Fun-Filled Wood Magic Show Teaches Children About Forest Products Industry

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It’s Magic, Fun-Filled Wood Magic Show Teaches Children About Forest Products Industry

BLACKSBURG, Virginia — “I liked the bubbling bazookas and rock stars because we all got to participate in the bubble-blowing contest and guessing the rock stars.”

“I didn’t know wood was stronger if turned on its side.”

“We didn’t go to any event we did not like.”

“It was neat to see the termites under the electronic microscope because we do not have that equipment in our classroom.”

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“Seeing the colors of leaves with the chromatograph complemented our teaching unit on plants.”

“Wood Magic was cool because we got to volunteer to help the grown-ups.”

“The demonstrations were excellent.”

“We loved the Wood Magic Show.”

These were comments from third- and fourth-graders and their teachers who spent a fun-filled day learning about wood.

Following on the heels of last year’s successful inaugural Wood Magic Show, which reached hundreds of area schoolchildren, the Virginia Tech department of wood science and forest products recently staged it again. The on-campus show was presented to 488 schoolchildren and 62 teachers and aides who visited the Brooks Wood Products Center recently to learn about forest products and wood science — and to have fun.

The educational outreach initiative was modeled after the Wood Magic Show developed by Mississippi State University. Wood Magic Show programs also are being developed in other states as a way to reach and teach children about the forest products industry.

“The highlight of the event was seeing the children learn, really learn,” said Audrey Zink-Sharp, a Virginia Tech associate professor of wood science and coordinator of the Wood Magic Show. “It was very obvious that those young minds were captivated by the wood science demonstrations.”

“You probably ate some wood today and did not even realize it,” one Virginia Tech instructor told the children. “Did you take an aspirin? That comes from willow bark. Did you eat some ice cream? Brush your teeth? They all have ingredients from wood.”

“Not only do you eat wood in your daily activities, but you may even be ‘wearing’ wood if you have on a rayon shirt,” another demonstrator explained to the students. “From food to clothes, adhesives, photo film, cosmetics, cleansers, football helmets, alcohol, and medicines, you use materials every day that are derived from wood.”

Each child planted a tree seed for the Wood Magic Show finale and received a certificate for participating in the event. The children learned that the forestry industry plants five trees for every one it harvests, and that the mighty oak trees grow from little acorns.

One fourth-grader said she liked racing the termites and blowing soap bubbles through red oak sticks. The elementary students learned that white oak was different and that its wood structure would not allow them to do that. One young student said he was surprised to discover that wood was made of cells that looked like and acted like straws, and that pound for pound, wood was as strong as steel! In blowing bubbles through the wood straws, the children experienced first-hand how a tree gets water and sap up and down its stem. Students were amazed to discover that, just as trees are different on the outside, various species also are different on the inside.

They conducted a number of experiments and enjoyed hands-on demonstrations. They tested wooden sticks and guessed how much weight it would take to break the wood. Some students made a wood sandwich as they learned that plywood is made with heat, pressure, and rotating the wood layers cross-wise to get a good, strong bond. The children also looked at termites with an electron microscope and learned that wood was food for the termite.

The youngsters also made paper, learned about recycling wooden pallets and paper products, saw how wood products enter into their lives every day — it was hard for them to believe that they each used three pounds of wood and forest products every day — and watched how huge logs are moved onto a rigger.

The instructional program was developed around Virginia’s Standards of Learning for third and fourth grades, so the event is gaining popularity with Virginia schools. Teachers were given a bag of supplemental teaching materials, including a book on the history of papermaking, the Forest Resource Fact Book, Your Wood Fact Book, Lessons in Appalachian Forestry, a maple cube, coloring page, wood pencils, National Forest Products Week education folders, a poster from the American Forest and Paper Association, informational pieces on ecosystem-based forestry, a book on trees, and other pamphlets on what the forest has to offer.

Virginia Tech also took the well-received educational program on the road for the first time recently. The traveling classroom version of the Wood Magic Show was presented earlier at the Appalachian Forestry Expo and Farm Safety Day at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Va. The Wood Magic Show was a popular part of the annual event, which emphasized educating the community on the two industries that are so vital to the Appalachians: forests and farms. The show’s audience learned there are some 4,000 products made from wood, a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable, and reusable.

Audrey directed a team of volunteers who put on two shows for some 100 onlookers about the everyday uses and impacts of wood in our daily lives. “This was a good way to test drive our mobile classroom,” she said. Joining Audrey on the road were various members of Virginia Tech’s college of Natural Resources, including students, employees, and family members.

Even though fun was the order of the day for both events, the underlying message was how wood adds value to our quality of life, and how the forestry industry is taking a responsible approach to the use of natural resources.

The Wood Magic Show was invited back to next year’s Appalachian Forestry Expo, and plans already are under way for another program in 2000 at Virginia Tech. The waiting list has already started!

The Virginia Forest Products Association co-sponsored the Wood Magic Show event at Virginia Tech. Additional funding, contributions and support came from Dyno Overlays, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, International Paper, Morgan Lumber Co., Georgia-Pacific, Southern Lumber Manufacturers Association, Westvaco Corp., Stuart Flooring, WoodTech Inc., and the Hardwood Manufacturing Association.

Because Virginia Tech’s department of wood science and forest products recognizes the importance of educating young people about the role of wood products and the forest products industries in their everyday lives, the college of natural resources is in the process of hiring a permanent, full-time youth educator.

The department has a trailer and pick-up truck designed and devoted to the traveling classroom. Companies interested in helping with this project or supporting the educational program may contact Audrey at (540) 231-8820.