Oregon Women’s Program Educates Students

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Program Educates Students About Forestry

In the 1980s, as forest practices began to take harsh criticism, Oregon Women in Timber (OWIT) formed to reach families with scientific, factual information about forestry issues. It became apparent that multiple-use forestry education was missing in most Oregon schools. To insure that the proper information reached Oregonians, OWIT vowed to develop a program to send trained presenters into the classrooms with sound forestry facts.
In the beginning, local Oregon foresters and OWIT members developed an education program for OWIT. Eventually, a program called Talk About Trees (TAT) was adopted, targeting the metropolitan areas of Oregon first. The program now reaches almost all parts of Oregon with trained facilitators presenting the information.
The first year in 1992 the program reached 2,725 students. This past year OWIT reached over 175,400 students. Over 1 million students have participated in a TAT program since 1991.
The program is intended to increase students’ knowledge and awareness of forestry, including the life cycle of trees, forest health, trees as a natural resource, forest as habitat for animals and careers in forestry. The on-site, hands-on science unit is offered to pre-school through grade eight, with the main program focusing on students in grade four.
Although there is no cost to the school for the program, it costs the organization at least $50 per classroom presentation. With increased demand for the program, many of which are repeat presentations to the same classroom year after year, came huge demands for increased presenters and money. It became apparent that OWIT would have to hire and train classroom facilitators in order to keep up with the demand for school presentations.
That’s when OWIT women had the idea of a fundraiser auction to be held during the Oregon Logging Conference, which is held annually in Eugene, Oregon. OWIT contacted the logging conference organizers and asked to be part of the event. OWIT pointed out that they definitely were the educational arm of the industry. The conference agreed to partner with OWIT, and through hard work and increased attendance, the auction has grown tremendously.
In February the Oregon Women in Timber held its 15th annual auction. “We started with two tables of silent auction items in the outer lobby and we are now the ‘main event’ for the conference,” said Diann Washburn, co-chair of the auction.
“We plan an evening for 600 people, including an elegant sit-down dinner and a silent auction followed by a live auction,” added co-chair Kay King. “It’s very hard work, but people are very generous with their donations, and we are very proud to offer wonderful items for bidders.”
OWIT is also supported by many generous private and corporate donations as well as grants and a contract with the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.
“We are seeing the fruits of hard work and commitment,” said Diane Daley, a member of the organization’s TAT education committee. “Students who have been through the program are now able to vote. They have been well educated on forestry issues. It’s a big step forward for healthy forests.”
Talk About Trees is now on the Web. Teachers have access to all of the TAT activities on the Internet as well as a comprehensive list of additional information and material resources available to them at http://tat.orwit.org.
All OWIT organizational and planning work is done by volunteers. Members throughout the state selflessly give of their time, knowledge and personal resources.
“We are proud of the job we do to increase folk’s scientific forestry knowledge,” said Jana Pfliiger, OWIT president. “We encourage men and women around the nation to show their support by joining our organization.
OWIT encourages questions or donations. Contact OWIT via the Web site at www.orwit.org.