When you invite high school students into the woods, you set the stage for wonder, excitement and endless questions.
Organizers for “Discover the Forest,” a new venture sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Maine, also hope that, in addition to learning about the forest, participants will discover career opportunities and set the stage for a more diverse and inclusive workforce in the future.
In July, 19 students from Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island participated in the week-long “Discover the Forest” camp, the first forestry camp for high school students at the University of Maine. The camp was organized and hosted by the university’s School of Forest Resources with funding provided by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station. Participants came from diverse backgrounds and places, including young women and minorities traditionally underrepresented in forestry, as well as those from rural and urban communities.
Thunderstorms knocked out power at the Tanglewood 4-H camp in Lincolnville, Maine, the day before camp was to begin, prompting University of Maine faculty and staff to quickly relocate the camp to the university campus. The new location gave students on-site access to the University Forest, Perch Pond and the Orono Bog Boardwalk. Northern Research Station scientists, faculty and a number of graduate students joined campers during the day for lessons and activities related to forest inventory, interpretative signs, recreation management, fish sampling, forest operations and forest management planning.
The students enjoyed evening campfires, swimming, nature walks and opportunities to talk to natural resources experts.
The students peppered their hosts with many thoughtful questions. They wanted to know what it means to be a wildlife manager, what a forester does on an average day, and how camp instructors became interested in their field of study.
“I think the most constructive things I learned at camp were how to identify trees, how to estimate a distance by counting my paces and the importance of the forest to streams and rivers,” said Discover the Forest camper Christopher Wilson of Hartland, Maine. “Everything we learned was interesting.”