MFFCD.jpg (22122 bytes)


Home Page
Welcome Page
Table of Contents
Pre-test Information
Tree Basics Section
Environment Section
Recreation Section
Products Section
Balance Section
Internet Links






The following curriculum was developed at the Rapid River High School and has been taught several times.  For additional information, contact Steve Ostrenga (Rapid River High School) at 906-474-6411, ext 3 or Bill Cook (MSU Extension)  at or 906-786-1575.

The intent of this curriculum is to provide students with an overview of forest management.  Conventional environmental education typically leaves out the connection between natural resources and utilization.  This curriculum expressly attempts to connect people to the natural resources that we are dependent upon.  Forestry and the forest products industry make up the largest economic sector in the Upper Peninsula and is a twenty billion dollar industry in Michigan.  Forests have played a critical role in the history of Michigan and will play a key role in our future.  Sustainable utilization of this resource is critical to the maintenance of our Michigan economy and lifestyle.  Coursework in this area will help students become more aware of the many facets and issues of forest management and will hopefully enable students to make more informed decisions as forest owners, voters, and decision-makers. 


A.     An overview of what will be included in the Forestry Unit and what the students should get out of the Forestry Unit. 

Unit 1  Land Survey and Orienteering

1.1     Land survey history
1.2     Plat books & legal descriptions
1.3     Key field survey terms
1.4     Compass and pacing (outdoor element)

Unit 2   Forests, Forestry, and Forest Ecology

2.1     What is a forest/what is forestry?
2.2     U.P. and Michigan forests
2.3     Forest ecology 

Unit 3  Tree Identification and Related Natural Resources

3.1     Tree Identification (outdoor element)
     a.     Taxonomy
     b.     Tree ID and Dichotomous keys
     c.     Classroom samples
3.2     Silvics - Biological characteristics of tree species (outdoor element)
     a.     Soils and soil profiles
     b.     Succession
     c.     Wildlife habitat and ecology
     d.     Tree growth

Unit 4  Forest Management Systems

4.1     Type of Systems - clearcutting, shelterwood and selection
4.2     Landowner objectives
4.3     Roles of forester, logger and landowner
4.4     Public vs. private forest management

Unit 5  Timber Inventory and Mock Timber Sale

3.4     Forest measurements - using the tools
5.1     Estimate volume within a specified area and answer why cut, where to cut and how to cut.

5.2     Guest speaker- logger to speak on issues including stumpage, bids, markets, contracts and taxes
5.3     Income tax implications
5.4     Field trip to see an active timber sale

Unit 6  Develop a Management Plan

6.1     Sample management plans
6.2     A guest plan writer
6.3     Outline of management plan
6.4     Research and writing of a plan

B)     Rules of student conduct need to be reviewed in preparation for field trips, for guest speakers, during presentations, and lectures.

C)     Grading Procedures and Rubrics

D)     Schedule Interruptions & Conflicts

E)     Materials and Resource List

F)     Other Considerations

A.     An overview of what will be included in the Forestry Unit and what the students should get out of the Forestry Unit. 

The main theme of this unit is to provide an introduction to, and basic understanding of, forests and forestry  principles so a management plan can be developed as an end goal achievement.  This management plan will focus on private non-industrial ownership of land instead of public or industrial lands. This Forestry Unit begins with a historical perspective, extending from a pre-EuroAmerican settlement time frame, including a review of how land was surveyed. The first few days should be used as an overview of the complete unit and introduce the topic of "forests" and related areas.  Make sure an explanation is given why the forestry unit is being done.

The Forestry Unit consists of six units.  Over time, material may change.  What works for one school or teacher may not work as well in another area.  Utilizing community resources is encouraged.  This unit suggests places for a number of guest speakers to contribute their area of expertise. These include loggers, foresters, landowners, and other natural resource professionals.  Outdoor and indoor activities are planned to allow extra practice time learning the various concepts, ideas, and tools used.  Time needs to be built in for field trips. Throughout the unit, field trips are planned to observe forests and forestry practices, and learn to use forestry tools. 

