Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Playing With Fire

Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network, Missouri
National Fire Plan, Community Assistance*

Working with students is a great way to instill an appreciation for the role fire plays in prairies and forests of the Midwest. When presented with the opportunity to develop a fire ecology workshop for students attending the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems (GLADE) at Missouri State University's Bull Shoals Field Station, Sherry Leis, a Fire Ecologist for the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network, jumped at the chance.

Students at project GLADE try burning dry fuels they collected at the field station. One student times the burning while the others observe. Click for a larger version.

Project GLADE is a week-long camp for high school students interested in ecology. Fire is a pretty exciting subject about which to teach, but not one in which instructors usually incorporate hands-on activities. Sherry includes charismatic pictures of fire to liven things up in her lectures to college students, but she was challenged to think about teaching fire ecology in a hands-on way. Having discovered the Fire Works curriculum, developed by the USDA Forest Service, Sherry adapted several of the lessons for the GLADE workshop. The curriculum and the accompanying trunk includes activities to use with students in grades 1 through 10, in laboratories or outdoors. The curriculum is well written, ties to state academic standards, and requires few inputs. Although Western ecosystems like lodgepole pine forests dominate the curriculum, it was easily adapted to include some lessons to fit Midwestern ecosystems. Students gathered their own fuels and made predictions about their ability to burn. They also experimented with matchstick forests and learned how slope, aspect, and wind affect fire.

Project GLADE student lighting a matchstick forest. Click for a larger version.

After the experiments, participants discussed how the small-scale fires they made related to real landscapes. An added bonus was when Sherry did a little show and tell of her firefighting gear bag and equipment for the students. The students loved being able to experiment with fire and gained some insight and appreciation that could not be taught in a lecture format.

Contact: Sherry Leis, Fire Ecologist, Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network
in cooperation with Missouri State University
Phone: (417) 836-8919

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.