Outstanding Practices in Forest Education


Owuor, J.A. and Rodríguez-Piñeros, S., (2021): Best practices in forest education in Europe from the global best practices competition. In: Schmidt, P., Lewark, S. and Weber, N., (Eds.): Twenty years after the Bologna declaration –Challenges for higher forestry education. SILVA Publications 17, Dresden. PDF for download. Pre-publication published online at https://ica-silva.eu/

Rodríguez-Piñeros, S., Walji, K., Rekola, M., Owuor, J., Lehto, A., Tutu, S., & Giessen, L. (2020). Innovations in forest education: Insights from the best practices global competition. Forest Policy and Economics(118). PDF for download. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389934120302033?dgcid=coauthor


The Global Competition on Best Practices in Forest Education has provided us with some excellent examples of world-class methods and practices in Forest Education across countless schools and institutions.  We were immensely excited to receive so many applications, totaling 71 proposals from 23 countries from all continents.

Proposals ranged from primary, secondary to tertiary education, displaying immense levels of creativity and out of the box thinking but common amongst all of them was the commitment educators showed to pushing forward strong pedagogical practices and bringing together networks across political boundaries.  On behalf of the prize board, we want to send our sincere thanks to all submissions nominators and nominees for their outstanding work, without whom the competition could not be a success.

The main goal of this competition, beyond rewarding select winners was to share best practices amongst one another, in hopes of learning and continued collaboration - a central tenet of the IUFRO structure. Using the predefined criteria – pedagogical quality, novelty of the practice and practical effectiveness, the board has been working intensively and has come to a decision on the Top 10 Best practice submissions.

This Top 10 list represents nine countries from four continents. In fact, some proposals feature networks, which span multiple countries and include international collaborations, thus, the number of institutes and individual educators is vastly higher than this number. Out of the ten, three are representing elementary education, one secondary, four tertiary, and two mixed more than one educational level.

We are pleased to show you some highlights of this Top 10 below and ask that you explore the various submissions, comment, like and share which submissions you appreciate most.  Perhaps there is a budding collaboration just around the corner, or a novel idea that you can use for your own best practice. Most of the submissions contain photos, videos and a short description. We would be delighted to hear your comments on these nominees via https://www.facebook.com/iufro/posts/2077778408924399 or https://twitter.com/IUFRO_IFSA_JTF/status/1106137553017679872.

The top two winners of the competition were announced on Thursday March 21, in celebration of this year's International Day of Forests - Forests and Education.

The winner among the elementary and secondary education nominees is  a program called FOREST 101 from Korea. This programme is planned for teenagers aiming to introduce them to nature and also to improve young students’ self-esteem and welfare. The board appreciated the fact that the programme target group is especially demanding. The programme has made great progress and  is now a regular element of school curriculum in Korea.

The winner among the tertiary education nominees is Asia Pacific Forest Education Coordination Mechanism  (AP-FECM). The AP-FECM is an innovative networking programme putting together a large amount of higher education institutes in an extensive geographical area. The programme has been leading the online education with MOOC courses and being exceptionally active for developing  forest higher education curricula.

Elementary and Secondary Submissions

Climate Smart Forestry Education – Indonesia - Elementary

Climate Smart Forestry Education is one of the Eco-schools' programs, which has been integrated into elementary school curriculum at SD N 2 Jambu, SD N 1 Bojong, and SD N Cihedeung Ilir Indonesia for 6 years. This program creates an inclusive learning environment for students and teachers to be more interactive to learning about forests. An integrative method used includes courses, field observatory, laboratory research, and actionable activities with considering the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective values of the students. The novelties of this program are the realization of student initiatives into actionable activities, the utilization of attractive activities-based laboratories and observation in the nature, and the engagement of multi-stakeholders without leaving no one behind. The courses educated to the pupils are tropical forestry and climate change introduction, biodiversity conservation, forest carbon measurement, bio-composites, agroforestry, and scientific discussion.