Document list - following is a list of documents and materials needed or suggested to use with each unit. Many of these documents are available through links on this website. 

Unit 1  Land Survey & Orienteering

The purpose of Unit 1 is to understand the history of how Michigan was surveyed, how plat books are used, and to learn basic compass skills . It is important for students to understand our land ownership system, including a  legal description.  Compass and pacing is a basic skill essential to working in a forest. 

1.1     Legal descriptions and land survey - this is a handout with the History of Michigan before settlement and after settlement. This also includes terms that are applicable to the history of surveys in Michigan.

1.2     Plat books are needed.  It does not matter if they are the most recent editions.  These can be obtained from MSU Extension offices, U.S. Forest Services, DNR, county offices, and other agencies.  Directions for use are found in the books and handouts can be obtained.  Students are to learn how to locate properties on the maps and how to find landowners listed in the index. 

1.3     A pacing and compass course needs to be set-up to learn and practice the following concepts: Chains,  half-chains, following an azimuth with a compass, finding an azimuth in the field, and pacing.  Refer to the Map and Compass section of this website.

1.4     Materials needed: Azimuth compasses, 100 foot tape, stakes and flags, roll of flagging.

Unit 2  Forests, Forestry, and Ecology

The purpose of Unit 2 is to give students an understanding of what constitutes a forest and provide an introduction to forestry/natural resource careers.  Michigan is a leading state in sustainable forestry. The basics of ecology help students understand forest ecosystems and how forests play an important role in everyday life.

2.1     What is a forest?  Forests are defined and their importance is introduced.  This section articulates a variety of forest descriptors. 

2.2     Forestry careers.  Foresters earn at least a four-year Bachelor's Degree.  There a wide variety of career options available.

2.3     Forest ecology is a dynamic science that serves as one of the bases of forest management.  Key concepts are reviewed. 

Unit 3  Tree Identification and Related Natural Resources

The purpose of this unit is to demonstrate that trees are part of a living and dynamic ecosystem, do not have the same biological requirements, and do not handle the environmental situations all the same way.

3.1     Tree identification
     a.     A Michigan Tree Species list includes 98 species of trees and shrubs.  For those inclined towards botanical classification, additional lists can be found on the U.P. Tree ID website.

b.     Dichotomous keys are common tools using in the identification of many things in the natural world.  A basic key (no images) covers over 50 common Michigan species.  The page has links to a number of text and pictorial keys.  Learn how to use a key and more about tree identification characteristics
c.     Tree samples are needed to show the students, including leaves, twigs, fruits, and other parts.   You will need to learn the trees and this is a good time to use a forester or naturalist. 

3.2     Silvics - Biological characteristics of tree species
     a.     Utilize a forester and other natural resource professionals.  Schedule a field trip to a forest.  Blend a variety of topics such as soils, succession & disturbance, fire history, other vegetation, bird & frog calls, geological & glacial landforms, wildlife habitat, riparian areas, forest history, management practices, and many additional possibilities depending upon the field site(s) and resource personnel.  This field trip provides a nice opportunity to utilize several guest speakers. 

Some of the resource materials available include:

     a.     Soils are very important in tree distribution.  Learn the soil texture triangle and a soil profiles.
b.     Forest communities, composition, and diversity
     c.     Tree increment boring - have a forester show and explain how  to use this tool to age a tree.
     d.     Wildlife ecology is a key element in forestry.

Unit 4  Forest Management Systems

The purpose of Unit 4 is to show students the various systems in a forest and that a landowner has choices depending upon current forest conditions, soil types,  personal preferences, and other factors.  This unit can utilize observations made during the field trip in Unit 3, or can be used as preparation for the field trip. 

