“We wanted to give the students a way to connect with nature, learn about our native tree species and be introduced to natural resource careers,” says Olivia.
After hearing about a grant opportunity at a professional development workshop sponsored by Idaho’s Project Learning Tree, Project WET and Project WILD, Olivia applied for and received a Forest Education Grant from the Idaho Forest Products Commission. She used the money to create a Forest Day at the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute for 19 students from Paradise Creek Regional High School in Moscow, ID.
Olivia is the restoration coordinator at the institute, which seeks to increase citizen involvement in decisions that affect the region’s environment.
“The kids absolutely loved it,” says Olivia.
After biking the short distance from the high school to the institute, students moved through multiple stations designed to boost their knowledge of native trees and ecosystems, how indigenous peoples used forest plants, tree planting and the basics of forest management.
“They were so interactive at each of the stations,” says Olivia.
Her favorite moment during the event happened at the species identification station.
“A student ran up to me with a huge smile on their face exclaiming ‘I figured it out, it’s a Golden Currant, right?!’ We then checked the ID with the booklet IFPC funds paid for and an app on my phone,” explains Olivia. “We inspected it closely, discussed it and the student ran off to go identify another native plant. I typically don’t get that sort of engagement. It had a very positive impact on me.”
Students also received a swag bag with a tree identification guide; PLT & IFPC resources; a booklet about hiking, biking and parks in the local area; as well as water bottles, stickers and t-shirts from the University of Idaho, Nez Perce Tribe and USDA Forest Service.
“We financially support projects like these because we believe that Idahoans – especially kids – need to be forest literate,” explains IFPC’s education services and Idaho Project Learning Tree director Michelle Youngquist. “We think it’s critical that Idaho youth understand what a forest is, why forests matter so much to the health of our state, how we sustain our forests and what their responsibility is to Idaho forests now and in the future.”
Educators from across Idaho apply for IFPC Forest Education Grants every year. In 2022, IFPC provided 21 grants to recipients reaching more than 4,000 Idaho youth.
“We give special consideration to projects that get youth outside and preferably in a forest. We like grants that put kids face-to-face with a logger, forester or other natural resource worker or into a facility that grows trees, or processes or uses wood products like a sawmill, paper mill, furniture maker, building site, lumberyard or box maker,” explains Michelle.
“They couldn’t stop saying thank you, and we have actually had a couple sign up to become regular volunteers with us!” explained Olivia about the kids’ reaction to the event. “Just one small grant, a little planning, a handful of volunteers, and the desire to share a love of nature and you have a highly impactful day!
IFPC education services and Idaho Project Learning Tree also offer a wide variety of free learning materials for all grade levels; information about forest-related careers; in-person and virtual professional development workshops and writing, video and photography contests for youth.
Teachers and others who work with youth in Idaho may apply for a grant. Applications are accepted year-round. Learn more at IFPC Forest Education Grants.