This August and September, UPM will be organizing forest trips for 6th grade primary school students in five different Finnish cities, where UPM's mills are located. The trips will take place if the COVID-19 situation allows it. This is the fourth time that UPM has organized such excursions. The aim is to provide pupils with a positive forest experience and increase knowledge of how Finnish forests are used. During the excursions, which are called "Commercial forest -- Development and Sustainable Use," pupils will learn about the commercial and recreational use of forests, wildlife management and wood-based products. In addition, every pupil gets a chance to plant a seedling that will become a part of a forest.
With 40 classes taking part, there will be roughly 800 pupils and teachers in total taking part during these excursions. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the number of classes is smaller than before. Despite the exceptional circumstances, the forest excursions will provide a safe experience for pupils: special arrangements have been made for the excursions, e.g. taking into account safety distances and hygiene.
The excursions are organized in co-operation with the Finnish Forest Association and the Finnish 4H organization, and will take place in Jämsä, Pietarsaari, Rauma, Kouvola and Lappeenranta. "Forest excursions are memorable experiences for pupils, and they support students in learning and understanding of the forests," says Tuomas Kara, Environmental Manager of UPM Forest. "As wood-based products are part of our daily life, we want to increase the respect for wood as a renewable raw material."
UPM organized similar excursion for the first time in 2017. Planting seedlings, hearing stories about wildlife management and having a picnic lunch by the campfire are memorable experiences for pupils. Spending a school day in a forest is a refreshing change for many pupils, especially during this autumn's exceptional circumstances.
According to Sirpa Kärkkäinen, Expert of Youth Communications at the Finnish Forest Association, the content of the excursions supports the curriculum of primary school-level environmental studies. Sustainable use of natural resources, the use of forests and biodiversity, as well as climate change and to mitigate it are some of the topics covered under the curriculum. "Preserving biodiversity is important, especially in commercial forests. Pupils will do various different exercises and learn how biodiversity can be preserved through the different stages of forestry. In regard to climate change, pupils start with the basic facts, such as how trees absorb carbon during photosynthesis. They will then consider the role of wood-based products as a carbon storage."
The purpose of the excursions is to build and maintain relations with local communities and inform young people about the sustainable forestry and forest industry. The forest excursions are part of UPM's Biofore Share and Care programme. The programme focuses on projects that are relevant to UPM's business and responsibility goals. The programme's focus areas are: reading and learning, community engagement, responsible water use and boosting bio innovations.