A long time ago in a forest far, far away…
Hidden dangers lurk in the forest. Invading pests like emerald ash borers can kill trees like the Death Star destroys planets. In overgrown forests, dead trees and branches can pile up like kindling, fueling terrible wildfires when lightning strikes or someone drops a match.
That's where the Jedi (aka foresters) come in. They use teamwork, special smarts, and a toolbox that includes chainsaws instead of lightsabers to keep the forest strong, healthy, and in balance.
They act fast when disease and bad bugs appear. They also help people with their efforts to thin trees and harvest timber in ways that keep the soil healthy, stream water clean and clear, and wildlife happy.
Ever have a hard time concentrating? Everyone else is busy with class work, but you’re buzzing around like a starfighter without a pilot? Bet you didn't know spending time in a forest could help you focus. It’s true. Studies show that playing among trees can help you concentrate, follow directions, and score higher on tests.
So, whatever you do, don't skip recess — especially if your playground has trees. After school or on weekends, visit a forested park with your family and friends. Hike, run, climb, play hide-and-seek — or practice your lightsaber skills. Let the forest supercharge your powers of focus, and use this mind trick to defeat the next Attack of the Drones.
The weather can give your poor house a beating. Winter winds can blow away savings when they howl against windows, and in summer, the cost of keeping an unshaded house cool can pick your parents' pockets. You can take revenge against the weather by planting a few shade trees or a windbreak. By the time you're in high school, trees planted this spring will be helping your folks turn their old heating and cooling expenses into savings for college! Pretty sweet revenge, huh?
Forests don't add much to intergalactic trade (yet), but here in Missouri, they keep a lot of people busy and well paid. Jobs you could do working in a forest or with wood products include forest ecologist (someone who studies forests), foresters (people who manage forests), loggers, sawmill operators, charcoalmakers, coopers (people who make barrels), and furniture makers, just to name a few. What job would you like to do?
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat next to the Earth’s surface. On one hand, this is a good thing because Earth needs a certain amount of heat to maintain life as we know it. On the other hand, too much greenhouse gas makes the Earth too hot. But the forest has a way of striking back at carbon dioxide. It absorbs this gas and creates oxygen. In fact, for each pound of new wood a tree produces, it removes almost 2 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air and produces 1.3 pounds of oxygen. Now that’s the best trade we’ve ever heard of!
Sometimes foresters use carefully controlled fires to help woodlands stay open and healthy. But when wildfire strikes, many of these same foresters return as wildland firefighters to combat the fire and prevent future fires from starting. To become firefighters, they must pass fitness, knowledge, and skills tests. With these fighters, the forest is stronger than fear!
Even if you don't live in the forest, you probably live in a house built with forest products. And who wants to make do without toilet paper?! Even a part of smartphone computer chips comes from cellulose, a forest product. But maybe the forest's greatest power is the fun you have when you spend time in the woods with family and friends hiking, hunting, fishing, watching birds, and exploring nature. Make you strong and happy, the forest will.
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill