Campus: San Diego State University -- May 2, 2005
SDSU Developing First Post-Wildfire Science Curriculum Materials
to Be Offered Free to Elementary and Middle Schools This Fall
This fall, tens of thousands of elementary and middle school students around
San Diego County will have the opportunity to learn environmental lessons from the
2003 firestorms through the nation's first comprehensive post-wildfire science
curriculum, now under development at San Diego State University.
The program, called the San Diego Wildfires Education Project, is being created by
educators and scientists at SDSU's College of Education and partners at the San
Diego County Office of Education, San Diego County Water Authority, San Diego
Natural History Museum, San Diego Science Alliance and other local government and
environmental education groups.
The curriculum will be given to county elementary and middle schools at no cost.
Project leaders say these materials help fill a gaping hole in the region's healing
process from the tragic conflagrations, which charred 376,000 acres, destroyed
2,400 homes and killed 16 people in October 2003.
"We need a region-wide educational component to our recovery that focuses on
understanding the wildfire process, including origins, frequency and environmental
recovery," said Stephen F. Barnes, Ph.D., adjunct professor of education at SDSU
and director of the San Diego Wildfires Education Project. "This program will help
children get past the scary nature of fires to realize that fires are a regular
part of the urban/wildland interface, how important it is to study water and air
pollution and other impacts from fires and how the recovery of habitats and
species occurs after fires."
A primary focus of this project is to motivate students and teachers from the most
fire-affected areas to understand and participate in monitoring and analyzing the
environmental recovery process. Barnes said there are about 16,000 children and
950 teachers in grades K-8 who will be specifically targeted for this part of the
program. However, the curriculum is being designed for use by all elementary and
middle schools throughout the county - 400 elementary schools, 85 middle schools
and approximately 280,000 students and their teachers. Younger children will learn
through traditional and in-school interactive methods. Older children will learn
through virtual encounters with San Diego's habitats and actual science data
"Ideally we want to prepare teachers and their students to go into the field,
observe and collect data in ways that provide meaningful, memorable lessens for
them and also help these young scientists analyze what's actually going on in
post-burn areas," Barnes said.
Teachers and students throughout the county will have access to a wide range of
classroom-oriented, post-fire learning tools and materials, including science
projects, downloadable Web files and DVDs featuring virtual tours of burn areas
and video interviews with environmental experts.
Project staff are adapting environmental science, fire ecology and local field
studies to create the post-fire science curriculum, emphasizing source and runoff
pollution, watershed and habitat restoration and species recovery in San Diego's
chaparral, backcountry, and forested areas. The curriculum will be compliant with
statewide science standards for elementary and middle schools. Project staff
expect materials to be completed and available by mid-August.
"Fire ecology is a subject that affects us all each year, but is seldom discussed
beyond the immediate crises," said Ivan Golakoff, Education Programs Supervisor
for the San Diego County Water Authority and co-director of the San Diego Wildfires
Education Project. "This curriculum will help make science relevant for students
by allowing them to study the ecology and science of fire in their own back yards.
It will also provide students the opportunity to become involved in the fire
recovery process, which hopefully will make them better stewards of the environment."
The project has received preliminary funding from the San Diego Foundation and the
Hans and Margaret Doe Charitable Trust.
More information about the San Diego Wildfires Education Project is available at
completed, many of the curriculum materials will be accessible for downloading
from the Web site.
Jason Foster, email@example.com SDSU
Marketing & Communications, (619) 594-2585, Mobile (619) 992-0772
Stephen F. Barnes, Ph.D.,
firstname.lastname@example.org, Adjunct Professor
of Education SDSU Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, Postsecondary
Education Office (619) 594-8806