Zukunft
  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Natur- und Umweltbildung (ANU NRW e.V.)
  • Verband Botanischer Gärten, insb. Arbeitsgruppe Pädagogik
  • BNE-Agentur NRW - Zukunft lernen NRW
  • Schule der Zukunft - Bildung für Nachhaltigkeit
  • Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald (Waldjugendspiele Essen)