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The Piedmont Highlander

The Piedmont Highlander

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Forestry Challenge Takes Root In APES

Walt Ruzzo
Students measure trees during the forestry challenge last year

  Define a problem, measure trees, eat s’mores, take a hike. Science teacher Andrew Willats is bringing a new kind of challenge to Piedmont students. 

  For the first time ever, PHS students are participating in an event at Leoni Meadows in El Dorado, California. The event is run by Forestry Challenge, an organization that focuses on teaching high school students about the current forestry landscape through hands-on experience, according to their website. Throughout the event, Piedmont will be competing against groups from 12 other schools across California.

  Willats will be taking six students for the crash course in forestry over the weekend of Oct. 25. Willats said he first introduced the trip to students in his AP Environmental Science classes, and later held an interest meeting during lunch. 

  “It’s an industry [Forestry] that has a lot of opportunity for young people. And some people might be interested in that, so it’s a good chance to be exposed.” Willats said.

  Forestry Challenge volunteer Walt Ruzzo said that throughout the challenge participants will learn how to do a comprehensive field test in the wilderness while being guided by forestry professionals, something that students don’t get in an average environmental science class.

  “The kids are going to be given a project or a problem, and they’re going to have to use the scientific method. So they’re going to have to define the problem, they’re going to go have to collect data, they’re going to have to analyze the data, and then they’re going to have to come up with recommendations and make a 15 minute presentation to a series of judges,” said Ruzzo. 

  At the end of the weekend, judges will pick one of the presentations and crown that team as the winner of the challenge. 

  Interest is high since it’s the first time Forestry Challenge has been available to PHS students.

  “I’m really interested in environmental science itself, and especially environmental chemistry, so I thought it would be really fun to get to learn about this with a hands-on approach,” junior Clara Murray said.

  Though the program focuses on conservation and education, there is also time for teams to go on night hikes, play frisbee in the meadow, and roast marshmallows around the campfire.

  “Of course, the research part sounds super fun. But I’m excited for night hikes, especially just because it’s going to be really interesting to see the environment at night because it’s very different,” junior Carmen Gaylord said.

  Willats said that students will not be paying any money to attend the Forestry Challenge trip, as Forestry Challenge is funded completely by sponsors who want a younger audience to learn about the forestry industry and conservation.

  “I think learning out in nature is critical for a really solid understanding of science. And this weekend sounded like a lot of fun.” Willats said, “ It teaches a lot of skills that people could use to go on in careers if they wanted to, or at the very least, have a better understanding of the world.”     

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Anna Caputo
Anna Caputo, Staff Writer
Anna Caputo (11) is a Staff Writer at TPH. Outside of school, she enjoys playing water polo, reading, and eating pasta with Clea Villaluz.
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