Fire Institute Blazes Trail for Thematic Learning Collaboration*
The Fire Institute blazed through local schools from January 24 to January 27, 2017, with the goal of answering one burning question: how has fire and fire management shaped the physical, cultural, and social landscape of Indian Valley?
The Institute was the culmination of months of collaboration between Greenville Junior/Senior High School (GHS), Indian Valley Academy (IVA), and Taylorsville’s Sierra Institute for Community and Environment.
The week-long thematic learning program brought guest speakers and local experts to the joint GHS/IVA campus and replaced traditional coursework with four days of labs, presentations, case studies and, yes, lots of fire.
In a hands-on lab led by local science teacher Mr. Farris, 7th-12th graders learned the three components of the fire triangle: oxygen, heat, and fuel. The Fire Institute, comprised of the many contributors and three main partners, strived to create its own triangle of success to ignite student engagement and passion for learning.
The Fire Institute saw over 140 students divided into groups of around 30 then subdivided into teams of 5. The students moved through multiple sections each day conducting experiments, hearing from experts, and discussing their own perspectives.
Starting on Tuesday (1/24), US Forest Service representatives, local Maidu cultural experts, and private timber foresters ensured that students had no shortage of presentations to attend and perspectives to learn. Charcoal drawing and clay pot firing activities provided insight into a more creative side of fire. During the One Match Fire activity, students tested their skill at building fires with limited resources. In their smaller groups, students stayed focused and moved efficiently from one presentation to the next. In total, students attended three mandatory presentations in the morning then continued on to participate in any two of six possible elective activities in the afternoon.
On Wednesday (1/25), the Fire Institute offered students the chance to be scientists and historians. In three mandatory sessions, students ran guided experiments exploring plant adaptations to fire, manipulating the components of the fire triangle, and burning down forest models to study variables that impact a wildfire’s rate of spread. Fire history in this area was reviewed in two other mandatory activities: a fire-themed guided tour of the Greenville Cy Hall Memorial Museum, complemented by a US Forest Service-led case study of the 2007 Moonlight Fire.
Thursday and Friday (1/26-1/27), introduced a critical thinking spark to the Institute as each team created a presentation demonstrating what they had learned. Videos, PowerPoints, flaming “Matchstick Forests”, and candle-fire experiments were all testaments to the hard work of students. The top teams presented to local experts and the entire student body on Friday afternoon. At the end of the Institute, each student received a certificate of completion with top team presentations awarded certificates of recognition.
The Fire Institute demonstrated the collaborative success that is possible when three distinct entities come together. Although four days is not enough time to comprehensively explore the role of fire in Indian Valley, the Fire Institute worked to ignite each student with a passion for learning about fire management and a potential to transfer that knowledge far beyond the walls of the school.
The GHS, IVA, and the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment would like to extend special thanks to the many volunteers, without whom the Fire Institute would not have been possible. Travis Rubke, in particular, deserves note for his extraordinary effort helping to coordinate the Institute from start to finish. Additionally, the time, effort, and commitment of these individuals were critical to the event’s success: Scott Abrams, Ryan Bauer, Matt Cerney, Ron Clark, Ben Cunningham, Judy Dolphin, Russ Flint, Lorena Gorbet, Julian Howe, Michelle Jiminez-Holtz, Andy Juska, Dave Kinateder, Danny Manning, Guy McNett, Linda Batson, Cade Mohler, Kest Porter, Ken Roby, Mark Williams, and Mike Yost. Thank you.
Written by Luis Mayberry and Nina Martynn