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What is so Important about Trees?
Amber O'Reill, Vocational Educator
"What's so important about trees anyway?" At least one student from each of my five vocational studies classes has asked me this question over the past two months while working on identification of local trees. The first time I found myself off-guard and at least ten possible responses sprang to my mind. As I was about to list my reasons to the students, I caught myself and remembered that as teachers you foster students thinking by posing their questions right back to them. So I opened it up to the whole class and asked, "Why do YOU think trees are so important for us to know about?"
Each of their responses directly related to the work they were participating in during our focus on forest management. The students responded with ideas such as: warmth, shade, lumber, oxygen, wildlife habitat, wildlife food source, and erosion control.
Our students know a lot about using wood for warmth. In addition to heating their own houses with wood, students logged, blocked, and split logs from our woods into cordwood to sell to staff and local residents. The students used chainsaws, mauls, and physical strength for much of the project. Then the students got a chance to gain experience using a hydraulic splitter after a staff member generously loaned it to the vocational program for the remaining duration of the project.
Several students mentioned how much cooler it is in the woods on a hot day. This reminded everyone about the importance of shade. As a class, we encouraged the health and vigor of our forest canopy by clearing out the diseased and dying trees to ensure us plenty of appreciated shade in the future.
When discussing lumber students recalled milling wood with Earl Cook, my vocational studies teaching partner, in previous years and the Hemlock logs we pulled out of the woods this year to mill for upcoming building projects.
With so many sloping faces on the land at Onyon farm students certainly talked about erosion. They recalled how the roots of the trees hold back the soil from being washed down the slopes. They also thought about the importance of maintaining the health of understory plants further aiding in erosion control.
Through these conversations I was reminded how integral the combination of class work and experiential learning is to the development of students understanding. Here at Kindle Farm we are fortunate to have the opportunity to put equal emphasis on both of these types of learning. I am confident that none of my students will again ask, what's so important about trees? Now they'll be the ones with at least a handful of reason to share with others who might ask this question.