Forests are amazing! They help filter water, supply oxygen, modulate temperatures and rainfall, provide habitat for a diverse array of animal and plant species, and store atmospheric carbon. They supply the renewable resources for producing lumber, paper and heat, along with jobs that support families and communities.
Because forests are important in so many ways, it’s critical that K-12 students understand how they work and how we’re all connected to them ecologically, economically and socially, especially in Oregon, where nearly half the state is forested.
But for many educators, determining what information and skills to teach and at what grade level can be a daunting task. Fortunately, the Oregon Forest Literacy Plan exists as a tool to help educators prioritize the way they teach important forestry concepts, by offering a framework for educating Oregon’s K-12 students about forests.
The Oregon Forest Literacy Plan was created in 2011 by a group of stakeholders that included K-12 classroom and forestry program educators, community college and university faculty, and private and public forest sector representatives. Convened by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, the group identified what every student should know about Oregon’s forests by the end of high school. The plan was extensively revised and updated in 2016, again by educators and forestry professionals.
The goal of the plan is to help students become “forest literate,” meaning that they:
• appreciate the importance of forests
• understand concepts related to the forests of Oregon
• can communicate about forests in a meaningful way
• are able to make informed and responsible decisions about Oregon’s forests and forest resources
The Oregon Forest Literacy Plan has been distributed to thousands of teachers, and is used by OFRI education partners to identify priority topics and themes for programs. It also served as an outline for OFRI’s high school forestry curriculum, Inside Oregon’s Forests.
Oregon was one of the first states to create a forest literacy plan. As a result, OFRI has been a leader in providing guidance and encouragement in the development of similar plans in other states and even on the other side of the world. The Oregon Forest Literacy Plan has been used as a template by Georgia, Washington and Texas, and as far away as Tasmania. Now, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative is working on an international forest literacy plan using the Oregon one as a model.
It’s humbling to see so many others use the forest literacy plan OFRI helped develop, as a template for their own plans. It’s also exciting, because it means more students here and abroad are learning about the importance of forests and all the amazing things they do.
Director of K-12 Education Programs
In Oregon forestry, 2010 was a troubled year. The housing bubble had burst, the timber market was down, state budgets were way down, and organizations that provided education to forest landowners were understaffed and struggling to do their job. In response, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) and our forestry education partners, including the, the , the , the , , the and a host of other organizations, came together to form the (PFE), and successfully applied for a grant from the to provide educational programming for Oregon forest landowners.
The Partnership developed a; established a forest landowner website, ; created a forest landowner database; sponsored classes and tours; and generally upped the game for forest landowner education in Oregon. We also developed a strategic plan and identified our audience as family forest landowners, natural resource professionals, and loggers and other forest operators.
Since its founding 10 years ago, the Partnership has grown to include 16 member organizations. We now hold an annual members meeting to discuss our individual and joint projects, and produce a biennial resource guide for Oregon forest landowners called.
We recently released the 2020 version of. Spearheaded by OFRI’s Julie Woodward and the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Ryan Gordon, the guide provides an excellent overview of the many technical, financial and educational resources available to Oregon’s family forest landowners across the state.
In its tenth year, the Partnership is facing an unusual challenge: how to deliver landowner education during a pandemic. With COVID-19 forcing partners to cancel in-person educational events, OFRI and other members of the PFE hosted a webinar series called this spring and summer. The webinars featured experts who’d planned to present at the canceled 2020 , OSU Extension’s largest annual educational event for forest landowners. These experts covered topics such as managing for forest health, writing a forest management plan, planting trees, dealing with forest pests, restoring watersheds and conserving forest wildlife habitat.
Through the end of July, we’ve produced 28 Tree School Online webinars, which were attended by 1,900 people. An additional 2,860 have since watched video recordings of the webinars, for an impressive total of 4,760 participants. The webinars will start up again on Sept. 15, and be held every first and third Tuesday starting at 3:30 p.m. through June 15, 2021. Information is available at . A big thank-you goes to the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Forest Service, which both provided a grant to fund these webinars.
