Educators spend a week at the Fire Ecology Institute

The 14th Annual Fire Ecology Institute for Educators, a weeklong forestry and wildfire workshop offered by the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) and Project Learning Tree (PLT), brought educators from around the state to the Nature Place in Florissant, Colo., earlier this month.

Educating about wildfire

From July 6 – 10, the CSFS and PLT, along with partners in Southern Rockies Fire Science Network and Coalition for the Upper South Platte, joined 14 teachers in Florissant to provide information and resources to educate students about wildfire and its effects on people and Colorado’s landscapes. The teachers came from locations around Colorado (with one teacher also from North Carolina) and taught students anywhere from fourth grade up to 12th grade.

Throughout the week, Shawna Crocker, the Colorado PLT coordinator and organizer of the Fire Ecology Institute, led the teachers on visits to the Black Forest Fire burn scar and fire station, Florissant Fossil Beds, Manitou Experimental Forest and the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar. Along the way, participants were met by experts in wildland and structural firefighting, prescribed fire, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), dendrochronology and fire mitigation and rehabilitation.

Hands-on experience

Teachers were given hands-on experience in learning how to cut fire line to halt a fire; measuring, identifying and aging trees; pinpointing and viewing the location of trees using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Google Earth; and practicing PLT activities correlated to Colorado’s state standards that they can later use in the classroom.

The teachers left with the latest information and materials that will be utilized in learning settings, as well as new professional connections with each other and facilitators. With the amount of valuable knowledge gained from an extensive week such as this, teachers are able to bounce ideas off each other, ask questions, and build lesson plans that align with state teaching standards for the upcoming year and generations to come.

“We cannot manage nature. We cannot bend it to our will. So often we try, and most often we fail,” said Chris Newby, a Lafayette-based teacher and FEI participant. “This is a lesson that I plan to carry to my students. We too are part of this system, and if we do not choose to work with it, we risk destroying it and ourselves.”