The Great Maine Woods

October 02, 2018 Sarah Perry

Maine Forests – Teacher's Tour Conference July 2018

For dedicated educators, the summer is an opportunity to rejuvenate the passion that makes their profession worthwhile. This can mean taking some time away from the classroom, exploring other interests and hobbies, or for many, switching up the role and once again becoming a student themselves.

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CVA College Advisor and Math & Science teacher, Jenny Wiltse-McClure, decided to take some time over the summer, to do just that. For three days, Jenny partook in a workshop for a continuing education credit with the Maine TREE (Timber Research and Environmental Education) Foundation. The Maine TREE Foundation works with State of Maine Foresters and Project Learning Tree (PLT) to educate and advocate for the sustainable use of the forest and the ecological, economic, and social health of Maine’s forest community. Participants are exposed to real-world applications of ecological field studies and relate these studies directly to sustainable forestry and wildlife management practices.

Jenny has utilized the PLT Forest Study curriculum to conduct field studies in CVA Environmental Science courses for the past three years, and she was excited to have the opportunity to see how to apply that curriculum in a more global perspective.

The conference squeezed in a great variety of topic studies and visits in only a few days. The group toured a local sugar bush and commercial maple sugar site; participated in an outdoor classroom lesson with a State soil scientist; conducted studies in forest management and silviculture with a forester from Baskahegan Land Company; visited salmon habitat support projects with Downeast Land and Lakes Trust; went on a tour of a Passamaquoddy managed forest, where they were introduced to ground-breaking wildlife habitat management studies that the wildlife biologist is currently conducting; and also, went on a tour of Woodland pulp and paper products mill.

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Jenny is excited to integrate her current curriculum with much of what she learned while attending this course. "This conference will allow our students to join a statewide data tracking program for forests by helping us establish a Forest Inventory Growth plot (a FIG plot) right in the forest surrounding CVA," Jenny said, continuing, "a State forester will come to campus to work with students to identify, measure and examine the health of all trees within a set parcel of land, which becomes our FIG plot for each following year."

Jenny sees this as an opportunity to connect our students with a much bigger effort throughout the State, as well as local landowners, she highlighted, "Data will be uploaded to a statewide website each year, and we will be able to compare the growth and health of our forest with many others in the state, this database will also provide helpful field study data to state foresters and local landowners."

Eventually, the Maine State forester, State Soil Scientist and other forest industry professionals (including Penobscot Nation foresters and wildlife biologists) will work with CVA students at various points throughout the Fall and Spring terms to explore further aspects of forest ecology and sustainable forest practices.

Of course, Jenny's efforts provided her with some great new take-aways, "It's good to know the foresters (employed by the government, industry and private landowners alike) are all working to manage forests in a way that supports wildlife and ensures the future growth and health of the forest system, this common goal maintains essential ecosystem balance with healthy forests and wildlife populations while still gaining income from forest plots for land owners."

Wrapping up, Jenny notes, "I'm really excited for our fall forest studies class in general, being able to just step outside of the classroom to conduct our own field studies is an incredible resource."

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