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

Monday, 17 November 2003
The 'Role of Fire in Alaska' curriculum
Karen A. Murphy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK; and E. Long
Environmental education plays a critical role in wildland fire management, particularly in fire-adapted ecosystems. The success of Smokey Bear and his fire prevention message has influenced fire management and policy in the United States over the last half century. As our understanding of fire’s importance in naturally functioning ecosystems has increased, so has the complexity of the lessons that need to be taught. Students and teachers across Alaska have a new tool to use when studying the effects of wildland fires on boreal forests and tundra. The first major revision of the “Role of Fire in Alaska” curriculum, originally made available to educators in 1992, can now be accessed online. The materials are designed to teach Alaskans about ecology, the effects (both negative and positive) of wildland fire on boreal and tundra ecosystems, and fire management concepts, using a combination of classroom study and outdoor activities.

In addition to now being available in digital format and incorporating new and updated material, the curriculum was specifically revised to provide information that teachers need to more easily incorporate the course work into their classroom schedules. Each lesson now describes the Alaska State Content Standards, specific skills addressed, and individual lessons are keyed to grade levels. The curriculum is divided into three major units. Unit I concerns boreal forest and tundra ecology, providing information on how these Alaska ecosystems function. The lessons are designed to guide students as they explore their environment and to help them better understand such concepts as vegetation succession and the interrelationships between wildlife and habitat. Unit II focuses on the way fire affects Alaska’s most common ecosystems. Students will learn how fires interact with boreal forest and tundra wildlife and vegetation. The lessons explain that fire has an important role in Alaska, one that can have both positive and negative effects. Fire management is the theme of Unit III. It explores how and why land managers deal with wildland fire in our state. The exercises in this unit will help students understand the reasons behind decisions made by the various agencies that are involved in wildland fire management in Alaska, and will teach them about the actions that we all can take to reduce the danger to our homes and communities posed by fires.

All of the materials necessary to teach the curriculum are available to the public free of charge. They can be viewed online at http://alaska.fws.gov/fire/role/ and are printable, as well. The support materials, such as maps and other handouts, are accessible through links on the main pages, and can be printed separately. This segmentation makes it easier for users to download the curriculum in a reasonable amount of time.

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