4.1     Types of forest management systems - found in "Forest Management Guidelines for Michigan" booklet.  Clearcutting is a controversial practice that is specifically covered.

4.2     Landowner objectives - have class brainstorm why they might want to own forest land, visit the "multiple use" section on this website, invite a private forest landowner to come in and discuss their objectives, or a public land manager (U.S. Forest Service, DNR, County, others), or an forest industry land manager, or forestry consultant, or an employee of the County Conservation District, or a combination of the above.

4.3     Roles of forester, logger and landowner - have a producer (logger) talk about what is looked at in a timber sale from the logging standpoint, and discuss a mock timber sale.

4.4     Public and private forest management - discuss the differences, brainstorm as a class about possible differences ownership might cause, review the "Balance Section" on this website. 

Unit 5   Timber Inventory and Mock Timber Sale

The purpose of these unit is learn how to collect data, use some of the tools of a forester, and make forest management decisions based on empirical information.  Data can be collected for use in writing a forest management plan (unit 6).

3.4     Forest measurements.  Have a forester show how to use the following items.

    a.    Height sticks (hypsometer).  These can easily be made.
b.    Penny gauges, used to measure stand density, also easy to make.
    c.    Diameter tapes and diameter breast height
    d.    Distance tapes are used to measure distance from a tree in order to more accurately use a height stick. 
    e.    Spre
adsheets and volume charts off the Internet (please let Bill Cook know if these links fail)
                    Field Tally sheet, Volume sheet or Stand Volume spreadsheet  (Microsoft Excel)

5.1     Schedule a field trip to estimate timber volume in a forest and address why a harvest should or should not be done in a particular area.  If a harvest is justified, discuss where and how to harvest the parcel.  Discuss raw wood products, stumpage, and timber sale contracts.  Students will need to divide into groups of 2-4 people and collect data from sample plots in the forest.  Measurements to take at each plot are tree count, log counts in eight foot lengths for both sawtimber and pulpwood, species identification.  Record the measurements on a Field Tally Sheet.  If possible, use an increment borer to determine the age of the timber stand.  Use the field-collected data to determine stand volumes (instructions).  The results of this timber stand inventory can be used in the development of a management plan (see unit 6).  

5.2     Invite a producer (logger) to class and to help explain topics such as stumpage, bids, different markets, contracts, and timber types. The producer (or forester or forest owner) could help arrange a field trip to an active timber sale. 

5.3     Consider federal income tax implications to the forest owner of timber sale income. 

5.4     Visit an active timber sale.  Watching timber harvest equipment is interesting, often employing advanced technology.  Learn about nearby timber sales by contacting forest management agencies & industries, a Conservation District, or consulting foresters. 

Unit 6   Develop a Management Plan

Each student group (can use same teams from the timber inventory exercise) will research and write a forest management plan using a set of objective assigned to them.  A classroom will have 3-4 different sets of objectives.

Timber:  Maximize dollar revenue from timber, but in a sustainable manner.  Cords?  Boards?  Markets?  Quality?
Wildlife:  This could be game management, non-game, endangered species, selected populations (e.g. raptors, amphibians, etc.)
Recreation:  Many choices here; campground, sugarbush, hunting camp, trail system, snowmobiling, nature observation, etc.

6.1     What is a forest management plan?  A sample management plan can be obtained from the County Conservation District or local forest management agency.   

6.2     A guest speaker that writes plans is a good resource (Conservation District, agency professional, industry forester, forestry or wildlife consultant). 

6.3     Prepare a management plan outline.  This can be enhanced by the speaker from part 6.1.  An outline should include (at minimum), location/land description, maps, forest objectives, timber inventory, other resource inventories (roads, soils, habitat, vegetation types, water, etc.), landscape and ecosystem elements (such as who the neighbors are and how managed area fits into the larger landscape mosaic), desired future conditions of the forest, schedules and costs of projects, harvests, parking areas, etc.

