WSU Whatcom County Extension

Stewardship is Where You Are

Park Patrol

The Big Picture

While many parks may contain forests, a lot of the forests you may see may owned by individuals and families. Would you like to own a forest? What would you do with a forest if you owned one? What do you think is involved in caring for a forest? How are forests a natural resource?

In this series of activities you will get to learn some of the basics of owning a forest: keeping it healthy, making it strong and recognizing its potential as a renewable natural resource. Unlike many food crops that are renewed every year, a crop of timber sometimes only matures once in a lifetime! Caring for a forest as an investment can be a big job!  You will learn some of the basics about caring for a forest as a natural resource.

Explorer - Skill Level: One Engager - Skill Level: Two Citizen Scientist - Skill Level: Three


Making Boards

Activity: Tree ID

Objective: Youth will identify the primary native trees in their forests and understand their varied values as timber

Science Skills:  Observe, Identify

Life Skills: Responsible Use of Resources

Preparation Activities: find a forest with several kinds of indigenous trees, make sure you identify several of each species of tree to add to the scavenger hunt list and write them down.

What You Will Need: Tree identification guides, tree lists, colored ribbons for each team

Activity:  Visit a forest in your area and help youth learn to identify native trees.

Tree Scavenger Hunt: identify a diverse forest with several types of trees. Give each youth a tree identification guide, a list of four or five trees to find and differently colored strips of ribbon. Youth race to find and tie their individual ribbons to each kind of tree on the scavenger hunt list. If you have younger members have them work in teams with older members.  Once a tree has been claimed it cannot be claimed by another team. To test older members as leaders, tell them the younger youth will do a second scavenger hunt on their own to demonstrate how well they were taught.

Additional Activities:

  • Create a field notebook including sketches or photos and information learned about each kind of tree.
  • Create a display or poster for presentation that includes various samples from each kind of tree and explains characteristics for identifying each type.
  • Explore habitat characteristics for each type of tree: What altitude does it live in? What kind of soil does it show a preference for?  What other animals prefer this kind of tree as habitat and why?


Activity: Estimating a Tree’s Value  

Objective: Youth will use estimating procedures to determine a trees height, “DBH” and lumber yield

Science Skills:  Observe, Identify, Classify, Measure, Estimate

Life Skills: Responsible Use of Resources

Preparation Activities:
Call ahead to see if you can schedule a field trip to one of the forestry sites or find tall trees easily accessed in your area.
Print the Tree Graph in Explore More. Read the instructions on measuring tree height in Explore More and choose which one is appropriate for your group. You can also make a clinometer as an additional educational activity.

What You Will Need:
pencil, ruler, string, washer, protractor, measuring tape, calculator, Tree Graph

Choose a variety of trees to examine, so youth can compare and contrast.  First have them identify three or four different species of trees. They can research what each tree’s lumber is usually used for and fill that information in on the tree graph. Then they can estimate the trees actual height, then its merchantable height using any one of the methods described in the Explore More section. Have the youth determine each tree’s Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) and then, using the table on the Tree Graph sheet, they can estimate the board feet available in that tree.  Bonus points for finding out the current value that kind of wood at the number of board feet they determine.

Asking the Right Questions:
What is the average height for this tree? How long does one of these trees usually live? How long does it usually take one of these trees to reach its mature height? How old do you think this particular tree is? When is the best time to cut down a tree? When is the best time to harvest a timberland? How do people determine the value of lumber? What other values beside money do we get from trees and forests? How important are habitat preservation or logging practices to timber managers? 



Natural Resource Stewards


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Explore More

Discover the Forest

American Forest Foundation Family Activities

Smithsonian Conservation Central Activities

Hands On the Land (includes lots of games)

Dichotomous Key

Trees of Washington (pdf)

Project Learning Tree Forest Measurement Guide

WikiHow: Measure the Height of a Tree

Encyclopedia of Forestry (Society of American Foresters)

Natural Inquirer


It's All Connected

Tom Westergreen – local forest owner
Sumas/Everson  966-3605

Simon PeaTree Sawmill
Green Leaf Forest Products, Inc.
Small independently owned sawmill

Black Mountain Forestry Center
Bus Tours, Demos, Talks

Interested in helping youth learn about this Natural Resource? Contact your 4-H Educator to be considered as an educational resource!

Heading using the h3 tag

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WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 North Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham, WA 98225, (360) 778-5800, Contact Us