Cascadia Conservation District
Serving Chelan County

Kids in the Forest...and Out of the Classroom

The Cascadia Conservation District and partners are excited about their new new environmental education program —Kids in the Forest! The Kids in the Forest Project provides teacher training and forest field experiences for third to eighth graders in NCW. We focus on forest and wildfire ecology—to help teachers and students understand the transitional nature of Eastside forests and shrub/steppe environments. We want them to see what healthy and unhealthy forests look like and how wildfire, climate, and forest management play important roles in maintaining healthy watersheds. The program covers Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties. Thus far, we have engaged the participation of the Wenatchee, Eastmont, Quincy, Entiat, and Leavenworth school districts…along with private schools and Marshall Elementary in Marysville.

Our kids’ contact with nature keeps shrinking. How can they…and their teachers… understand the challenges that our forests are facing without experiencing what is there? Getting kids into forests and showing them how everything there is interconnected— and how specifically fire, climate, and people—affect that balance is good for forests and good for kids. Kids in the Forest will focus on enriching the link between people and forests. By creating baseline knowledge, students and teachers will learn to talk about forest management and wildfire in their community in a way that supports sustainable approaches to land management.

Critical to the success of the program is integrating project partners into the field experience to provide students an opportunity to connect with professionals in the resource management field and ask questions about their jobs and how they got to where they are. Early exposure to natural resource management as a fun, exciting, and realistic career path will help to keep forest management and stewardship of public lands a valued career path in future generations.

Kids in the Forest expanded upon the already successful Forest Classroom program started by the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center. Partners who have supported this program include: Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Washington State SFI Implementation Committee, Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center, North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, Project Learning Tree Washington, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Wenatchee Art Education Consortium, Chelan County Fire District #1, WA Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, Mission Ridge Ski Area, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, and The Wildfire Project.

A BIG thank you to the Sustainable Forest Initiative (www.sfiprogram.org) and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (http://www.k12.wa.us/) for funding the 2018/2019 term of this program!

To learn more contact Amanda Newell at amandal@cascadiacd.org or (509) 436-1601. 

Field Day Activities:

 

Teacher Resources:

 

 Although educators are excited to have a program that offers their students field experiences, their approach is to take the classes to the sites and allow the site personnel to provide all the education and experiences.  This is OK if their only goal is to get the kids excited about being there and to pick up a few bits of interesting information; but it poses a few challenges:

  1. The best field experiences are those in which the students are seeing what they have already discussed/learned in the classroom. And this depends partly upon the educators’ ability, desire, time, confidence, and knowledge to provide pre and post activities.
  2. There is not enough time on site to help the students reach an understanding of the concepts that you want them to learn…barely enough time just for an introduction to the complexity of forests and what sustains them. They need to have more time to somehow integrate the concepts into an already overcrowded curriculum.  Providing a source of kid-attractive activities and easy-to-understand basic information with the needed materials will facilitate this process.
  3. The sites often depend upon volunteers and other professionals who are not always available. We want the program to become more sustainable by giving the teachers the capability to become the group facilitators.

 To alleviate those challenges, KIF has set as a goal to schedule teacher trainings in the participating districts, and at general Stem conferences.  At those trainings we provide participants with easy-to-understand/implement sources of information and activities about basic forest/fire/climate ecology.  We provide them with an understanding of the basic storyline:  what is there…what are the variables. how have different species adapted to that particular niche/location (especially fire and climate)…how everything is connected...how that balance is interrupted…what role human management has affected the balance…what are the possible solutions that will help provide sustainability/balance…with the understanding that no one solution will work all the time forever. We provide an introduction to the Project Learning Tree curriculum and integrate those activities that specifically relate to climate and fire.   Each participant also receives a flash drive with all the activities on it, along with background information that both teachers and students need to understand the basic concepts.  This information includes: 1) power point productions from local ecology experts 2) activities developed over several years by local educators 3) videos/programs produced by fire professionals 4) downloaded online curriculums such as the Fireworks Curriculum produced by the USFS Rocky Mtn. Research Station in Missoula, Fire In Pacific Northwest Ecosystems produced by the PNW Wildfire Coordinating Group, and the Kids Crossing In the Classroom: Teaching Earth and Atmospheric Science produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.