Children experience forest

A new generation of Modoc County School District third and fourth graders learned about their National Forest at Stough Campground at Cedar Pass on May 17 and 19. Excitement was high both days as the children learned about fishing, raptors, obsidian knapping, geology, wilderness, fire investigation and smoke jumping. Even Smokey Bear was in attendance.

The Cedar Pass Children’s Forest, an annual event, is a series of field trips designed to support classroom learning. Group leaders and volunteers included Modoc National Forest and other land management agency employees, tribal members, retired schoolteachers, and industry representatives.

Fisheries education groups were busy learning to cast with spinning and fly rods. One third grade girl learned quickly and caught a large rainbow trout on her third cast. A third grade boy when asked how he felt after catching a nice trout said, “Pretty normal, except it was the first time I caught a fish with a right-handed reel.”

Liz from Badger Run with a long-eared owlThe children were delighted with the presentation by Badger Run Wildlife Rehab from Klamath Falls, Oregon. The red-tailed hawk, vulture, starling and owl were superstars as they flapped their wings and gazed back at children eager to learn about raptor habitat and behavior. Liz Burton from Badger Run said, “They were a great bunch of kids!”

Children were in awe as they watched Mike Hiatt knapping obsidian, a traditional skill of shaping stones into the tools needed to survive. They learned from retired Archeologist, Gerry Gates about obsidian from the Warner Mountains and how it was traded by Native Americans as far as Orange County.

Under the guidance of volunteers and Forest Service employees, the children used all their senses to hear, smell and feel their surroundings. The increased awareness helped them find items in a scavenger hunt such as a smooth barked tree, a rough barked tree, a mushroom and a rodent burrow.

Engine 34 from the Warner Mountain Ranger District and the Prevention crew led by Erin Brogan were a hit as they engaged kids with fire safety and how to properly put out a campfire. With help from the prevention technicians, they conducted a simulated wildland fire investigation. Using scoops, magnifying glass and evidence bag the students found clues as to how the fire might have started.

When asked about his favorite activity, one young man from Ms. Warnock’s class said he didn’t have a favorite – he liked everything – especially the scavenger hunt and fishing.

Travis Erickson from Collins Pine and volunteers Doug Schultz and Don Mason taught fourth graders about silviculture, the growing and cultivation of trees. Students helped bore trees to assess their age and set up a research plot. They learned trees need sunlight, water and good soil to grow. “Soil building is a thousand-year process,” Schultz explained. “One hot fire can destroy the nutrients in the soil for years to come.”

Fourth graders also learned from Joe McFarlan, Jan Farshcon and Vi Riley about special rocks and landforms found in the Warner Mountains. Riley explained the importance of rocks, especially obsidian to the Native American way of life.

The Warner Mountain Ranger District Recreation staff Kat, Paul, Mike and Lindsay had items typical of what could be taken on a day hike or a backpacking trip. The children learned what and how to pack and practiced packing their backpacks.

Redding Smoke Jumpers Zack Petty and James Brumfield were on hand to talk about the tools and hazards of a smoke jumper. Children got to look at photos, drag a real parachute and even participate in a suiting up contest with one of the jumpers. 

The Children’s Forest event coordinated by Reese Soriano and Modoc National Forest personnel was sponsored by a donation from the Modoc Rotary this year, with the cooperation of Modoc Joint Unified School District.