An Oklahoma transplant who fell in love with the Idaho outdoors, Deanna Kinziger has a special appreciation for all things Idaho. She does everything she can to share her enthusiasm with her 10th-12th grade students at Lewiston High School.
"I love being outside and sharing the wonders of biological diversity, the processes of the natural world, and helping students gain an appreciation for the world in which they live," Deanna says. "I hope to open students' eyes to the beauty and intricacies of the amazing place in which we live. I hope to arm them with knowledge that will encourage them to make informed decisions about the environment."
Deanna started teaching at Sacajawea Junior High in 1991. She taught Earth Science for 5 years before transferring to 8th grade physical science at Jenifer Junior High. She transferred to Lewiston Senior High in 2000.
"I first heard about PLT when I was invited by a colleague to spend a day with Idaho PLT Coordinator Michelle Youngquist and other teachers to evaluate/review the new high school modules in 1996," she recalls. "I have used the materials regularly since I moved to the high school, since I teach ecology and environmental science here."
Deanna appreciates that PLT curriculum teaches students how to think, rather than what to think. She also likes that the content is very relevant in Idaho, where residents depend on forestry for jobs as well as recreation and wildlife habitat. "It is of great importance for students to understand the workings of their forests," she emphasizes. "Today, we are using The Nature of Fire to complement our study of ecological succession. In the wake of wildfire season, it is very timely."
Deanna became a PLT facilitator after peeking into a PLT teacher workshop and seeing the enthusiasm with which Youngquist presented the material. "I thought: 'I want to be a part of that!'" she laughs. "[Former Idaho PLT Coordinator] Mike Bowman was our urban forester at that time—he was instrumental in my being in the building at that moment."
A typical PLT lesson, according to Deanna, involves "coordination of many activities with the urban forester, with the dual purpose of not only educating students about their urban forest, but also supporting their ecological and environmental studies," Deanna explains. "Students are amazed that much of the tree canopy in Lewiston is made up of trees that are not native to our ecosystem. We use Activity #1: Monitoring Forest Health from the PLT Focus on Forests module to study the trees on campus as well as at nearby Fenton Park (one block from Lewiston HS). There are some great lessons to be had. For example, because of the recent Locust Borer Beetle infestation, students have been able to witness changes in the health of the park trees."
"We also study the mitigating effects of trees/urban forest on storm water runoff," Deanna continues. "Students have adopted two bodies of water to monitor and compare. We visit Kiwanis settling ponds and Lapwai Creek at the Clearwater River confluence. Students get to apply the skills they learned from the PLT forest studies to perform stream habitat and water quality assessments."
Deanna's students are very active in the field. The classes go on field trips to Kiwanis Park on Lewiston Levee on the Snake River and the Lapwai Creek Watershed. Her students also practice community service by participating in the International Oceanic Coastal Cleanup, removing litter (especially plastics) from near the Snake and Clearwater River Confluence. Lewiston High students have also volunteered for stream restoration on both Palouse Creek in Moscow and Lindsey Creek in Lewiston, in conjunction with PCEI (the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute). Deanna and her students have also aided Lewiston urban foresters with plantings at the Modie and Community Parks in town.
The Idaho Forest Products Commission, which is the home agency for PLT in Idaho, provides Forest Education grants, and Deanna has been the recipient of many of these. "I have received money to buy tree guides, DBH tapes, a clinometer, and other materials with which to study our urban forest environment," she says.
"I absolutely recommend PLT workshops to other teachers, not just in science but in other content areas as well," Deanna declares. "The activity guides are easy to use with minimal preparation, and they include the background information needed to teach the lesson. Activities are indexed for subject, concepts, grade level, time requirements, differentiated instruction and much more. All the materials meet Idaho Core and other Idaho Content standards too."
"I am so grateful that PLT has strengthened my ability to teach inquiry-based lessons," Deanna continues. "PLT was my introduction to inquiry-based teaching! It has increased my confidence in preparing and implementing lessons, by providing examples of what a good lesson should include."