Climate Smart Forestry Education in Indonesia

The Slovenian Network of Forest Kindergartens and Schools – Slovenia – Kindergarten

In the Slovenian landscape, the forest carries out a number of functions: it preserves biodiversity, mitigates climate change, and is important for the retention of water, a place for relaxation and recreation. In addition to all of these services, in recent years the forest area has become interesting to schools and kindergartens. The forest offers them plenty of room for academic knowledge, development of social skills, nature experience, and cooperation, personal commitment to work, curiosity, imagination and spontaneous individual initiatives. The forest is a space where we work in harmony with the nature of the forest and the nature of children. Increasingly we are coming to realize that learning in forest holds something more; it enables our children to not only experience nature, but to experience themselves and their friends positively. In the forest, the children deepen their knowledge of nature's connections, mathematics, language development, as well each child develops his or her own individual abilities in the best possible way; the entire class develops as a group and the social network is strengthened. At The Slovenian network of forest kindergartens and schools, we encourage creativity, innovation, curiosity, cooperation, and excellence. We incorporated the forest into our lives, our thoughts and activities – we became a part of it, and in return, the forest aroused our interests and curiosity, allowing us to learn many things and giving us opportunity to develop and succeed! That is learning for sustainable development and learning for life. Undoubtedly, we are turning the forest of Slovenia into the most beautiful and best life classroom.

The Slovenian Network of Forest Kindergartens and Schools – Slovenia

Pigmans Detectives – Latvia – Elementary

"Pigman's detectives" is an eco-programme created by JSC "Latvia's State Forests" for kindergartens focusing on "learning by doing" about forest management. Pigman is the main "super-hero" of the programme that teaches: "Don't litter the forest! You'll turn into a pig!". With the help of specially designed indoor and outdoor activities children, assess the bad things like rubbish left by humans in the forest and the good things provided by well-managed forests like wood, clean air, birds and animals.
In order to raise public's awareness of sustainable forest management students together with teachers have to be creative and share their experience on-line. During five years of programme's existence, more than 20 000 children have been directly involved and even wider audience has been acquainted through mass media with the role of responsible forest management and the importance of taking care of our forests. The methodological material for teachers has been published and distributed nationally free.
The programme has gained high publicity and great media attention as an innovative educational practice. It has been described as one of the best examples of learning competences in preschool. The programme has involved also local municipalities. Totally 60 Latvian local governments have joined the Pigman's wooden manifesto that promotes the value of wood and encourages people to honor wood as the best material in daily life. Success of the programme has attracted many different partners and supporters.

Pigmans Detectives – Latvia

Forest 101 – South Korea – Middle School

In 2016, A program called「FOREST 101」 was planned for teenagers with the objective of introducing them to regular school curriculum. The program is composed of 3 steps, the first to become intimate with a forest and motivated for forest education, the second to learn and feel elements of a forest and the third to solve contemporary problems of forest with friends and classmates.   For 14 weeks, students experienced the forest regularly and became intimate with nature; they could increase self-esteem and happiness by getting rid of anxiety and forming amicable relationships. The achievement of「FOREST 101」became acknowledged by many educators and school authorities and as a result was included into 2018 regular school curriculum.

Forest 101 – South Korea

Florestas Do Futuro - Forests of The Future – Brazil – Mixed

One of the greatest challenges in forest education is to go beyond solely teaching technical skills to students and transform them in agents of change in world in transformation, which urgently needs more and better-managed forests. Training the new generation of foresters require novel approaches that place students as active agents of education and help developing humanistic competencies as leadership, empathy, and communication. In this context, learning how to teach can be the best way to learn, and truly incorporate new worldviews in the forestry sector to maximize its contributions to society.

With these premises in mind, the program Florestas do Futuro (Forests of the Future) was established in 1998 with the immediate aim to teach forest education to children of public schools of Piracicaba, southeastern Brazil as well as the aim of capacity building of undergraduate students of forestry of the University of São Paulo, as a kind of voluntary work that help students to complement their academic formation with competencies that can be hardly learned in formal classes.

