Model Forest Program – STEM Opportunity for 6th Graders


STEM Education in Forestry

Written by Diahne Gill, Executive Director, NNRI

The Model Forest is coordinated by the Northwest Natural Resources Institute (NNRI), a program partner of Greater Spokane Incorporated.  It is the collaboration of the NNRI and forest industry professionals, especially the U.S. Forest Service Coeur d’Alene Nursery, that make this event possible. Scholarships in 2018 for student transportation and/or registration fees were provided through industry companies such as Boise Cascade, Washington SFI Implementation Committee, Columbia Cedar, Hansen Logging, Vaagen Brothers Lumber and Stimson Lumber. The program sponsors for the event in 2018 were Hancock Forest Management, LLC and the Idaho Forest Protection Commission. Volunteers for the program joined us from Idaho Forest Group, Stimson Lumber, U.S. Forest Service Coeur d’Alene Nursery, Boise Cascade, Hancock Forest Management, Vaagen Brothers Lumber and Spokane Conservation District. 

The NNRI is a private, non-profit (501c3) educational organization that provides balanced natural resource education opportunities to regional teachers and students.  Our mission statement is to cultivate a better understanding of the daily importance of our agriculture, mineral, forest and water resources by educating teachers and students about the science, economic, and societal aspects of our region’s natural resources. We present factual information on the utilization and economic importance of our natural resource industries by providing information for teachers and students to make informed decisions on the management and use of our resources.  We are working hard with our partners to reconnect society to the source of its everyday products – natural resources. 

Since the Model Forest program began in 1998, more than 7,400 regional sixth graders, teachers and parent chaperones have been educated about principles in forestry.  In 2018, 350 students and 16 teachers attended the workshops. Students invited to attend have included sixth graders from Spokane School District #81, Central Valley School District, East Valley School District, private schools from the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Coeur d’Alene School District, Post Falls School District and Lakeland Joint School District.

Through hands-on activities led by foresters and industry professionals, the students use critical thinking to do the following:

Explored the forest at the Idaho Panhandle Forest Service Nursery in Coeur d’Alene, ID and learned to:

  • Estimate the height of trees (using trigonometry)
  • Core a tree to find out how old the tree is (observations and deductive reasoning)
  • Learn how to calculate board feet in a tree (algebra)
  • Identify trees and tree diseases (observations and deductive reasoning)
  • Learn about careers in the forestry industry


While touring the nursery, greenhouses and the seed extractory plant students:

  • Estimated how many seedlings were being grown in a plot (algebra)
  • Measured and plotted the shoot to root ratios of a Western White Pine and a Ponderosa Pine (algebra)
  • Determined seed germination rates (ratios and fractions)

The Model Forest program follows several standards of practice for educating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to students including:

  • Learning and applying content
  • Integrating content
  • Interpreting and communicating information
  • Engaging in inquiry
  • Engaging in logical reasoning


During the weeks of May 7th – May 18th, 2018, NNRI was at Coeur d’Alene, ID at the U.S. Forest Service Nursery educating 16 teachers and more than 350 students about the science and technology behind the forestry industry.

For more information about the Model Forest Program, contact Diahne Gill at or 509.321.3615.


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