Wildfire prevention starts in the classroom

University of Nevada, Reno Extension’s Living With Fire program developed and piloted a curriculum for use in Northern Nevada high school science classes to educate students about wildfire science, preparedness, and career opportunities .

“Wildfires are an essential part of healthy northern Nevada ecosystems, but they are becoming more frequent and severe, threatening both ecosystems and people,” said Spencer Eusden, special projects manager for the Extension’s Living With Fire program. “It’s critical that we educate future generations about how wildfires work and what we can all do to live safely with wildfires in our state.”

Eusden has worked with stakeholders and educators across the state, including teachers, fire professionals, scientists, and tribal organizations, to create a high school curriculum that includes training and materials to enable teachers to include forest fire education in their biological, earth, environmental and agricultural sciences. Classes. Funded by a two-year, $212,950.20 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the program will teach high school students how to prepare for and prevent wildfires, while meeting Nevada’s educational needs and standards.

The program invites students to explore the beneficial and harmful roles that wildfires play in Nevada’s ecosystems. For example, students in earth science courses will delve into the impact of wildfires on soil nutrients and erosion patterns, while students in environmental studies will use historical climate and fire data. to make predictions about how wildfires are likely to change in the future. Eventually, the program will also develop curricula for elementary and middle school students.

Eusden and Living With Fire Program Director Christina Restaino collaborate with other agencies to help implement this program and connect students to the many career opportunities available in wildfire and resource management. natural. The Bureau of Land Management has pledged to support the project financially so that it can continue after the initial grant period ends and help shape the teaching materials. The Great Basin Institute fulfills the AmeriCorps Terms of Service to help teachers use the Living With Fire curriculum in the classroom, and the U.S. Forest Service and many local fire districts have pledged to help Eusden and his team connect fire professionals to classrooms where they can share their expertise with students.

“Fire is and always has been a part of Nevada’s landscapes,” Restaino said. “It is important that we give teachers and students the tools to understand both the important ecological role of fire, but also how to prepare for the fires that occur around our communities,”

Last fall, Eusden piloted portions of the newly developed program at Carson High School. During this lesson, students learned how invasive choke weeds affect the frequency of wildfires in Nevada and conducted a home lab to identify areas where they could reduce wildfire risk around their homes. . Guest speaker Jennifer Diamond, a fire mitigation specialist with the Bureau of Land Management Carson City District, answered questions from students about wildfire behavior, career opportunities, and how firefighting crews fires control fires. These activities and conversations provided valuable opportunities for students to manage the stress of recent incidents and to become more resilient to future wildfires. A survey of students following this pilot project showed an increase in the number of students who felt they had the ability to protect their place of residence against wildfires.

“One thing I learned about wildfires that I didn’t know before these classes is that a small fire can be burned to remove fuel for larger, more dangerous and destructive fires. “, said a student in the investigation.

Eusden and the Living With Fire team will continue to review and pilot these materials this spring. All materials and training for educators will be available free of charge starting this summer. Teachers interested in updates to this program or previewing these materials, or organizations interested in partnering with Living With Fire on this project are encouraged to connect with Eusden by emailing him.

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