The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) held this week in New York shined a spotlight on the topic of forest education. International organizations and member countries alike discussed the importance of strengthening forestry education, beginning from a young age in elementary level education up to university level and beyond. The relevance of forest education at schools is based on ensuring the next generation  understands the positive role forests can play in helping humanity combat some of our most profound challenges; contributing to mitigation and resilience efforts in the face of climate change, housing massive terrestrial biodiversity and positively contributing to food and water security all of which are outlined in the UN’s 2030 agenda and featured in their 17 sustainable development goals.

Dr. Mika Rekola, representing the University of Helsinki and IUFRO, was featured on a panel discussion where he presented his background paper co-authored by Dr. Monica Gabay.  The paper highlighted three key messages.

  1. Educators need help on the “What” and “How” of Forests: This support can be supplied together with forest professionals and education start-ups. There is need to provide updated content and engaging methods of delivery to provide teachers the tools to engage students and all levels, while teachers themselves are also in need of trainings on key subject areas.
  2. Forest sector cooperation is a key for intervention: The forest sector is small, consisting less than one percent of working force and production in most countries. Therefore to reach all levels of education and schools all around the world will be reliant on aligning its efforts. It will only possible through enhanced collaborative efforts and partnerships at all levels.
  3. Research and development of forest education itself is paramount: Forests are a dynamic resource with long time horizons, which need to  adapt to the needs of the economy and society. Continuous research and updating of educational curricula is paramount and  could provide new insights to practical teaching methods. Research has, for instance, shown that engaging in outdoor-based forest and nature education can extend the  positive effect on children’s learning of other various subjects, such as math. Research and development of forest education also needs to include typical networking and knowledge-sharing institutions, especially through fora such as  international congresses on education and publishing opportunities in peer reviewed scientific journal(s).

Further information: Dr. Mika Rekola, [email protected], +358 40 5633 509

https://www.un.org/esa/forests/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/UNFF14-brief-Forests-SDGs4-10-16.pdf

Dr. Mika Rekola and Dr. Monica Gabay, co-authors of “Forests, peaceful and inclusive societies, reduced inequality, education, and inclusive institutions at all levels,” presenting at the United Nations Forum on Forests in New York.