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FireWorks curriculum and trunk materials


FireWorks is an educational program about the science of wildland fire, designed for students in grades 1-10. The program consists of a curriculum and a trunk of materials, including laboratory equipment, specimens, CDs, books, and kits of specialized materials for teachers. FireWorks reaches approximately 2,000 students per year.


Wildland fire provides a rich context for education because understanding of fire requires integration of several important concepts: properties of matter, ecosystem fluctuations and cycles, plant and animal habitat and survival, and human interactions with ecosystem. FireWorks content focuses on the physical science of fire behavior, human influences on fire, and fire ecology in the northern Rocky Mountains and North Cascades. The curriculum has also been adapted to Colorado ecology (implemented by Colorado Project Learning Tree) and ecology of the Missouri River country (from the northern Rocky Mountain Front to the tallgrass prairies).

Image of educational materials used in the Fireworks program.
Image of educational materials used in the Fireworks program.

Goals and Objectives

To increase student understanding:

  • of the physical science of combustion, especially in wildland fuels
  • that a forest has many kinds of plants and animals, which change over time and influence one another
  • that fire is an important natural process in many forests
  • that native plants and animals have ways to survive fire or reproduce after fire, or both
  • that people influence fire-dependent wildlands in the areas where they live
  • that people respond in different ways to fire-related questions

To enhance scientific literacy and critical thinking about science-related social issues among students, FireWorks aims to increase student skills in:

  • making observations
  • classifying information
  • measuring, counting, and computing
  • stating and testing hypotheses
  • describing observations, both qualitatively and quantitatively
  • explaining reasoning
  • identifying and expressing responses to science-related questions
  • working in teams to solve problems
  • critical listening and reading

Story Time Modules

Example of feltboard story for whitebark pine/subalpine fir forest.
Example of feltboard story for whitebark pine/subalpine fir forest.
Story Time is a series of narratives illustrated by feltboard materials, appropriate for children at the preschool and primary levels. The four Story Time modules describe ecology, succession, and fire for forests dominated by ponderosa pine, forests dominated by lodgepole pine, forests dominated by subalpine fir and meadows with whitebark pine, and ecosystems in the Missouri River Basin.

Story Time modules include instructions and templates for constructing feltboard narratives, materials, and backgrounds. Stories can be told in a single session or divided into chapters. Breaking it up may keep students more fully engaged and offer them time to absorb the complexity and/or investigate the ecology before moving on.

Teacher Resources

Photo of educators using the Fireworks educational materials.
Photo of educators using the Fireworks educational materials.
Please see the FireWorks Trunk Contents in the Downloads & Users Guides box to assemble individual activities. We also provide a tutorial for making your own Story Time materials.

Educator workshops are offered each year to teach educators, community leaders, and agency communicators how to use FireWorks. Two research projects have shown that FireWorks increases student and adult understanding of wildland fire (see FireWorks: Hands-on Education).


Smith, Jane Kapler ; McMurray, Nancy E. , 2004
Parkinson, Tamara M. ; Force, Jo Ellen ; Smith, Jane Kapler , 2003
Thomas, Linda R. ; Walsh, James A. ; Smith, Jane Kapler , 2000