ionhorntsoshedtnatarounecer and acrTeacher’s Guideto Discovering the ForestFor Grades 3 through 8www.discovertheforest.org1Become aForest Hall of Fame HonoreeSee inside!

onhornsthedtnatiarounecer and acrosDear Educator,Remember what it was like playing outside as a child? Maybe you werea tree climber, a ball player, a forest explorer or a playground queen orking. Or did you prefer to find your special place and just sit quietlyuntil your family called you in? However you spent your days outside,you almost certainly enjoyed more unstructured “outdoor time” thanyour current students do.Today’s children have full agendas. Between school, scheduled activities,television, computers, and cell phones, they have little free time. It’sno wonder that children are losing touch with natural spaces like ourforests —and yet, time spent in natural spaces has been proven tohelp children and adults succeed. It reduces stress and improvesboth concentration and productivity. As such, helping children find“their forest”—their place in nature, imprinted in their hearts no matterwhere they are—offers benefits that cannot be underestimated.Public forests are ours to use and enjoy. The Forest Service manages193 million acres of public land owned by all of us—and there are millionsmore when you include local and state natural spaces in this tally.Research has shown that outdoor experience with a mentor is a strongpredictor of how environmentally aware and involved a child will becomeas an adult. Finding My Forest provides the tools you need to integratethe wonder of our forests right into your curriculum.“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, heneeds the companionship of at least one adult who canshare it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement andmystery of the world we live in.”– Rachel Carson, Author, Silent SpringPlease participate in the movement to engage our nation’s studentsin forests and natural spaces. Help create the next generation ofenvironmental stewards, so that current and future generations canbenefit from a lifetime connection to nature.Many thanks,Thomas L. TidwellChief, Forest ServiceSee what’s inside,so you can getoutside!How To Use This Guide3Objectives and Standards3Lesson 1: Discover My Forest(It’s closer than you think!)4-7Lesson 2: Know My Forest8-11Lesson 3: A Forest of Benefits12-14Lesson 4: A Forest of Possibilities15-17Finding My Forest Grid18Be a Forest Family Activity19Year-Round Calendar20For more information about the Discover theForest program from the Ad Council and theUSDA Forest Service, including research aboutthe benefits of natural spaces for children andadults, go to this guide, we have provided website links to pertinent reference material. These were current at time of publication.2www.discovertheforest.orgIf you discover a link that is no longer active, go to for other helpful links.

