A newsletter for alumni, friends, faculty, staff, and students of the OSU College of Forestry, volume 17, issue 1

 

 

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Learning by Doing

Sixth-Graders Practice Forest Management

Here's the scenario: Grandma Cronemiller has died and left 225 acres of forest land to you and your three siblings. But she's put some restrictions on the bequest.

The land can't be sold-the family must continue to manage it according to law and sound scientific principles. All resources, not just timber, must be considered. Timber must be harvested on a long-term, sustained-yield basis. And the four of you must agree on any management plan.

Oh, and one more thing: you'll owe $10,000 a year for the next five years in inheritance tax.

How do you manage the land?

Nearly 600 Corvallis-area sixth graders got a chance to answer that question in a simulation exercise devised by foresters and educators and conducted at the College of Forestry's Research Forests last May. The students spent a day at Peavy Arboretum and Cronemiller Lake, learning about forest soils, recreation, wildlife, and timber management.

Learning management skills. Middle school students examine growth rings (the core sample is fastened to the other side of the lath strip, above) and measure the diameter of a Douglas-fir (left) in McDonald Forest.

Students examined soils in an upland forest and in a wet meadow, observing the crucial differences between them. They used radios to track "wildlife" (actually animal skins equipped with radio transmitters). They interviewed an equestrian and a mountain bicyclist. And they sampled a forest plot the way timber managers do, using real instruments to measure the height and diameter of marketable trees and learning the formulas for calculating timber yield.

Back in the classroom, the students had to create a management plan based on the information they'd gathered at Peavy Arboretum.

Doug Eldon, who teaches sixth grade at Highland View Middle School, says his students found the exercise tough but worthwhile. "They had a hard time at first with the management plans," he says. "It took them a while to figure out the pros and cons, the costs and benefits-they'd never done anything this complicated before. But after a week or so it started to click."

Some of the management plans, he says, were highly creative. "One group wanted to establish an outdoor school. Another wanted to put in a pond and raise tilapia for market."

The students' comments about the exercise were mostly positive. One girl wrote, "I liked doing the management plan. It got you really involved like a real situation." Another added, "I learned a lot of neat stuff about the wildlife, soil, plantation, and much more."

The college, through its Research Forest education program, offers classes and workshops to about 1,300 young people a year, from preschoolers through seniors in high school. But the research forests are not as well equipped for teaching as the College would like them to be. Programs can't be held during the winter because there's no shelter for the students, and toilet facilities are primitive.

To address these needs, the College is gathering resources for a $2 million educational improvement plan. The centerpiece of the plan is a new building for Peavy Arboretum that would enable the College to offer educational programs year-round. The plan also includes a large-group shelter, covered learning kiosks, restrooms, seating areas, and enhanced pond and stream habitats.

The College is hoping to raise funds for these improvements from private donations.

 


Forestry Communications Group, Peavy Hall 256
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331 | (541) 737-4271
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