Touch and smell the forest! The teaching material Skogslabbet is used for a workshop at SciFest in Uppsala, Sweden

By Lina Varg and Christina Ottander, Umeå University

Society benefits from the forests’ contribution of a variety of services such as wood production, climate control, and spaces for recreation. However, the different stakeholder perspectives could lead to conflicts of interest which need to be considered with regard to economical, ecological, cultural and social aspects. Umeå University paired up with the Open Science Community (OSC) members the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and two teachers, Anna Loden and Helen Forsgren, to engage students in the complex issue of Forest use vs forest protection. The online teaching material Skogslabbet (The Forest Laboratory) is based on current research on forests and sustainability and offers secondary school students opportunities to increase their understanding of the varied and opposing perspectives of stakeholders such as forestry companies, private persons, indigenous Sámi, and environment conservation organizations.

In September 2023, five representatives involved in the development of the online teaching material Skogslabbet participated and held a workshop at the science festival SciFest at Fyrishov in Uppsala, Sweden. The participants were Helen Forsgren and Anna Loden who are authors of Skogslabbet, Nasko Terziev who is a material researcher at SLU, and Jessika Lagrelius and Anna Morén, who both represented SLU. In their workshop, they invited students to examine different materials and products originating from the forest. For example, well-known products like blueberries and paper cloth, but also more unknown products such as shock-absorbing materials for packaging, fabric, and artificial grass granules. The students were also able to discuss the production and use of the materials and products with the authors and material researcher.

According to Anna Loden, the workshop was successful in reaching students of different ages (10-18 years old), especially students from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds who were not used to spending time in the forest. Many students were fascinated by all the different things that could be produced from forests and often took the time to sit down and discuss the issue with Anna and her colleagues. In addition, teachers, forest owners and public employees visited their booth and engaged in long discussions about forest issues.

Click the link for more information about Scifest.