Talk to any parent and you’ll hear a similar complaint: Kids just don’t spend enough time playing outside. In fact, a recent study suggests that kids today spend just over an hour outside each weekday — roughly half the time previous generations spent outdoors. Not only are today’s children less active, but they’re also missing out on the many opportunities to learn about the world around them by experiencing it firsthand.
Domtar launched its Forest Academy in 2012, having recognized the need to provide students with forest and conservation education — and hoping perhaps to give some extra motivation to explore the great outdoors.
Created with youth education in mind, Forest Academy is an interactive website designed to appeal to children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. The site is the latest iteration of Domtar’s original youth education website, Tree World, which was developed in the 1990s to complement curriculum used by the education system in Quebec, Canada.
How Forest Academy Works
Visitors begin at the Forest Academy by creating a personalized owl avatar. They then follow their guide, Owen the Owl, through a variety of forest landscapes. Using a map to travel to different destinations, users encounter colorful and engaging environments flush with fun, clickable facts about the environment.
Interactive quizzes sprinkled throughout the Forest Academy program make learning fun, and correct answers earn players merit badges. One quiz, for example, asks students to match illustrations of trees with their corresponding species names.
The site adds the badges as players collect them to a digital notebook, which is kept within a digital backpack. Upon successful completion of every quiz, players earn a Forest Academy diploma, which includes their name, school and hometown.
Forest Academy includes a host of forest resources to supplement the learning experience, including experiments kids can complete outside and a photo album of common North American tree species.
The site also provides resources that assist teachers in demonstrating the five focus areas of forest education. Those areas are:
- tree knowledge
- the cycle of life
- beautiful biodiversity
- the trees in our lives
- forest protection
A Forest Education Resource
With so much information focused on explaining forestry for kids, it’s no wonder Forest Academy was highlighted by industry group Two Sides North America as an ideal example of teacher resources related to paper, forest products and the environment.
Available in both French and English, Forest Academy receives hundreds of visits each day from players interested in learning about trees and forest ecology. With more than 1 million page views since it went live, the site continues its mission to educate the next generation about conservation and the importance of responsible forestry.