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Appreciating the Forests in PA, Yesterday and Today

Keywords: Forestry, Forest History, Jim Nelson, Industries, Williamsport, Sawmills, Charcoal, Rivers, Streams, Booms, Logging Camps, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Great Depression; Lesson Plan Grade Level: grades 6-8; Total Time Required: Two 45-minute class periods, with additional time for extension projects if desired; Setting: Classroom with DVD player (with connections to our State Park field trip activities); Subject(s) Covered: Forestry, Environment and Ecology, Pennsylvania History, U.S. History (Great Depression), Economics

Note: This lesson has been customized to fit in with the State College Area School District’s Sixth Grade Pennsylvania: Our People, Places, and Past unit

Topic(s) Covered: Logging Industry, Tanning Industry, Iron Industry, Charcoal, Chemical Wood Industry, Rivers and Streams, Railroads, State Parks, Civilian Conservation Corps, Joseph Rothrock, Gifford Pinchot, Dr. Goodard, Conservation, Sustainability, Forest Products, Recreation

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will better understand the roles that forests play throughout the history of Pennsylvania, from times before European settlement through today
  • Students will understand the economic impact forests have on Pennsylvania
  • Students will understand how lumbering and forestry are or were very connected to many other industries in PA, including iron-making, tourism, etc.
  • Students will be introduced to the concept of sustainably forestry
  • Students will make connections between forests and the landform regions of PA and waterforms of PA (which have already been studied)

Materials Needed

  • The Pennsylvania Forest: History With Jim Nelson DVD
  • DVD player and TV or projector
  • Textbook (optional; used in SCASD): Pellow, Randall A. Pennsylvania: Our People, Places, and Past. 
  • Large map of Pennsylvania (preferably listing major PA waterforms, cities, and landforms)
  • Blank paper and pencil for each student
  • Copy of “Big Ideas About Forest History In Pennsylvania” worksheet/quiz for each student and key for teacher

State Standards Addressed:
Environment and Ecology Standards: Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources (4.2); Agriculture and Society (4.4); Humans and the Environment (4.8);

History Standards:  Pennsylvania History (8.2) Economic Standards: Economic Interdependence (6.4) Work & Earnings (6.5)

Geography Standards:  The Physical Characteristics of Places & Regions (7.2), The Human Characteristics of Places & Regions (7.3), The Interactions Between People and Places (7.4)

Teaching Model: K-W-L (Know – Want to Know – Learned)

Methods

Notes: This lesson best fits in with the “Forests” section (p. 30-31) of Chapter 2 “Natural Resources of PA” (Lesson 6), or with the “Pennsylvania Develops Its Natural Resources” section (p. 118- 119) of Lesson 22 in Chapter 7 “Pennsylvania Begins Its Industries”   This lesson would also be a great lead-in or follow-up to our annual field trip to a state park, as state parks are specifically mentioned later in the DVD.

What I Know:

  1. On the front of a sheet of paper, have students record what they already know about PA forests by using a word web format.  Students Should write “What I Already Know” across the top of the paper, and they should write “PA Forests” in the center of their paper and should then make a word web, connecting sub topics as they see fit.  It’s important not to give too much guidance at this point, but you can suggest an example such as “industries” and then guide students to think of words that would connect to both forests and industries.
  2. Ask for students to share some of the things they already know about forests; record in a large word web on the board or projector. 
  3. If students did not suggest history, bring it up and ask them to record what they know about the history of PA forests. Do the same with other sub-topics as you see fit.

What I Want to Know:

  1. On the back of the sheet of paper, have students write “What I Want to Know about PA Forests and their History” and have them compile a few wonderings. Share some wonderings as a class.
  2. Depending on how your discussion about prior knowledge and wonderings went, you may wish to preview the DVD / pique interest by asking some of the following preview questions (answers will be apparent in the DVD) 
    • Where does the name “Pennsylvania” come from?  (Penn’s Woods)
    • What percentage of PA do you think is forest?  
    • What do you think the landscape of PA looked like when the first Europeans arrived? 
    • How do you think logs were transported? 
    • What PA city had more millionaires per capita than any other in the U.S. at one time because of the lumbering industry? 
    • Have people always treated the forests and other natural resources the same? 
  3. Decide whether to show all or parts of the DVD. It’s run time is 27 minutes, and it is broken into “Chapters.”   As the DVD is shown, it may be best to stop it after certain chapters to discuss content, take questions, and to point out certain places on the large PA map (i.e. Allegheny Plateau, mentioned rivers, Williamsport, etc.) 
  4. This discussion guide by Chapter can help facilitate discussion and includes more questions than needed- pick and choose based on objectives, class interest, etc.

EARLY YEARS (3:45)
What were some of the exceptions to forest when the first European Settlers arrived? Some areas cleared by native Americans for agriculture; rivers, lakes, and streams; some rock faces on mountains.

What are some of the tree species that you remember hearing about that were part of the original forests of PA? Oak, Poplar, Hickory, White Pine, Beech, Birch, Maple, Chestnut (Extensions- have you ever heard  of / seen these?  How many of you know you can identify one or more of these trees? Do any of you have one or more of these trees in your yard?)

