On April 14, 2011, the North Olympic Chapter of the Washington State Society of American Foresters (WSSAF) hosted a field day on the Blue Mountain Demonstration Forest for the fourth grade classes of Dry Creek Elementary School in Port Angeles. Fifty students along with their teachers Nancy McHenry and Wyndi Cole, and 10 parent volunteers, attended a half-day program that focused on local history, watersheds, wetlands, flora and fauna of downed logs, and tree health.
The program was supported by a Foresters’ Fund grant, the Admiralty Inlet Chapter of WSSAF, North Olympic Timber Action Committee, Green Crow LLC, Hermann Brothers Logging, Inc. and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). Instructors for the half-day curriculum included professionals from Green Crow LLC, Hermann Brothers Logging, Inc., and WDNR.
In the early 1990s, the Blue Mountain Demonstration Forest was established as a public-private partnership on WDNR forestlands located on Blue Mountain Road between Port Angeles and Sequim. The partners included WDNR, Port Angeles and Sequim School Districts, Washington State University (WSU) Cooperative Extension, North Olympic Timber Action Committee, Clallam County, the timber industry, and private citizens.
Forestry education programs for school children and the community were held on a regular basis throughout the 1990s on the Blue Mountain Demonstration Forest. Due to budget cuts, the education programs were significantly reduced the past 10 years. The 2011 program was designed to renew interest in the Blue Mountain Demonstration Forest as a valuable teaching resource for the local schools and community.
The curriculum for the Blue Mountain Demonstration Forest had previously been created by WSU Cooperative Extension staff, local educators, WDNR personnel, local community members, and SAF members. The program included a field trip journal with questions the students were to answer through the field exercises. There were five stations for this program: History, Water Wonders, Fallen Log, Wetland Metaphors, and Trees in Trouble. The students had 30 minutes at each station before they rotated to the next one.
The focal point for the Blue Mountain Demonstration Forest is the pioneer schoolhouse and cemetery located on adjoining property owned by the Sequim School District. Established in 1903, the building is a registered historic site. As a descendent of a pioneer family, Bill Hermann gave the students a personal perspective on what it was like for his family to live and go to school in the early part of the 20th century in that area. The schoolhouse boasts several photos of the early pioneer students and their families.
Cindi Tonasket of the WDNR and a member of Admiralty Inlet Chapter WSSAF guided students through a hands-on exercise designed to teach them about the water cycle and watershed processes.
Wayne Fitzwater of the WDNR gave students a hands-on experience with digging into fallen logs to discover the various forms of plant and animal life that live in and on downed woody debris.
Tom Swanson of Green Crow LLC, and a member of North Olympic Chapter WSSAF, guided students through a hands-on exercise with metaphors that explained the ecological functions of forested wetlands.
Casey Hanell of the WDNR used tree cookies to give students a practical experience to count tree rings, and help explain tree and forest health and vigor, and the role of snags for habitat in the forest environment.
Travis Christensen of the WDNR assisted with the logistics of setting up the course and keeping everyone on schedule for the various field sessions.
Ed Shier of the WDNR was the main force in reopening and clearing out the trails to the field sites. Additional trail maintenance over the past several years has been performed by Bill and Fred Hermann, and Bob Brackbill, a neighbor on Blue Mountain Road.
Although the weather was cool, the students and their parent volunteers enjoyed the outdoor experience if the smiles and laughter are used as an indicator. Nancy McHenry and Wyndi Cole followed up with thank you letters written by the students.
Tina Smith-O’hara, communications specialist for the Port Angeles School District, submitted articles for publication in the local newspapers, and published articles on the Port Angeles School District website and in Visions, a community outreach publication.
This was a well-received and worthwhile project. Special thanks go to Harry Bell, North Olympic Chapter chair, for helping to secure additional outside funding for this project.
Jennie Cornell served as program coordinator for the outdoor educational event and is a member of the WSSAF North Olympic Chapter. She can be reached at email@example.com.