Environmental Education and Nature interpretation in Sweden

Senast ändrad: 17 december 2023
Introbild för webbinariet

This was the first webinar in the series of Nordic webinars about environmental education and nature interpretation in the Nordic countries. The webinars are a part of a Nordplus project, organized by the Nordic group for nature interpretation.

The Nordplus project

The project aim is to get an overview of the current educational practices for nature interpretation and environmental education in the Nordic countries, in order to enhance better quality education by coaching each other and transferring ideas and inspiration across the borders of the Nordic countries. More information about the project is found here.

The host: SCNI

The Swedish Centre for Nature Interpretation (SCNI) hosted this webinar. SCNI is a meeting place, a centre for development and a competence resource for all nature interpreters in Sweden. More about SCNI at www.scni.se and www.slu.se/cnv (in Swedish). 

Bild på CNV:s medarbetare

Co-workers at SCNI: Anders Arnell, Eva Sandberg, Per Sonnvik, Jasmine Zhang and Katrin Jones Hammarlund.

The webinar gave an overview of the landscape of training at three levels in Sweden: systematic, program and professional competence building levels.

Progammet för webbinariet

The program as presented at the webinar.

Here follows a summary of the content and outcomes.

The participants and their favourite exercises

At the webinar there were 126 participants, and they came from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Costa Rica, USA, Chile and Greece. As a start of the webinar all participants were encouraged to write down their name, location and their favourite nature interpretation or environmental education exercise.

The favourite exercises are listed here. In summary they focus on:

  • Investigating the nature together with students/pupils. For example small organisms in forests, organisms in water, fossils and animal tracks
  • Dialogue, reviewing and reflection activities, connected to for example sustainability
  • Using different senses, silent walks and wellbeing
  • Hands-on activities, bush craft
  • Fun games
  • Show how exciting things in nature are, through cool facts.

Environmental education and nature interpretation in Sweden

Per Sonnvik at SCNI presented an overview of educations and courses in Sweden in nature interpretation and outdoor education. See Per's presentation file here.

The educations and courses are found at the following levels: universities, high schools, higher vocational education, folk high schools and at other organisations.

Three national surveys have been conducted, but with slightly different focuses.

Since 2015 there is a national standard for educations in nature guiding. Seven educations are approved. www.utbildningsnorm-naturguider.se
2020 a national certification system for nature guide was launched. https://certifieradnaturguide.se/

Trends were presented for the educations in Sweden:

In general a neutral or negative trend in outdoor recreation and outdoor education at schools.

  • Courses/programs at folk high schools come and go. Less state resources now for folk high schools.
  • Several programmes at universities in interpretation and nature guiding have ended during the last ten years
  • More courses in Higher Vocational Education for nature tourism and outdoor recreation.
  • The high school programme in nature tourism came 2021, which is similar to education standard and certification. 

A large number of other organisations arrange training in nature guiding, nature interpretation and nature pedagogics.

Examples on educations and courses in Sweden

Outdoor education at Linköping University

Emilia Fägerstam and Therese Lundqvist Jones gave us an insight on how the courses in outdoor education at their university are organized. See Emilia's and Therese's presentation file here.

The university has a master’s programme in Outdoor and Sustainability Education (international). It contains outdoor learning in theory and practice. Focus is on school-based teaching and learning outside the classroom.

A course for exchange students is also held at the university: Outdoor school with a focus on biology and Swedish nature.

At the Physical Education Department there are several courses for becoming a teacher in physical education. There is a course in Nordic culture with lots of experiential learning and outdoors involved. Two other courses are Outdoor education, oriented towards leisure time and outdoor activities in children and youth and Outdoor education for adults.

Complementary examples from Sweden

Örnsköldsvik folk high school

Nature guide – High Coast


Nature tourism program at high school level

Kristianstad University

The program Landscape sciences – communication and outdoor education.

Jönköping University

Two courses in outdoor education

Education overview at the web

SCNI’s web-based overview over educations in Sweden connected to nature interpretation is found here. www.slu.se/cnv/overblick-utbildning

SCNI training and development for nature interpretation

Eva Sandberg at SCNI told about the centre, its assignment and work with competence development. See Eva's presentation file here.