6.4     Finally, students will need to use various resources to fill out the outline of the management plan.  If possible, have a number of professional natural resource people make themselves available to answer questions that inevitably arise during the writing process.  It is OK for students to insert a question for missing information elements.  For example, buffer areas along a water body mill vary in width depending upon an aquatic inventory. 

B)     Rules of student conduct need to be reviewed in preparation for field trips, for guest speakers, during presentations, and lectures.

Each school needs to address behavorial expectations to facilitate a proper teaching environment for guest speakers.

C)    Grading Procedures and Rubrics

D)    Schedule Interruptions & Conflicts

Many events will alter normal class schedules, such as sports, assemblies, holidays, and other school-wide events.  These must be considered.

Must estimate the number of days needed to complete the curriculum.  The following is rough estimate.

Units 1 & 2
Unit 3
Units 4 & 5
Unit 6

Ten classroom periods
Ten classroom periods, two half-day field trips (if possible)
Fifteen classroom periods
Five classroom periods
Five classroom periods

This curriculum will take approximately 12 weeks to complete, depending upon time spent on Introduction, wrap-up, class pace, number of students, number of enrichment videos/presentations, mastery of tools, and amount of material in handouts and other materials.  Curriculum can be modified, of course, to shorten or lengthen the required number of weeks. 

E)     Materials and Resource List

1.  The list

2.  Teacher's Guide (this website) to the Michigan Forests Forever project.  Also a CD-ROM for Middle School classes and a video. 

3.  Guest speakers:  forest industry, logging contractors, Conservation Districts, MSU Extension, Michigan DNR, U.S. Forest Service, forestry & wildlife consultants, and non-profit organizations are some possible sources.

4.  Tools list (e.g. compasses, hypsometers, d-tapes, increment borers, tally sheets, clipboards, plat books).

5.  AV aids (YouTube, slides, displays, PowerPoints, etc.).  Bill Cook has a number of PowerPoint presentations (U.P. Forests, Michigan Forests, Tree ID, Forest Ecology, Wildlife Ecology, others). 

6.  Reference books, documents, websites, etc.

7.  Links to established web pages.

SAF Guide:  Balance/MSAFguide
Map & Compass part of MFF:  TreeBasics/MapCompass.htm or Curriculum/MapCompass.htm (slightly different)
Pacing Page:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/Pacing.htm
Height stick page:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/StickUse.htm
Increment Borer page:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/Borer.htm
Penny Gauge page:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/PennyGauge.htm
Dtape use:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/Dtape.htm
Tree ID Chars:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/IDchars.htm
Tree ID Keys:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/IDkeys.htm (E2332 key, plus links to UPTREEID) 
U.P. Tree ID Website (
What Is A Forest?:  TreeBasics/treebasics.htm
Clearcutting:  Curriculum/SupportDocs/Clearcutting.htm
Careers on MFF TG:  Balance/Primer.htm
Wildlife Ecology:  Environment/EcologyWildlife.htm
Timber Sale Contracts:  Products/Contracts.htm
Stumpage:  Products/Stumpage.htm
Tax implications of timber harvest:  Products/Taxes.htm
Glossary:  Glossary.htm
Field Tally Sheet (forest measurements): (htm, doc):  Curriculum/SupportDocs/TallySheet.htm
Volume Calculation Sheet (from field tally sheet): (htm, doc):  Curriculum/SupportDocs/VolumeSheet.htm
Volume spreadsheet:  (download):  Curriculum/SupportDocs/StandVolumes3.xlsx

F)    Other Considerations

1.  For regular speakers, such as a forester or resource professional who works with students in multiple sessions, offer to take some time for the speaker to get know the student names and little information about each one. 

2.  Develop a glossary of terms used in the curriculum.  

3.  Additional subject areas that could be incorporated into the curriculum with additional time and resources: 


Back to TOP of Page

This website was developed and created by Michigan State University Extension for the teachers of the State of Michigan.