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Learning about Ecosystems and Forests (LEAF)

25 years of outdoor learning, using nature as a classroom.

Learning about Ecosystems and Forests advocates outdoor learning and hands-on experiences which result in the students getting a deeper and more involved understanding of the natural world. While the focus of the LEAF programme is on forest ecosystems, the skills and knowledge acquired can be applied to any biome, ecosystem or habitat.

HundrED 2024


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Target group
Students lower
April 2024
LEAF brings children closer to nature, providing them with the direct exposure that is essential for their healthy development, physical, and emotional well-being. We must empower and educate children to become stewards of the environment. By providing them with opportunities to experience and connect with the outdoors, we can instil in them deep appreciation and respect for the natural world.

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

The LEAF programme rests on the belief that children need to experience nature for themselves and society as a whole. Over half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, strengthening the need to connect with nature. A growing body of research in the education field suggests that outdoor learning has many benefits on an educational level and fosters students' personal development.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

The LEAF programme has the potential to transform the quality of education by engaging children in wholesome experiences instead of sedentary and unidirectional classroom teaching and learning. Working outdoors along with others also helps build interpersonal and social skills that are being challenged with the advent of technology and increasing screen time. If well-designed, outdoor actions can build strong linkages with the community and help young people experience altruistic community service and active citizenship.

LEAF encourages environmental education through awareness-raising among students, teachers, and the wider community. It instils in students a sense of ownership of their natural surroundings, rekindling in them the wonderment that ecosystems evoke and reminding them of the vital role the environment and nature play in our lives. By engaging in outdoor activities, children develop a sense of responsibility for the environment and a desire to protect it.

How has it been spreading?

The Learning about Ecosystems and Forests (LEAF) programme is currently being implemented in 28 countries with more than 694,600 students and 20,700 teachers involved. The outdoor education programme reaches 3,833 schools and has resulted in the planting of 38,780 trees in 2022 and a monthly average of 74 hours dedicated to outdoor learning.

At the Foundation for Environmental Education, we would like to keep supporting the programme's implementation worldwide, while sharing and creating educational and training resources for students and teachers. We are aware, that some teachers lack the confidence to take students outside the classroom and for this reason, the LEAF network aims to keep on providing and sharing inspirational resources, training, and good practices.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

To engage with the LEAF programme, a school should first register with a LEAF National Operator. In countries without a LEAF National Operator, International Schools can apply to join the programme through the FEE Head Office. You can check if your country has a National Operator at:

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

The LEAF program sees nature as a classroom. This innovation fosters education for Sustainable Development with a project-based and real world learning approach. LEAF has scaled to more than 25 countries already and has the potential to keep growing as the climate crisis is a global challenge that requires collective solutions that start with education.

HundrED Academy Reviews

The program provides experiential learning for young people which usually has longer lasting educational outcomes. Exposing young people to the natural environment can foster a deeper sense of connection to the world and global citizenship.

By collaborating with national operators, LEAF is valuable in a global matter. It is a way to explore your surroundings and take care of and learn about nature, which is possible and necessary in each and every context.

- Academy member
Academy review results
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Implementation steps

Look & Observe
At the heart of any LEAF project there is a problem to investigate or a question to explore that creates a need to know something and then use that knowledge to resolve an issue. By looking and observing, students are encouraged to identify the question they want answers to!

Seeking information, exploring an issue and planning how to solve it connects to active learning. It leads to an inquiry process where students need to identify the tools that will help them solve a problem, be it asking the right questions, finding answers, resources, or engaging the right people. During this step, the most important in the LEAF pedagogical cycle, two actions shall take place:

  1. A research component shall be incorporated to address connection to nature, or levels of awareness about forests. Create your mini-research project! Check out the LEAF themes further down and choose one to explore.

  2. An educational plan should be in place, which will propose and implement actions that help raise awareness about forests and the chosen LEAF Theme, a plan that connects to the school curriculum. Stimulate activities that help reach the learning objectives of LEAF (find below). See ‘Our Resources’ section on the LEAF website for activity guides on how to, e.g., plant trees, map habitats in an area or identify minibeasts, or align your activities with the several LEAF campaigns.


Students start to understand the intricate web of life and how we need to balance our footprint and handprint to live sustainably. Monitor and report progress on your research to show increased levels of awareness, changes in behaviour or records of species, and reflect on the progress of your educational plan.

Function and Flourish

Involve others to spread the LEAF message throughout the whole school and the wider community. Integrate the LEAF programme with the curriculum work of the school, when and where possible. Organise days of Outdoor Actions that engage students in field studies, trips, conservation action, community service, social learning, etc.

Spread of the innovation

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