Visalia students traverse the woods for El Dorado Forestry Challenge

Eleanor Roosevelt charter school students pursue green opportunities in the outdoors through Forestry Educators Incorporate program

GRIZZLY FLATS, CALIF. – A group of Visalia students traveled into the woods to better connect with their natural environment and learn more about the forest through a Forestry Educators Incorporate program. 

Nine students from Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center recently participated in the 2022 El Dorado Forestry Challenge, which took place October 2022 from the 26th to 29th. The students were one group from a total of 112 high school students spanning over 16 schools throughout the foothills and Central Valley regions of California.

“I think Forestry Challenge is a perfect environmental education experience,” Jeff Alexander, teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center, said.

The El Dorado Forestry Challenge is an academic event for high school students involved in technical forestry and current topics on forestry. According to the Forestry Educators Incorporated, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Castellanos, said it was, “a perfect balance of fun and work.” 

One of the highlights from this year’s challenge was the opportunity for students to conduct a seedling inventory and ground cover assessment at spots in Leoni. The spots were salvage logged, meaning trees were cut down following environmental damage. The damage was due to the 2021 Caldor Fire, a fire that burned over 211,000 acres in the California Eldorado National Forest, as well as areas in the Sierra Nevada in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine County.

During the learning experience, teams of students used forestry equipment to complete a field test in the woods as a way to study the depth of their knowledge in technical forestry and their skills in collecting data. With the information collected, the students used the data to come up with a plan to establish a new forest.

The forestry program started in 2003 and has grown from one annual event to five, which all start in late September and go until mid November, according to the Forestry Challenge website. At these events, participants spend four days in the forest learning about ecology, a field of study centered on living things and their environment. They also learn about the management of forested landscapes that provide communities with water, recreational opportunities, wood products and wildlife habitat. 

According to the website, youth communities benefit from understanding the relationship between forested environments and their communities. Additionally, they benefit from being exposed to the possibility of natural resource management as a career and undertaking critical thinking exercises that address current forest topics like wildfire, insects and forest health in a timely manner. 

Through this method of learning, students meet the Forestry Challenge objective of gaining scientific knowledge and practical skills in environmental stewardship, as well as balanced social, environmental and economic values. Additionally, it opens the door to a new appreciation for the woods, increases their chances of selecting a career path in natural resources and attending college as well as teaches them team participation with cooperation, teamwork and public speaking skills, according to the website.

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