The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Project Learning Tree (PLT) joined Scouts from more than 150 countries at the 24th World Scout Jamboree last month. PLT is an environmental education initiative of SFI and focuses on taking students outdoors to learn and connecting youth to nature.
The Jamboree takes place every four years in a different country. This year, the event was held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, which is comprised of land that is certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard.
The SFI/PLT exhibit was located beneath the Sustainability Tree House and included interactive activities that explored forest health including Forest Signs, where Scouts posted selfies next to SFI posters; a Green Jobs Quiz; and a Tree Cookies Activity.
SFI’s tree cookies (cross-sections of tree trunks) helped Scouts learn about the many changes in a tree's lifetime by observing the annual ring growth. By correlating the time it takes for trees to grow with events in human history, Scouts were able to see the long-term effects of environmental impacts.
By counting the rings, SFI helped Scouts determine that the Western Red Cedar tree cookie started out as a seedling in 1844. The Red Cedar's story was not a very happy one at first. Several holes indicated it suffered from rot, which it later overcame. By looking closely, Scouts noticed that the tree rings near the center were close together, indicating the tree was initially struggling to survive and growing very little in its infancy. The rings suddenly became much wider around 1917, indicating that a single event may have occurred to allow the tree access to all the light, water, and nutrients it needed to grow.
A delegation of Girl Scouts from Poland asked "What happened around 1917 that might have changed the way this tree grew?" and realized that 1917 was the year the US became involved in WWI. The girls wondered if nearby trees were harvested for American war efforts, and that's why the red cedar tree cookie – much too small to be sent to a sawmill at the time – might have then been allowed the full amount of resources it needed to grow without competition.
The Spruce Production Division produced nearly 150 million board feet (350,000 m3) of spruce in just 15 months, which had an enormous impact on logging in the Pacific Northwest. Western red cedar grows in forest types that typically include Sitka spruce, so the Polish Scouts may well have been on to something about the value of forests for wood products in world history!
PLT recently collaborated with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to correlate PLT activities to eight Cub Scout Adventures and six Scouts BSA merit badges. These correlations provide Scout leaders with ideas and hands-on, outdoor activities and help introduce youth to careers in the outdoors, including jobs in forestry and natural resources conservation.