How to Use This GuideSuggestions for Getting StartedFamiliarize yourself with—theprogram website. You will find a searchable map of naturalspaces across the United States, information about forestsand their benefits, and supplemental resources such as theBook of Stuff to Do Outside. Encourage your students to visitthe site during computer lab or at home with their families toget them excited about learning about forests.Take Students OutsideThe four integrated lessons make taking your class outdoorsas easy as walking outside literally. Almost all lessons andactivities can be completed in your schoolyard! Each hasWonder, Discover, Act, and Connect components to engageyour students.Easily Enrich Your CurriculumWhether you are a classroom teacher or outdoor educator,these lessons can fit into your curriculum. The lessons areinterdisciplinary and connect with diverse learning styles.While you can mix and match the lessons, we do encourageyou to teach Lesson 1 as the introduction to the unit. Alllessons have a Science and Environmental Education focus,and also integrate with other subject matter.English Language Arts:Math:Music/Art:Social Studies:Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4Lessons 2, 3Lessons 1, 4Lessons 3, 4Join the iForest CommunityBy adding your class to the iForest network map at(, you canconnect and engage with those classrooms around thecountry who are also using this curriculum. Step-by-step information on how to access the iForestnetwork is available online at ( How to create a classroom blog is clearly outlined and can befound at ( a Forest Hall of Fame HonoreeYour class could become famous throughout your state and across the country! One participatingclassroom from each state will be chosen for the nation’s Forest Hall of Fame. If selected, your classwill be featured on the website, and people from around the country will be ableto see how you’ve been exploring and caring for forests.Complete the curriculum, actively update your iForest blog, and connect with other classrooms in thenetwork. Then, submit your class’s work for Forest Hall of Fame consideration at Only one class from each state will be chosen. It could be yours!ObjectiveObjectives and StandardsYour students will spend time in the forest in order to understand how and whythis time and these forests are so important. The Learning Objectives in thisguide are building blocks for a lifetime of active and thoughtful engagement withforests and other natural spaces.OutcomesAs a result of the Finding My Forest curriculum, students will be able to: Discover myriad opportunities in nature, and actively choose to return to theforest during their out-of-school time Experience time in nature (specifically, forests) that is beneficial to their mentaland physical well-being Explain how “healthy forests” are an interconnected web of resources that canbe threatened by fire, invasive species, loss of open space, and unmanagedrecreation, and understand how to protect them Explain the benefits of forests to our communities Engage with their local forests through exploration and conservation activities Explore forest-related careers Use digital media, including the website and the iForestNetwork, to enhance and reflect on their forest experiences Connect with like-minded students across the country and join the effort toconserve forests for future generationswww.discovertheforest.orgNational StandardsEach lesson is aligned with Grade 4and Grade 8 benchmarks of the NorthAmerican Association for EnvironmentalEducation’s (NAAEE) Excellence inEnvironmental Education—Guidelinesfor Learning (Pre K-12). They are indexedwith national standards for Arts, Civicsand Government, Economics, EnglishLanguage Arts, Geography, History,Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.21st-Century OutcomesEach lesson meets the themes andskills identified as 21st-Century StudentOutcomes by The Partnership for21st-Century Skills.Full-text versions of these standards,indexed by lesson, are available on ourwebsite:

1 Discover the ForestIt’s closer than you think!Lesson ObjectiveHow much do your students know about forests?Your students will become environmental journalists:developing a definition of a forest, researching“urban forests,” and creating the first posting fortheir iForest blog.At the end of this lesson, your environmental journalists willbe able to: Define “forest” and “urban forest” Locate their local forests, including an urban forest, on a mapand outdoors Identify the similarities and differences in two or more forestsStandards Alignment:North American Association forEnvironmental Education (NAAEE):Strand 1: A, B, C, E, GStrand 2.2: A, CStrand 2.4: A, B, C, EStrand 3.1: D21st-Century Skills: Creativity & Innovation Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Communication & Collaboration;Information Communications & Technology Literacy21st-Century Themes: Environmental LiteracyTime Estimate: One class periodAdvance Prep Find, print out or make a map of your local area that includes your school. Designate notebooks to be used as students’ Forest Journals, or collectsupplies for students to create their own journals (see Tip on next page). Copy the Finding My Forest grid, one for each student (page 18). Copy the Be a Forest Family Take-home Activity, one for each student(page 19). Use the step-by-step directions to access the iForest Google Map andcreate an iForest blog at OPTIONAL: Gather one or more compass for each group.Helpful Resources For more information on U.S. forests and urban forestry, check out out the Year-Round Calendar on page 20 for scheduling/school yearintegration ideas. It also offers suggestions for revisiting certain lessons atappropriate times during the year.www.discovertheforest.org4

