Students’ carpentry project rises to new heights

boys and woman pose with boxes

QUINCY, Calif. – February 26, 2016 – For juniors at Greenville High School, woodshop class is not just another elective on the path to graduation, nor an active, hands-on break in a long day of sitting at desks—it’s an opportunity to invest in the long-term health of their national forest.

Teacher Dan Brown, a longtime Plumas County resident, is passionate about teaching usable skills that serve their communities and the surrounding wildlands.

“We keep coming back to the Forest Service for more projects,” said Brown. “My students are able to see a positive impact from the skills they’re learning in class.”

Students Ethan Elzea, David Hodges, Yujie Wang, and Brent Washoe recently designed and built nesting boxes for spotted owls. Use of the boxes helps Forest Service scientists measure the rate at which owls are returning to fire-impacted areas.

Certified tree-climber Wayne Cartwright of the Plumas Audubon Society hung the boxes in large conifers on February 16, working under a contract with the Plumas National Forest. Rachel Bauer, a wildlife biologist with the forest's Mt. Hough Ranger District, provided technical guidance on the proper construction of nesting boxes and helped determine the boxes' final locations throughout the forest.

This is the third year that Brown’s class has been working on projects related to Storrie Fire Restoration efforts as part of the Fire Restoration Project partnership between the forest and Plumas Unified School District. Previous projects have included bumblebee boxes, split-rail fencing at Halsted Campground, and efforts to reintroduce Webber’s milkvetch to fire-impacted areas, according to Brown.

“These projects are all part of creating a healthier forest,” said Michele Jimenez-Holtz, Education Coordinator for the Mt. Hough Ranger District. Jimenez-Holtz has more than 30 years of experience directing outdoor projects that bring students and land management agencies together.

PUSD Outdoor Education Trainer Rob Wade, responsible for formal liaison between the district and the forest, put the students’ work into perspective.

“In class, they’re not just making things you take home and forget about,” said Wade. “They’re outdoors, working with their hands, to build things that bring value.”

Hodges appreciates the class because of the frequent field trips and because it ties in well with his upcoming senior project, he said.

“This is an experience that allows me to do interesting work, and I’m going to be able to use it in the future,” said Hodges.

According to Wade, connections and skills gained in the woodshop class will be useful wherever the students go.

“The most important thing is that they’re learning to be stewards,” said Wade.