The goal of this program is for fourth grade students to interact with and ask questions about the natural world and to increase students’ understanding of ecosystem processes and increase awareness of the natural world. Overarching questions for the field trip are, “Why are forests important in the global ecosystem and on St. Croix?” and “What organisms live in a forest ecosystem and how to they interact?”
The program takes place at USDA Estate Thomas Experimental Forest where students work in learning communities of 10-12 and participate in three inquiry-based activities. Examples of activities include:
- Insect diversity – use a variety of tools to capture insects from different parts of the forest and learn about the diversity of insects and their roles in forest health;
- Climate change – create a carbon cycle model and learn about the forests’ role in carbon storage;
- Forest diversity – learn about tropical dry forests and other forest types, forest layers, observe growth rings and measure trees;
- Birds of the forest – use binoculars and field guides to identify common forest birds and learn about the importance of forests to resident and migratory birds;
- Hiking – travel through the forest trails with a natural history guide to learn about forest composition and cultural uses of many plants.
After completing the activities students gather at the pavilion to create art pages to demonstrate what they have learned. High school students guide students in designing their pages. The drawings and collages provide an excellent evaluation tool for educators.
Forest Field Days is funded by the USDA Forest Service and assisted by our partners at VINE.