Photo Credit: Setting Goals for 2020. Photo by Emily Troisi

Editor’s Note: There are a number of ways to engage with youth of any age about wildfire. From helping teachers with lessons in a classroom to going out in the field together, engaging in service learning projects or offering job exploration opportunities, wildfire practitioners can help play an important role in shaping the experiences of young people. Whether you’re interacting with 5- or 15-years olds, engaging the youth in your community means helping a new generation of people connect to opportunities and experiences in forest health, wildfire and more. To share a glimpse of some of the ways network members, partners and others working in the domain are engaging with youth, we’ve gathered a collection of resources, programs and events supporting kids of all ages. We hope this round up will help inspire your next project!

Cascadia Conservation District and Chelan County Fire District #1 – Kids in the Forest Project

Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network members, Cascadia Conservation District and Chelan County Fire District #1 have partnered up with other local community-based organizations to engage 3rd-8th grade students out in the field in North Central Washington. The main goal of Kids in the Forest is for students and teachers to see what healthy and unhealthy forests look like, and how wildfire, climate, and forest management play important roles in maintaining healthy forests.

The program has been a success so far. In 2019 they reached nearly 1,700 5th and 6th grade students in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties. Wenatchee School District has adopted Kids in the Forest as the standard 6th Grade Science Field Experience. This means every 6th grader receives both classroom instruction and a field experience to deepen their understanding of the concepts with an experiential approach.

Credit: Amanda Newell, Cascadia Conservation District

Cascadia Conservation District was awarded a No Child Left Inside grant from the State of Washington’s Recreation and Conservation Office to support their Kids in the Creek and the Kids in the Forest partner projects. “These funds will serve thousands of students in North Central Washington over the next two years. Hands-on outdoor education programs like this connect our students to the natural world as well as to local professionals and experts in natural resource management.” explained Amanda Newell, Education & Outreach Specialist for Cascadia Conservation District. “Through these programs we hope to inspire the next generation to appreciate and care for their local and global environment.”

Read more about the program and their partners here.

South Metro Fire Rescue – Wildfire Matters and EcoBlitz

Fire Adapted Colorado member, Einar Jensen from South Metro Fire Rescue (Denver-area, Colorado) has offered educational opportunities at various workshops and with network members. From EcoBlitz tours out in the field to developing curriculum for the classroom, Einar incorporates wildfire into learning for people of all ages. The EcoBlitz project is a field trip model, taking kids and adults through recently burned areas and giving participants a firsthand sensory experience showcasing the role of wildfire and the role of firefighters in wildland fire.

Einar also created a customizable lesson plan called “Wildfire Matters: Wildfire and Wildlife” targeted to 5th grade students (ages 10-11) and suitable for adults with some adjustments to content. The curriculum covers fire history in the area, benefits of and impacts on plants and animals, how people used fire, low and high intensity wildfire and its role in the ecosystem and more.

Southern Fire Exchange – Boy Scout Longleaf Challenge Camporee

longleaf seedling

Young longleaf tubelings planted after a prescribed burn in the longleaf pine restoration project area. Photo credit: David Godwin, Southern Fire Exchange

The Southern Fire Exchange in partnership with the Suwanee River Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, The Nature Conservancy and the Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance worked together with area fire management partners to host a fire ecology and restoration themed Scout camporee in 2017 and 2019. Collectively these events connected with over 250 youth and adults from around the North Florida and South Georgia region at the Wallwood Scout Reservation in Gadsden County, Florida. At these “Longleaf Challenge” programs, Scouts participated in activity stations led by local professionals and content experts that taught them about prescribed fire, forest restoration, invasive species, wildfire management, home and structure assessments, tree mensuration, UAV/drones and wildlife ecology. Scouts and adults at both events in 2017 and 2019 were treated to live, narrated 1.5 acres prescribed fire on camp property led by The Nature Conservancy North Florida Prescribed Burn Team.  Event partners are excited to continue to use this model as an interactive way to build support for longleaf ecosystem restoration and to inspire future natural resource professionals, land stewards and citizens.

To learn more about the project and see the numerous partners involved in the project, click here.

