Monday, December 21, 2015

Benicia High students rank top five in forestry challenge

(Originally published in the 12/20/15 edition)

   Benicia High School students recently took fourth and fifth place in the 2015 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge out of 22 teams. 
   The competitive event, held at Redwood Christian Park in Boulder Creek, allowed over 90 students from California high schools to engage in hands-on lessons in technical forestry and current forestry topics. Seven Benicia High students- Riley Snowder, Ethan Castiglione, Sandra Campero-Vohs, Bell Soileau, Mara Guerin, Aizik Rogers and Ciara Roybal- participated under the advisory of science teacher Emily Hudson, who had previously had students participate when she taught in Sacamento. This was the first year that Benicia High had taken part, and all of the students volunteered to participate.
   “I opened it up, and I had seven total students who then prepared through all of October and December,” Hudson said. “They met with me twice a month, where I taught them all the different skills.”
   Students participated in several activities for the three-night event. Through the field training and testing, they learned how to identify and measure trees, determine the value of trees, familiarize themselves with forestry tools and learn about the sustainability of national forests. 
   One of the most memorable activities was the creation of content for a downloadable application to be used for self-guided tours for Soquel Demonstration State Forest. After learning about the forest’s ecology and history, students wrote parts of a script that would be used for the app.
   The app would answer questions like “What are the kinds of wildlife there?” and “What are the different recreational things that can be done there?” according to Hudson.
   Students also had to come up with an answer to a current forestry-related issue and deliver a 15-minute presentation to local individuals. The grade for this presentation made up 40 percent of the team’s final score, and the field testing made up 60 percent. From these two scores, a final ranking was determined for each team.
   The two teams from Benicia High ranked fourth and fifth overall. Hudson said some students were disappointed they did not rank in the top three, but she was still very impressed with their performances.
   “For a brand new team that had never done anything like that and never experienced it or had never seen the test, they did very well,” she said. 
   Hudson believed that the students gained a lot of important skills, especially collaboration and problem solving.
   “They worked as a team both in their presentation and in their field testing,” she said. “A lot of times what they present could be an answer to a real-life problem.”
   After a strong showing in Benicia High’s first participation in the event, Hudson remains optimistic that the school will do very well again next year and possibly even better.
   “This team that I took this year, aside from my seniors, is planning on doing it with me next year,” she said. “This gives you a little bit more of an advantage. The presentation part always changes, but usually the field testing is fairly similar. They did very, very well, and that was awesome.” 

From left to right: Adviser Emily Hudson, Riley Snowder, Ethan Castiglione, Sandra Campero-Vohs
Front Row - From left to right: Bell Soileau, Mara Guerin, Aizik Rogers, Ciara Roybal

Benicia High School student Sandra Campero-Vohs learns how to measure forest density using an angle gauge, one of the many skills learned at the 2015 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge.

Benicia High School student Aizik Rogers measures the height of a tree using a Biltmore stick, with assistance from Big Creek Lumber forester Harlan Tranmer, one of the many skills learned at the 2015 Santa Cruz Forestry Challenge.

All photos courtesy of Diane Dealey Neill


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