Fire Speaks the Land Captivates Boise Audience

Media Included

  1. Conduction Dance – Fire Speaks the Land - Dancers, teachers, and NPS employees demonstrate the concept of fire spreading in a forest through conduction.

The auditorium lights dim, a narrator begins speaking and two dancers roll across the stage beginning a 50-minute performance highlighting fire science, forest ecology and native perspectives on fire.

The students were enthralled the whole time, watching and listening. The dancers we so fun to watch and tying the theme of fire into the lesson made it very engaging for the students. Boise 3rd grade teacher

Students stand on stage raising their arms high above their heads.
Students are the majestic ponderosa pine during one of the interactive portions of the dance performance, Fire Speaks the Land.

NPS/C. Boehle

Fire Speaks the Land, an interactive dance performance aimed at Kindergarten through 6th graders, enthralled students and educators alike in Boise, Idaho on April 7 and 8, 2016.

Trees that are part of the Northern Rockies ecosystem, including Ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, and how they interact with wildfire, were the focus of the dance production. These trees are found in Idaho and are species that are protected in our national parks as well as other public lands.

A performance-based interactive learning opportunity, Fire Speaks the Land was sponsored by the Boise-based National Park Service Branch of Wildland Fire in celebration of the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016. Over 800 students and their teachers attended the three performances by The CoMotion Dance Project of the University of Montana, Missoula.

Five dancers and director, Karen Kaufmann, brought the production to life, weaving sound, movement, and imagery to create an experience unlike many students had previously experienced. Teachers and students had an opportunity to perform portions of the dance on stage. Teachers demonstrated the concept of conduction in how a fire moves across a landscape and students performed a dance about forest regeneration.

One third grade teacher shared feedback about the performance. “I thought it was an amazing performance. Probably one of the best field trips we have gone on, and I have been teaching for 10 years. The students were enthralled the whole time, watching and listening. The dancers we so fun to watch and tying the theme of fire into the lesson made it very engaging for the students. I thought, ‘if only I could dance my lessons, the students would learn more!’”

Dan Buckley, NPS Branch Chief for Wildland Fire served as the emcee for all three performances, welcoming students and teachers and sharing information about the national parks in their home state of Idaho. “The NPS Branch of Wildland Fire chose to bring the production to Boise for the Centennial as it is a perfect fit for the Centennial goal of connecting with and creating the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates, and Boise is the national headquarters for multiple federal agencies’ wildland fire organizations,” Dan stated. “The quality of the performance surpassed anything we could have imagined and the feedback we’ve received from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive.”

In addition to the performance for the elementary school students, staff from the Division of Fire and Aviation had the opportunity to visit with high school students at the host school about careers with the National Park Service. “It was a great opportunity to share some knowledge as well as a bit of our passion for the national parks with kids who have their whole careers in front of them. They came away with a better understanding of the broad range of fields available as jobs with the Service as well as partnering organizations,” stated fire communication and education specialist, Tina Boehle.

The performance was made possible with a lot of collaboration. Partners included National Park Service Branch of Wildland Fire, University of Montana, Northern Rockies Fire Science Network, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and Idaho Firewise.