Education – LEAF (Learn about Forest)

With this newsletter, we are always looking for stories that can provoke human behavioural change in order to not jeopardise future generations. This is why we are after examples directly linked to education, and that would, according to us, be both useful and reproducible.

This is why we were drawn to the Learning about Forest (LEAF) educational programme. It was initiated in 1999 together with the Foundation for Environmental Education in order to introduce the topics of environment and forests on school curriculums in Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The programme for environmental education is based on eight principles agreed upon by these countries. Whoever wishes to join this initiative can follow and defend these principles. At present, the three founding countries still play a crucial role within the LEAF organisation, which has now spread to 26 countries (but not to Italy), involving 600 000 students from pre-school to high school.

LEAF aims to implement educational projects on the sustainable use and management of forests. It hopes therefore to educate about all aspects of the forested environment. Such knowledge can then be applied to any other environment on earth. It’s not about preserving the status quo. Indeed, existing species can be substituted by other trees (wood-producing plants) in order to generate forests based on a sustainable forest management. As such, forests can be seen as a quintessential resource to create revenue, to produce energy and to invite people to resettle on their land.

The programme encourages students to reconnect with their woodland heritage and imbues them with a sense of ownership of their environment.

Hands-on experiences result in the pupils getting a deeper and more involved understanding of the natural world. This reconnection with the environment is intended to reassert the idea that our forests constitute a natural asset to be treasured and kept safe for future generations.

Learning about Forests’ educational programme sets out six steps, to be adapted according to the level of the group:

Step 1: Enjoying the outdoors

Step 2: Experiencing and observing nature

Step 3: Understanding the ecological web

Step 4: Understanding the interplay of man and nature

Step 5: Being capable of making decisions on environmental issues

Step 6: Taking responsibility for their future

Up to now, the experience has been extremely positive, and since it was launched twenty years ago, the organisation has gathered enough data and documentation to suit each class, and each of the different countries and cultures. Above all, students have the opportunity to rediscover the beauty and wonders of the natural world and forests, a necessary step towards their ability to take environmentally sustainable decisions in the future.