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The Finnish forest sector has managed to reach adolescents and increase their knowledge about forestry with a simple trick: competition. The nationwide Forest Quiz was organized for the 35th time in a row this year. One million Finns have taken part by now.
This year, 28,000 pupils between the ages of 13 and 15 took the Quiz organized by the Finnish Forest Association and the Association of Biology and Geography Teachers (BMOL).
The Forest Quiz finals took place this week in a research forest in Tuusula, near the capital Helsinki. The mood along the off-road track of the finals was extremely focused. The best 15 young forest experts tackled the 21 tasks in silence, concentrating on the questions.
Only after completing the track did the competitors exchange opinions on the tasks. “Those bracket fungi,” laughed Oona Lehtinen from Imatra. “I will never be able to master them,” seconded Paula Haavisto from Sastamala.
Bracket fungi and mosses were also the biggest headache of the visiting participants of the Forest Quiz. Mr. Esa Härmälä, Director General of Metsähallitus, said he remembered just two of the four species of moss required.
“I did better with the questions related to trees. The closer the tasks were to forestry, the better I felt I knew the right answer”, Härmälä said after completing the track with the competitors. “The Forest Quiz will certainly get provide some young people with a new interest in nature and forestry as an upcoming branch.”
According to Mr. Paavo Lyytikäinen, in charge of youth work at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, the Forest Quiz may well provide the first spark leading to an interest in the forest sector. “Games and quizzes are always exciting and will leave a lasting memory. The wide range of tasks in the Forest Quiz increases the forest-related knowledge of lower secondary school pupils. Focusing on this theme can serve as a springboard for future studies in the branch.”
Participants from almost 400 schools
The winner of the Forest Quiz 2016 is Akseli Jussinmäki from Halsua, Western Finland. He beat the rest of the 28,000 participants. In February, the first round of the competition attracted participants from nearly 400 Finnish lower secondary schools, which is more than half of their total number.
According to Ms. Anne Turunen, communication planner at the Finnish Forest Association and organizer of the Forest Quiz, the level of excellence was again really high this year, although many pupils found the questions difficult.
“The young people were really good at making observations in the forest. They knew, for example, that retention trees are left in the forest for rare organism to cover their future need of decaying wood. They also knew when a commercial forest needs thinning and when is the time for the final felling,” Turunen says.
The greatest prize is the knowledge gained
The aim of the Forest Quiz is to increase the adolescents’ understanding of forests in different ways. The questions, formulated by biology teachers and forestry experts, open up different perspectives on sustainability. Included are topics dealing with forest nature, nature conservation, forest management, timber processing and the recreational use of forests.
This year, one of the questions was about the white-backed woodpecker and how its endangered status has been successfully improved with appropriate forest management.
“The competition is also intended to teach things. The pupils may not necessarily have heard about some of the topics, but after the quiz they have gained a little bit of expertise,” says Turunen.
“The Forest Quiz is not just about gaining the prize, but also about learning new things,” said Aaro Sitomaniemi from Oulu.
In the Quiz, the pupils also get plenty of information about the future of forests and how their use is developing, including bioeconomy. In the first round of this year’s competition the pupils were asked about laser scanning, which the finalists were able to try at the University of Helsinki Department of Forest Sciences during the two-day finals.
“Not many of the questions in the Forest Quiz have been discussed at school. It helped if you were personally interested in forest. Another helpful thing is if nature is near and present in your life, because then you don’t have to make a special point of studying or using it,” says Paulus Liimatainen from Rovaniemi.
The two main organizers of the Forest Quiz are the Finnish Forest Association and the Association of Biology and Geography Teachers (BMOL). Other organizations involved in organising and funding the Quiz are the Finnish Forest Centre, Forest owners – MTK together with forestry associations, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, OP Bank, Metsä Group, Stora Enso, UPM, Metsähallitus and the Finnish Forest Foundation.
“The forest is a nice place”
The Forest Quiz winner Akseli Jussinmäki often views a forest with a compass in his hand. “The forest is a nice place, and orienteering helps you to see some great things,” says the 15-year-old winner.
In addition to orienteering, Jussinmäki enjoys hunting and fishing. The trip to the Forest Quiz finals will be crowned by Jussinmäki fetching a new puppy on the way home. The German pointer will make a good hunting companion.
The most popular forest-related hobbies of the Forest Quiz finalists were jogging and hiking in the woods. In addition, they like scout activity, orienteering, photography, geocaching, berry picking, mountain biking, forest skills contests and walking the dog.