July 11, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

For many years, Kentucky schoolchildren have learned about rainforests as systems. Some University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension professionals want to give teachers and Extension educators the tools to teach students about Kentucky forests as systems.

“We’ve developed units of study that have to do with forests as systems, adaptations of organisms in the system and changes in the forest,” said Carol Hanley, UK Extension 4-H specialist. “We’ve completed the units and they are organized around a learning cycle model.”

Hanley recently worked with Marcella Szymanski, UK Extension forester, at a one-day seminar at Natural Bridge State Park to show educators how to use the new forest resources. The lessons are part of a new program called AWAKE, or All Wild About Kentucky’s Environment. AWAKE is a partnership program of the UK Cooperative Extension Service, Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment.

“I think there’s strength in bringing formal and non-formal educators together because we have the same goals,” Hanley said. “We just overlap a lot and sometimes go about it in different ways.”

Seminar participants learned about the teaching units through hands-on activities such as journaling, crafts and games.

Washington County Extension Agent for 4-H/Youth Development Roberta Hunt said she came to get new information and new techniques for delivering the information to students.

“I work with the school system to develop programs that help meet the needs of what they need to be teaching young people,” she said. “It’s good to learn to help students go deeper into learning and trying to do that with forestry.”

Marc Johnson is a wildlife educator at Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort. He has a biology degree but said he doesn’t have the education background to know how to use his knowledge to teach others. He plans to use what he learned at the seminar in his job.

“It’s hard to talk about wildlife without talking about where they live and a lot of that happens to be in the forest,” he said. “I hope to gain a little better understanding of formal education and what teachers are looking for. I like the way this has been presented as a process that begins with exploration.”

The journaling activity allowed the participants to walk into the forest and observe. They were encouraged to write about their experiences.

“There’s a place for us in the forest,” Johnson said. “When you go out with specific objectives to record what you see, hear, smell and feel, you’re a lot better prepared to maximize your time here.”

Participants got to take home the learning units as well as resources to teach the units in the classroom or club setting thanks to program funding by the Environmental Protection Agency. Overall, more than 50 educators have attended one of four seminars around Kentucky.

More resources are available at the AWAKE Web site located at http://www.kentuckyawake.org. The Web site is for all Kentuckians who want to learn about the environment and not just limited to educators.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Carol Hanley 859-257-5961