The Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) is dedicated to advancing public understanding of forests, forest management and forest products. One of the primary audiences for our educational efforts is K-12 students and teachers. That’s because what the youngest Oregonians learn about one of our state’s greatest resources is vitally important. And just as important is what their parents learn through their children’s experience, especially as the demographics of our state change and many of today’s Oregonians are new to the state.
Full disclosure on my part: I am not a native Oregonian. I was born and raised in Rhode Island, and moved to Oregon in 1996. But as the mother of two native Oregonians, I have firsthand experience with what my children learned about Oregon’s forests, and what I learned from them. For both my daughters, the highlight of sixth grade was attending Outdoor School at Camp Howard. It wasn’t just the opportunity to spend time away from home with their friends. They both came back with knowledge about Oregon’s abundant natural resources and a desire to share what they had learned.
A key part of my daughters’ enthusiasm came from their sixth-grade science teacher, Sarah Zinzer. That is just one of the reasons I’m proud that OFRI not only supports training for teachers, but also classroom and field programs for students, and grade-specific publications for K-12 teachers and students. You can find a complete list of resources for K-12 forest education in Oregon here.
From a classroom perspective, OFRI partners with Talk About Trees, which places trained educators in classrooms around the state to deliver a hands-on program about the importance of trees and wood products. Amazingly, this program reaches nearly 150,000 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students each year!
We also recognize the value of getting students outdoors and into the forest to learn about the importance of Oregon’s forests and natural resources. That’s why we provide bus transportation funds that make it possible for classes to participate in forestry-related field programs around the state, such as those offered by the Tillamook Forest Center, Port Blakeley Tree Farms and Forests Today and Forever.
For older students who are getting ready to enter the workforce or post-secondary education, OFRI is working with the Oregon Department of Education and other partners to promote more natural resources-focused career and technical education (CTE) programs at high schools throughout Oregon. We support these programs by helping develop a comprehensive curriculum and offering teachers professional-development workshops and conferences as well as tours where high school teachers visit forests and mills to see forestry and wood products manufacturing in action.
Our LearnForests.org website serves as a resource library for K-12 educators seeking materials and curricula to teach about Oregon’s forests and natural resources. Aside from all the great content and resources we provide on this website, we also offer all our printed K-12 educational materials free of charge. In fact, we print and ship the materials directly to educators and schools around the state.
The hope is that by providing an array of educational resources, as well as supporting classroom and field forestry education programs, we’ll help young Oregonians understand how forest stewardship meets the social, environmental and economic needs of both present and future generations.
For the forest,