The activity consists of a visit of a group of 20-40 children of 4-10 years old from public schools of the region to the campus to participate in several educational activities that have as background the value of forests for human wellbeing. This visit is fully guided by a group of undergraduate students, which conceptualize and perform the educational activities based on an "active learning" approach, and embrace issues like pollution, waste disposal, water, animals, forest dynamics, forest products, and the importance of tree plantations for society.

Florestas Do Futuro - Forests of The Future – Brazil

Office of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute. Dr. Inoue Mariko: Japan – Mixed

In the areas around Tokyo, teachers and trainers who educate diverse knowledge on forest and nature gather to review and brush up their educational content. They have been active since 2016. The participants of this project are diverse and include middle school teachers, professors of forest science, museum botanical curators, preschool teachers, trainers of woodworking, tour guides of plants and nature, public officials of foresters and researchers of forestry education and environment.

Dr. Inoue Mariko developed a program for elementary students to observe gifts of small-scale forests. For raising the awareness of the program, she periodically organizes workshops for elementary and secondary teachers, which offers opportunity for networking; teachers can share their stories each other and their partnership makes better practice. The program was published in 2011 as a guideline for elementary school teachers titled "Environmental education my means of observing richness of forest" (ISBN 978-4902606-8-5). Dr. Inoue also developed a program for vocational high school. The program is made based on analysis of curriculum. It covers broad area of forest studies. In addition to teaching the conventional forest studies, attention is paid to include novel techniques 1) using some software for method of constructing a system yield table for conifers, 2) using remote sensing technologies by GIS and GPS, 3) focusing on global issues. Dr. Inoue organized workshops for 200 teachers in 72 vocational high schools to gain up-to-date intellectual knowledge. Finally, the outcome of our ten years activity was published in 2015 in the book titled "Forest Education", which is used for university lecture

Environmental education my means of observing richness of forest - Japan

Tertiary Submissions

Emprendedor Forestal - Young Forest Entrepreneur Reforestamos – Mexico – Tertiary

We seek to motivate the youth to develop entrepreneurial ideas to address their region's socio-environmental and economic problems from a forestry perspective by helping the youth to understand the potential of the forests in order to contribute to their sustainable development. We do this using in-person and virtual workshops for students and teachers, as well as with our yearly contest.  Each year, the best entrepreneurial ideas are rewarded in an event that connects the youth with strategic actors from the private sector, the government, and civil society. The program started in 2013 in four Mexican universities. Currently, around 100 universities (all of which offer forestry degrees) from eleven Latin American countries take part in this event and more than 6,000 students (mainly from rural areas) and 200 teachers participate.

The skills that we foster with this program are focused on the strengthening of self-esteem, leadership, teamwork, communication, and resiliency; we share up-to-date and relevant information about current topics from the forestry sector on a global and national level to promote a broader systematic vision. We provide opportunities for participants to connect with advisors who will help them to improve their proposals and to increase the impact of their entrepreneurial efforts in the forests. With the goal of having more generations of young people incorporate more subjects of forest entrepreneurship into their life's vision, we work with educational institutions to train the whole of their teacher's staff, as well as to incorporate entrepreneurial subjects into their resumes and educational offerings in order to generate new subjects, and making these practices accepted for student's certification.

Emprendedor Forestal - Young Forest Entrepreneur Reforestamos – Mexico

Bringing the forest to the classroom, bringing our knowledge to the global forest- Spain – Tertiary

A major problem in forestry didactics is the arrangement of field courses. Costs, accessibility, academic calendar or sometimes more simply, climatic conditions are well known limitations for field courses. Based on panoramic pictures and virtual walkthrough programs, we are developing and sharing open access 360 degree virtual realities. Each tour consists of a set of linked panoramas (one per stand) to be displayed on a normal PC without Virtual Reality devices. The user can freely experience a virtual walkthrough in real forests, moving from one stand to the other and from one point of the stand to the other at his/her own pace. Points of interest and additional information can be highlighted and displayed via hotspots. Virtual Forest Tours will never be a substitute of field courses, but instead provide  opportunities for "Bringing the forest to the classroom" and offer enormous worldwide innovative possibilities in all kind of forestry didactics and in forestry extension.

