Sylvie NAILa and Barry MCGONIGALb

Institution: aUniversity of Nantes – France; bLearning About Forests (LEAF) International


Keywords: Environmental Education, Networking, Europe, Watchgroup

The theme of the International Day of Forests 2019 will be « Forests and education », which reminds us of the value of greening our cities and of educating urban populations into the importance of doing so. It seems that the younger and the more educated people are, the more seriously they take environmental issues and the more they believe they can act on them (Phillips et al., 2018). Yet, an education on forests, or environmental issues in general, is not contained in most national curricula and, « whilst few would doubt the urgency and importance of learning to live in sustainable ways, environmental education holds nowhere near the priority position in formal schooling around the world that this would suggest » (Palmer, 2003).

This paper thus has a two-fold purpose in relation to young people’s environmental education.

First, it will present the LEARNING ABOUT FORESTS (LEAF) programme, a structured approach to outdoor learning: how it engages students and teachers to learn outdoors in nature and experience a reconnection to the natural world, as well as a study of the benefits exposure to nature has on students’ psychology and learning outcomes. Offering concrete examples from the LEAF network to back up an overview of the programme and what it aims to do, this presentation will also address the scientific basis for outdoor education and cite works highlighting the importance of contact with nature, especially for the ever-increasing number of children growing up in urban environments.

Secondly, it will present work in progress, in the form of a recently-designed project aimed at giving all the students of a university an opportunity to learn about environmental challenges and good practices in Europe, so as to be informed and responsible citizens. From then on, a network of students will be developed on these issues with our Erasmus partner universities all over Europe, so as to promote good practices and concretely develop more initiatives for sustainability in each university. From the information gathered, the idea is both to push all universities to do more/better, and to create an international communication tool that could act as a watchgroup and a bottom-up instrument to give more voice to young people on these issues.


Palmer, Joy, 2003. Environmental Education in the 21st Century. London: Routledge.

Phillips, D. et al. (eds.) (2018), British Social Attitudes. London: The National Centre for Social Research.

Presentation: link