Resources for Focus on Forests Activity 1 – Monitoring Forest Health

Students will conduct a forest health checkup of a local forest area, will take forestry measurements, and will evaluate the ecological services provided by trees and forests.

This is one of 9 activities that can be found in PLT’s Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Forests moduleTo get the activity, attend a training and receive PLT’s Focus on Forests secondary module. Below are some supporting resources for this activity. 

STUDENT PAGES

Download the copyright free student pages that are included with this activity:

Evaluating Tree Benefits (PDF)

Forest Health Indicators (PDF)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Every month we carefully select new tools and resources that enhance PLT’s lessons. These include educational apps, videos, posters, interactive websites, careers information, and teacher-generated materials. Browse a chronological listing below:

  • “Meet a Forester” webinar

    Conservation and Youth Education Specialist and Colorado PLT Coordinator, Danielle Ardrey, and forester/firefighter, Kelsey Lesniak, with the Colorado Forest Service co-hosted a “Meet a Forester” webinar for Girl Scouts of Colorado. More than 30 Girl Scouts from across Colorado participated in this webinar on May 27, 2020 to learn about their jobs and the science of trees, healthy forests, the role of fire on a forested ecosystem, and forest management. Listen to the recording.  

  • Find your Path

    Learn more about the wide range of employment opportunities available in the forest sector with this 24-page publication Find your Path from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. Meet a professional in the field and learn more about what they do on a day-to-day basis.

  • Skype a Scientist

    The Skype a Scientist program matches more than 500 scientists with classrooms worldwide. Available for any level along the K-12 spectrum, a typical Q&A-style video chat lasts between 30 to 60 minutes and covers topics in the scientist’s area of expertise and what it’s like to be a scientist. Follow the link to browse scientists and sign up!

  • Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment

    Forest management in the eastern United States is faced with many modern challenges. To address the changes, researchers designed a long-term, large-scale experimental study of forest management and its impacts on plants and animals. This study, referred to as the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment, is in its 10th year and there are already some interesting findings.

  • Living with Wildlife: Snags

    What is a snag? How do dead and dying trees benefit the ecosystem? Learn how dead trees can actually provide more habitats for wildlife than when they are alive with Snags—The Wildlife Tree, published by Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife. The article highlights species that use snag trees to survive, what kinds of trees make the best snags, and how to create a snag tree for wildlife. For more species fact sheets and ways to attract wildlife to your yard, check out this Living with Wildlife series.

  • Interactive Map Shows World’s Changing Forest

    Curious about how forest cover has changed during the past several years in your area- or beyond? This interactive online map allows you to see forest loss around the world. Researchers found that the dynamics of forests in the south-east United States are unique. As a result of an intense cycle of tree planting and harvesting, the disturbance rate in this area was four times that of South American rainforests during the study period (2000-2012). The map displays not only forest cover (green), but also areas of forest loss (red), forest gain (blue), and places where there was both loss and gain (purple) over this time period. 

  • How Would You Manage The Forest?

    Help your students understand the delicate balance between human activity, climate change, and forest animals. This Minnesota Star Tribune article discusses the decline of the moose population. It includes a simple activity for students to explore the complex relationship among different animals and their forest ecosystems. Can you manage the forest for the benefit of one species? Get your students to answer this question for themselves as they learn how animals are connected to each other and the place they live.

  • Seed Characteristic Chart

    Investigate different types of seeds, and organized and describe them using this helpful chart.

  • Web Soil Survey from the USDA

    This is a website that contains the web soil survey from the USDA.

  • Connect4Climate Student Video

    Connect4Climate is an ongoing project between University of Maryland students and the World Bank. The video represents 50 sociology students’ perspectives after visiting the World Bank in Washington, DC. The video shows students’ passion and enthusiasm towards connecting other people, adults and students alike, to issues of climate change, “right here, right now, together.”

  • Into the Outdoors – Forest Ecology

    Into the Outdoors is an Emmy award-winning TV show with an emphasis on science education for middle school-aged students. The show’s new website, intotheoutdoors.org, provides free videos and other resource links on many environmental topics to make outdoor learning exciting and fun. While there are many exciting topics to choose from (such as sustainable forestry, biodiversity, and wetlands), Into the Outdoor’s 4-part video series on Forest Ecology is a perfect fit with many Project Learning Tree activities. These 5-7 minute shorts feature middle school aged youth that inspire all of us to take learning outdoors!

  • Unlock the Secrets in the Soil

    Check out the collection of infographics from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service! These infographics colorfully illustrate soil health: what soil is made of, what’s underneath, and what it does. 

  • IMOLD: The Interactive Model of Leaf Decomposition

    This University of Toledo project intended for grades 9-12 teaches students about leaf litter decomposition and how it relates to the Earth’s carbon cycle and climate. Using interactive tools, the website allows students and teachers to create their own animated models that display tree leaf litter decomposition rates for species of their choice and compare them to other species and different environments.

  • LeafSnap

    Leafsnap is a free app that can be downloaded onto the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (Andriod version in development). Leafsnap uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from individual leaf photographs you take in the field. This application contains high-resolution images of bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and more. Currently Leafsnap specializes in tree species found in the Northeastern United States, but expansion to include all US regions is underway.