A Complete set of published tours is available here: http://sostenible.palencia.uva.es/content/virtual-forest-tours.

Virtual tours (VT) are mainly effective in constructivist didactic strategy and support for case studies. Based on collaborative learning and significantly on VTs, forestry bachelor students published online self-designed webpages based on class projects. The activity focused around the silvicultural diagnosis of different forests and silvicultural prescriptions. The complete set of webpages was presented and finally open access published in the wiki, silviweb.wikispaces.com with the motto "Bringing our knowledge to the global forest". Wikispaces closed in 2018. A significant part of the websites are published in https://silviweb.blogspot.com/2019/01/silviwebwikispaces-says-farewell.html.

The Eco Star Initiative – Entrepreneurship and innovation accelerator - Italy – Tertiary

The ECOSTAR project, developed by University of Padova and Etifor srl (Italy) to foster entrepreneurship and innovation and to select, support and invest in international startups, has gained almost 300 new members that have been selected to join our network. So far, ECOSTAR: was presented live to more than 15.000 people audience, received +2700 visits/month on the website, has been published in more than 130 National/EU/global newsletter or media outlets, reaching about +200.000 readers. 

The initiative is comprised of multiple elements:

  1. Training modules and workshops: participatory training modules and workshop, simulations, practical trials, pitching and storytelling the methodology used during the accelerator provided for a strong interactivity between all participants.
  2. Business breakfast: weekly meetings where all participants had the opportunity to meet for a working lunch and during which the participants in turn proposed a difficult problem or theme for discussion and idea formulation through an "out-of-the-box" approach
  3. Weekly goals setting and evaluation: the discussion and definition of the goals took place through the use of animation techniques, participation and sharing on a weekly basis. Every Monday morning the weekly goals were defined (Goal Setting Meeting), while on Friday afternoon the results achieved were discussed (Goal Review Meeting
  4. Field trip: team-building activities and visit local companies that have integrated social and environmental sustainability issues into their natural resources business
  5. The Demo Day was the closing event held at the Botanical Garden of Padua, during which the start-ups exhibited their projects to an audience of 180 participants and were able to meet investors and potential business partners

The Eco Star Initiative – Entrepreneurship and innovation accelerator - Spain

Innovative Sustainable Forest Management Education in the Asia-Pacific Region By The Asia Pacific Forestry Education Coordination Mechanism (AP-FECM) – Canada – Tertiary

This program offers innovative methods to transform forestry education at regional and international levels.
Innovative Program Development

  • A multi-university and regional-wide collaborative platform
  • The only forestry online program of its kind in the world and an award winner in Canada
  • An effective team-based model to ensure quality of course development and operation
  • Emerging educational technologies for course revision and new development

The program offers 5 online open educational resources on Sustainable forest management. The courses use a flexible pedagogical model to support flipped, blended, and fully online teaching, which builds foundation for potential Certificates and Master programs. The program won A Canadian national award "Excellence and Innovation in the Integration of Technology in Educational Practices/Collaboration" – 10 new courses being developed to provide foundational knowledge and skills in sustainably managing different forest types.

The courses also feature a Global Online Learning Community for learners to co-create learning materials, foster collaborative learning and share professional experience.

The program also produced the first higher forestry education report in the Asia Pacific region published by the AP-FECM 2018 - As suggested by the report, a collaborative online education program may be an effective approach to address global issues, narrow gaps, encourage educational resource sharing and increases access in forestry education.

Innovative Sustainable Forest Management Education in the Asia-Pacific Region - Canada

Send comments to Annie Biju (Task Force Coordinator)