This is the final post in our five part series on NFPA’s recent Wildland Fire Operations Division's report that examines the need and importance of middle and high school age students having a role in reducing community wildfire risks.
Following last summer's six youth community outreach workshops, National Firewise Program staff wanted to also get input from middle and high school teachers in areas recently impacted by a wildfire. We wanted insight into what the student's had shared about their experiences at school since a large percentage said they received very limited information at school about wildfire preparedness, prevention and mitigation; both before and after their local wildfire.
An electronic questionnaire was used to get the teacher's input - they were asked about the informational resources they used following the fire; who they look to for wildland fire educational information, if they incorporated wildfire related information into lesson plans, and the best places for students to receive wildland fire information. It was distributed via email to teachers in four communities. The fires in two of those four communities occurred during the scheduled school year and the other two happened during the summer of 2012.
Teachers were asked if they provided classroom time for a discussion on wildland fire related topics when the students returned to the classroom (shortly after the fire or when the school year resumed), and 38% said they did, but the information shared was very basic. Almost two-thirds said they did not search for grade appropriate wildland fire classroom resources/materials following the fire.
With all the constraints today on a teacher’s time we wanted to know if the classroom isn’t the best place for students to receive wildfire education and awareness information where should it come from (teachers could select multiple choices); and 71% of the respondents said it should come from their local fire department; and another 55% felt it should come from the student’s parents. Only a third of the responding teachers said there is both time and opportunity for schools in high risk wildfire areas to provide awareness and education information to students. Additional findings are available in the Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk - Community Conversation Workshop Findings and Research report.
The past five blogs have included a small sampling of the information collected at the six community conversation workshops, the extensive literature search and questionnaire to teachers. I encourage you to take the time to read the report in its entirety and learn why it is important for the youth demographic in areas with a wildfire risk to know the importance of mitigation and general preparedness. Programs targeted to middle and high school students provide benefits beyond the students themselves, as they have the capacity and ability to impact individuals, neighborhoods, and entire communities.
Empowering youth with life-long knowledge about the importance of mitigation and preparedness impacts both current and future wildland/urban interface land and homeowners; and moves forward the goal of reducing the losses and long-term recovery impacts caused by wildfires each year.