California K-through-12 teachers will gather this summer at Camp McCumber, just east of Lassen National Forest, to participate in the Forestry Institute for Teachers program. Organized by the Norther California Society of American Foresters, this in-residence program will focus on forest ecology, forest management, and curriculum development, including field sessions facilitated by Lassen National Forest Staff.
“Many of the participating teachers are leaders in their profession,” said University of California Cooperative Extension Natural Resource Advisor Mike De Lasaux. “The initial goal of the program is to provide them with the information and tools to teach a balanced environmental education curriculum.” The FIT program emphasizes multi-subject curriculum connections including science, language arts, history, and math across grade level with Project Learning Tree and Project WILD as well as Next Generation and Common Core curriculum standards.
Ultimately, the program seeks to create an informed citizenry that understands the many values of the forest and the competing demands for its resources.
“As teachers become better informed, they share their findings with their students, giving them the skills to recognize, analyze, and make sound decisions regarding environmental and natural resource management issues,” De Lasaux said.
Teachers meet with practicing resource professionals from nonprofit organizations, universities, private companies, and government agencies, who present college-level instruction in forest management, wildlife biology, watershed management, archaeology, and fire science. These lessons are followed by field trips, where participants see natural and planted forests, active timber sales, stream restoration projects, projects to reduce fuels on the forest to reduce fire hazards, and more.
Teachers are then expected to develop a forest curriculum unit or project, which they implement upon their return home.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Andrea Brown, a sixth-grade teacher from Georgetown, California, who participated in the FIT program last year. “We covered so much more than I could have imagined, from the soil, trees, and animals to the people, communities, and businesses that all depend on a forest.”
Each of the four sessions is designed to host 30 teachers. Since 1993, half of all participants have come from southern California, a third from the Bay Area and Sacramento, and 16 percent from the rest of the state.
“One of our main goals has always been to bridge the perception gap between the state’s northern and southern residents,” said De Lasaux. “Urban residents are most concerned about protecting natural resources and recreational opportunities. Those who live in the rural north, closest to the forests, care greatly about creating resilient forests capable of surviving wildfire, providing sustainable and locally grown, lumber, abundant water of the highest quality and the recreational destinations that are cherished.
“Both perspectives are valid,” he emphasized.
There are still a few spots available in the FIT session on Lassen National Forest scheduled for June 26 through July 2. For more information or to register, visit www.forestryinstitute.org or contact Donna Vial at (209) 293-2391 or [email protected].
The Forestry Institute for Teachers is supported by public and private funding with the Northern California Society of American Foresters and the University of California Cooperative Extension providing overall leadership.