California’s coastal redwood forest became a classroom for students from the oak woodlands of the Sierra foothills Nov. 16 through 19 when 11 students from Mountain Oaks Charter School in San Andreas joined the 2016 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge.

An academic event for high school students in technical forestry, the Forestry Challenge is a statewide program started in 2003 in which students learn about ecology and forest management that provide communities with water, recreation, wood products and wildlife habitat.

The event was held at Redwood Christian Park near Boulder Creek. 

This year’s program gave students the opportunity to assess an area of redwood forest that was harvested a year ago. Students collected data such as trees per acre, forest density and recent growth. 

They used the data to predict future growth and sustainability of the forest. During the challenge, the teams of students also completed field training followed by a field test, to assess their technical forestry knowledge.

The Mountain Oaks students were among 117 high school students representing 14 high schools from the Santa Cruz and central California regions that participated in the 2016 Forestry Challenge.

“It was great to see our students come together while learning about real-world problems,” said Mountain Oaks Charter School teacher Andrew Oneto.

Objectives of the Forestry Challenge program include giving students scientific knowledge and practical skills involved in environmental stewardship, as well as understanding the complexities of balancing social, environmental and economic values. And for students who may have never set foot in a forest environment, the program offers an appreciation for the woods and a desire to incorporate outdoor activities into their lives.

There are five Forestry Challenge sites in California – Shasta, Sequoia, El Dorado, San Bernardino and Santa Cruz – where specific forest ecologies are studied.

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