MoNRE Delegation Explores Environmental Education in Germany

Study Tour participants from left to right: Bouasengpaserth  Phrasitideth, Lattanaphone Inthasane, Phouthala Souksakhone, Luke Bauer (Interpreter), Manfred Oepen (tour guide), Lonkham Atsanavong, Kingthong Sirisomphone

"Let's join in" relates to a No Plastic! initiative in the city of Bonn, the former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. This tagline became the daily motto of a Lao Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MoNRE) delegation exploring environmental education and communication during a study tour to Germany on 14-25 June, 2017. The five delegation members headed by Mr. Lonkham Atsanavong, Acting Director General of the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion (DEQP) at MoNRE, dedicated their heads, hearts and hands to the new experiences along the way.

They were impressed by what they saw and learned. Mr. Lonkham and Mr. Phouthala Souksakhone, Deputy Director of the Environment Promotion Division, DEQP appreciated the high variety of different approaches to environmental education they came into contact with as they interacted and discussed things with government and non-government staff, foundation managers, media producers as well as rangers, teachers and students.


The study tour started off in Bonn and ended in Berlin with Essen, Osnabrück, Mardorf, and Hamburg as stops in between the old and the new capital of Germany. It was financially supported by the German Government through the Promotion of Climate-related Environmental Education (ProCEEd) project of MoNRE and the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Laos. The tour was planned, organized and implemented by GeoMedia, a consulting company in Bonn.


From Bonn, the delegation learned about sustainable forest management during a trip to the forests and lakes of the Eifel National Park and Burg Vogelsang, its environmental education centre. At Abenteuer Lernen (learning is an adventure), an association specialized in education for sustainable development for school children and teachers in Bonn, the delegation experimented hands-on how much oil is needed to produce a plastic bag, and how environmental pollution affects drinking water quality.


Learning from adventurous experiments and a No Plastic! initiative in Bonn

On the weekend of 17-18 June 2017, the delegation took an active part in the GEO Day of Nature in Essen, which was hosted at Zeche Zollverein, until 1986 the world's biggest coal mine. The city of Essen has won the European Green City Award 2017 and invited the public to this special environmental day. AGUM, an international association of operators of environmental vehicles, invited the delegation for a presentation and professional discussion about the environmental tours MoNRE has been organizing in close cooperation with GIZ as part of the joint ProCEEd project since 2013. In addition, MoNRE staff had many opportunities to engage in networking with German government and non-government environmental organizations which presented their education and communication efforts at a fair and during interactive guided tours. The guests from Lao were amazed at finding species such as grasshoppers and many herbs while environmental specialists explained that biological diversity in cities is on the rise.

Professional exchange with environmental bus colleagues from Germany at the GEO Day of Nature in Essen


Osnabrück and Mardorf were two stops on the delegation's way from Essen to Hamburg. The German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) in Osnabrück is one of Europe's largest foundations and promotes innovative and exemplary environmental projects. DBU was established in 1990 when the German government invested 1.3 billion Euros from privatizing former steel producer Salzgitter AG in an environmental foundation. The income from these assets is used for the promotion of environmental conservation activities, most of them in Germany and some abroad. Mr. Lonkham was surprised at " how much money the German government invests in environmental conservation."


The Mardorf Youth Hostel at Lake Steinhude is supported by DBU as well. It hosts environmental education activities for school classes camping out at the hostel. Ms Lattanaphone Inthasane, Deputy Director of DEQP's Environment Promotion Division, was impressed how much a class of eight-year-olds knew about water quality and how curiously they accomplished their experiments and tasks.

Lao delegation at an environmental festival in Essen  In Hamburg, the delegation spent a whole day investigating environmental journalism in Germany as guests of a TV station, the Norddeutscher Rundfunk - NDR, and the editors of GEOlino, an environmental magazine for children. Manfred Oepen, who served as a tour guide and has been conceptualizing ProCEEd's environmental education and communication strategy since 2012, provided an overview of environmental journalism in an offline panel discussion at one of the major NDR TV studios. While the environmental magazines and reporting that ProCEEd introduced with Lao National TV, Lao National Radio as well as the newspapers Vientiane Times and Paxason are still relatively new to Laos, such formats have a 50-year history in Germany, and have become part of the mainstream.

