Embracing the latest tech to engage Australia’s school kids on forestry
Thanks to the magic of FaceTime, more than 150 students from around Australia were given the opportunity to talk in real time to a forest worker out in the field — all without leaving their classroom!
‘FaceTime a Forester’ was run by ForestLearning as part of National AgDay on 21 November, allowing students to chat with a forester to help them learn more about their daily work.
The initiative gave the participating young people a useful insight into the world of forestry, and allowed the participating foresters to showcase their workplaces and day-to-day activities without any of the associated OH&S concerns that would likely arise from taking students into the field.
The students had plenty of questions, including: "How long does it take to grow a pine tree?”, "What's your favourite tree?" and “What products are made from the trees you grow?"
FWPA’s ForestLearning education program continues to focus on providing quality resources for teachers, enabling them to successfully integrate forestry and sustainable wood product information into their classroom teaching, while aligning with Australian curriculum outcomes.
The activities of ForestLearning are designed to educate children about forestry from a young age, equipping them with a broader understanding and acceptance of timber products as they grow up to become consumers. At the same time, we hope to inspire young people to consider a career in the sector and become its future leaders.
Teacher Sarah D., from the participating Katherine School of the Air in the Northern Territory, said her students enjoyed learning more about sustainable plantation forests.
“Students were amazed there are farms for timber and all of the perks of being a forester,” Sarah said.
“It was great to link what happens in the forest with how things happen on a cattle station. It really helped students understand and contextualise what was being said,” she concluded.
‘FaceTime a Forester’ was an initiative of the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIAFA) for National AgDay and was conducted in partnership with ForestLearning.
Meanwhile, following the successful launch of VR forest tours for teachers and school children last year, the second phase of ForestVR™ is currently in development.
Since launching in September, ForestVR™ has educated students on the renewable cycle of forestry and wood in an immersive and engaging way, overcoming problems around the inaccessibility of physical forests and manufacturing plants.
ForestLearning Program Manager, Beth Welden said these virtual tours have provided a novel way to engage students, allowing them to visit places they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to access as part of a school field trip.
“We are hoping these experiences will mean today’s young people grow up with an appreciation of the sustainable and renewable nature of our forests. As the decision makers, voters and consumers of the future, it is important that today’s school children have an affiliation with wood and are fully aware of the benefits,” Ms Welden said.
Phase two of ForestVR™, which has been made possible by funding from the Federal Government, will focus on educating students about forest and wood product themes including the uniqueness of Australian forests, agroforestry, and the broad variety of career options in the industry.
More details on the next phase of ForestVR™ will be announced in due course and it is expected the new technology will be released in late 2020.