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Extension Forestry agents Paul Oester and Bob Parker organized the first Tree School East program in 2006. Folks from all over the Union, Wallowa, Umatilla, Baker and Grant county region showed up for that first year and even more came back the second. In just its third year, Tree School East is setting the standard with the addition of something unique — a class tailor-made for the next generation.
LETâ€™S TALK TREES: An Oregon Department of Forestry employee teaches all these kids ever wanted to know about trees with a Project Learning Tree exhibit at a recent class on the Oregon State University campus. This kidâ€™s class will be taught in La Grande by ODF representative Angie Johnson at Tree School East in April. - Photos courtesy OSUâ€™s of Wood Science and Engineering department
“No other Tree School in the state has offered a class just for kids,” says Oester. “And there are a lot of (other Tree Schools) out there.”
So many parents and grandparents have brought their children with them to Tree School East, says Jamie Knight, that the planning committee decided it might be fun to include a special morning class just for kids this year.
“Basically, this class is a really cool way to introduce kids to all kinds of neat things about forests,” says Knight, of the Oregon Department of Forestry. Knight is a member of the planning committee.
The “Forests, Trees, Wood and Fun for Kids” class targets students in fourth through seventh grades. The class runs from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during Tree School East on April 19 and includes pizza for lunch. It is limited to 20 participants.
It makes sense for parents who are already attending the school to bring their children for this class, but there is no requirement for parents to be attending Tree School East themselves. Children may be dropped off at Loso Hall for the 8:30 a.m. orientation and picked up after lunch at 12:30 p.m.
After a mid-morning break, Leslie McDaniel with the Oregon Wood Magic traveling show will dazzle the group with some hands-on fun.
Oregon Wood Magic is an Oregon State University program from the Department of Wood Science and Engineering. It is an interactive experience designed to highlight the “wonders of wood” and its impact on people’s everyday lives.
“The first part of my presentation is a segment called Daily Wood,” says McDaniel. “I bring more than 100 items of stuff that comes from wood we use every day — like coffee and chocolate.”
Coffee and chocolate? From wood?
“Well, yes. Both grow on trees don’t they?” asks McDaniel. OK. now we’re catching on. McDaniel’s 100 items may include some of the more obvious products made from wood, like toy blocks, and others, like M&Ms, that will make kids dig a little deeper for the connection.
Based on McDaniel’s enthusiastic description of her three other segments — Rock Stars, Wood Sandwiches and Bubbling Bazookas — there is no doubt she will keep kids engaged and entertained. But they may not realize they are getting an education, too, because it’ll be so much fun.
A case of the bends: Kids at Tree School East will also get a shot at bending wood with Leslie McDaniel of Oregon Wood Magic, as these boys did in OSUâ€™s wood science lab.
“The kids are great — we have a lot of fun,” says McDaniel, who will make more than 300 presentations at more than 180 venues — mostly grade schools — around the state. She loves her job and says she never tires of making the same presentation because the kids are always so energetic, enthusiastic and “flabbergasted” by some of the things they learn.
“Now I know why professional actors love to work on Broadway,” she says. “It’s so energizing to have a live audience.”
McDaniel’s traveling presentation is just a small portion of what she calls the original Oregon Wood Magic — a 3-day “Big Show” with eight different interactive stations which is held on the OSU campus. There is also a 2-day Oregon Wood Magic exhibit held at the World Forestry Center in Portland.