A message from Diane Dealey Neill 

Hello to the Forestry Challenge Community:

The year 2020 has presented us with some significant obstacles and challenged us to adapt.  A record number of schools pre-registered for fall events and, after having to cancel the 2019-2020 Championship event scheduled for April, we began to realize that our fall event season was also in jeopardy.  We have relied on input from pre-registered teachers as we made key decisions about our fall event season.  Teachers were sent a survey to fill out in mid-August.  Here are a few graphics generated from the survey:

These results, combined with the fact that all of our event venues are unable to host groups at this time, led us to the decision to conduct one statewide virtual event for the fall of 2020.  Here are a few of the important things to know about the 2020 Virtual Forestry Challenge:

  • The program will be student-led and will require minimal teacher involvement.  We will be developing and posting study materials in learning modules that are self-instructed and have a suggested competition timeline so the students can self-direct their activities during their competition session.
  • The program will be free, meaning no registration fee, and will be open to as many teams as each teacher wants to recruit.  Each student will receive an event t-shirt and a certificate of participation at the conclusion of all sessions.
  • There will be 6 sessions that are designed to accommodate 20 teams each.  When registering, each team can choose from and schedule themselves to compete in any session, each with a 7-day timeframe.  Session 1 will start on Saturday, October 31, and Session 6 will end on Saturday, December 19, with Thanksgiving week as a bye.  Each team will be given access to the study materials 4 weeks prior to their scheduled event session.  All teams will be competing in one event with the results announced on Sunday, December 20 at 2:00 p.m. via a live video conference.
  • When a team’s session opens, they will gain access to the event materials which will include an opening lecture similar to what they usually hear on Wednesday evening, the focus topic question and data set, and a link to an online test that they can open on Monday and complete anytime during the week.
  • Each team will also have access to two (optional) discussion sessions on Monday and Thursday, an Ask a Forester appointment on Wednesday evening, and a presentation time slot on Saturday morning.  We are using Zoom and Google Classroom, which seem to be the most common software programs indicated in the teacher survey responses.
  • Depending on the number of teams participating and whether or not we are able to have an in-person event in the spring, we plan to have either a championship event (with top-scoring teams) or an invitational event (with all teams).  Participating in the fall virtual event is the first step towards qualifying to participate in the spring event.

While we are disappointed that we cannot hold our regular events this fall, there are a few advantages to this format.  First, we are offering our program when many other school activities have been canceled, which will be an opportunity for students to build up their college portfolios.  Second, I have been collaborating with the Usal Redwood Forest Company, which manages forests for the Redwood Forest Foundation, including a 50,000-acre tract in remote Mendocino County called the Usal Forest.  This is a location we cannot visit during in-person events so we’re going to take this opportunity to give students a forest experience without actually traveling to this forest.

Registration is now open and will be open until September 30. 

The rules are posted on the website under the Virtual Forestry Challenge tab.  I suggest reading the rules carefully because many things have changed.  One significant change from a standard event is that the online test is worth 40% of the total score and the presentation is worth 60%, a reversal.  I made the change because the online test will not be assessing as many forestry field skills as a test in the field and I feel should not have the weight that it normally does.

Even with a virtual event, we will need volunteers to judge presentations and foresters to conduct Ask a Forester appointments.  To sign up, complete a Volunteer Registration Form, which is available under the “2020 Virtual Event” tab on the website.

Thank you for your support!