Local kids learn forestry

Caitlyn May

For The New Era

Sixth-graders from Foster and Oak Heights schools got the chance to explore a local tree farm during Forest Field Days, held on May 16 at the Udell Happy Valley Tree Farm.

The exercise included grade-level curriculum and a complex role-playing game to hammer home the importance of Oregon’s forests.

LaRae Ash, an organizer of the event, said the basic outline of the outdoor field trip was to put middle-schoolers into a situation where they have to decide how to manage a family tree farm.

“The kids role play a family that has inherited 200 acres from ‘Grandma Peterson’ and they have to create a five-year land management plan using math and science curriculum.”

Broken into four teams to represent “Peterson’s” four grandchildren, the students were asked to come up with the best way to sustain their inheritance and manage the land. To accomplish their task, the kids were ushered to four different stations to learn the basics of compaction, recreation, timber and forest rules and regulations. Each station is led by an expert in the field, who volunteers their time for the event.

In order to properly sustain the fictitious 200 acres, students were required to choose from several land use possibilities, including whether or not to implement a campground and where roads should be built throughout the property. They were also taken on a hike through the farm and shown several areas filled with litter.

It was then up to the children to decide whether or not to place garbage cans on their property or to ban outside residents from visiting.

“Each child takes on a role of particular interest,” said Lindsey Reeves, another organizer. “The directions of the inheritance is that they have to have a sustainable harvest to pay taxes and support the family, so they have to follow the forest rules and regulations. That’s one kid’s duty and then another is really wanting to make sure the soil and water is conserved so that child really takes on wanting to understand compaction and erosion.”

The students were each given a packet of information, complete with questions for each station. After taking part in the hands-on activity at each station, students were asked to answer the questions which revolved around proper forestry practices.

Aside from learning the difference between silt and soil, students were granted the opportunity to bore a tree and taught how the technique can determine the age and volume of the tree.

“They’ll take the data back to their class and figure out how many trees they can harvest and how many they have to plant in order to stay sustainable,” Reeves explained.

Before heading back to the classroom, students also got a chance to go on the hunt for wildlife.

“Down at the barn, they dissect owl pellets and learn about scat tracks and actually go out and look on the trails to see if they can track wildlife,” Ash said.