The woods at John Ball Park provides an opportunity to study forest ecology and management. Though limited by the surrounding expressway, zoo, and open park students can still use the twenty acres as their classroom. The area has a wide variety of species and habitats available to study succession, ecosystems, and the affects humans can have on the forest. The lessons they learn by observing and interacting with this fragmented system can then be applied to other small woodlots as well as large forested areas. Using this real classroom helps the students understand the importance of developing sustainable methods to harvest and use our natural resources.
During this two month course on forestry students will learn to identify common species of trees and other plants that make up Michigan forests. They will also investigate introduced and invasive species and how they have interrupted the natural balance of ecosystems. Through hikes, observations, and individual research the students will gather and share information on individual species. This will help them develop an understanding of the interrelationships between the species that make up this ecosystem. Sustainable management techniques that preserve these relationships are then investigated using mapping, measurement, and calculations. Students have to determine which trees are valuable for logging, the value of the lumber, and techniques for harvesting the trees in a sustainable manner. They must consider other values the forest holds, alternative uses; and social implications of using this resources.
Students are required to;
Use a tree key to identify common species in Michigan
Make a leaf collection of at least 20 species common in Michigan
An in depth study of one species
Write a report on that species
Create a display to show the main features of the tree
Read articles on forest ecology and management and relate to their observations
Learn and apply math skills used to measure and calculate log values