  • PLT’s Monitoring Forest Health activity

    Maine teachers Laurie Haines and James Baxter designed a class unit focusing on PLT’s Monitoring Forest Health activity. The following documents outline their unit, which uses a local wildlife sanctuary for the forestry field site:

    1. Field Trip Requirements – This document outlines necessary pre-, post-, and on-site student tasks.
    2. Group Project Description – This document sets up requirements for a group project on a visual presentation of the field site.
    3. Field Trip Worksheet Packet – This document mimics the PLT Student Pages for the Monitoring Forest Health activity, and includes a checklist and additional images and questions to guide students through field investigations, every step of the way.
    4. Photo Journal Rubric – This rubric can be used to assess the group project work.
  • SoilWeb

    A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple and Andriod devices. A more technical application, SoilWeb allows users to access GPS based, real-time USDA-NRCS soil survey data. Using your geographic location, this app retrieves soil type summaries, including soil series names and image profiles.

  • EasyMeasure

    A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple devices (SmartMeasure for Android). EasyMeasure uses the height of the camera lens and its tilt angle to calculate the distance to objects of your choice. Simply aim your mobile device at any object, and this app displays the distance towards that object on top of the camera image. Upgrades can be used to also calculate object height.

  • Check Your School’s Climate Impact

    High school students can investigate the link between greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and everyday actions at their high school. Using EPA’s Climate Change Emission Calculator Kit (Climate CHECK) students can learn about climate change, estimate their school’s greenhouse gas emissions and conceptualize ways to mitigate their school’s climate impact.  Students gain understandings of climate-change drivers, impacts, and science; produce an emission inventory and action plan, and can even submit the results of their emission inventory to their school district. You can compare the energy use of your school with other schools nationwide, and earn the ENERGY STAR for your school if it qualifies as a top performer.

  • Return to the Forest Where We Live

    This video, available for purchase, takes a look at the devastation of the urban forests in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina. More than 70% of the trees in New Orleans were damaged by the storm and the flooding that followed. Can you imagine a city without trees? What changes result?

  • You-Tube Dendrology

    Dr. Don Leopold, State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry professor, has identified a total of 135 tree species on You-Tube. These 2-minute, high definition videos briefly summarize how to identify each tree species, its ecological characteristics and importance, and communicate fun facts. While the list of native and non-native tree species is familiar to Northeastern landscapes, many western U.S. tree species are also covered. These vignettes are also all available for free on i-Tunes.

  • Functions of Forest Soil

    This informational handout, made available by Montana State University Extension Forestry, describes forest soil profiles, functions, and the effects that natural and manmade impacts can have on overall forest health. 

  • Zero Carbon

    A free app that can be downloaded for Apple devices. Zero Carbon can calculate an individual’s carbon footprint by looking at a person’s daily habits. Once you know the amount of greenhouse gases your lifestyle is producing, this app offers tips on reducing that number. Zero Carbon also shows how your statistics stack up against world averages, and it can be connected to Facebook, for sharing results.

  • Saving Southern Forests

    Southern Forests for the Future has launched an interactive website for educators that focuses on threats to and the sustainable management of U.S. southern forests.  The site offers time-series maps that reveal trends and changes in southern forests, which users can scroll over and zoom in on to see areas of interest.  The maps can be used to support high school courses in biology, geography, earth science, and environmental science.

  • WildLab Bird

    A free app that can be downloaded onto any Apple device (try iBird Lite for Android). Use WildLab Bird to learn the basics of bird identification. This application uses audio, photographs, maps, and the process of elimination to help identify over 200 bird species. Sightings can also be entered into a national bird watching database for comparison. 

  • AllTrails

    A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. AllTrails helps users to get out and discover the outdoors. Use it to plan a national park visit, find a hiking path near home, or map a new trail of your own! AllTrails can help you find local places to run, hike, bike, fish, and more in the outdoors. You can even upload photos and images to trails you create.

  • Easy Chart

    A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple or Android devices. This is a good tool for teachers and classrooms. Easily create bar, line and pie charts that you can customize, save and e-mail or upload. The charts you create can be saved using multiple color schemes and in multiple sizes. The app also works without an internet connection.

  • EnviroAtlas

    EPA’s new EnviroAtlas tool is designed to help communities and researchers make informed planning and policy decisions related to the environment and ecosystems. EnviroAtlas provides datasets and interactive tools to allow users to explore the many benefits people receive from nature, often referred to as ecosystem services. EnviroAtlas includes over 300 data layers, letting users analyze how decisions affect ecosystems and their ability to provide goods and services. Key components include:

     

  • Global Forest Watch

    Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an interactive online forest monitoring and alert system designed to better visualize forest change across the globe. Developed by the World Resources Institute and partners, Global Forest Watch monitors forests across the world in near real time to show where trees are growing and disappearing. The system provides contextual data that fleshes out complex issues surrounding deforestation. It can be utilized by teachers for classroom demonstrations and activities, and by students for research. 

  • Monitoring Freshwater Ecosystems App

    This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Lake Science app developed by UC Berkley’s The Lawrence Hall of Science allows users to participate in and facilitate activities that teach about freshwater ecosystems. For example, families and educators have the opportunity to view videos and discover what lies beneath the surface with an “Under the Lake” simulation. The DIY Lake Science app is all inclusive – material lists, instructions, and explanations of how to participate in a day of exploring inside or outside are readily available and are displayed in a detailed and informational format. This app is free on iTunes, available for iOS 7 and above.

  • LearnForests.org Career Videos

    Check out the Oregon-based website LearnForests.org for a compilation of nearly 30 videos targeting Grades 4-12 about careers in the forest sector. In addition to valuable career insights, the videos contain various forest facts that are both interesting and informational. The first-person accounts of those who currently have forest careers provide an insightful resource for those considering a future in the field of forestry.