Trout Lake Students Use Community Forest for Orienteering Training

MARS Board Chair Jim White wrote a great report about how some community members have been using the Mt. Adams Community Forest. Read on to learn more. Thanks Jim!

“Mt. Adams Resource Steward’s Pine Flats property has already seen plenty of activity. We thinned much of the property in early 2015, erected a nice identification sign, and hosted a forestry session about forest insects and diseases in the spring.

Another interesting use was spawned by the interest of two Trout Lake High School Seniors this past spring. Kris White and Michael Mersereau were in need of a Senior Project. They wanted to give middle-school students an experience in the woods, and decided to train 6th-graders in orienteering – finding their way in the woods.

Kris and Michael spent a half-dozen classroom sessions with the entire Trout Lake 6th-grade class, composed of about 25 students. The class learned how to read a map, use a compass, and gauge the length of their pace, for estimating distances. No GPS units involved! Kris and Michael felt that the students should be able to rely on the “map & compass” basics, valuable skills if a GPS unit were to fail, or if batteries were to die.

Kris and Michael then approached MARS Executive Director Jay McLaughlin about using Pine Flats for their exercise. Needless to say, Jay was enthusiastic – educational use is an important part of our Community Forest. The two seniors proceeded to lay out a couple of courses for the 6th graders to use.

The big day arrived on April 29. Kris, Michael, teachers Will Walters and Morgan Colburn, teaching assistant Kelly Miller, and a busload of excited students arrived at Pine Flats. I showed the students how to identify the ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and grand fir trees on the property, explained the forest thinning that had recently been completed, and showed them a tiny pine engraver beetle, working on leftover slash from the winter thinning operation. Kris and Michael then gave instructions on running the orienteering course, and the students were off, in teams of three. Instructions included compass direction and distance to each of about a dozen points, making up a roughly circular route to follow.

The students ran two courses during the day. A short “warm-up” course was used in the morning, with a longer test in the afternoon. At lunch, the group moved down the road to the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, where they were treated to a brief discussion about the Refuge from USFWS Biologist Sarah McFall. Jay was also able to join us and observe the action.

All teams were able to run the course successfully, a sign that they had paid attention in class! A happy, tired bunch piled onto the bus at the end of the day. They had mastered the basics of finding their way in the woods, and gained an appreciation for the community forest. We hope to see more educational uses of the Community Forest in the future!”

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