What was girdling and why was it used?  Cutting a strip of bark from the base of the tree, killing it. Sunlight filtered through the withered branches and crops were planted in-between.  Eventually, the dead trees were cut and the stumps were removed.  (Note that the heavy equipment available today was not available then)

What was done to most of the timber? It was burned for the potash, used for making soap.  (There were some sawmills)

THE IRON INDUSTRY (5:57)
What was the best source of heat when the iron industry came to PA in the mid 1700’s? Charcoal.  How was this made?  4-5 ft. logs set up like a tee-pee, covered with leaves, covered with dirt, with a small hole at the top and bottom to control the amount of oxygen that got in. It took two weeks (you didn’t want to burn the wood- you wanted to burn off the water and leave the carbon.)  It was then taken to iron furnaces

Something to think about: 30,000 – 35,000 acres of trees were needed to produce the charcoal needed for just one iron furnace. Think of how much land was cleared for this purpose!

The masts and spars of clipper ships used up most of what native PA tree in the 1840’s and 1850’s?  White Pine

In what season and what locations were trees harvested in the 1700’s and the early 1800’s? During winter for transporting them over the ice down to the waterway, and then they were floated down the streams and rivers.

THE BOOM (10:23)
How were logs moved from small streams in to larger streams and rivers? Splash dams trapped the spring snow melt and other rains and provided the water needed to float the water down a valley into the larger rivers and streams.

How were the logs caught and sorted? Using booms (wooden cribs filled with stone with a large chain to catch the free-floating logs) near Williamsport. Loggers branded the logs and weren’t paid often until six to nine months after the tree was cut. There were LOTS of logs here!

In what city was Millionaires’ Row? Why?  Williamsport. The boom operators and 30+ sawmill operators became VERY wealthy!

What happened around sawmills across the state? Villages & towns sprung up practically overnight.  The disappeared when the lumber ran out, in some cases, as fast as they appeared

RAILROAD ENGINES (16:00)
How did the logging railroads differ from the major railroads and why was this important?  They were gear driven and smaller, thus able to negotiate tighter
Curves and steeper grades.  The Allegheny plateau and other areas were opened to logging for the first time

TANNERIES (16:57)
Hemlock tree bark was used for what? The tanning industry, because it softened leather

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY
(18:02)
What were wood chemical plants interested in? They were interested in the charcoal as well as the gases that were driven off when the wood was heated. 

What was different about the trees that could be used in wood chemical plants?  They could be used down to 3” in diameter.  How do you think this would harm the forests even more?  The small trees never had a chance to get bigger- they were not thinking about the future!

What problems were PA forests facing by the beginning of the 20th century? They were stripped bare.  Bleak landscapes. Raging fires. Erosion affected hillsides and waterways had excess sediment. Wildlife was deprived of a safe and healthy habitat.

How did forest management change as a result of this? Dr. Joseph Rothrock traveled across PA and talked about watershed protection, the value for wildlife, the value for recreation.  The PA and U.S. governments got involved.  Land was managed for long term health, viability, and productivity.

GREAT DEPRESSION (22:30)
What are some things the Civilian Conservation Corps did?  Fought forest fires, planted trees, built roads and buildings, created many state parks and picnic areas. Their impact has lasted until today!

Dr. Goddard promoted what new idea?  Forest recreation. What was his big goal? To develop a park within 25 miles of every Pennsylvanian

What are some of the forest products you can recall? Furniture, paper, bags, cardboard boxes, toilet tissue, books, etc.

Other facts: 116 state parks, 20 state forests, 1 in 9 households own forest lands

What is the second largest economic sector in the state, in a large part due to forest lands?  Recreation and tourism. Name some specific recreation and tourism activities related to forests: Hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, or experiencing wildlife / nature

What do sustainable practices hope to ensure? They benefit water, air, and wildlife. Sustainable practices hope to ensure that forests continue to provide economic and ecological benefits for everyone. (May need to discuss the meaning of sustainability)
Important Point: The forest is an ever-changing dynamic ecosystem.

Evaluation  (What I Learned)

•    Have students complete a post-viewing word web, entitled “What I Learned About the Forests of PA”
•    Informally evaluate using classroom discussion (see / use discussion guide questions above)  Ask students what they’re still wondering about.
•    Use the “Big Ideas about the history of PA forests” assessment worksheet
Note: This lesson is a springboard that can be used to jump into any number of lessons on forestry or other PA industrial history. It is intended to enhance our current social studies unit, where forest resources didn’t get the attention they deserved!

Possible Extension / Enrichment

Student “jigsaw” project: Students can read and report about what they learned from the different titles in the “From The Woods” series pamphlets.   (Or use these pamphlets for enrichment for students who desire more information about specific areas of forestry.)

*  From the Woods: Maple Syrup, A Taste of Nature
    * From the Woods: Forest Stewardship
    * From the Woods: Hardwood Lumber
    * From the Woods: Harvesting Trees
    * From the Woods: White-Tailed Deer
    * From the Woods: Watersheds
    * From the Woods: Paper!
    * From the Woods: Hardwood Veneer
    * From the Woods: Incredible Wood
    * From the Woods: Sustainable Forestry
    * From the Woods: American Chestnut
    * From the Woods: Ten Important Hardwoods
    * From the Woods: Community Forests

Literature Cited

•    Pennsylvania State University, College of Agricultural Sciences Information and Communication Technologies. The Pennsylvania Forest: History With Jim Nelson. 2005 DVD (Contact 119 Agricultural Administration Bldg, University Park, PA 16802; 814-865-6309)
•    Pellow, Randall A. Pennsylvania: Our People, Places, and Past.
•    From the Woods series

Author

Jeff Tranell, Park Forest Middle School, State College, PA; grade 6