In this time of widespread remote learning, USDA Forest Service Experimental Forests and Rangelands bring the mysteries of the forest to the classroom, even when it’s at home.
The Experimental Forests and Rangelands network offers lesson plans, videos and other educational material for kids of all ages to learn about things like bird migration, water temperature, or what influences survival of sugar maple seedlings.
“Experimental Forests and Rangelands are world-renowned for the depth and breadth of their science and contributions to forest and range management,” said Lindsey Rustad, current chair of the Forest Service national Experimental Forests and Rangelands working group. “We are equally proud of our contributions to education and outreach in our efforts to introduce students of all ages – K through gray – to Experimental Forests and Rangelands through lessons and classroom activities.”
Experimental Forests and Rangelands are a vital resource for the Forest Service. Unlike scientific experiments carried out in laboratories, dynamic forest and range ecosystems are complex and not easily controlled. Studying them can be tricky. Fortunately, Experimental Forests and Rangelands offer access to natural testing grounds for exploring puzzling forest and range management issues, such as how to contend with invasive species, wildfire and climate change.
The educational materials from Experimental Forests and Rangelands provide a window into some of the research that these sites make possible. Spanning 81 sites across the contiguous United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, they offer an unparalleled opportunity to view local, regional and national environmental change at the continental scale.
Besides their comprehensive scope and stunning diversity, another distinguishing feature of Experimental Forests and Rangelands, is the long-term nature of their mission. Some data collection efforts stretch back more than 100 years and others are projected to continue for another two centuries.
The value of this information is immense, as there are very few comparable opportunities to capture long-term changes on forests and rangelands. Until a few decades ago, scientists and managers could not have predicted they would need to understand the effects of a changing climate on our natural resources.
Fortunately, we have the long-term records from Experimental Forests and Rangelands. By giving us the data and tools we need to understand large-scale and long-term changes, they continue to help us solve global natural resource challenges.