4-H Forest Days for the youngsters

Schoolchildren have learned about the Geopark and the use and values of forests on 4-H Forest Days in Niiniharju, Hämeenkangas.

The Geopark Rangers have told young people about the Geopark and the excursion destination during the 4-H association’s Forest Days in Niiniharju in Jämi. The Forest Days have been organized by the 4-H of Satakunta area, and the Forestry Association Karhu and the Geopark have been involved in offering the program for the days. The Finnish Forest Foundation finances a considerable part of the transport costs of the schoolchildren.

Photo: Annukka Pörsti

In the 4-H Forest Days, which are held every year all over Finland, young people get information about the forest, learn the skills of being in forest and together observe the forest nature. In addition, the information provided in the Forest Days include work in forest sector, fire handling, every man’s rights, recycling etc.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

At the Forest Days in autumn 2021 in Niiniharju, Hämeenkangas, Geopark Ranger Kristiina Peltomaa told the schoolchildren about Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark. UNESCO status indicates that the area is geologically valuable and unique.

Kristiina explained to the youngsters how certain events in history, such as the Ice Age, have affected the area and how its signs are visible around the feet and in local traditions. The stories told on the particular place made the events of history alive. Schoolchildren ran down and up the kettle hole. The exercise made the youngsters familiar with the landforms and the landscape of the area.

Photo: Annukka Pörsti

After the Geopark introduction, the images attached to the trees of the forests were searched. In the images, flora and fauna typical to the area were presented. The species in the images were identified and it was discussed together how the species relate to this particular environment and to each other and why this habitat is important to them.

Photo: Päivi Lindfors

Kristiina had also hidden buckets in the terrain, in which she had collected various samples for the participants to examine. There were various lichens in one bucket, mosses in another, cones in the third, and differnt kind of seeds in the fourth. Especially the characteristics and dispersal strategies of different seeds seemed to be a particularly interesting topic among young people as completely new things were learned about them.

Photo: Annukka Pörsti

During the Geopark session, the dry leaves of Tilia cordata were also examined. The name of the place, Niiniharju, refers to the tree species. Kristiina told about the Atlantic period, when deciduous forests were common further north in Finland. The effects of the warmer climate period are still visible in the tree species of Niiniharju. In the past, the locals made ropes out of Tilia cordata to pay taxes to the Kingdom of Sweden, in which the area of Finland was a part.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

Of course, the highlights of the trip include lunch. Pupils enjoyed the snacks provided by their own schools. In addition to that, 4-H provided delicious sausages by a campfire.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

During the 4-H Forest Days, numerous schoolchildren in the Geopark and surrounding areas have got information about the Geopark and about forests and their values and use. At the Forest Days, young people have learned important things during a happy time spent together in nature and through practical activities. The 4-H Forest Days are a great opportunity for Geopark to pass on valuable information to young people in collaboration with partner organisations.

Photo: Anna-Kaisa Valaja

The Geopark has piloted environmental education measures at the 4-H Forest Days as part of rural-funded projects. Parkanon Säästöpankkisäätiö Foundation has supported the Geopark’s participation in the Forest Days. We are grateful for the good cooperation!

#lhgeopark #unescoglobalgeoparks #geopark #globalgeoparks #europeangeoparks #finnishgeoparks #unesco #lauhanvuoriregion #outdoor #retkeily #luontomatkailu #hyvinvointialuonnosta #sdgs2030 #geoeducation

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Main photo: Pasi Talvitie, Hämeenkangas

Last photo: Terttu Hermansson 

In the 4-H Forest Days, young people learn by being and doing in nature

Nature experiences and exercise for upper secondary school students in Jämi

Before the summer vacation, the students of the upper secondary school of Kankaanpää spent a sporty day exploring the best natural attractions in the Jämi region.

