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Students to use forest as classroom

By Steve Kadel
The Reflector
Area students will be able to learn about wildlife, forest health and other outdoor topics by visiting sites in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest during the upcoming school year. The nonprofit Gifford Pinchot Task Force plans to expand its youth outreach efforts, thanks to a $2,000 grant awarded in June by the Mazamas mountaineering club of Portland.

Area students will be able to learn about wildlife, forest health and other outdoor topics by visiting sites in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest during the upcoming school year.

The nonprofit Gifford Pinchot Task Force plans to expand its youth outreach efforts, thanks to a $2,000 grant awarded in June by the Mazamas mountaineering club of Portland.

“We try to involve students on the ground, doing exploration work, endangered species monitoring and habitat studies,” said Shiloh Halsey, program manager for the Vancouver-based conservation group.

Students in the Young Friends of the Forest program get the chance to set up cameras to monitor carnivore species, conduct plant surveys to look for rare or sensitive plant species, and monitor fish populations. The outings are intended to be fun and designed to teach participants about science, geography, resource management and the environment.

The goal is to develop on-the-ground study activities that are tailored to what students are learning in the classroom, Halsey said. Although students won’t get academic credit for the field trips, he believes it will be a good way for teenagers to learn about the natural world.

“We’ll encourage the students to develop hypotheses and go the the Gifford Pinchot to test the hypotheses,” he said. “We’re trying to re-establish that connection with nature and the forest, to develop a concept of stewardship.”

Some of the money will be used to make a video highlighting forest issues as well as what Halsey sees as the lack of connection between some teenagers and the environment. The video will be presented to classes as a way to introduce students to the task force as well as highlighting forest conservation topics.

Children and adults alike can get involved as volunteers during the summer. The opportunities include adopting a camera site to monitor various animal species, and road and culvert studies using GPS. Those who are interested in taking part can learn more by calling (360) 597-4271 or going to the organization’s website atwww.gptaskforce.org.

The Gifford Pinchot Task Force was organized in 1985, in part to advocate for the creation of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

 

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