Wonder:What Is a Forest?Share that the class will be exploring forests today. You may choose to get your students thinkingabout forests by engaging them with familiar media, such as fairy tales or other literature set inforests. You could also show the USDA Forest Service’s Public Service Announcements. What is a forest? Who has visited a forest? What did you see there? What did you do?Students could create theirown Forest Journals byusing recycled cardboard,paper, and fasteners likeyarn or binder rings.Simply hole-punch thecardboard for the covers,the recycled paper for thepages, and fasten.If no one has visited a forest, ask students to describe a forestthey have heard or read about. If students have visited forests, askthem to share specific information about those they have visited.Encourage them to talk about all facets of a forest, not just the trees.Students may mention other plants, animals, or nonliving forestelements, as well as spontaneous or planned activities they witnessedor participated in. (For example: A forest is a place with lots oftrees; a habitat for many animals; somewhere you can go to get awayfrom the city.)By definition, a forest is adense growth of trees,together with otherplants, covering a largearea of land. It is also anecosystem, consistingof a community of plantsand animals interactingwith one another and withthe physical environment.As a class, discuss these typical qualities of forests. Together, create a class definition of a forest.This discussion will be a great springboard for exploring the concept of urban forests later in thelesson, as well.Let students know that they will each be keeping a Forest Journal for the duration of their work inforests. Distribute the notebooks to be used as journals (or have students construct their own—see Tip at left). Ask each student to write the definition of a forest in his/her new journal.Extended Discussion:Expanding the definition of “forest”Encourage your students to think more broadly about forests, either as part of a class discussion orindividually through journaling.Encourage self-directedexploration by havingstudents search thewebsites we highlightthroughout this curriculum.Suggest that they work ontheir own during computerlab time, or at home withtheir families. What does a forest look like? What different forms can a forest take?— Examples: rainforest, mountain top, national forest, local forest, your own backyard What or who lives in forests? How do different parts of the forest work together? How do forests help our planet and us? What may harm forests? Who takes care of forests, and why is it important to do so?To extend the conversation, you may choose to sharemultimedia examples of forests from across the U.S.,found on the USDA Forest Service’s Forests By State list( list.shtml). Selectand share a few forests from this list that may not look asstudents expect. For example: www.discovertheforest.orgThe saguaros of the Coronado National ForestThe temperate rainforest of Olympic National ForestThe sand pine scrub forest of Ocala National ForestPetrified Forest National Park5

Discover:Where are forests?Show students the map of your local area, orhave them create their own using your map’s Where To Go tool( asresources. Ask them to locate your school andas many nearby forests as possible.Have students bring their Forest Journals outsideto the schoolyard (or the nearest area with one ormore trees). Ask students to point in the directionof the nearest forest, using what theyhave learned from the map(s).Take this lesson in a newdirection. Have studentslocate a forest on the mapand then, using a compass,determine the direction ofthe forest in relation to theclassroom.For a quick compasslesson, check to students that they are actually standing in a forest—an urban forest. An urban forestmay not seem like a traditional forest because most parts of an urban forest do not have densetree growth. An urban forest is the ecosystem in any settled area—urban, suburban, or rural. It encompassesall of the green space, including street trees, parks, landscaped boulevards, public gardens,greenways, and more! Eighty percent of the nation’s population resides in urban areas, so urbanforests may sometimes be the only forests that people experience. Urban forests enrich our lives by providing us with clean air and water, storm-water control, energyconservation, reduction of pollution and noise, and an increase in outdoor opportunities andeconomic development, not to mention tranquility and beauty. (For more on how urban forestsaffect our lives, see Lesson 3: A Forest of Benefits.)Explain to students that they will be environmental journalists, using their Journal to record theirresearch and writing a nonfiction story about their urban forest.“Forest Freeze” GameEncourage your students to explore their urban forest from differentperspectives by playing a game of “Forest Freeze.”1. Have students walk around the schoolyard/urban forest andwrite or draw what they experience in their Forest Journals.Remind them to use their senses of sight, touch, hearing, andsmell. Then, call “Freeze.”2. Students should stop, look, and closely observe the small areaimmediately around them, recording (through words or pictures)what they discover. Call “Unfreeze,” and they will return to a largerarea exploration until you call “Freeze” again.3. Return to the classroom and have students discuss their urbanforest and share their journals with each other.Modify the game bycalling directions, as well.Example: “Freeze Up!”would have your studentsfreezing and looking up fora period of time, payingspecific attention to whatcan be seen above—suchas birds and tree canopies.Next, revisit and revise the classroom definition of a forest based on these experiences. Havestudents write the new definition in their journals. Students could also create a Venn Diagramcomparing a “traditional” forest and an urban forest (Grades 3-5); or, choose forests in threedifferent forms (examples: urban forest, rainforest, scrub forest) and research/write a paperexploring these forests’ similarities and differences (Grades 6-8).www.discovertheforest.org6

