Learning About Climate Change Can be Fun

Job Corps students test drive new Forest Service exhibit

EFETAC resource information specialist Erika Cohen autographs her scientist card for Job Corps student. Photo by Michael Robinson, U.S. Forest Service.

On May 6, students from the Schenck Job Corps Center in Pisgah, North Carolina, traveled up the mountain  from their center to test drive a new climate change exhibit at the Cradle of Forestry, the birthplace of forestry and forest conservation located in the Pisgah National Forest. Designed and installed by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS), the exhibit aims to engage people of all ages in interactive learning about climate change in the southern Appalachian mountains.

The exhibit at the Cradle’s Forestry Discovery Center features life-size cutout figures of SRS scientists Steve McNulty, Erika Cohen, and Ge Sun. As part of the opening of the exhibit, the three traveled up from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center office in Raleigh to give presentations and talk to the students about climate change and the environment. The 27 Job Corps students—some of whom  admitted they had  not been eager to come—responded with curiosity and enthusiasm.

“When does a scientist get to have a rock star moment?” said McNulty, recently named director of the USDA Southeast Regional Climate Hub. “After the talk, the students asked to pose with us for pictures and to have us sign our autographs on the scientist cards available in the exhibit. They were so excited, and so were we.”

Near the climate change exhibit is a new wildland fire exhibit by SRS that accompanies a simulated helicopter flight, where students jockeyed for position in the cockpit to take a ride over a prescribed burn until it was time to take a trip through time outside on the Forest Festival Trail.

The trail starts at a pond where SRS scientist Ge Sun gave a talk about how forest watersheds clean water.  Walking along the pond, the students discovered a scary and fascinating nest of banded water snakes. After watching the snakes swim  and slither in the grass, the students hiked the trail, which winds through sites of early forestry experiments, by a portable sawmill from the 1800s, and a real 1915 Climax locomotive, where students climbed aboard to ring the bell on what they dubbed their “Freedom Train.”

Several students who were interviewed later commented on how much fun it was to explore the woods and the trail demonstrations, and to walk the trail with people working for the Forest Service.

Later the same evening, members of the Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association gathered for the official opening of the new exhibits, which represent the first phase of a comprehensive update planned for the Forest Discovery Center over the next few years. The scientists posed again near their cutouts, this time for an older and more sedate crowd.

For more information, email Jennifer Plyler at jplyler@fs.fed.us.

Access the climate change exhibit online.

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.

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