By the unique springs of Hämeenkangas

The teachers of the upper secondary school of Kankaanpää organized a sporty nature day for their students in Jämi, in which the experts of Geopark also got to participate. The first destination of the day was the magnificent Kylmänmyllynlähde located next to Hämeenkangas, a gift of the ridges for the nature lovers. The charter buses brought the students to the springs in the morning, from where the journey continued on foot to other spectacular natural sites in the area.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

With her stories, Geopark Ranger Kristiina Peltomaa took the students on a time travel to the past. The springs were ever-pulping water sources that run the mill. There have also been many beliefs associated with the springs.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

By the spring, Kristiina told the students about the valuable biota of the area, such as the diverse forest and birds, which benefit from the abundant mosquito population and even rarer insects in the surrounding area. The participants of the environmental education course were able to increase their digital herbarium with, among others, Myosotis scorpioides and Callitriche hermaphroditica. The springs, which are ice free even in winter, are a fascinating and popular place to visit in all seasons.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

In Koivistonvati information about hiking facilities and instructions

From the springs the students hiked to Koivistonvati which is the largest kettle hole of the area. By the kettle hole Tero Lähteenmäki, the entrepreneur responsible for the maintenance of the camping services, told about his work. Hämeenkangas has a dozen resting places of Metsähallitus Parks and Wildlife Finland, all of which are commonly used. Resting places are repaired and developed, for example, from the point of view of accessibility. Routes in the area are also being developed and re-marked.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Tero visits the resting places weekly and makes sure there is firewood in the sheds and the surroundings of the resting places stay clean. Visitors get to chop firewood from long trunks themselves, as ready-made firewood would be burned much more. Although the use of rest areas has increased in recent years, littering is fortunately no longer common in most sites.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

The biggest problem in Hämeenkangas is illegal off-road traffic. The area’s dense network of trails and easy-to-reach terrain can attract, for example, moped or quad riders. However, in accordance with the Road Traffic Act, driving motor vehicles outside the public roads crossing the area is strictly prohibited. Wilderness police and police officers patrolling Hämeenkangas intervene in unauthorized off-road traffic.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

Beach volley and a dive into a groundwater pond

From Koivistonvati, the students walked along the needle paths on the ridge to the Niiniharju tepee, where a camp lunch was served. From Niiniharju, they continued to Perhepuisto, where the hot day of the excursion was crowned by the beach volley match on the hot ridge sand and a refreshing dip in the groundwater pond.

Photo: Kankaanpää upper secondary school

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photo: Kankaanpään Upper Secondary School 

Main photo: Terttu Hermansson

Last photo: Terttu Hermansson

Hämeenkangas offers diverse opportunities for sports in nature and learning outdoors

Inspiring school trips in the Geopark

The Geopark offers diverse and inspiring opportunities for schoolchildren’s excursion days and longer camp schools. At the end of May, schoolchildren from Kihniö spent a nice spring day in Jämi, Hämeenkangas.

Get to know the Gepark on an excursion

At Geopark excursions you get to know the Geopark’s natural and cultural attractions and at the same time learn to be in nature. In the Geopark you can make a day trip to one destination or organize a longer camp school and visit several places. The companies in the area offer school groups quality services from equipment rental to guided tours and from meals to accommodation. Read more about excursion tips by destination.

Photo: Sofia Sillanpää

Schoolchildren on a Geopark excursion in Jämi

As part of the European Geopark Week, schoolchildren from the municipality of Kihniö made a spring day trip to Jämi located in Hämeenkangas. Pupils were introduced in advance to the diverse range of activities in the area, from which they selected their favorite ones together. The excursion day was based on sporty activities. At the same time, the aim was to learn about the Geopark and the unique nature of the area.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

By mountain bikes to number one nature attractions

Mountain biking was chosen as the activity before noon. The electric fat bikes were rented by Jämi Maat. The kids were surprised how funny the bikes are, and the cycling aroused great enthusiasm already in the testing phase of the bikes before the actual bicycling. The easy-going and comfortable trail network of Hämeenkangas enables successful mountain bike trips even for first-timers.

