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Fire in the Forest

Keywords: Hardwood, Softwood, deciduous, conifer, stand, shelter; Lesson Grade Level: 2nd - 5th grade; Total Time Required: 45 minutes; Setting: Outdoor Playing Field

Subjects Covered: Science, Physical Education
Topics Covered: Hardwood, Softwood, & effect of fire on habitats

Goals for the Lesson

Students will learn that a forest stand is made up of a variety of trees which provide habitats for many different animals.  They will understand how forest fires change the living spaces in a stand.

Materials Needed

Enough copies of “Hardwood Lumber: From the Woods” 1 per student 

Wildlife is All Around Us: Book 1 The Wildlife Detective”  pg 5- 1 per student

State Standards Addressed:

S4.A.1.3 Explain what happens to a living organism when its food supply, access to water, shelter, or space is changed.
S4.B.1.1 Identify and describe similarities and differences between living things and their life processes.
S4.B.2.1 Identify and explain how adaptations help organisms to survive.
S4.B.3.2 Describe, explain, and predict change in natural or human-made systems and the possible effects of those changes on the environment.

Method/Procedure

*Have students sit in a large circle.  Ask them to tell you what they know about wood. 
After hearing their ideas pass out the “Hardwood Lumber: From the Woods” pamphlet. 
Read and discuss the differences between Hardwood (Deciduous-loose leaves in winter) and Softwood (Conifers-hold needles all year).  Discuss the specific trees and pictures that are in each category.
Close the pamphlets and tell the students that they should stand and jump if they hear the name of a tree that is a hardwood and turn around when they hear the name of a softwood tree.
Call out “red oak” - they should stand and jump
Call out “white pine” - they should turn around
Call out “maple” - stand and jump
Call out “hemlock” - turn around
Continue until they get the idea. 
*Have everyone sit down and ask them what they think animals need to survive. 
After hearing their responses hand out a copy of page 5 from “Wildlife is All Around Us: Book 1, The Wildlife Detective.”  Read through the information and ask them what other creatures would have a habitat in the forest besides a squirrel.  Ex: birds, deer, snakes, insects, opossum, etc.  Link the idea that all of these creatures need the trees, litter, branches, etc as shelter which is one of the items of species survival. 
*Then have students count off by three’s making sure there is one person left as “it“ the hunter.  The 1’s will be a hardwood tree (individually they may choose a variety).  2’s will be a softwood tree (individually they choose a variety) and 3’s will be a forest creature (they choose).  Tell the students that a healthy “stand” of trees (forested area) has hardwood trees, softwood trees, and creatures.  Each hardwood tree must find a partner softwood tree and introduce themselves.  The trees face each other and hold hands.  The 3’s now go and find a home within the arms of the trees.  When the “hunter” yells “BANG” the animals try to move to find a tree without getting tagged by the hunter.  If someone is tagged them become that hunter and the hunter becomes a creature.  If a creature arrives at your tree the animal already in the tree must leave.  Make sure to trade hunters as he/she gets tired.  After a few minutes the students will get the idea so break up a tree and turn each of the trees into creatures looking for homes.  This should demonstrate how vital forests are for animal habitats.  Once the creatures get tired or bored you yell “Fire in the Forest” and everyone must find a position.  Animals become hardwood trees, hardwood trees become softwood trees, and softwood trees become animals.  Continue play and then have another “Fire in the Forest” until everyone gets a chance to be a running animal.  During the game “harvest” some trees after “the fire” by asking them to come stand by you.  This should demonstrate how habitats are lost during forest fires.   
Variations-
Several hunters can be hunting at the same time.
Hunters can use yarn balls to hit animals below the shoulders. 
* Have students sit and rest while you lead a question & answer summary time
     What are the names of some hardwood trees?
     What are the names of some softwood trees?
     What do animals need to survive? 
     How where the animals effected when trees were harvested?
     How were animals effected by more hunters?
     How were animals effected by fire?

Evaluation

Teacher observation during the game to see if students can introduce themselves as the appropriate tree and creature. 
Individual responses after the game when the teacher calls on students individually.  

Literature/Sources Cited

From the Woods: Hardwood Lumber. US Forest Service, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, and Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.  University Park, PA. The Pennsylvania State University.
Wildlife Is All Around Us: Book 1, The Wildlife Detective. 4-H Wildlife Conservation Program, Unit 1. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University.

Author

Sandra Speakman, Avon Grove Charter School 4th grade