David Godwin also recently shared about the Scout event and other projects the Southern Fire Exchange helps support, such as Fire Festivals at the 2019 Cohesive Strategy Conference. To see some great photos and supporting partners from these events, take a look at his PowerPoint (PDF).

pre-burn briefing group

Burn Boss David Printiss from The Nature Conservancy conducts the pre-burn briefing as part of the demonstration prescribed burn at the Longleaf Challenge. Photo Credit: David Godwin, Southern Fire Exchange

Forest Stewards Guild – The Forest Stewards Youth Corps Fire and Fuels Program

In this blog post from February 2019, the Forest Steward Guild shared some insights from their Youth Corps Fire and Fuels program. The mission of the Forest Stewards Youth Corps program is to provide career training in natural resources for 16-19 year olds from forest dependent communities in New Mexico that have few employment opportunities.

One participant shared: “My season with the Forest Stewards Youth Corps has prepared me with the skills and knowledge necessary for a career in wildland fire. Through training and work, I was challenged and enabled to develop personally and professionally. This experience will forever prove to be an invaluable opportunity that I am thankful for.”

Since that blog post, The Forest Stewards Guild reports on their website that the FSYC program has employed over 600 youth, achieved 200,000 hours of conservation service and education, awarded over 200 hours of college credit, and invested over $3 million in rural New Mexico communities.

Children and Young Adult Books and Resources

Fired Up for Land Preservation

Co-authored by Dyan Youpee (Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux Tribal Heritage Protection Office) and tribal elders, Fired Up for Land Preservation is an activity booklet that teaches youth about the importance of land management and fire. For copies contact the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange.

The Great Plains Fire Science Exchange also has a number of other K-12 resources on their website.

FAC Net’s Summer Reading List (Youth Edition!)

Whether you’re seeking out great stories or images to craft a lesson for a group of kids, stocking your local library with wildland fire books or looking for another way to share your passion for wildland fire with a special kid in your life, this reading list is a great place to start. It includes books that the author, Rebecca Samulski, has found useful in her work with students of all ages and each book review includes an estimated relevant age range and how she’s used them in her outreach efforts. Read more..

National Fire Protection Association – Take Action Campaign

  • TakeAction is a campaign that provides resources and projects that benefit young adults, their families and neighbors. Learn more about the TakeAction campaign here!
  • The NFPA’s “Youth as Change Agents in Wildfire Preparedness” report presents findings from surveys and focus groups conducted between June 2017 and April 2018 in wildfire-prone states with the ultimate purpose of guiding the development of a teen outreach strategy for NFPA. Learn more here!

Updated FireWorks Curriculum (2017)

According to its website, the original FireWorks Curriculum was published in 2000 by the Rocky Mountain Research Station (USFS). The FireWorks curricula was updated in 2017 to incorporate the latest science, additional topics and activities, and updated national educational standards. Activities in the FireWorks curricula are labeled as applicable across many geographies in the US, however some activities about fire ecology and fire history are applicable to specific regions. Check out the .gov website to view available FireWorks curricula across different regions.

Looking Back

FAC Net has featured stories on our blog about engaging youth in fire adapted communities over the years. Here is a look back at a few of our “oldies but goodies”:

How Can Youth Play a Role in FAC? (2014)

“Why engage youth? Youth engagement offers change-makers the opportunity to influence the future by empowering and supporting young members of the community. At the Watershed Center we just completed our annual summer camp program and our youth field crew is wrapping up their season at the end of the week. These summer programs offer our local youth adventure, employment and knowledge about the place they live, and are an invitation to explore their identity against the backdrop of their place.” Read more…

Youth Engagement in FAC Part II: Service Learning (2014)

“Service learning is an approach to experience-based learning that allows students to develop and execute service projects based on community needs. It relies on students and their community partners to work together to identify issues and co-create service projects to address those issues. This is in contrast to more traditional volunteer programs that provide experiential learning that is driven solely by the needs of the community partner. Ultimately, service learning projects seek to connect students with real community needs that they can have an impact on.” Read more…

Teaching Fire with Fire: A Unique Approach to Community Outreach (2017)

“If your goals are to increase awareness about forest restoration and to advance FAC, schools can be a great place to start. Over the past few months, educators from Talking Talons Youth Leadership have been delivering a forest and fire program to middle and elementary school students across the Grants, Zuni and Gallup school districts in western New Mexico.” Read more...

Do you have other stories or resources from around the country that are about engaging kids and young adults in fire adapted efforts? Share your favorite resources, programs and ideas in the comments below!

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