Photo: Pasi Talvitie

The inspiring cycling guide of Jämi Maat led the group to the top of Soininharju, where they admired the scenery that opened from above the high ridge. The queue of bicyclers then headed along the needle trails to the most popular natural attractions in the area. The group passed the valuable forest area of Niiniharju towards Koivistonvati, the largest kettle hole in Hämeenkangas.

Photo: Laura Koivumäki

Uhrilähde and Kylmänmyllynlähde springs, which are one of the finest springs in Finland, are located in Hämeenkangas. By the springs the kids heard stories related to the place and refreshed themselves by drinking the water. On the way back to Jämi, you can choose steep uphills to test how electrical assistance affects pedaling. The group considered mountain biking to be the best part of the day.

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Climbing and golfing

After cycling the group had a tasty lunch at Lomahotelli Jämi. In the afternoon the kids climbed high among the canopies of the trees in the Jämi Maat Adventure Park. The park has five different levels of tracks, each of which you can choose the most suitable for you. The longest cable track in Finland is located in the Adventure Park. Schoolchildren loved climbing and tracks, too. In addition to climbing, the pupils played casually mini golf and frisbee golf. In the afternoon, an hour’s drive back home folded comfortably on a local charter ride.

Photo: Jämi Maat

The whole group, both the students and the teacher and the assistant, considered the trip very successful. In addition to the nice day, the kids learned about their own Geopark and its uniqueness.

The Geopark excursion day was piloted in a Leader-funded project. The project paid part of the cost of the excursion.

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Photo: Terttu Hermansson

Main photo: Terttu Hermansson

Last photo: Terttu Hermansson

The Geopark offers diverse trip opportunities for school groups

From Ice Age to the present – Learning outdoors

The students of Honkajoki upper secondary school have hiked in Lauhanvuori National Park and foreign destinations and made observations about the environment. The students tell about their experiences and what they learned.

Erratics in Finland and Poland

Erratics are large rocks that have traveled at least twice their own length. The ice carried and moved the soil even long distances. As the ice melted, the material fell to the ground and the erratics were generated during the ice age. The erratics are used for landscaping and as decorative stones.

There are relatively many large erratics in Finland. The Finnish erratics have become detached from the bedrock of the surrounding area. For example, the erratic of Honkajoki may have become detached from nearby Lauhanvuori or even the Vaasa area.

The erratics have come to Poland from afar, even from Finland. There are not many of them in Poland. In Poland, the erratics are not as large as in Finland. In Poland, many erratics are also underground because there are thick layers of soil in the lowlands.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Lauhanvuori National Park

Ancient shorelines on Lauhanvuori

During the last ice age, the continental glacier pressed the crust downwards. At the end of the ice age, the ground level began to return to the pre-ice age stage. After the ice melted about 10,500 years ago, Lauhanvuori was an island surrounded by the ancient phase of the Baltic Sea, Lake Ancylus. As the ground rose, Lauhanvuori merged with the mainland.

Ancient shore banks can be seen at the slopes of Lauhavuori. The banks have emerged as the water level has stayed the same for some time during land uplift. Shore formations have been formed and washed by waves at these elevations. In Lauhankangas, the old seashore stands out as a small rocky ridge.

Kivijata is a remnant of an ancient shore cliff. It has formed as a result of the crumbling of rock. The rocks have been affected by the ice age and subsequent coastal forces and earthquakes.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Lauhanvuori National Park

Formations made by coastal sea currents in the Baltic Sea

The formation of spits

Spits emerge as wind and sea currents carry bottom sediment and form a new shore from it. In the Baltic Sea, the wind blows mainly from the southwest, and therefore thin and long spits emerge on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

The Vistula Spit

The Vistula Spit is located on the Polish coast in the Gulf of Gdańsk, east of Gdańsk. It is about 70 kilometers long and 1.8 kilometers wide at its widest. The Vistula Spit began to form about 8500-3000 years ago. There is sand on the Baltic side and rocks on the mainland side of the spit.

The Curonian Spit

The Curonian Spit is located in the southern part of Lithuania and is isolated from the mainland. The northern part of the Curonian Spit belongs to Russia. The spit is about 98 kilometers long and its width varies from about 400 meters to 3.8 kilometers. The cape runs from south to north.

