Tillamook High School Senior Justin Rowley is very sure about one thing: He prefers being in a forest to sitting in a classroom.
“Getting outside and doing something that’s hands-on is just a better way for me to learn,” Rowley told Oregon Forests Forever.
In fact, for the last three years, Rowley and other students participating in the Natural Resources Education Program at Tillamook High School have had hands-on experience doing biological surveys and tree inventories of nearby forest lands.
The Tillamook School District is a model Natural Resources Program for the state.
Over the past three years, Rowley and other Tillamook High School students in the forestry track have studied a three-section parcel of nearby forest lands. They’ve calculated how many trees per acre – 400—and their species – 50 percent hemlock, 30 percent spruce and 20 percent cedar. They determined the diameter of the trees and how much board feet of lumber the land would produce.
In consultation with the land owner, local logging companies and the Oregon Department of Forestry, the students helped decide when and how the trees would be harvested. Future students will collect data as the site is prepped and replanted next spring.
“This is going to be a working laboratory for us for many years,” says teacher Lori Loeffler, Natural Resource Career Technical Education Teacher and adviser to the Tillamook High Future Natural Resource Leaders.
Along with science lessons, Loeffler says students gain important “soft skills,” such as learning to work as part of a team and challenging themselves to do things they haven’t tried before.
Students enrolled in natural resources classes not only get to spend time outside, they also hear from a variety of professionals — loggers, foresters, biologists, fishers, electrical linemen – who share what they do and what the students need to know to land similar jobs.
Loeffler says one of her students spent the summer of 2018 working as a wildland firefighter with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“In a rural community with a natural resource-based economy, we need kids to recognize that these industries are viable”
Dave Kunert, Division Forester for Hampton Lumber, says the program is a great way to create and sustain a local workforce.
“In a rural community with a natural resource-based economy, we need kids to recognize that these industries are viable,” Kunert says.
This year Rowley serves as president of Tillamook’s Future Natural Resource Leaders chapter. He will attend trade school after graduation and, eventually, wants to become an electrical lineman. The friends, learning and experience gained as part of the Natural Resource Program, he says, will stay with him forever.