Act:Meet My Forest Give students their Find My Forest grids. Explain that they will use the grid both in and outside ofschool to keep track of what they do and see in natural spaces; encourage them to continueexploring. Students can challenge each other to see who can complete the grid the fastest; or,your classroom could challenge other classrooms as part of a school-wide competition. Havestudents check off which grid squares they completed as part of the day’s lesson. Hand out the Be a Forest Family Take-home Activity, and encourage students to get their familiesexcited about forests too! Invite a local environmental journalist or an urban forester to come and speak to your students. S/hecould discuss urban forestry and give your students tips to include in their iForest blog, and possiblyjump-start careers in journalism, natural resources, or environmental science. Make your schoolyard/urban forest an even more natural space thanit already is. Some trees—like fruit trees—need “pollinators” such asbees and butterflies to help them reproduce. Grasslands often serveas hosts for forest pollinators. Create a pollinator garden in yourcommunity, and host the insects that help forests continue to thrive(visit Or, develop an outdoor Nature Exploreclassroom with the help of the Arbor Day Foundation and DimensionsEducational Research Foundation ( see a garden in action, follow USDA’s People’s Garden on Twitter( My iForest Introduce the iForest network and the class iForest blogto students. Explain that they will be part of a networkof classrooms from across the country that are learningabout, exploring, and conserving forests too. Get your class excited about the chance to be chosen asyour state’s representative in the Forest Hall of Fame. It’stheir work throughout this curriculum and on their iForestblog that could win them the slot. Break students into groups to complete their first blogposting—and remind them that it’s time to publish theirurban forest story and share it with the world. Groupblogging assignments could include: composing aparagraph that introduces the class, writing a descriptionof their urban forest, or comparing their urban forest to awell-known forest either in their area or elsewhere in theU.S. Lead off the post with your class’ forest definition. Depending on age and capabilities, students may alsodecide to include artwork from their journals, photos, orvideos in their blog post. Once their nonfiction story iscomplete, students could also create their own forestpoetry or fairy tales to share on the blog.Top: Photo by Darla LenzBottom: Photo by Lois Ziemannwww.discovertheforest.org7

2 Know My ForestLesson ObjectiveHow much do your students know about your localforest ecosystem? Your students will be ecologists,exploring a local forest and discovering how thedifferent elements of the forest are interrelated.At the end of this lesson, your student ecologists will beable to: Identify local plants and animals through touch, sight andsound, and collect specimens with minimal impact Explain how local plants and animals are interconnectedwithin your ecosystem Identify threats to your local forest ecosystem and how theyimpact the ecosystem webStandards Alignment:North American Association forEnvironmental Education (NAAEE):Time Estimate: Two class periodsAdvance Prep21st-Century Skills: Creativity & Innovation Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Communication & Collaboration;Information Communications & TechnologyLiteracy Use Helpful Resources (below) to plan Sensory Stations specific to your area. Locate a local forest using the Where To Go tool ( and plan a class trip to visit it, if possible. If not, plan to take your students to alocal park or your schoolyard. Obtain field identification guides for your students’ use – field guides are helpful toolsto enhance students’ experiences in the field (your school or local library may havesome to borrow), and/or review the online guides listed in Helpful Resources. Gather cameras, cell phones with cameras, and/or pencil and paper to “collect” livespecimens in non-disturbing ways (and easily post pictures to your iForest blog).It’s usually OK (check site regulations) to collect leaves, cones, and generally, othernon-living specimens. Cut 8-foot (2.44-meter) pieces of string, in two colors (several for each student).One color will represent “food sources,” the other “protection” (warmth, shelter, etc.).21st-Century Themes:Helpful ResourcesStrand 1: A, B, C, E, F, GStrand 2.1: AStrand 2.2: A, B, C, DStrand 2.4: B Environmental Field Guides:—Peterson Field Guide Series – by Roger Tory Peterson—’s Zip Guides (field identification guides specific to your zip code,including bird songs:— The Arbor Day Foundation’s What Tree Is That? Guide: Animal Sounds:—’s Animal Sounds:— The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library Online Archive: The World’sLargest Archive of Animal Sounds and Video: macaulaylibraryorg/ Nature-Watch webcams: For more information on healthy forest ecosystems, check

