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Healthy Forests

Keywords: Responsibility, under-story, canopy, life span, forest management, forester; Grade Level 4th – 5th; Total Time Required: 2 hours (depending on driving distance to a forest site); Setting: A nearby forest, preferably a managed forest setting

Setting:  A nearby forest, preferably a managed forest setting

Subjects Covered: 
    What makes a healthy forest,
    Forest management helps maintain healthy forests,
    Cutting trees is important and helpful in maintaining a healthy forest.

Topics Covered:
    What the ground cover in the forest looks like.
    Identifying what is in the under-story, and defining under-story,
    Identifying what is in the canopy, and defining canopy,
    Relating stream quality to forest quality,

Goals for the Lesson

To understand the marks of a healthy forest,
To accept the idea that cutting trees is necessary, one for human consumption needs and to maintain healthy forests,
To understand basic principles that guide a forester’s decision to cut individual trees or a stand of trees.

Materials Needed

Field trip preparation, permission and transportation.  Contact your local Extension office to locate a forester that can help you locate appropriate forest sites for the activities.
Notepaper, pencils, clip boards(optional but helpful), poster board, crayons, markers or colored pencils(based on preference and availability).

State Standards Addressed: 

    4.2.4C  To understand the elements of natural systems are interdependent,
    4.3.4B  To identify how human actions affect environmental health,
    4.2.4C  To know that some natural resources have limited life spans

14.  Methods:
 1. Before leaving for the field trip begin students thinking about the following questions.
    -(Referring to the Wonder of Wood lesson) ask students if they believe cutting trees to produce the products we use is necessary and good.
    - Could we live without wood products?
    -Can we go into the forest and cut down all the trees to get the wood we need for the things we want?  Why do they think this would be healthy or unhealthy?

    -How can we get the wood we need without doing damage to the forest?

    -What is our responsibility to our forests?

2.  Define under-story and canopy to the students.

3.  Explain that the forest floor, the under-story and the canopy are all connected in making the forest healthy.  When they are in the forest they will examine all three and make a record of what they find.

4.  Explain that today they will look at a healthy forest and identify what makes it healthy and discuss when it is good to cut the trees.

5.  At the field site:
    -Ask students to the look at the forest floor.  What and how much is growing there?  Are the plants all the same or is their variety?   Do they see any signs of animal life?

    -Instruct the students to look around them at eye level and slightly above.  Write what they see in forest growth as well as animal life.

    -Direct their attention to the canopy.  List what they see above.  Is it solid or is there sun shining through?  Do they see any animal life in the canopy?

    -Bring the class together for discussion.

    -Discuss what they saw on the ground.  Discuss that good soil is needed to grow healthy plants and trees, and to provide food for animals.

    -Discuss what they saw in the under-story.  The smaller trees provide shelter to wild life and birds and are the big trees of the future.

    -Discuss the canopy.  It gives shade to the forest floor, to trees that need to grow in the shade, and protects the under-story.  It provides homes for wildlife.  It provides shade for streams to keep the stream temperatures cool enough for fish to live in.

    -Discuss that trees have a life span.  If not cut and used they will eventually die.  Ask the students if it is better to let them die or to be used for products we use.  Draw them to the conclusion that it would be better to cut and use them.

    -Ask students to consider that, if it is better to cut trees, how would a good forest manager choose which ones to cut.

    -Some ideas to discuss are:
        Trees that are crowding other trees and not allowing them to grow could be cut,
        Trees shading smaller trees that need more light to grow could be cut,
        Healthy trees with straight trunks,
        Don’t cut trees that provide shade needed for smaller trees to grow
        Discuss that good forest management carefully selects what will be cut to benefit the remaining forest and provide the wood products people need.  Good forest management can also bring an unhealthy forest back into balance and provide wood in the future.  Cutting trees is necessary to maintain healthy forests.

Activity:

Back in the classroom, students will draw a poster demonstrating what they saw in the forest.  The forest floor should show low growing plants, the under-story a variety of smaller trees and shrubs, the canopy a healthy cover of mature trees. Students must draw arrows to each layer of the forest.  Students need to point out a couple trees that it would be wise to cut down to allow for others to grow.  They should add and identify a couple trees that protect smaller ones or shade a stream.  Animal shelters should also be included.

Evaluation

Examine posters to see if the student was able to identify the above characteristics of the forest.  Give assistance in completing the project where needed to ensure understanding.

Author

Julia Gordon, Homeschooling Parent