Welcoming the Lao guests at German TV and a family BBQ party in Hamburg


At Gut Karlshoehe, a 90,000 square meter former state farm that was converted into an environmental centre in 1989, the delegation were shown a decentralized waste water treatment system using natural purification by reed plants in a pond and an underground heat reservoir of 4,000 cubic meters of water is fed by solar thermal collectors on the roofs of 120 nearby housing units which can use the reservoir water for heating and hot water any time. But most of all, the guests from Laos enjoyed the centre’s Seasons in Hamburg workshop which offers activities based on learning by experience. Here, children can be researchers who experiment, explore and discover on their own how nature works. On an average day, 3-4 school classes come to Gut Karlshöhe for workshops and investigative projects on themes such as biodiversity, ecosystems, energy, water, climate and climate change, etc.


On 22 June 2017, the delegation moved on to Berlin. Researchers from the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), which conducted the 2014 and 2016 environmental awareness surveys in Germany on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), welcomed the MoNRE staff for a professional discussion. ProCEEd had carried out the first-ever environmental environmental Knowledge-Attitude-Practice (KAP) survey in Laos in 2012 and a second one in 2016 in which two members of the delegation participated. This made for an interesting exchange regarding survey results and methods applied.



Driving by the Chancellery and the German Parliament on the River Spree


For another two days, the Lao guests experienced firsthand different approaches to environmental education by NABU, at 600,000 members the largest environmental NGO in Germany, and by the forest schools of the Senate Department for the Environment. In Berlin, they visited the Tempelhofer Feld, an area on the huge but now defunct inner-city Tempelhof Airport where young and old citizens have established an urban gardening initiative in 2010. Mr. Kingthong Sirisomphone and Mr. Bouasengpaserth  Phrasitideth, technical staff of DEQP's Environment Promotion Division, wondered " Germans seem so much appreciating the awe of nature. You see whole families walking in the forest or in city parks."


The other project presented by NABU was the environmental centre at the Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin in Brandenburg, 80 km to the northeast of Berlin, which is characterized by 1,291 km² of lakes, moors, wetlands and beech and pine tree forests. A NABU ranger showed the delegation around and explained how the area serves as an economic and ecological model region for sustainable development: People safeguard their livelihoods while wild animal and plant species are protected and the unique landscape is maintained for future generations.


Urban gardening and a forest school in Berlin 


At the Teufelssee and Bogensee forest schools near Köpenick respectively Wandlitz, the guests from Laos experienced a type of school without a classroom. Instead, the forest itself is the classroom where children and teenagers explore hands-on why dead wood is so important for birds and insects, what beavers eat and why the entrance to their lodges is always under water, or how the abandoned nesting holes of woodpeckers serve many other animals as a safe home. The delegation had a chance to take a guided forest tour together with a class of twelve-year-old school children and was highly impressed by their knowledge and attitudes regarding biodiversity, forest and environmental protection.


Mr. Lonkham wished that "Laos should also have an environmental education centre. Maybe at a school near a forest where we could establish simple and low-cost environmental education exhibits, tools, games and exercises like we have seen in Germany". The Lao delegation concluded that some of the simple, low-cost elements could be adapted in Laos:


  • the simple web-of-life showing simple cause-effect relationships in an ecosystem's food chain - as at Burg Vogelsang,
  • the rising number of species when comparing a mono-culture forest, a mixed production forest and a protected forest by putting pictures of the species under the forests' headings on a wall (e.g. at the MoNRE lobby) - as it was shown at the Biosphere Reserve,
  • a collection of forest-related myths, fairy-tales, songs and other expressions which stands for the cultural and social significance of the forest to Lao society - as in the MediaCompany campaign on forests in Germany
  • a Biodiversity Action Day or Day of Nature to stage hands-on encounters with nature organized by government and non-government and school initiatives in search for the values and benefits that nature provides for human well-being - as in the GeoMedia project or as witnessed in Essen,
  • a collection of standardized environmental games, exercises, experiments, tools, media  and/or guided tours or workshops for children and teenagers - as at Abenteuer Lernen, Gut Karlshöhe or the forest schools,
  • pro-active networking with international associations such as AGUM and NABU as well as partnerships or twinning arrangements with German organizations such as Gut Karlshöhe, particular green schools or other environmental initiatives.



The study tour itinerary

Study Tour Participants


  • Mr. Lonkham Atsanavong, Acting Director General, Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Mr. Phouthala Souksakhone, Deputy Director, Environment Promotion Division, Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Mrs. Lattanaphone Inthasane, Deputy Director, Environment Promotion Division, Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Mr. Bouasengpaserth  Phrasitideth, Technical Staff, Environment Promotion Division, Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Mr. Kingthong Sirisomphone, Technical Staff, Environment Promotion Division, Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment