Navigating a heated debate: Societal views on forest use and forest protection in Sweden

Almost 70% of Sweden is covered by forests, making the topic of “Forest use vs Forest protection” of great importance and personal relevance to most people in the country, young as well as old. During Autumn 2022, two secondary school classes in the city of Umeå, in Northern Sweden, took a deep dive into various forest-related local and global issues.

The basis for the learning activities was the teaching material Skogslabbet (Forest Lab), developed by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in collaboration with local teachers. Both SLU and the teachers are partners in the MULTIPLIERS Open Science Community (OSC) in Sweden. Further, activities developed by Umeå University and the OSC partners were added.

The modules in Forest Lab focus on sustainable development, climate, biological diversity, and the topics “forest as a circular resource” and “humans and the forest”. With this broad approach, Forest Lab relates to general aspects of the Swedish national curriculum as well as particular content of the Biology and Science Studies courses. The MULTIPLIERS OSC in Sweden was part of the work throughout the modules. Here, we share our experience with the teaching and learning activities, focusing on three valuable components: interviews on people’s relationship to forests, a roleplay mirroring current societal debates around forests, and an investigation of how the topic is portrayed by the media.

Interviews with three generations

As one of the introductory activities, students interviewed people from three generations about their individual historical relationship to forests under the theme “What do three different generations know about forests?”. Students were asked to find out from parents, grandparents or other people from older generations how their current relationship with the forest is and what they use the forest for. Most importantly, they were asked to find out how the people they interviewed think forest use has changed throughout their lifetime.

Forest debate, a roleplay on “Forest use vs Forest protection”

To practice scientific argumentation while learning more about the current societal debate on forests, a roleplay activity from Forest Lab was introduced. The teacher divided each class into six actor groups: private forest owners, forest companies, the general public, environmental organisations, indigenous Sami communities and public authorities. Within each group, every student rolled a dice to get a personality in terms of age, gender, role in the actor group and personal traits. After that, students had time to prepare their characters. The debate took place in the classroom and involved three issues/case studies:

  • Case 1 concerns the company Green Products, who wishes to launch a new clothing brand with all clothing consisting of forest-based materials originating from Swedish forests. The question is: What should forest raw materials be used for, and are forest resources available in sufficient quantity?
  • In Case 2, the association Fairer Forest believes more people should visit local forests with the vision to increase awareness of forests’ natural values. Fairer Forest’s position requires forests with high natural values to be protected. Should this be prioritised?
  • In Case 3, a municipality wants to cut down the forest and build housing in a local forested area that until now is used for recreation. A citizens’ proposal suggests that it is more important to keep the forest for people’s health and well-being. The question is: should a citizens’ proposal be able to influence the decision on how a local and easily accessible forest will be used in light of the municipality’s new needs?

After adopting roles and joining actor groups in all three case studies, students were happy to share their experiences and ideas. About the science learning, students said: “Generally it was a good possibility to discuss what we thought about forest use” and “We learnt things when we did the research”. About the debate, students thought that “In the beginning, I was focused on what my character thinks but towards the end, I reflected on what I believe myself” and “I am not like that in reality, this was acting”. Also, students wished for more debate around some of the questions. For example, they suggested rephrasing the questions to elicit more varied opinions and arguments among the actor groups.  

After future development of the activity, we hope to give the MULTIPLIERS Open Science Community (OSC) a more central role in interacting with students to define roles in the actor groups and personal traits of the characters.

Meeting a journalist and analysing newspaper articles

To develop skills in critical thinking, Ulrika Nohlgren, a journalist from the local newspaper Norran and a partner in our OSC, met the students with the aim to show how journalists work (and don’t work) and highlight core aspects of their profession. In preparation, students read a recent newspaper article titled “Forest companies cut down forests younger than regulations allow”. Based on the article, they wrote a short reflection on whether they found the article balanced (or unbalanced) in relation to the perspective of different stakeholders and the issue of “Forest use vs Forest protection”.

Discussions that followed focused on what “balanced” means and what is behind what we read in newspapers compared to, for example, social media. This highlighted the importance of developing media education skills and knowledge in relation to all societal and environmental challenges, which helps to make science more meaningful and relevant to everyday life.

Taken together, the activities enabled the students to practice critical thinking and argumentation as well as learn more about historical and current views of “Forest use and forest protection” by interacting with families, experts and the media.

Students as Agents of Social Change/MULTIPLIERS & OStogether Inspiration Session

What does the school of the future look like? The times when students were considered mere recipients of information are over. Still, schools haven’t fully transitioned yet into a model that strongly encourages student participation, agency and self-efficacy, preparing pupils to tackle real-world challenges. With a focus on science education and sustainability dilemmas, the MULTIPLIERS Horizon 2020 project is addressing that gap. Through its Open Science Communities in six EU countries, MULTIPLIERS is connecting school science to real life, empowering pupils to act as knowledge multipliers across society, and developing students’ scientific argumentation and critical thinking skills.

Join our first dissemination event, organised in partnership with the Open Schooling Together initiative, to:

  • learn more about our approach and meet our consortium partners;
  • be inspired by a key lecture with Prof. Shirley Simon, Institute of Education, University College London, on argumentation in science education; and
  • engage in an interactive session on practical Open Schooling tools and methods around key socio-scientific challenges!

Register for the webinar!

Date and time: 18 November 2022, 9:30 AM CET


9:30 – 10:00 Introduction to the MULTIPLIERS project: students as knowledge multipliers  
10:00 – 11:00 Key lecture: The role of argumentation in open-school science learning projects. Prof. Shirley Simon, Institute of Education, University College London  
11:00 – 13:00 Interactive session on practical Open Schooling methods and tools 3 breakout rooms on 6 socio-scientific issues: Forest use vs. forest protection & Biodiversity and ecosystem services; Vaccination & Anti-microbial resistance; and Air pollution & Water and sanitation  

Multipliers Open Science Community gets active in Slovenia with outdoor lesson in the forest

The Multipliers Open Science Community (OSC) in Slovenia is getting active! On 16 June, the project’s OSC partner Slovenian Forestry Institute (SFI) conducted a workshop at the Betnava Forest, in the city of Maribor, attended by 21 students of the gymnasium school II. gimnazija Maribor. Dr Urša Vilhar, from SFI’s Department of Forest Ecology, introduced a set of games that allowed students to get to know and experience the forest in a playful and interactive way.

The activity then focused on different aspects of biodiversity and forest ecosystem services. Students had fun identifying plant and animal species, determining the habitat and conservation status of various animals, and considering the vast range of ecosystem services that forests provide, such as clean air and water, carbon sequestration and raw materials.

In the end, students were enthusiastic about getting to know the forest in a more experiential way. With many pupils often lacking fieldwork experiences, which are scarce in regular high school biology programmes, the workshop highlighted the importance of outdoor lessons in opposition to traditional learning in the classroom. Because they engage students in hands-on experiences, outdoor lessons allow learning by doing, while also helping pupils to connect theories and knowledge to real-world situations.

The project activities in Slovenia are coordinated by Multipliers partner University of Ljubljana.

The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky”.

Margaret McMillan (1925)

How can marteloscopes contribute to forest and science education? An interview with Lisa Hafer, WaldHaus Freiburg

One of the main goals of MULTIPLIERS is to empower students through science education to participate in decision-making matters that affect their lives. The project will develop learning activities with real-life challenges as starting points, giving students access to authentic settings to make science classes more concrete and engaging. Activities will be based on six main themes, ranging from air pollution to anti-microbial resistance and vaccination.

As part of our “Forest use Vs. Forest protection” theme, hands-on trainings will take place in so-called marteloscope sites. There, all trees will be numbered, mapped and recorded so that their ecological and economic value can be investigated in training and educational exercises in the forest. Visits to marteloscopes will give students insights into the typical dilemmas of a forester, allowing them to develop critical thinking around sustainable forest management issues and sustainability-related topics in general.

To explore the potential contribution of marteloscopes to forest education, MULTIPLIERS partner EFI (European Forest Institute) interviewed forest educator Lisa Hafer, from the forest education center WaldHaus Freiburg, in Germany. In the interview, she explained how learning about forests can impact the lifestyles and consumption patterns of students and their families. She also shared tips on how to get them interested in forestry and revealed why all those fighting for the climate should also be passionate about forest education.

Read the full interview here.

Lisa Hafer is leader of the WaldKlimaRaum project at the WaldHaus Freiburg and works as a researcher at the University of Freiburg

What is Open Schooling? The MULTIPLIERS approach to build inclusive and long-lasting learning communities

Modern societies are facing a wide range of complex challenges, such as fighting climate change, protecting the environment, promoting healthy living and fighting pandemics such as COVID-19, among others. To successfully prepare for and address such challenges, citizens must actively engage in public dialogue on scientific issues and participate responsibly in science-informed decision making. Still, this is easier said than done. Trust in scientific findings is diminishing in Europe and other parts of the world, which is an acute challenge of our time.

MULTIPLIERS has the ambitious goal to counter this trend by addressing the problem at its base. Guided by the concept of Open Schooling, the project will trigger a process to transform schools across six countries into innovative and open collectors of new ideas, practices and scientific approaches to address societal and environmental challenges. It will also offer students a space to engage their families, local communities, decision makers and the media in open, inclusive, and inquiry-based learning on science issues that have an impact on citizens’ lives.

But what is exactly Open Schooling and how can it be implemented in practice? As many different understandings of the term exist, one of the first steps of the project since its kick-off in November 2021 was to agree on a common and operational definition among project partners. As a result, the University of Cyprus and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona compiled the MULTIPLIERS “Report on Identified Good Practices and Needs Analysis”, which explores the definition of Open Schooling in detail.

“Open schooling initiates in the classroom but exceeds the school borders when students engage the local community in science practices, taking on the role of ‘knowledge multipliers’ to confront societal challenges”

Irene Drymiotou, Learning in Science Group of the University of Cyprus

In the Q&A below, you can find more about our Open Schooling approach, along with a short history of the term in Europe. For more information, explore the report here.

What is Open Schooling? And what is MULTIPLIERS’ approach to the concept?

In MULTIPLIERS, we propose an approach to Open Schooling that combines three main objectives – community impact, pedagogical impact, and scientific impact – while also explicitly emphasising important societal values.

We see Open Schooling as an educational perspective in which schools become open to society by bidirectionally collaborating with different institutions with the aim to:

  • Improve community well-being by raising awareness and co-creating solutions to both personal and socially relevant problems that have a direct impact at a local level.
  • Enrich the curricula and pedagogical repertoire of schools, by sharing different views and expertise from both educational and non-educational agents and institutions with the aim to promote students’ meaningful learning and competence development.
  • Give epistemic authority to all agents from within and outside the school, specifically to the students and their families, by engaging them in sustained inquiry, knowledge creation, creative action, and dissemination on issues of relevance to the local community and beyond.

To do so, projects and initiatives on Open Schooling such as MULTIPLIERS take advantage of the knowledge, practices, visions, attitudes, resources, and values of all involved agents, empowering them to collectively transform society from a reflective and critical standpoint that focuses on sustainability, equity, social justice, and inclusion.

How did the concept of Open Schooling come about in European Science Education?

To analyse the appearance of the Open Schooling concept in the EU, specifically in Science Education, one has to undertake a journey through the different EU reports and work programmes and their evolution from an STS (Science, Technology and Society) view within the Science in Society frameworks to the recent views of Science with and for Society. These latter frameworks are increasingly permeated with democratic and ethical concerns on citizens’ participation in Science identified through the Responsible Research and Innovation approach and culminating in a particular version regarding science education.

As such, Open Schooling emerges as a new term first in the report Science Education for Responsible Citizenship and in EU’s Work Programme 2016-2017 and continues to be a priority in the Work Programme 2018-2020. However, despite the term not being explicitly there, we can identify the Open Schooling idea already in the Work Programme 2014-2015.

The EU WPs from 2016 to 2020 followed up on the report Science Education for Responsible Citizenship to explicitly promote the concept of Open Schooling in their strategy of Science with and for Society, which revolves around the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and its pillar on Science Education.

How will the Open Schooling approach be implemented within MULTIPLIERS?

Open-school science learning projects will be developed collaboratively in our so-called Open Science Communities (OSCs). Science professionals will be actively involved in bringing real-life case studies to students regarding contemporary challenges and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including nature conservation, clean water and air, climate change, waste, energy, food, and public health.

Rather than seeking a single correct answer, students will interpret and represent the problem, collect information and evidence, identify possible solutions, evaluate options, and present conclusions supported with arguments. They will recognise that there is often no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision, and a constructive approach involves weighing each option against different needs and demands. Students will work with researchers gathering and analysing data, thereby developing a better understanding of the initial problem/case and acquiring familiarity with science practices and scientific research processes.