There is a national park in the Curonian Spit and it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and a World Heritage Site in 2000. It is a joint Lithuanian-Russian site, protected for its natural and cultural values as an example of an area where man has influenced the landscape. The northern part of the Curonian Spit, ie the Lithuanian side, is an exclave, which can only be reached by land via Russia.

The Hel Spit

The Hel Spit is a sandy cape in the Baltic Sea in Gdańsk Bay in northern Poland. The peninsula separates the Gulf of Puck from the Baltic Sea and is about 35 kilometers long. The Puck Bay is a shallow northwestern part of Gdańsk Bay. The width of the Hel Spit varies from 200 meters to three kilometers. The Hel Spit has been a very significant battle site during wars.

Photo: Juho Peltoniemi, The Hel Spit

While visiting Poland, we went to the Hel Spit by bus. It was a great experience. It was remarkable that the strip of land on which we drove was very narrow, but the journey to the end of the cape was still very long.

Also it was interesting to see how different nature was on the different sides of the road. On one side there were forest while on the other side there was harsher, drier and shorter vegetation. The mainland side was drier and there was only a small pebble beach. The seaside, on the other hand, had vegetation and a very large sandy beach.

The Heli Spit, like other spits, still grows all the time, so the sea-side strip of the spit gets wider. The beach spreads as new soil comes to the beach along the waves. The trees of the Hel Spit grow obliquely because of the strong wind on the beach and the soft terrain made up of fine sand.

Photo: Juho Peltoniemi, The Hel Spit

Kettle holes

Kettle holes were created during the ice age as ice melted. Large blocks of ice detached from the ice sheet and buried in the sand. As the ice melted, the kettle holes emerged in gravel or sand. Kettle holes are located on ridges and often have a round shape. Kettle holes have been utilized, for example, as shelters against enemies in ancient times.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Lauhanvuori National Park

The kettle holes in Bialowietsa National Park are not very deep or large. The vegetation in the kettle holes is more lush than in the Finnish kettle holes, as they are located in the deciduous forest zone. The kettle holes are covered by organic material which is mainly decayed. The ice blocks in Poland have been small and therefore the Polish kettle holes are smaller compared to the Finnish kettle holes.

Photo: Risto Majakangas, Bialowietsa National Park

The Finnish forest reindeer and the wisent

The wicent

The wicent is very much similar to the American bison. It is the largest land mammal in Europe. The wisent herds graze in deciduous forests and forest meadows, eating grasses and tree leaves.

There lived wicents in many areas in Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th century. However, the species became rare due to hunting. In the first decades of the 20th century the last wild wicents of the Caucasus and Poland disappeared. The last wild wicent was shot in Bialowieza, Poland in 1921.

Fortunately, there still lived wisents in the zoos and some individuals could be moved to its natural habitats. The species was saved by the zoos as the first pedigree was established for the planned reproduction of this species. The 50 individuals reproduced so well that the species could be restored to the wild as early as the 1950s.

Wisents of Korkeasaari zoo have also been exported to a protected area in Russia. The current natural stock of the wisents is a couple of thousand individuals and conservation work continues. The species is still a part of the European protection program, which aims to increase the viable stock of zoos.

Photo: Kalle Männistö, Bialowietsa National Park

The Finnish forest reindeer

The Finnish forest reindeer is a wild relative of the reindeer that has adapted to the snowy coniferous forest. Its hooves are larger and its legs higher than those of a reindeer. An accurate sense of smell helps them to find lichen under the snow. The horns are narrower and therefore better in forests. The hooves of the deer also make a clicking sound, which allows the herd to hear each other and not get lost.

Finnish forest reindeers, a total of about 4,500 individuals, live only in Finland and Russian Karelia. The species once lived throughout the wooded area of Finland and was an important game animal as early as at the Stone Age. At the beginning of the 20th century, the species became extinct in Finland due to hunting, but afterwards some deer migrated to Kainuu from Russia. In Russia, deer are still extensively hunted. The species has been returned to Suomenselä and Ähtäri.

