FireWorks on the Plumas National Forest

Fireworks curriculum

Teachers from the Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) had their passion for science ignited during a recent workshop that introduced the new FireWorks Curriculum for the Sierra Nevada.

Three years in the making, the new curriculum about the science of wildland fire was developed as a collaborative effort between PUSD, Missoula Fire Sciences Lab (of the Rocky Mountain Research Station), and the Plumas National Forest.

During the workshop, teachers tested fire experiments such as the “Matchstick Forest,” “Campfire Challenge,” “Tinker Tree Derby,” and learned hands-on activities about local fire ecology and fire history.

Teachers at each PUSD school will have their own trunk of materials featuring tree and plant botanical samples and experiment supplies.

Fire ecologists from the Fire Sciences Lab adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of Plumas County students. It features hands-on lessons on fire ecology and fire-adapted ecosystems of the Sierras. The Storrie and Moonlight Fires were used as case studies in the new material.

For the past year, pilot teachers have been working closely with fire ecologists to test and refine lessons. As soon as minor edits are completed, the new curriculum will be made available to all national forests, national parks, and schools in the Sierras.

PUSD Outdoor Education Coordinator Rob Wade is thrilled with the new curriculum, “It has been a great experience working with the FireWorks Team during the past couple of years. They really have transformed this Sierra Nevada FireWorks idea into a meaningful, relevant curriculum for our teachers. We couldn't be more pleased and are excited to integrate FireWorks district-wide this year.”

Upon completing the workshop, teachers had a few thoughts about their experience, “I thought the training was very helpful. It was wonderful having hands on-experience with the lessons we will be teaching….I am confident that the lessons can be done with success in the classroom.” And, “This curriculum is so user-friendly and inclusive. My special needs kids are going to enjoy learning about their own backyard with the other kids in their classes. We can fulfill the activities, learn about the animals and the effects of fire and keep our neighborhoods safe….We will use the outdoor classroom and kids' forest to watch the seasons change and discuss how fire has seasons, too.”

Funding for development of the new curriculum was provided by the Plumas National Forest Storrie Fire Restoration Project, Missoula Fire Science Lab, and Plumas Unified School District.