Middle schoolers take science lessons from Forest Service

A Williams Middle School student tries on fire gear during a school field trip to the Williams Ranger District office May 4.

Photo by Loretta Yerian.

A Williams Middle School student tries on fire gear during a school field trip to the Williams Ranger District office May 4.

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Williams Middle School students can officially be called tree huggers after a field trip to the Williams Ranger District office May 4.

One-hundred and forty middle school students spent the morning with U.S. Forest Service rangers learning how science is applied to many areas of our lives and career paths.

“We are trying to teach kids how we incorporate science into what we do in our day to day jobs,” said Neil Weintraub, South Kaibab zone archaeologist.

Students spent the morning at seven different stations — wildland fire, archaeology, wildlife, botany/range, silviculture and timber and two recreation stations that included a 20 minute nature walk and an area where students were blindfolded and asked to locate a tree based on its texture and circumference. Many students wrapped their arms around their tree and breathed deeply, taking in the scent and feel of the tree.

At the end of the three hour field trip students used the iNaturalist app to map plants, insects and animals they found around the station.

“Our employees are very excited about this environmental education event and the opportunity to connect kids with science and nature,” said Kaibab National Forest (KNF) Public Affairs Officer Jackie Banks in an email.

According to Mark Christiano, GIS coordinator with KNF, Williams Middle School students have collected 562 observations in the iNaturalist app, with 136 different species identified and 41 students playing along on the app.

“They have collected a ton of stuff,” Christiano said. “It’s all different plants and animals. The great thing about this is when they observe something, other people can come along and confirm their observation. It’s a social networking of species.”

At the beginning of 2017, the Kaibab began a citizen science project to identify and document the biodiversity of the forest by encouraging visitors to take photos of plants and animals and post them to the project page using the free iNaturalist app.

Students without smart phones are still able to participate by using the school’s laptops to upload photos of their scientific finds.

Students enjoyed hands on participation in lighting and extinguishing pine needles and touring the forest’s fire engines. At the timber and silviculture station students learned how to use tree ring dating technology by helping core trees and count tree rings.

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