Natural Inquirer: natural resources for middle schools

The U.S. Forest Service has been producing a natural resources science journal for middle schools, called “Natural Inquirer”, since 1998. Here is a description of the publication from their web site:

Natural Inquirer description

Each journal contains articles on a variety of subjects, usually centered around one theme. Many editions also have word puzzles, questions (or “reflections”) for the students to consider, and lesson plans for teachers.

One of the lesson plans calls for groups of four students get together and write letters to USFS researchers, with each letter having four questions for the researcher about the article they just read. It makes you wonder what kind of workload this places on the researchers when they receive hundreds or thousands of letters, each with four questions for them.

The publications introduce the researchers and scientists to the middle schoolers in a “Meet the Scientists” section, which has their photos and some personal information, such as “my favorite science experience”, for example, “climbing into the top of a 175-foot-tall red fir to collect lichen samples during a wind storm”, or riding my motorcycle 2,000 miles to attend the 9th World Wilderness Congress in southern Mexico. This purpose of this may be to have the students identify with the scientists, for science research to appear to be something that normal humans can actually do, to have the students take more science courses, or to even consider natural resources research for a career. Or, all of the above.

There have been two editions of the journal that focused on wildland fire. The first was Spring, 2003, and the other was Summer, 2010.

The latter contains an article titled “Trust Is a Must: What Is Involved in Trusting Those Who Manage Forest Fires?” (page 41). It asks the middle schoolers a question:

Do you think forest managers can do a better job if citizens trust them? Why or why not?

The Spring, 2003 edition had an interesting section on correlating weather measurements with large fire occurrence. It included this:

In the past, scientists thought that air temperature, relative humidity, dew point depression, and wind shear were the weather measurements most associated with large or dangerous wildfires. This research suggests that dew point depression is the most important measurement. On days when large wildfires burned between 1971 and 1984, the dew point depression was high. When people try to predict wildfires based on weather conditions, they should pay the closest attention to dew point depression.

Below is the cover of the latest edition of the Natural Inquirer.

Natural Inquirer Wildfire Edition

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.