Forests are amazing! They help filter water, supply oxygen, modulate temperatures and rainfall, provide habitat for a diverse array of animal and plant species, and store atmospheric carbon. They supply the renewable resources for producing lumber, paper and heat, along with jobs that support families and communities.
Because forests are important in so many ways, it’s critical that K-12 students understand how they work and how we’re all connected to them ecologically, economically and socially, especially in Oregon, where nearly half the state is forested.
But for many educators, determining what information and skills to teach and at what grade level can be a daunting task. Fortunately, the Oregon Forest Literacy Plan exists as a tool to help educators prioritize the way they teach important forestry concepts, by offering a framework for educating Oregon’s K-12 students about forests.
The Oregon Forest Literacy Plan was created in 2011 by a group of stakeholders that included K-12 classroom and forestry program educators, community college and university faculty, and private and public forest sector representatives. Convened by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, the group identified what every student should know about Oregon’s forests by the end of high school. The plan was extensively revised and updated in 2016, again by educators and forestry professionals.
The goal of the plan is to help students become “forest literate,” meaning that they:
• appreciate the importance of forests
• understand concepts related to the forests of Oregon
• can communicate about forests in a meaningful way
• are able to make informed and responsible decisions about Oregon’s forests and forest resources
The Oregon Forest Literacy Plan has been distributed to thousands of teachers, and is used by OFRI education partners to identify priority topics and themes for programs. It also served as an outline for OFRI’s high school forestry curriculum, Inside Oregon’s Forests.
Oregon was one of the first states to create a forest literacy plan. As a result, OFRI has been a leader in providing guidance and encouragement in the development of similar plans in other states and even on the other side of the world. The Oregon Forest Literacy Plan has been used as a template by Georgia, Washington and Texas, and as far away as Tasmania. Now, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is working on an international forest literacy plan using the Oregon one as a model.
It’s humbling to see so many others use the forest literacy plan OFRI helped develop, as a template for their own plans. It’s also exciting, because it means more students here and abroad are learning about the importance of forests and all the amazing things they do.
Director of K-12 Education Programs