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Forest Academy

Elementary, Middle

Description

Forest Academy is an interactive website designed to appeal to elementary school students with fun, informative games about trees and forest ecology. The resource aims to educate students about conservation and the importance of responsible forestry in an interesting way.

This online game has students create a personalized owl avatar which follows their guide, Owen the Owl, through a variety of forest landscapes. Using a map to travel to different destinations, students encounter interactive quizzes and a variety of different activities which has them earn merit badges while being educated about conservation and the importance of responsible forestry.

The intent of The Forest Academy is to get students excited about the real forest, taking their newfound knowledge of conservation to the communities around them. The resource includes a multitude of forest resources to supplement the learning experience, including experiments students can complete outside and an folder of common North American tree species.

The website also provides a teacher’s manual with a wealth of information about trees and forest ecology, website links and other resources that assist teachers in demonstrating the five focus areas of forest education: tree knowledge, the cycle of life, beautiful biodiversity, the trees in our lives and forest protection.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • using information technology to gather information
  • using communication tools such as drawings, tables, etc.

Strengths

  • fun and informative game to learn about trees and forest ecology 
  • a useful and engaging learning tool
  • provides students with forest and conservation education and some extra motivation to explore the great outdoors.
  • includes a multitude of forest resources to supplement the learning experience
  • provides a teacher’s manual with a wealth of information about trees and forest ecology, website links and other resources that assist teachers in demonstrating the five focus areas of forest education
  • easy to use and very visually appealing

Weaknesses

  • the website should provide text to speech adaptation for the younger students
  • the younger students would need one on one support for the reading of the texts
  • Include some assessment tools or rubrics.
  • Include some hands-on experiences in the forest in the main lesson plans and not only as extensions to the learning.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

Resource is a wealth of information about trees and forest ecology, website links and other resources that assist teachers in demonstrating the five focus areas of forest education to students at the elementary level. Activities can be easily integrated in the natural science and technology curriculum.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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  • Alberta
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Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (3)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Biodiversity
    • Habitat Loss
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

    • Forests
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The resource presents different points of view throughout the many lessons. The information in the resource are drawn from many sources involved in forest-based education. 

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

Teachers are provided with discussion questions which provide excellent opportunities to explore the interplay of the environment, economy and society in an age-appropriate fashion.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The resource promotes dialogue and exploration of forestry issues at an age appropriate level. It allows students to explore and identify the interactions between humans and the forest, especially the important links between human activity, environmental consequences and economic concerns, associated with forestry. 

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The website provides the students with forest and conservation education and hopes to give the students some extra motivation to explore the outdoors by including some outdoor experiments. The resource does provide some information on how to protect trees but does not suggest an action project.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The website provides the students with forest and conservation education and hopes to get students excited about the real forest, taking their newfound knowledge of conservation to the communities around them.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The site includes other forest resources, including experiments students can complete themselves such as exploring our back yard, searching for real-life examples of simple vs. compound leaves after finishing the Learning about Leaves worksheet.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Provides some information about the way trees were used in the past and the origins of paper yesterday and today.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Lessons are completed by students on an interactive website designed to appeal to students. The website provides fun, informative games about trees and forest ecology. The resource aims to educate students about conservation and the importance of responsible forestry in an interesting way. Students must educate themselves about forestry in order to obtain the badges. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good
  • natural science
  • technology
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

Learning is directed by questions and challenges which students must complete to obtain badges. The activities are are age-appropriate for primary students.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The website is very visually appealing and interactive. Addresses the needs of visual and kinesthetic learners. The website should address the auditory component by including a text to speech for the younger students.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The website encourages the students to extend their learning by completing experiments outdoors in their communities.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

The website provides teachers with discussion questions and online quizzes for the students to complete.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

The website encourages the students to extend their learning by completing experiments outdoors in their communities.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.