December is a great time of year. It has been cold for a few months now in the Northeast, yet the promise of time spent with family and restful holiday cheer serves as a warming reprieve for the soul. It’s also a great time for reflection. When I look back on my life I consider myself blessed for so many reasons, not the least of which is growing up in a family that instilled a deep appreciation for forests. In my case it’s an appreciation that has been bolstered by my education. Frankly, it’s an aspect of my life I take for granted, and unfortunately it’s a blessing that many people can’t relate to. Many folks just don’t have the same opportunities that I have had to enjoy forests.
Since its inception, the SFI’s Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program has sought to close this gap by expanding educational opportunities that foster appreciation of forests. In this last year alone we built several great partnerships that accomplished just that. For instance, we were proud to support The Greening of Detroit’s Citizen Forester Program, which trains volunteer foresters to assist in community tree planting efforts while learning about the importance of sustainable forest management.
We also partnered with Tree Canada to develop and distribute a pocket booklet titled, Canada’s Arboreal Emblems: Official Trees and Their Wood. This booklet complements Tree Canada’s education and outreach efforts by describing Canada’s provincial trees, their specific identifying characteristics and the various uses of their wood.
SFI’s Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program is also supporting the next generation of environmental educators. Take for instance our partnership with the Pacific Education Institute, which recently conducted a sustainable forest management workshop for professors and educators who in turn, train other teachers how to incorporate management and forest ecology into core STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula.
Similarly, SFI supported the Northern California Society of American Foresters in conducting several Forestry Institute for Teachers sessions. These intensive six-day, field based workshops provided the next generation of teachers with the training and tools they need to connect forest management to forest health back in their classrooms.
We have also continued to partner with the American Forest Foundation (AFF) through supporting their award winning environmental education program, Project Learning Tree (PLT). This year’s grant program funded a Michigan Project Learning Tree coordinator and educator conference that provided professional development and training for teachers while serving as a model for other state PLT programs. During the conference local students were given the opportunity to share journals and artwork created as part of PLT programing.
I’m proud to support SFI’s grant program and count it as one of my blessings. Thanks to the work of SFI’s grant partners, there are folks that will reflect back on the last year and count their new found appreciation of forests among their blessings. On top of that, it’s more than just students, educators and communities that benefit from our collective efforts, forests do too. After all, you can’t elevate the stewardship of future forests unless you appreciate their importance today. That’s why I’m going to end this with a request: make a new year’s resolution to help someone reconnect with the forest in 2015.