SCNI is a part of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and started in 2008. The work of the centre is mainly based on an assignment from the Swedish Environmental protection Agency. The assignment focus on one hand on supporting visitor centres (naturum), national parks and outdoor recreation and on another hand on being a competence resource and meeting place for interpreters in general. The centre publish books, newsletters, checklists, overviews and good examples.

SCNI also works with research and has a researcher employed: Jasmine Zhang. During four years an internationally known researcher called Sam Ham was assigned as guest researcher at SCNI.

SCNI offers lectures and short courses, seminars, workshops and webinars on subjects such as: climate change, biodiversity, forest dialogues, accessibility, digital tools, health, planning, evaluation, writing skills, and trails.

The centre work with three university courses:

  • Nature interpretation for professionals 3 credits
  • Environmental assessment, environmental communication and nature interpretation 7,5 credits
  • Social entrepreneurship and nature interpretation 7,5 credits

SCNI cooperates a lot with European Association for Heritage Interpretation, Interpret Europe (IE) and arrange occasionally IE guide courses in Sweden. Interpretation theory and practice is important for the centre and IE was invited to present what possibilities there are for training for members

Interpret Europe

Valya Stergioti, training coordinator talked about how Interpret Europe gathers interpreters from all over Europe. See Valya's presentation file here.

She talked about how interpretation can help people to connect to their heritage:

  • We offer paths to deeper meaning
  • We turn phenomena into experiences
  • We provoke resonance and participation
  • We foster stewardship for all heritage

Interpret Europe provides for example webinars, conferences and also weeklong courses that will make a certified writer, guide, planner or trainer. The training programme include:

  • Certified Interpretive Guide (IE CIG)
  • Certified Interpretive Writer (IE CIW)
  • Certified Interpretive Planner (IE CIP)
  • Module on interpretive hosting
  • Module for live interpreters
  • Module on interpretation with children

Courses are being held over Europe. SCNI can hold the CIG course.

Group discussions: differences and good examples

In smaller groups the participants talked about:

  1. Differences and similarities between their countries and Sweden when it comes to education for nature interpreters/environmental educators.
  2. Good examples to share.

Differences and similarities

  • There is a center for nature interpretation in Sweden (!)
  • Many different types of educations in Sweden
  • In Denmark there are both shorter nature interpretation course and a long education for interpreters.
  • SYKLI environmental school in Finland. Two year education focus on sustainability.
  • Similar national education surveys are not being conducted in Denmark.
  • Topical networks for interpreters in Denmark and they make their own courses.
  • The need to reconnect people with nature. Interpretation is a useful tool for that.
  • Environmental education courses at university level
  • Nature schools
  • Outdoor associations

Good examples

  • Peer-to-peer learning in the Danish Nature entrepreneur school
  • The long continuity of the nature interpretation course in Denmark, since the 1980s, and it has created a sense of team feeling among all those who have taken it.
  • Folk high schools in Sweden: practical and relaxed way of learning. Less boundaries to apply. More accessible.
  • Regional and international networking
  • Lifting up news from research
  • Sharing newsletter and new books with each other
  • Short webinars
  • Sharing access to online lectures at universities


Valya from Interpret Europe held an exercise to show some aspects from the IE trainings. See the presentation file from the exercise here.

In groups the participants were instructed to the following:

  1. Select some heritage you are all familiar with
  2. Which human values would you connect to it?
  3. Think of a narrative about this heritage that reveals its connection with one of these values
  4. Find a representative image of this heritage 

The narratives that were written focused on: landscape, democracy, outdoor life, Santa Claus, Right of Public Access, innovation and cooperation.


There was a great interest in joining the webinar.

The presentations during the webinar show how courses in outdoor education and nature interpretation are organized in different ways and at different levels in Sweden.

Sweden is the only Nordic country where there is a national university based center for nature interpretation.

Nature interpretation and outdoor education are taught in several contexts such as: nature tourism, nature guiding, outdoor recreation, teacher pedagogics.

International cooperation both on global, European and Nordic level can support the educators with courses and good examples and contribute with networking for the interpreters and educators. Interpret Europe offers such services.

By connecting the interpreters to networks they can become more independent in their ongoing learning and sharing of experiences. That has happened in Denmark where a network of interprets have been growing since the end of the 1980s.


SLU Centrum för naturvägledning (CNV)
Institutionen för stad och land, SLU