Last changed: 26 April 2024

One of the activities that many immediately comes to think about when mentioning interpretation is guided tours. It is also one of the most common methods within heritage/nature interpretation.

The 18th century philosopher Friedrich Fröbel captured, as an educator, the essence of guiding/heritage interpretation: ”The task is not to directly mediate knowledge, but rather evoke a sense and curiosity for nature. The knowledge about nature should be based on experience.”

To achieve this, it is required with both subject-specific knowledge and the ability to create conditions for the participant to get a memorable experience in nature. Being able to tell a good story and spice it with interesting knowledge, instead of just inform and present the facts.  The guide should have an ability to show details or occurrences which the participants may not otherwise have seen.

To see and acquire knowledge about the participants, their needs and expectations is a condition for successful guiding. Choice of place and theme is important in order to put the message in a context, as well as to together with the participants build knowledge and experiences which they remember and that will stimulate their thoughts.

The guide's role can vary between different situations. A role that the guide could have is to get the participant to think and reflect. The goal with this can be to inspire a more involved part in the preservation of nature and cultural environments, or to act in environmental issues.

Many attributes associated to the guide are personal character, while others are professional tools for delivering qualitative experiences to the participants. Both personality and professional tools are important when staging qualitative experiences for the participants, and can be developed via education and practical experience. Therefore, they should both be a part of the guide competence. The guide should also be able to communicate and bring to life complex systems, so that they become understandable and leads to a learning with the participants.

SCNI works with the development of a proposal for a national quality assurance system for nature guides. Read more about this work here.

Some examples of guiding activities in Sweden:

In Store Mosse (Great Bog) national park, visitors can during the summer go on guided tours with snowshoes on their feet. On warm days, one can with the guide showing you how, experience a bath in the middle of the bog.

To show what can be used in nature and the means by which people has gathered equipment, food, medicine and tools throughout the ages (ethnobiology) is appreciated by many. The guide Pelle Holmberg willingly shows how the fire could be kept alive by using tinder fungus.

Many outdoor museums, such as Murberget in Härnösand, works to create experiences of the nature- and cultural heritage. Here it is not uncommon that the guide plays a role and brings the participants back in time.

Outdoor education

Outdoor education is a complement to traditional pedagogy and emphasizes that experiences in the environment around us should form the basis for learning. The outer environment and experience is central, and the learning is to a high degree located to the outdoors. To make visible the human/society in the local and global ecocycle is an important aspect.

Read more about outdoor education on National Centre for Outdoor Education.

Time travel in the landscape

A heritage interpretation method, which is primarily used within the cultural environment area, is costumed guides and other dramatized methods to bring to life historical events and environments. Storytelling is a similar method.

Bridging Ages is an international organization with focus on local history, stories and to recreate the past in an educational form. The organizations works among other things with time travels. The members consists of persons in schools, in societies, museums and universities and in more than twenty countries.


Swedish Centre for Nature Interpretation (SCNI)
Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)