Reaching the Next Generation
|Mark Havel of Future
Forestry Products in Oregon shows off smallscale logging tools during an
outdoor classroom in Potlatch, Idaho.
By Barbara Coyner
A reporter once asked Mother
Theresa how she fed millions of hungry people over the years, and she replied
simply, "One mouth at a time." Getting the positive stories out on the
timber industry seems to be the same kind of missionary endeavor. After all, the
press seldom holds tent revivals to sing the glory of logging. Yet the positive
stories abound and somehow the public needs to hear them. Teacher education may
well hold the key to delivering the message.
stuck with me for a long time, and I know I will always think
differently about the industry after the internship."
Western Montana vo-ag
Lans Richardson gets an advanced lesson on balance in the classroom at Idaho's Camp Wittman during a
natural resources education conference.
"When you educate teachers, it's not a one time thing," says Betty
Munis, Director at Idaho Forest Products Commission (IFPC) in Boise. "A
teacher can reach 30 to 70 students per year, and for some teachers it's twice
that. It's worth spending the time and effort on teaching because there's a
spin-off year after year." Munis and IFPC Education Coordinator Michelle
Youngquist see about 400 teachers per year come through the popular national
program Project Learning Tree (PLT). IFPC holds twenty workshops around the
state annually, educating educators about water quality, buffer strips, forestry
practices and other aspects of working with nature to furnish products for
Connie Grant, a University
of Idaho grad student, pretends to be a salmon as part of Project wild's
hooks and Ladders program, presented to area teachers and students at
Latah Soil and Water Conservation District's annual field day.
"There's a lot of good
material out there to choose from," says Munis. "Our job wasn't to
recreate the wheel, but to find the best wheel and get rolling on it. Project
Learning Tree is a great leg of education and we found that the teachers knew
about it and trusted it. It provides a solid foundation that we augment with
Idaho materials." Youngquist notes that teachers consistently request material specific to
the state. She adds that "Cookies in the Classroom" is also a good
program, and both teachers and students identify with tree cookies and ring
dating as tangible props to explain forestry concepts. "What we try to do
is help educators understand the difference between environmental advocacy and
environmental education," Munis says. "The industry is changing, but
at the core of things, as a society we're still using wood. We want to help
people understand the points of change. When we do that, we find a lot of good
support for industry."
Smokey the Bear, one of the
original forest educators, started telling his story to teachers and
children over 50 years ago.
University of Idaho
forestry professor Harold Osborne illustrates for teachers and students
the process of a tree becoming a house during the annual Potlatch
Timbersports and Natural Resources Expo in Potlatch, Idaho.
Private corporations effectively
use internships, as well, to show teachers the nuts and bolts of what timber
people actually do. One teacher, Jim Greetham, of Gig Harbor High School
completed a six-week internship with Weyerhaeuser in 1999. During that time, he
worked with the company's head pathologist, Will Littke, groundtruthing the
accuracy of the company's digitized maps.
For Greetham, it was hands-on
education at its finest as he learned about wildlife behavior in an area
impacted by root rot, mastered plant names and vegetation patterns, and watched
corporate timber managers in action. He also learned about reality versus
idealism in such practices as clear-cutting and establishing prudent buffer
zones. "In one case, the law required a 50- foot buffer," the 15-year
teaching veteran explains. "The company met the letter of the law, but
because of the aerodynamics, the remaining trees were subject to blowdown. So on
one hand, they met the letter of the law, but ecologically, it wasn't the best
way to go."
Armed with new perspectives,
Greetham takes a different approach in the classroom these days, challenging
kids with problem solving in his American Studies and Western Civilization
classes. One class assignment asks students "Should your neighbor be
allowed to log all his timber?" The simulated circumstances involve a
retiree with 40 acres of timbered land, and students must factor for visual
buffers, wildlife needs, salmon impacts and Forest Practices Act, as well as the
"It was very
enlightening," Greetham says of his students. "These were 14- and
15-year-olds and they had a great sense of fairness. Most allowed for a 25 to 75
percent cut, and many saw things through the landowner's eyes. They dealt with
stream buffers, wildlife reserves, and visual considerations for neighbors and
the highway, using a percentage of the profits for those things." Largely
self-taught on environmental issues, Greetham had gone on several area nature
tours before applying to Weyerhaeuser with the idea of learning more. The
internship filled the bill. Not only was he amazed at the huge amount of data
the company had compiled on its lands, but he saw firsthand a professionalism
and strong safety ethic.
"Weyerhaeuser didn't want to
brainwash us, so we were involved in current and ongoing projects. They didn't
design anything special for us, and there was no agenda, because they didn't
want any negative publicity. They knew that teachers traditionally mistrust the
industry." Sheila Knox, a high school teacher in Coeur d'Alene, did a
similar internship with Idaho Forest Industries (IFI) in 1988, and says it still
influences her slant. Now writing curriculum for the district instead of
teaching, Knox said she walked away from her internship impressed by how little
the timber industry wastes. As a spin-off from her IFI training, the Idaho
educator got students involved in recycling efforts.
Creswell, Oregon vo-ag
teacher Ken Ball watches students come our of a soil pit as part of a
lesson on forest soil at Camp Wittman near Lewiston, Idaho.
Lynn Rasmussen of the
Natural Resource Conservation Service tells teachers and students from
several western states about forest soils and nutrients as part of a
natural resources conference at Camp Wittman.
Idaho tree farmer Dick
Wittman gives teachers and students pointers on natural resource
industry advocacy at Camp Wittman during an Agricultural Leadership
Conference at Camp Wittman.
"Those lessons stuck with me
for a long time, and I know I will always think differently about the industry
after the internship," she says. State commissions and private industry
both share strong track records in advancing timber education, because it's
logically part of the job, but volunteers in the private sector also factor in
heavily. Take Dick Wittman, a Lewiston, Idaho area tree farmer, who joined his
brother Mark and cousins Bob and Todd in creating Camp Wittman, a youth camp for
natural resources education.
The camp serves as a retreat for
Lewiston's Valley Boys and Girls Club, and also hosts teacher workshops
throughout the year. Wittman, who owns large tracts of timberland, built the
camp with other volunteers, completing it in 1989. The retreat boasts solar
power, log buildings, a challenge course and plenty of outdoor classroom space.
"This is an education center, not a propaganda place," says Wittman of
the rustic setting. "This is a place to tell the story, to explain systems
and processes. People come here as consumers to learn about the systems."
For educators like Ken Ball, a
high school vo-ag teacher from Creswell, Ore., Camp Wittman provides ongoing
training that he can't get elsewhere. He relishes the chance to visit a
different area, compare notes with other teachers and get practical lessons.
"I don't know where we'd be if we didn't have natural resources industries
supporting our efforts in the classroom," Ball says. "These programs
don't tell our kids how to believe, they just give them countless opportunities
to show how to manage nature and then they can make up their own minds how to
co-exist with nature. I think we get more support from industry because they
believe what they are doing is right. I don't think some environmentalists put
out as much effort to educate kids because they have more tunnel vision."
Barbara Coyner has covered
forestry issues and the timber industry for various magazines and newspapers for
over 15 years.
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