Finally, we recently developed a logo for the Partnership to appear on our new resource guide, webpage and webinars. The logo reflects a collaborative process, as shown by the circle of “arms” that form a tree in the logo’s negative space. The embracing circle also represents support, help and learning, which is the focus of the Partnership.
Happy anniversary to the Partnership for Forestry Education. May you long continue to educate Oregon’s forest landowners, managers and operators.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry
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
The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon Public Broadcasting and ProPublica recently joined forces on an investigative series regarding forestry in Oregon. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute was the focus of an article from this series. We take strong exception to the contention that OFRI is the lobbying and public relations arm of timber companies in Oregon.
OFRI was established by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 with a mission to advance public understanding of Oregon’s forests, forest management and encourage sound forestry through landowner education. OFRI receives no money from the state’s General Fund. Rather, the Legislature specifically dedicated by statute that OFRI be funded by a portion of the forest products harvest tax, which is a tax paid by forest landowners based on the amount of timber that is harvested.
OFRI operates on an annual budget, which is available to the public for review upon request. OFRI is committed to transparency. This is demonstrated by our practice of posting our quarterly board meeting agendas, minutes, meeting location and access details on our website. We also prominently place our name, logo and website details on every advertisement and publication.
OFRI has eight employees located in two offices, in the Portland area and at The Oregon Garden in Silverton. At The Oregon Garden, OFRI manages the 15-acre Rediscovery Forest and a natural resources educational program for fourth and fifth graders. Two of OFRI’s employees are professional foresters and two are natural resource educators. OFRI’s staff delivers upon its mission through three programs that educate K-12 teachers and students, landowners and the general public.
Roughly 25% of OFRI’s budget supports natural resources education in grades K-12. We focus on teacher professional development, in class programming, field trip transportation and grade level publications for teachers and students that meet or exceed state science standards.
Recently as schools around Oregon closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OFRI revamped our K-12 education materials to make them accessible for at-home learning. We transitioned the Oregon Envirothon, (a skills based natural resources competition) into a virtual event.
OFRI is committed to sound forestry through landowner education. We are a founding member of the Partnership for Forestry Education, which serves to enable collaboration for forest landowner education organizations across Oregon including Oregon State University Extension, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the United States Forest Service, the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, Associated Oregon Loggers and the Oregon Tree Farm Association among many others.
Through the Partnership for Forestry Education, OFRI recently spearheaded the effort to transition OSU Extension’s Tree School into a webinar format. Since the end of April, free weekly educational webinars have been delivered via Zoom and then archived on OFRI’s YouTube channel for future viewing.
OFRI landowner publications cover important topics including the protection of fish habitat and the maintenance and enhancement of wildlife habitat in Oregon’s working forests. Our most important landowner publication is an illustrated manual that explains to forest landowners how to implement the rules and regulations in the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
The Institute works closely with academic experts to ensure the information it presents is factual, current and credible. We believe in the importance of scientific research, especially when it comes to informing modern forest practices. All of the scientific research OFRI is involved with, along with any science-based reports, science reviews or educational materials the Institute publishes or sponsors, undergoes a rigorous review process involving feedback from a diverse set of stakeholders and subject matter experts.
OFRI runs an annual statewide public education advertising campaign. The reason behind the strong emphasis on advertising is that history has shown that educational advertising is the best way to reach Oregon’s growing population. Our ads provide a link to our main website, so that Oregonians can learn more from our diverse library of publications, videos and websites.
It’s a privilege to tell the story of all of Oregon’s forests, but it’s also a challenge. We strive to provide objective, science-based information that helps keep Oregonians informed about the forests that cover nearly half the state, including how sustainable forest management impacts their daily lives, from the air that they breathe to the places where they like to hike, fish and camp. That’s because forests truly are one of our state’s greatest resources.
For the forest,