There are 16 students in agriculture teacher Jade Thompson’s forestry class at Bald Eagle Area High School. Logan Holt is one of them. The senior said he joined the class last year as a way to help provide a foundation for his future. After all, Holt said he aims to one day open a business in the logging industry.
“I think it provides me with the tools I need to understand the industry,” he said.
In its second year, the class goal is to teach students in 11th and 12th grades practical knowledge of forestry and wildlife management. That includes regular use of the sawmill, woodchipper, chainsaw and other equipment; tapping trees for maple syrup production; cutting down trees for its lumber use; and more. Students also go through rigorous safety training, in addition to being certified by Game of Logging and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. They’re also certified in first aid and CPR, and are licensed to drive a tractor.
Game of Logging is considered the premier chainsaw safety and productivity training program in the country, offering hands-on chainsaw safety training with other lessons on safety, productivity, conservation and cutting techniques. SFI, is a global nonprofit with headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario and Washington, D.C. that is considered the world’s largest single forest certification agency.
“Most kids leave high school never having operated a machine bigger than themselves,” Thompson said. “These (students) are working machinery used in the profession and getting to learn just about everything they need to know about the industry.”
Another one of the missions, Thompson added, is to someday provide enough wood for the woodshop class.
Class is primarily based outdoors in an area behind the high school on land owned by the Bald Eagle Area School District. Students often cut down trees for use of its lumber, place it in a solar-operated kiln built by students in the class and then can use the dried wood for projects. Most wood used comes from hemlock, maple and oak trees. Forestry students have cut wood used for new cabinets installed in the teacher’s lounge at the middle and high school, cut firewood that will be sold as a class fundraiser, and are also involved in a project to create a trail for the cross-country team.
You may see a video about forestry students who made maple syrup by tapping trees in the district’s land behind the high school: https://www.facebook.com/BaldEagleArea/videos/1968762893166178/. Holt also explains more about the class in this video: https://www.facebook.com/BaldEagleArea/videos/381252899132685/.
*Bald Eagle Area School District is fortunate to own nearly 500 acres of woodlands. About a year and a half ago, working with partners and supported by a grant from Domtar Paper in Johnsonburg, we began to develop a forest management plan. We have formed an ad hoc forestry advisory group, and with the grant funding, hired a forestry consultant to inventory the property.