“Make it specific to our students, or we can’t use it.” That was the advice given to us several years ago at a teacher focus group. The teachers said they wanted publications that were written specifically for the age of the students they teach. They all agreed that materials written with a broader approach were of no use to them.
Their advice has echoed in the thinking and strategy of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s K-12 education programs ever since. We’ve been working to make sure we have one or more educational publications that are appropriate to every K-12 grade level. Student cognitive development and maturity at different ages makes it critical to write to their interest and reading abilities, as well as the grade-level standards that need to be met. That’s why a general K-12 approach does not work.
Using this approach, we have steadily produced publications geared to specific grade levels and associated standards. Some examples include Explore the Forest for third- and fourth-grade students, Into the Forest for fifth- and sixth-grade students, Life in the Forest for middle school students and Inside Oregon’s Forests, a curriculum for high school students.
One group that still needs a publication written for them is the beginning or “early” readers. These are primary school-age students who are just beginning to read. I’ll note that while our Sounds of the Forest publication is meant to engage students in that age group, it’s intended to be read to them by an older student or an adult.
Early reader publications are considered a stepping stone from picture books and “learn-to-read” books. The intent is to tell a story that engages the student with familiar vocabulary and appealing illustrations – and is also written simply enough that they’re able to read it by themselves.
We have begun to develop an early reader and the “story” in our new publication will be about the wildlife that live in each layer of the forest, such as the forest floor, the understory and the canopy. There will be abundant illustrations, and each page will include insets to provide a bit more information for adults to read to children.
The publication is in production now. If you have a beginning reader in your life, you’ll soon be able order them a new book from OFRI!
Director of K-12 Education Programs