Wonder:What Is in My forest?Your students may travel to—and through—forested spaces in your community. But how much dothey really know about their local forest? To get students thinking about what they know and don’tknow about the forest(s) in their local community, have them complete a “Wonder” Challenge (seebox, below).Next, set up a series of Sensory Stations in your schoolyard or local park. If outdoor work is notpossible, set up the stations in your classroom. Every student should visit each station. You mightwant to include:Before taking your studentsoutdoors, you may want toreview how to experience theforest with minimal impactand share some tips aboutsafety. Discuss plants to stayaway from, like poison ivy,oak, and sumac; and animals/insects like ticks.For more information onsafe and low-impactexploration, check A listening station where students can listen to local forest sounds and count the different soundsthey hear. This can be as simple as having a small group sit quietly outside or near an openwindow or they could listen to sounds of local birds, animals, and streams on a portable musicplayer or computer. An exploration station where students can try to identify local flora. Bring your field guidesoutside for tree, bird, and plant identification. You could collect local flora respectfully by havingyour students bring in flora that they wish to identify and/or find images of local flora online. A viewing station where students can get up-close and identify local animals. This could be aschool bird feeder, observing a butterfly/pollinator garden, or a field trip to a Forest Service NatureWatch site: This website also has nature cams,where you can observe wildlife online. Students could observe insects in their natural habitat byturning over a log or shaking a tree branch over a white sheet and seeing what they find. Theycould look at drawings or pictures you (or they) have brought in. Contact your local nature centerand see if they have any additional animal resources you may borrow (skulls, skins, etc.). For a listof nature centers in the U.S., check out: centers.htm.Have students record their observations and guesses for each sound, plant, and animal in their ForestJournals. As students switch stations, share the correct answers for the station they are leaving.At the end of the experience, have students discuss what they now know about their local forest—and what they are excited to learn about next. Students may wish to record some researchquestions for further study in their Forest Journals. These could be answered in the next part of thislesson or throughout the year as your class continues to explore their forest.“Wonder” ChallengeOffer each “Wonder” Challenge as an outdoorForest Journaling activity, or as part of a classdiscussion. Include challenges such as: Name or draw three different local plants(including trees) Name or draw three different local animals(including insects) Name or draw three things besides plantsand animals that you might find in a forestPhoto by Steve Kozlowskiwww.discovertheforest.org9

