OFRI – Everybody’s tree school

Hearing about students getting to go into the woods to learn about the forest, makes me want to be young again. Since created by the Oregon Legislature in 1991, the Oregon Forest Resource Institute (OFRI) staff and its industry resource partners have provided free education materials for K-12 teachers, students and the general public. More good news is the fact that it is not funded from the general fund but by a dedicated tax collected on the number of board feet harvested by the timber companies.

Norie Dimeo-Ediger, who directs OFRI’s K-12 education program, has been a licensed teacher herself for more than twenty years. A native Oregonian, now living in Banks, Norie has master’s degrees in both science education and adult education and has won many environmental awards including the Oregon State Forester Award for excellence in forestry education.

“We present the forest as a system and the trees in it as an organisms within that system,” Norie said. “To make sure everyone can get out of the classroom and into the woods to experience it all first hand, we reimburse school districts for the busses for field trips.

“There are nearly 1,000 teachers a year who avail themselves of OFRI’s materials and support and it gives more than 20,000 children a year an opportunity to grow up knowing what a forest is and how and why it is important for them to take care of it. OFRI’s website is also a place the interested public can go to and fill their cart with free educational materials.”

Norie says the 20-some programs vary both in topic and location and include the likes activities like OFRI’s Rediscovery Forest Program at the Oregon Gardens (K – 12), the Tualatin Riverkeepers’ Nature Awareness (K – 8), Science in the Forest (6 – 12). A “Find Your Path” publication helps older students look for rewarding

“Our mission is to improve public understanding of forests, forest products and forest management,” Norie said. “Though some training sessions have a nominal fee, most of them are free. Recurring feedback I hear from teachers participating in the program is how impressed they are with landowner’s science-based techniques and how dedicated they are to their work. That kind of dedication is best learned first hand.”

For questions about OFRI or its programs, visit www.oregonforest.org, email info@ofri.org or call 971-673-2944.

-Jan Jackson

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