When schools were abruptly closed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 educators had no time to create a standardized, comprehensive distance learning plan. Instead, they had to improvise using a variety of emergency remote-learning strategies. Districts worked to reach students at home, but many parents saw the gaps in what schools were able to provide and became more involved in their children’s learning.
The Oregon Forest Resources Institute reached out to help these parents keep their students engaged in learning, and created a page on our LearnForests.org website called Forest Learning at Home. We built a library of grade-appropriate resources, each aligned to state education standards, to help teach students about the forests found throughout our state. The page includes a series of lessons designed for at-home learning using our educational materials. Each lesson explores a forest-related topic through a combination of reading, writing, scientific investigation and other fun, engaging activities.
We also converted one of our annual educational events for high school students, the Oregon Envirothon competition, to an online format this past spring for the first time in its history.
Fast-forward to the coming fall. Many districts are planning to start school online in September. Some will do this for several weeks, and others for several months. Districts plan to deliver comprehensive distance learning to students until in-person instruction can take place, using a standardized curriculum that has been developed with the goals of academic rigor and usability by all students.
This school year may progress through a variety of formats, including online learning, a hybrid model with students in class some of the time and at home some of the time, and – hopefully – a return to in-person learning.
Here at OFRI we’re working to develop materials that work in both learning environments (home and school) to keep students engaged in forestry education. This includes lessons that can be used by teachers in the classroom or on school grounds, or can be given to students for at-home work. The lessons will be available in both digital and print versions, for maximum flexibility with changing learning formats. Teachers can order print copies to send home with students, or send them links to download at home. All the lessons will be available on LearnForests.org. Teachers can find them on the appropriate grade-level page, and parents can find them on the Forest Learning at Home page. We’ll also publicize them through our quarterly teacher e-newsletter, Forestry for the Classroom (sign up here to receive it in your inbox) and through our partner forest education programs. As students use the lessons, we’ll find out what works well and what doesn’t, and make adjustments as necessary.
The best part is that when the pandemic is over and students are back in school full-time, the lessons will still have a purpose. They can be used to support forestry education programs either before or after a field trip.
We wish you good health, good spirits and a good time learning about Oregon’s forests.
Director of K-12 Education Programs