In 2016, the MetsäpeuraLIFE project, which aims to restore the Finnish forest reindeer into the Finnish nature, was started. Also Korkeasaari zoo participates the project. During the project, the species will be returned to nature in Southern Ostrobothnia and Pirkanmaa, in the vicinity of Lauhanvuori and Seitseminen National Parks. On the Russian side, the species is also being bred for wildlife restoration. You can also support the return of the species to southern Finland.

Photo: Juho Peltoniemi, Lauhanvuori National Park

Similarities of the wisent and the Finnish forest reindeer 

The wisent and the Finnish forest reindeer have a similar history. Both species have been hunted to extinction at the same time in the early 20th century. The Finnish forest reindeer live in coniferous forests only in Finland and Russian Karelia. The wisent lives in deciduous forests in Eastern and Central Europe.

Both species have been protected and their population has begun to rise. Wisents are protected, for example, in Bialowieza, Poland, which is the last large deciduous forest area still remaining in Europe. The Finnish forest reindeer is protected in Finland and thanks to the protection measures the population increases. In Lauhanvuori National Park, for example, a Finnish forest deer enclosure has been established. The aim is to generate a vibrant population in the Lauhanvuori area.

Some of the costs of the excursions have been covered by the EU-funded Lauhanvuori Region to Geopark project, which was implemented in 2016−2018.

Original text: The students of the Honkajoki upper secondary school

Main photo: Pasi Talvitie, Lauhanvuori National Park

The last photo: Juho Peltoniemi, Lauhanvuori National Park

Further reading:

Koivisto M. 2004: Jääkaudet.

Strahler A. ja Strahler A. 1951: Physical Geography. 

http://www.geologia.fi/ 

http://www.gtk.fi/geologia/retkeily/lohkareet/ 

https://www.korkeasaari.fi/elain/metsapeura/ 

https://www.lauhanvuoriregion.fi/kohteet/

One can learn about nature and the environment while hiking outdoors.

Spring cleaning of the Geopark

We challenged the schools of our area to clean up the Geopark with us. Let’s pick up the rubbish together and make the Geopark tidy for summer.

Melting snow reveals the debris

In the spring, as the snow melts, debris from the roadsides, parking lots and elsewhere is exposed. Candy papers, beverage cans, cigarette butts, used face masks and a wide variety of other waste do not make the landscape more beautiful.

Schoolchildren collecting garbage

Together with the schoolchildren from Jämijärvi, we put the cleaning gloves in our hands and cleaned up the surroundings of the school for a while. The spring sun warmed up comfortably, and we were able to stay outdoors even without jackets.

The pickers were extremely efficient, and the garbage bags filled up quickly. At the end of the pick-up, we examined the catch in more detail. We also considered what harm the rubbish can make for the environment. The rubbish was thought to be dangerous for animals and garbage looks ugly as well.

We concluded that the best way to avoid the annoyances caused by garbage is to always put the garbage directly into the right kind of bin. Also, you should always try to avoid the formation of debris in advance.

UN International Mother Earth Day

Through the Geopark’s spring cleaning challenge (in Finnish), we celebrate the UN International Mother Earth Day on April 22nd. The day encourages us to live in harmony with nature so that future generations can do the same.

Let’s clean up the Geopark together!

Let’s go out together, collect garbage from nearby nature and welcome spring. Please also share your photos on social media.

#lhgeopark #unescoglobalgeoparks #geopark #globalgeoparks #europeangeoparks #unesco #lauhanvuoregion # sdgs2030 #geoeducation #roskatongeopark #litterfreegeopark #kansainvälinenäitimaanpäivä #internationalmotherearthday

Text: Laura Koivumäki

Main photo: Sofia Sillanpää, Soininharju, Hämeenkangas

The last photo: Sofia Sillanpää, Katikankanjoni, Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park

Other photos: Laura Koivumäki, Pasi Talvitie

Let's make the Geopark litter free together!