Elever på väg ut i skogen.
Elever som vistas i autentisk miljö utvecklar en bättre förståelse för biologisk mångfald.

Being in the natural environment promotes interest in biodiversity


Children and young people spend less and less time in natural environments. This risks leading to a diminished understanding of nature and the environment. Pupils who have an opportunity to use their own senses to discover and familiarise themselves with plants in an authentic environment develop an understanding of biodiversity and human impact on the environment. This is the conclusion of a doctoral thesis at the University of Gothenburg.

Margaretha Häggström.

In her doctoral thesis, Margaretha Häggström studied two primary and secondary school classes when they had lessons in an adjacent woodland, where aesthetic processes played a crucial role.

The results show that when the pupils were given an opportunity to playfully explore the woods, in combination with fact gathering, not only was their interest in plants stimulated, but also their willingness to commit themselves to the environment and biodiversity.

"The pupils chose to clean up the woods, making signs to prevent littering and even to demonstrate in favour of “saving the animals, nature and the planet”. And this was two years before Greta Thunberg initiated her school strike, which has inspired young school children around the world", says Margaretha Häggström.

The importance of teaching in natural environments

The research into the school classes was designed in collaboration with the teachers. The intention was for the pupils to repeatedly spend time in an adjacent woodland, for them to be given plenty of time to explore the woods, and for the teachers to give them different assignments with the aim of increasing their interest in trees and other plants.

The pupils’ understanding of the environment changed as they developed relationships with the trees and the plants. Instead of regarding the trees and plants as dead objects, they came to see them as living organisms that mankind needs to care about.

"One conclusion I draw from the thesis is the importance of letting teachers implement a form of environmental teaching that is indeed demanding in terms of time and resources, but which in the long term means that pupils’ understanding of natural environments and human impact on the environment becomes more profound", says Margaretha Häggström.

Research project on Plant Blindness

The doctoral thesis is part of a project funded by the Swedish Research Council Beyond “Plant Blindness”: Seeing the importance of plants in a sustainable world, the purpose of which is to investigate how plants and nature can increase our knowledge of plants and their importance for life on earth. The term “Plant Blindness” refers to man’s flawed ability to see and notice plants in their surroundings, which leads to ignorance about how plants function, and that their properties are not valued.

For more details:
Margaretha Häggström, phone: +46 786-2470, email:

The thesis is published in digital format