5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 2:00 PM
Sparking Awareness in the Next Generation: Successful Results of the "Fire in Florida's Ecosystems" Teacher Training Program
Susan Marynowski, Pandion Systems, Inc., Gainesville, FL; and C. B. Denny and J. D. Brenner
Land managers say that a lack of public support for prescribed burning has contributed to the fuel buildup that feeds Florida’s wildfires. The Fire in Florida’s Ecosystems (FIFE) program provides teachers and other educators with a free training workshop and curriculum package focusing on the natural role of fire and the important role of prescribed fire in preventing wildfire in Florida. The package included fire activities, posters, videos, supplemental materials, and an interactive CD-ROM. A typical 6-hour workshop included background information, practice with curriculum activities, a field trip to a fire maintained natural area, and a prescribed fire presentation by a Florida Division of Forestry representative.

Evaluation was infused throughout the Fire in Florida’s Ecosystems program. A pre-program needs assessment determined the best ways to distribute the curriculum. The training workshop and materials were pilot tested with a group of experienced educators. New supplemental materials and information were incorporated into the package based on the needs assessment and pilot training.

Feedback was continually collected from participants on training evaluation forms. Feedback comments and suggestions were used to continuously improve the Fire in Florida’s Ecosystems curriculum and training program.

Pre-workshop and post-workshop surveys measured statistically significant changes in teacher knowledge and attitudes as a result of the training workshops. Random telephone follow-up surveys of program graduates measured a 74% classroom adoption rate, with 100% of those surveyed saying that they plan to use the materials in the future. Program participants were asked to rate several aspects of the Fire in Florida’s Ecosystems training program on a scale of 1 to 5, and the program received average rankings of 4.7 to 5.0 on statements such as The FIFE training was a valuable use of my time and The FIFE training and materials should continue to be offered to educators around the state.

Here are a few typical comments from FIFE workshop participants:

I think it was an excellent workshop, covering not only the ecological side of the issues, but also the human/political side of fire.

I really had no idea of how prescribed burns worked and how beneficial they are. Special Ed students will love this.

I will use it because it’s interdisciplinary and correlates to the Sunshine State Standards. It is crucial that my students are educated about real-life issues.

In the first two years of the program, 49 workshops were offered to over 1200 Florida teachers in 34 of Florida’s 67 counties. With the average educator reaching 150 students or visitors each year, the “Fire in Florida’s Ecosystems” program has potentially reached over 180,000 students since 2000. These students will share information with their families and will grow to become fire-aware adults. The “Fire in Florida’s Ecosystems” program is a successful model for educating the public about the importance of prescribed burning and the natural role of fire in Florida.

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