BEAVERCREEK, Ore. – With a GoPro camera strapped to his head, a smartphone in his left hand and a tablet in the other, Peter Matzka is out on the trail at the Hopkins Demonstration Forest in Clackamas County.
“A special call-out to Robert Frost Elementary in Silverton, Oregon,” Matzka says as the views begin building on his Facebook Live event in April. “They had scheduled field trips to bring all their fifth-grade classes out here. Unfortunately, because of our shut down and the coronavirus, [they] were unable to get out, so I thought I’d bring [them] a quick lesson about the different parts of a tree and take a peek inside.”
Matzka is the Oregon State University Extension Service forestry educator at Hopkins Demonstration Forest. He manages educational programs at Hopkins. Typically, he leads thousands of Oregon schoolchildren on field trips through the 140-acre forest.
But when Extension stopped its in-person programming in mid-March to help stem the spread of COVID-19, Matzka no longer had that option. He decided that because the kids couldn’t come to him, he would bring the forest to them.
He’s conducted short, grade-level appropriate, science lessons on Facebook Live. The first two videos have been viewed more than 1,700 times. Because some districts don’t allow Facebook on school-issued devices, Matzka published six of the videos on YouTube. His topics have included stream health and aquatic life – he hosted both videos in Little Buckner Creek – in addition to campfire cooking, and measuring the volume of wood in a tree.
Recordings of the live events can be viewed @hopkinsdemostrationforest on Facebook.
“We are blessed by having a nearby landowner that has a beautiful piece of property that has a cell phone tower. I have 4G coverage over the entire 140 acres,” Matzka said. “Instead of the schools coming out, I reached out to them and said, ‘Would you like me to do an educational video? They give me the topic and I go out and do it live.”
OSU Extension in Clackamas County helped form Forests Forever Inc., the nonprofit that operates the Hopkins Demonstration Forest. The Forest Forever board of directors includes OSU Extension foresters Mike Bondi and Glenn Ahrens.
Hopkins reopened to visitors on June 1. Matzka said he’ll continue to do the videos even after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
“A lot of the teachers are saying ‘I love this, can you do this for me every year?’” he said. “I still want the kids to come out to the forest, to get their hands dirty and their feet wet. But I see these videos as reaching an audience that can’t afford to come out.”