Sixth grade science students seek answers.
When sixth grade science students throughout the district were asked “how healthy is your forest?” they began a "healthy forest field study” on their school grounds as well as in local parks. Most students began their investigations with walks around the forests and they catalogued their observations about the health of their particular forest areas. During the observational walks, students were asked to identify trees and indigenous and invasive plants. At one school, students discovered that English Ivy had been making its way up the side of a Douglas Fir tree, scarring the tree as it climbed the trunk.
After their initial field studies, students returned to their classrooms and researched the impact of many of the invasive and indigenous species of plants they had identified and brainstormed ways to improve the health of their forest plots.
In the days that followed, small groups of students headed off to gather data on the invasive plant species on the forest floor. Their tool of choice was a two-foot squared PVC pipe grid divided into four parts. The PVC grid (transect) placed on the forest floor allowed students to record the percentage of invasive species vs. indigenous species. At the same time, students worked together to determine the percentage of canopy cover found above the transect areas. Aided by other forestry tools, students measured the circumference of trees, calculated their heights, and back in class determined the “tree-age” using an on-line resource.
After removing invasive species at some locations, the students noted that, in most cases, the forests they studied were healthy.
The forest project was supported by the Pacific Education Institute, an organization dedicated to expanding students’ opportunities to learn in real-world settings throughout Washington State.