Adirondack Guides

4-H Forestry Program

4-H Forestry

2020 4-H Forestry Program Exceeds Previous Youth Participation Through Virtual Instruction

Each year, 4-H youth from across New York State who are interested in forests, forestry skills and forest management have an opportunity to attend a weekend long forestry program at Shankitunk Camp in Delaware County. The camp is the oldest 4-H camp in NYS and includes a “model forest” making this location ideal for the program.

This year with the threat of COVID19 the summer camp closed its doors. In response to the camp closure, the NYS 4-H Youth Program decided to hold Forestry Weekend virtually and spread out the curriculum over multiple weekends.

In 2019, the program hosted only 19 participants, a low number compared to the year before which had 35. Ideally, the in-person program will meet capacity at 50 participants. This year, the virtual program had around 100 youth participants.

Ulster County’s 4-H Youth Educator Matt Helffrich is one of the instructors responsible for delivering the forestry curriculum. “Normally we have a one weekend event and reach the people who can come,” said Helffrich. “A lot of people aren’t going to travel up to 6 hours for a weekend program, so we’ve talked about holding it at different places.”

The drastic increase in 4-H youth participation is a great example of how online education has the ability to increase the reach of our programs through virtual formats. “While we can’t do everything we can do in person, we can still do some good,” said Helffrich.

The curriculum teaches an appreciation for the importance of conserving forests as a source of income, raw materials and recreation. Youth discover the skills that Foresters must master to do their jobs including tree identification and measurement, navigation with a compass, reading a topographic map and tree pest insect identification.

SUNY Delhi’s forestry program teaches logging techniques such as clear and selective cutting methods to understand forest responses to those changes. Many times, a professor from this program participates in the instruction at Forestry Weekend, providing information about the program and career opportunities through SUNY Delhi. There’s only a few model forests in the state. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia-Greene County also has one.

“We worked with PowerPoints and different techniques to engage such as quizzes on Kahoot,” said Helffrich when asked about virtual instruction. “Our Saturday the presenters focused on pests and interacted through the chat feature. It was candid and worked really well.”

Helffrich gave lessons on the compass and pacing skills. Youth learned how to judge distance by measuring 100 feet and documenting how many steps it took in order to reach that distance. Using this information, youth were able to gauge other distances.

“I’m used to teaching with someone where you can tell when someone isn’t doing it right, which is hard to do on zoom,” said Helffrich. “This is why Kahoot is nice because you can gauge when people are doing something wrong.”

In 2020, the forestry program omitted the Sunday competition where youth are tested on tree identification, compass and pacing tree measurement (skills such as measuring a tree from diameter, log lengths, and calculations to determine the economic value of a forest) using a topographic map. Youth finalists are then selected for a team of 5 to represent New York at the National Forestry Invitational in the Jackson Mill State 4-H Conference Center in Weston, WV. Youth work with a professional forestry coach to prepare them.

The hope is that the increased participation in the virtual setting will bring more awareness to the program and bolster in-person attendance in 2021.

For Educators

Tools for 4-H and Youth Educators to use to increase youth's exposure to Forests and Forest Careers

Rotating Tool Kits: We have 8 kits that can be borrowed for educational events around the state.

NYS 4-H Forestry Manual: Offical guidebook for the NYS 4-H Forestry Weekend Competition

Curriculum Alignment with NYS Educational Standards: To help integrate forestry curriculum into your classroom- National 4-H Forest of Fun Curriculum Aligned with NYS Educational Standards

For Youth

NYS 4-H Forestry Manual: Offical guidebook for the NYS 4-H Forestry Weekend Competition

Ulster County Forest Friends SPIN Club: For details and to join, email Mary Lou Giuliano,

Last updated March 30, 2021