Some 16,000 children aged three to 18 have journeyed to Istanbul forests to experience the sun, water, plants, and other ecosystem features in order to improve their intellectual, emotional, and cognitive abilities through the Usturlab Workshop's Forest Explorers Project.
Sümeyye Ceylan, who founded the Usturlab Educational Consultancy along with Zeynep Handan Aydoğan, told Anadolu Agency that the project was established to bring children who had been affected by urbanization back to nature.
"The slogan of the Forest Explorers is, 'Humans don't harm something they know,'" Ceylan said, "When you learn how an oak tree grows, you feel sorry when you see someone holding the ax."
Explaining that the organization brings children to the forest on Saturdays every week in the spring, Ceylan said, "The children have an adventurous journey where they recognize and discover elements that make up the ecosystem like trees, fruit, herbs, flowers, and insects, all in the presence of instructors."
The program takes the young people on two hour excursions in groups of 15 to Beykoz Woods, Belgrad Forest and Validebağ Woods, all located in Istanbul.
"We do not just tell the children the name of a tree that they see in the forest. Instead, we are trying to provide children with an explanation of what the tree does and how it is used," Ceylan added.
The children also play informational games within the scope of the project, learning about the ecosystem and the food chain.
Last year, 8,000 children participated in the Forest Explorer Program and some 16,000 children have participated since the advent of the project three years ago.