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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Idaho BLM showcases their FireWorks! educational curriculum at the 16th Annual Idaho Environmental Education Conference

BLM FireWorks! booth
What smells like sage brush, lives in a trunk, and helps kids understand  the 7 million acres of southern Idaho BLM landscapes?  The answer to this question was unveiled by a group of Idaho BLM Fire Mitigation/ Education specialists at the 16th annual Idaho Environmental Education Conference (IdEEA).  It’s called FireWorks! and it is a portable, hands-on resource teachers use to teach the sagebrush steppe ecosystem.

IdEEA was held at Sage International School in Boise, Idaho, during the first weekend of March.  This conference brought formal educators and non-profit organizations from across Idaho together to collaborate on the theme: Connecting Communities to Classrooms!  BLM employees staffed a booth throughout the conference where attendees could learn more about BLM and both educational curriculum's.

Carrie Bilbao, Boise District
 & Kari Boyd-Peak, NIFC
In addition to some popular classroom activities, the BLM presentation introduced the FireWorks! Encyclopedia.   This encyclopedia lists more than 40 species found in the sage-steppe ecosystem including sage grouse, arrowleaf balsam root, golden eagle, biotic crust, juniper, sagebrush, harvester ants, and blue bunch wheatgrass.  The encyclopedia is the foundation of the curriculum and is vital to the students’ understanding of the ecosystem.

The BLM’s FireWorks! educational curriculum is an adaptation of a widely-used educational tool first created at the Rocky Mountain Research Center (Missoula, MT) in 2000 by Jane Kapler-Smith and Nancy E. McMurray.  The original curriculum featured forest ecosystems and has been utilized across the United States by both educators and local and federal agencies.  The sagebrush steppe curriculum is just one of a several adaptations of the original concept that makes science and specific disciplines personal to the region students live in.

Jesse Bender, Idaho Falls District
This curriculum can be used for elementary, middle school and high school levels.  Its objectives include increasing student understanding of natural resource sciences, enhancing scientific literacy, and developing critical thinking skills about science-related social issues.

In addition to FireWorks!, the team highlighted the  4th grade wildland fire curriculum currently being integrated into the Boise School District. This program uses many of the same activities from FireWorks!

Additional information concerning the FireWorks! educational curriculum and upcoming training sessions can be found at this website: http://www.firelab.org/project/fireworks-educational-program

The following BLM specialists have been engaged in the development of FireWorks!

Jennifer Myslivy, Idaho State Office
Carrie Bilbao, Boise District
Jesse Bender, Idaho Falls District
Kelsey Brizendine, Twin Falls District
Kari Boyd-Peak, NIFC