Participants walk through wetlands at Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station (Turtle Cove ERS) on Pass Manchac in southeastern Louisiana.
Thirty-six statewide educators visited the Florida Parishes to learn about the forest industry and conservation.
By Whitney Wallace
America’s forests face a daunting array of threats that will require a new generation of leaders with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills — and an awareness and appreciation for the natural world. In Louisiana, we have found a way to equip our educators with the set of skills needed to help combat this threat.
Every year, a collaboration of agencies and private industry along with the Louisiana Forestry Association come together to recruit 35 teachers statewide and immerse them in the world of trees. As their students head for the park, the beach or a family camping trip, a select handful of teachers will head for the woods to learn about sustainable forestry from a wide range of knowledgeable experts that may include foresters, biologists, loggers, wildfire experts, forest-products manufacturers and ecologists.
The Louisiana Forestry Association and the LSU AgCenter, along with partners from government agencies and forestry professionals, timber producers and forest product manufacturers have been providing a weeklong educational workshop for Louisiana educators since 1993. The Louisiana Forestry Teachers Tour has become one of the premier professional development trainings in Louisiana. “This is not your traditional indoor workshop,” stresses Gracee Texada, the Louisiana Forestry Association program administrator. “Our days are long and packed full of field activities.”
While the content or location of the tour varies from year to year, the tour’s agenda stays the same: focus on the environmental, social and economic benefits provided by forests, water and wildlife conservation practices and offer lesson plans and resource materials that teachers can use when they return to their classrooms in the fall. The tours also include training and certification in Project Learning Tree, Project Wild and Project Wet and continuing education credits.
The goal of this tour is to provide K-12 teachers and educators with knowledge, skills and tools to effectively teach their students about forest ecology and forest resource management practices. They provide balanced, science-based education and an understanding of how decisions are made about management of forests and the natural resources upon which we depend.
So, how do we find Louisiana teachers willing to spend five days away from their family to open their minds to conservation? Traditionally, we relied on word of mouth and Louisiana Forestry Association members to help solicit teachers in their local area. However, we want to reach as many Louisiana teachers as possible. Help us spread the word!
When teachers return from summer vacation to the inevitable question, “What did you do this summer?” a select few of them will answer, “I spent an exciting week learning about Louisiana’s forests, wildlife and the industry the sustain.” This tour is unlike any other, with experiences as varied as viewing a live prescribed burn with a drip torch in hand, visiting an active logging site, seeing properly managed forests, learning about water supply and quality in a local brewery, viewing wildlife habitats and trekking through a swamp.
If you know a teacher or an educator who would enjoy this unique summer experience, please consider telling him or her about this event. This is a once-in-a-lifetime and rewarding multiday professional development opportunity that takes “outdoors” and “hands-on” to a completely new level.
In tough economic times, costs for multiday workshop experiences make it hard for teachers and educators to attend. Thankfully, this tour is completely free of charge (including all meals, transportation and lodging) thanks to our forestry sponsors in each state who cover the costs.
— Whitney Wallace is an assistant agent for the AgCenter in the southeast area for forestry and wildlife.