Just for fun sometime, ask your kids, grandkids, or another child what they know about forests. What you will find – and this observation is supported by surveys of many young people over a fifteen year period – is a pervasive pessimism about not only forests, but about the environment in general. Moreover, if you ask questions that have verifiable answers (for instance, trends in forest land area, trends in forest growth and harvest, percent of paper collected for recycling) you will encounter answers that are consistently and significantly to the pessimistic side of wrong.
Narrowing the gap between perception and reality requires that students be engaged in thinking and discussion about forests – where they are, how forests in various regions differ, how forests change through time, forest trends, the basics of forest succession; the types and uses of products that come from forests. What is needed is more than a presentation, a video, or a book. Ideally, at least a portion of learning can occur within a forest, but in any event opportunity must be provided for discussion, questioning, informal responses to questions, and more questions. An environmental quiz that has been found useful in initiating such discussion and exploration is available.