Eco-Friendly Explorers: Instilling Forest Awareness in Children

 

Forests are a big part of what makes Oregon such a special place. Quite literally, as forests cover almost half of our state, having access to the many beautiful Oregon forests provides wonderful opportunities for residents of all ages. Especially for children who are learning about the world. This education has countless benefits for kids of all ages and the state of Oregon as well.

The forests will continue to thrive if we impart their importance to future generations. So, if you’re passionate about this subject and want to pass that love down but aren’t sure where to start, read on for some helpful tips and resources.

 

Who Is Qualified to Teach Forest Awareness?

You don’t need to be an expert in Oregon’s forests to instill awareness in children. But whether you’re a schoolteacher, camp counselor or passionate parent, your lessons should be based on what the experts say. It’s important to have the facts straight and to know the research you’re passing on is up to date.

Gone are the days of having to scour through a library or endlessly Google to have expert resources on hand. The Oregon Forests Research Institute makes it easier. The institute has an online Learn Forests resource, which includes guides for forest education and awareness. This also includes guides for parents to teach their kids about forest awareness at home.

Know Your Audience

When you teach any subject, you want the students to be engaged. Especially when you’re teaching important topics like wildfire prevention.

Of course, there are a lot of differences between age groups. The ways you keep elementary-school-aged children interested probably won’t work for high school students. Thankfully, the Learn Forests resources provide materials from kindergarten up to the senior year of high school.

Students in kindergarten through second grade will benefit from learning the essentials about forests. This includes learning about the different animals that live in Oregon’s forests.

Kids in third through fifth grade will need more advanced material than early readers in younger grades. At this stage, reading materials can include graphs and stories about how forests bring many benefits to Oregon.

The materials naturally get more complex once kids are in middle school and high school. For high school students who are especially interested, you could teach a more robust curriculum that even includes labs.

Ensure Safety

One of the essentials of forest awareness is safety. Ensure you instill safety measures and set boundaries and ground rules. Especially if you are teaching your lessons in the natural classrooms of the forests. Here are a few examples of how you can stay safe in any forest:

  • Make sure you stay off of any unofficial trails. This keeps kids safe from poisonous plants and unsafe terrain, while also keeping the trees safe from human damage.
  • Pack a first-aid kit no matter how brief your trip into the woods. While Oregon’s forests are a beautiful place to visit, emergencies can happen.
  • Know what to do if you get lost. Have a game plan with your group of where you will meet or how to get in contact.
  • Plan your forest lesson during the daylight to better avoid slips and falls or getting lost. Take precautions around waterfalls and caves.

These are just a few ways to stay safe in the forest. Don’t forget to get the kids involved in your safety preparations to help them be more aware of forest safety too.

Choose the Most Enriching Activities

There’s a lot of important information about forests that the kids should know. But it won’t get through to them if you try to instill awareness solely through lectures. Your lessons can include demonstrations, field trips, videos, experiments and more. Again, you will tailor specific activities depending on age group.

With the youngest children, especially early readers, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Instead, they can start to learn through coloring books, sticker sheets, activity sheets and books that can be read aloud at storytime.

High school students are more likely to want to learn how they can turn their passion for trees into a career in a field like forest management. There are hundreds of jobs in the forestry industry. In an area like Oregon especially, this field is ever-growing and presents endless opportunities. Those who are seriously interested in a forestry career will want to hear from and ask questions of real people who work in that field.

Teach Kids to Keep Forests Healthy

An important part of your lessons will be the health of the trees. You don’t have to be a professional arborist to tell when a tree has seen better days.

As part of a lesson in forest management, teach kids how they can make a difference and keep the trees healthy. Knowing how to monitor a tree’s health and the signs something is wrong, will already be a big step forward. Some tips to monitor a tree’s health include:

  • Understanding how to spot crown dieback, invasive species and the different kinds of infections or infestations.
  • Explain how figuring out the cause of the damage can save the other trees in a forest.
  • Monitor the tree’s roots for damage.

Likewise, it is important to instill kids with the knowledge of preventing further damage to trees. Emphasize the importance of being delicate to exposed tree roots. Once they know how the roots are crucial for a tree’s nourishment, they’ll know to avoid causing any damage or scratches. That’s another reason why, in addition to ensuring everyone stays together, the kids must stay off undesignated hiking paths in the forests.

Encourage Kids to Plant More Trees

In addition to learning about existing trees, kids who are passionate about forests thriving are more likely to be interested in planting new trees. When doing this, make kids understand the nuances. lessons should include how different trees require different environments and have different needs for growth. This ensures that they’ll be more aware of what conditions specific species need to thrive.

How to Talk About Wildfires

Unfortunately, kids these days are more familiar with wildfires than generations before them. Although talking about wildfires might be a difficult topic of conversation, avoiding the topic could have future negative impacts. Lessons should instill information about fire suppression and efforts to prevent wildfires when going into any forest. Emphasize how important proper forest management is when it comes to these efforts.

A child’s forest awareness doesn’t end with your lessons. These lessons just might inspire them to seek out even more knowledge and they may even dedicate time and energy to caring for Oregon’s forests as they grow older. There are plenty of helpful resources for every stage of forest awareness. One way the kids can get more involved is by joining the Oregon Forests Forever campaign and browsing its website.

 

Anne

I'm a mother of 2 who likes to get involved in too much! Besides writing here I started a non-profit, I'm on the PTO board, very active in my community and volunteer in the school. I enjoy music, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with my family. We just adopted our 3rd cat and love them all!

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