Ultimately, having gained first-hand experiences and inquiry skills in an authentic context, students will become knowledge multipliers; they will present, share, and deepen their knowledge and experiences in activities by actively involving their families and the wider community, firstly through dedicated local events (including open school/local action days or citizen science activities), and then through designing and exploiting science communication media (e.g., exhibitions, social media channels, and video clips).

All OSC partners will be jointly committed to teaching and learning processes in formal, non-formal, and informal settings to ensure relevant, meaningful, and sustainable engagement with science and associated ethical and societal priorities. Students will learn in the real world, with authentic problems fostering individual reflection and empowerment. Science experts, families, and local communities will be involved as part of sustainable learning communities.

Enabling the enablers – when pupils become knowledge MULTIPLIERS

“Base decision on facts, not on beliefs” – Kick-off Meeting of MULTIPLIERS project

by Gesche Schifferdecker and Rosa Castañeda

In schools, science is often presented in an abstract way and without a context – but if we want to get young people interested, topics need to be relevant to their everyday life. This is the idea behind the H2020 project MULTIPLIERS – short for MULTIplayers Partnerships to ensure meaningful engagement wIth ScieEnce and ReSearch. In the project, scientists will bring real-life cases to students (from elementary to secondary schools) to look at specific “dilemma situations” from various perspectives.

These dilemma situations are explored in six different themes. The German theme is very up to date – it will explore the topic of “Pro–Con Vaccination” and is managed by MULTIPLIERS project coordinator University of Bonn. The University of Cyprus will focus on “Anti-microbial Resistance”, while the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona is investigating the theme “Air Pollution”. IREN SpA, an Italian company providing public services like energy, water, and heating, will handle the topic of “Energy Efficiency”.

MULTIPLIERS also tackles forest-related topics. Umeå University and the European Forest Institute (EFI) are going to explore the dilemma of “Forest Use versus Forest Protection”. This topic is quite controversially discussed in Sweden and beyond. The debate is – like the ones around vaccination or air pollution – more emotional than based on evidence and thorough analysis.

To understand the controversy, students have to be enabled to both collect knowledge and find the pain points by asking critical questions, and consider potential trade-offs. A very good environment to discuss the “Forest Use versus Forest Protection” dilemma is a marteloscope, an “outdoor forest classroom”, where all trees are mapped and measured to consider both the ecological and the economic value of each tree. In the framework of MULTIPLIERS, EFI plans to establish a marteloscope in Sweden, and potentially also in Slovenia, where MULTIPLIERS’ sixth theme is centered. The University of Ljubljana will engage with students there to critically analyse the discussions around “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”.

However, these themes are not set in stone – at a later stage of the project, other partners might also pick up other themes they consider relevant for the students, or explore themes investigated by others within their own community. For instance, the University of Bonn is interested in working on the topic of forest use versus forest protection together with local partners in the forest surrounding the city.

Kids exploring science (photo by patricialacolla via Pixabay)

By addressing current and future societal and environmental challenges and taking students to authentic workplaces like the forest or a medical lab, MULTIPLIERS aims to awaken students’ interest in science. Discussions with researchers on all themes will be based on scientific knowledge, but they should also consider potential ethical and societal implications of decision-making. To introduce different perspectives on the issues to the students, MULTIPLIERS is aiming at building so-called “Open Science Communities” (OSCs). Each OSC will involve all of the diverse stakeholders from education, research, enterprises, civil society, and policy, to innovatively engage different societal actors in the science learning process. During the project implementation and after its completion, the consortium will support the creation of new OSCs in the partner countries, as well as in other EU countries.

One of the main project objectives is to develop analytical and critical thinking competences for and with the students, to ultimately make them knowledge MULTIPLIERS. After engaging with the OSCs, in a second step, families and wider communities will be involved in problem-solving processes, which are called open-school science learning. The students will share and discuss what they have learned with their peers, families and beyond. To approach broader audiences and engage with students from all over Europe, students involved in MULTIPLIERS will post stories on the project’s social media channels, supported by EFI’s Communication experts. The idea is to encourage the students to prepare their own communication outputs, in a way that allows them to experience and learn from the process of communicating science while also creating ownership of the content.


The project Kick-off meeting took place virtually on November 18-19, with the participation of the partners and project advisors. One of the highlights was a discussion on how to develop a research methodology that will allow an analysis of the needs of all the different countries, the enlargement of open science networks and the sustainability of the project. The coordinations have just begun, soon we will be sharing more news on the exciting MULTIPLIERS project!