Discover:Where Is My Forest?Explain to students that they will be ecologists studying how living things in forests interact with eachother and their environment. Have them bring their Forest Journals and field guides to a local forest,a local park with dense tree cover or the schoolyard if travel is not possible. Break students intogroups corresponding to the layers of a healthy forest—canopy, understory, and forest floor.Expand this into a conservationlesson by having studentssafely remove any trash theymight find. Canopy: Old-growth trees that receive the most sunlight, and shade/protect the other forest layers Understory: New-growth trees, bushes, and other larger plants that are able to live under theCanopy’s shade Forest Floor: Decomposing plant and animal matter (natural composting!) that createsnutrient-rich soil in which small plants, fungi, and seedlings can thriveHave students search for specimens from their assigned forest layer.Students may “collect” these specimens, in non-disturbing ways bydrawing or photographing them, or by collecting non-living samples forlater identification.Once they find a specimen have them also “collect its connections” bywriting down at least one thing that the specimen is connected to in theforest (Example: The fallen leaf is connected to the tree it came from and to the bug it is sheltering and the nutrient-rich soil it will become).Upon returning to class, have students use their drawings, photos, and other information they’veSome urban parks have areas collected to create graphic organizers of the specimens. This will serve as a record of what the classwith dense tree cover similarhas found. Categorize them in different ways such as living versus nonliving; canopy, understory, orto traditional forests. Examples: forest floor; deciduous versus evergreen; etc. Central Park, New York, NY Fairmont Park,“Be the Web”Philadelphia, PAA healthy forest ecosystem is one that interacts in such a way that resources are shared and a Forest Park, St. Louis, MOdiversity of plant and animal life is supported. Using the connections they wrote down during their Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA search have students “Be the Web” and create a “human” forest ecosystem web.Use’s1. Print or copy the students’ drawings and photographs of the specimens.Where To Go tool2. Bring the class outside and have each student hold one or two images.( Have some students be the resources that the plants and animals rely on: sun, clean water,where-to-go) to find one innutrient-rich soil.your area.4. Give each student several 8-foot (2.44-meter) lengths of string in each color.5. Starting with the sun, have each student connect his/her pieces of string to another student holding:a) Color 1: Food sources for his/her plant or animalb) Color 2: Shelter, warmth, protection sources for his/her plant or animalOnce the web is complete, have students drop various strings to test how the web is affectedif certain parts “drop out” due to impact of fire, invasive species, loss of open space, and/orunmanaged recreation. For example: What if canopy trees are logged (cut down) to make way fordevelopment? To demonstrate, the students holding canopy trees will drop their strings . and inturn, students connected to canopy trees then drop their strings. How much of the web loses itssources of food and shelter as a result?Extended Discussion:Threats to your local forest ecosystem Challenge students in grades 6 through 8 to research threats to their local forest. Have themidentify native and non-native species in their area, using’s Native/Invasive Plant Finder: invasive Research how these species positively or negatively affect the ecosystem web. Information andactivities on threats to our ecosystems can be found in The World’s Forests issue of theNatural Inquirer 3.html) and tml.www.discovertheforest.org10

Act:Know My ForestHave each student adopt hisor her own tree and chart itsprogress over time. Have yourclass pass along their recordsto next year’s incomingstudents to keep theconnections going. For moreon this idea, see the YearRound Calendar (page 20). Adopt the forest! Make the forest you visit inthis lesson “your” forest. Return to thisforest with the class throughout the year;each time have students complete theirresearch questions and search for additionalspecimens to add to their forest ecosystemweb. Students could even “map” a certainarea of the forest to understand fully thebreadth of living and nonliving elements andhow they are interconnected. Add a community service component andhave students monitor and care for the forestby removing litter, identifying and removingnonnative species (with approval of theforest’s owners/caretakers), performing trailmaintenance, planting native trees, and more.Photo by Donna Edwards Using their Find My Forest grids and ForestJournals as catalysts, have students searchfor, identify and share additional specimens from the urban forest around their homes. Remindthem to do the same in other forests—both nearby and far away—that they may visit on weekendsor vacation. Finding additional specimens will involve the whole family and will encourage moretime outdoors. Also, the more specimens they bring in from farther away the more they can mapall of the different types of forests in the United States! Take a nature hike with your class! By keeping your class active, you will be addressing issues ofchildhood obesity, continuing your discovery of the forest, and instilling a life-long interest in theoutdoors in your students. To learn more about helping kids maintain a healthy and active lifestyle,check out the Let’s Move Outside! initiative at http://www.letsm

Your students will become environmental journalists: developing a definition of a forest, researching "urban forests," and creating the first posting for their iForest blog. Standards Alignment: North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE): Strand 1: A, B, C, E, G Strand 2.2: A, C Strand 2.4: A, B, C, E Strand 3.1: D