Oregon’s forests, an economic and recreational powerhouse, can be a topic of contention. Information – and sometimes misinformation – filters down to children, who when misinformed may grow up with distrust in the state’s forestry management practices.
Oregon State University Extension Service foresters are in the community teaching the public, including young people, about the value of Oregon forests, which cover over 30.5 million acres – almost half the state. Working with kids, can change lifelong perspectives about how foresters and landowners sustainably manage the state’s largest and most important natural resource..
OSU Extension forester Alicia Christiansen hosted the 2022 Douglas County School Forestry Tour, an annual education program that’s been held for 60 years. More than 600 fifth-graders from around the county started the day by rotating through learning stations, followed by traditional logging sports games like cross-cut saw at the Glide Educational Forest.
Feedback from volunteers who work in the forestry and natural resources field suggested that some of the games be revised to include an additional educational component with a take-home message for the students. A new game was developed by OSU Extension to teach the kids about current reforestation practices, the importance of forestry in Oregon and how students can play a part in its sustainability.
In 2022, Christiansen received a grant from the Society of American Foresters to partner on a design for a new activity that teaches students how to plant and care for native seedlings. After learning hands-on about the process, students took home Douglas-fir seedlings to plant with their families, as well as an instruction cards with information about the state tree and Oregon’s forests.
As a result of the Douglas County School Forestry Tour, the 600 students who attended were taught the proper techniques and challenges associated with reforestation. Over 1,000 seedlings were donated by private timber companies and the Bureau of Land Management, a demonstration of community support to educate youth on one of Oregon’s top environmental and economic issues. The youth shared what they learned with family and friends, increasing positive messaging about Oregon’s forests.