Our first Forests of Maine Teachers’ Tour of 2022 began on July 12 at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel. Seventeen educators from throughout Maine joined us for an immersive four-day tour led by Maine TREE’s Executive Director Logan Johnson, Director of Education Lena Ives, and Project Learning Tree (PLT) Facilitator Lindsay Strout. We spent the first afternoon diving into outdoor and environmental education through activities in PLT’s Explore Your Environment Activity Guide, exploring the forests abutting Sugarloaf’s ski slopes, and discovering firsthand that the more you look at an ecosystem, the more you see.
For two days, our participants loaded on the bus to explore various aspects of Maine’s Forest ecology, economy, and communities. The first tour stop was at Stratton Lumber, where the educators got a full tour of how a tree transforms from a trunk to multiple pieces of lumber fit to frame the buildings we occupy each day. Within the mill, we saw the technological advances in this aspect of the forest product sector. Many teachers remarked that their tech-savvy students would be excited to learn that forestry-based jobs could use their skills and interests in engineering. We headed next door from Stratton’s lumber mill to ReEnergy, a bioenergy facility that uses forest byproducts, like green wood chips and other unusable scrap lumber, to produce renewable energy. We also visited a specialty product manufacturer in Carrabassett Valley, where Winterstick Snowboards is reducing the amount of waste in snowboard manufacturing by using sustainably sourced wood products.
Over two days of touring different aspects of Maine’s forest product sector, we visited two land management organizations to see different approaches to forest stewardship. We first stopped at a Weyerhaeuser property in Eustis to visit an ongoing harvest, the machinery, professionals working on the harvest, and the tools and concepts used to make land management decisions. The educators saw a feller buncher, processor, and forwarder in action while a forester used a UAV/drone to monitor the harvest progress aerially. At a property managed by Seven Islands Land Company, forester Pete Johnson walked us through different forest stands where harvesting occurred using different silviculture methods to meet specific objectives. On a short walk, we compared what a forest looks like 30 years after a partial harvest, ten years after a thinning, and a forest not tended for decades since a previous clearing.
Stand - (areas where trees display a uniform composition of species and structure)
Silviculture - (the art and science of the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests)
Many guest speakers joined us throughout the tour to share stories. On our first night, Kosi Ifeji, a recent graduate of Bangor High School and a member of the Nature Based Education Consortium Climate Education Advocacy workgroup, shared their work to help pass Maine’s Climate Education Bill. At our first lunch stop on day two, Ted Wright, Executive Director of The Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands, described his work with Forest Stewardship Council and Master Logger Certification. Mike St. Peter, the Certified Logging Professional program administrator, joined the group at the Weyerhauser stop to discuss logger safety, training, and education. We also stopped by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust office, where Executive Director David Miller and Natural Resource Specialist Jason Latham led a discussion around conservation, forest stewardship, and school and land trust collaboration. The tour also featured a stop at the Maine Forestry Museum in Rangeley to explore Maine’s logging past.
On the tour’s final morning, PLT Facilitator Lindsay Strout shared ways to nature journal personally and with students of all ages, creating many outdoor and internal exploration opportunities. Finally, we closed the week by collaborating on which standards-aligned lessons would pair best with each tour site. We also used this time to provide space for educators to introduce or expand upon topics like ecosystem succession, the forest products we use daily, and career opportunities.