The North American Forest Foundation (NAFF) is on a mission to nurture the next generation through education – because helping kids become #exTREEmelysmart creates a healthier future for them, the industry, and the planet. We’re about science not slogans—dispelling the myths and inspiring with truth about sustainable forestry and wood products and the important role they play in the health of the planet.
NAFF provides classroom teachers of grades K-3 with the Truth About Trees educational kits distributed free of charge. Age-appropriate interactive materials tell children–and teachers–the story and importance of wood. As of the end of 2022, more than 1,200 kits have been provided, reaching an estimated 300,000 kids.
The Forever Forest traveling exhibit is another endeavor we support, through the Omaha Children’s Museum. Established in 2017, the exhibit is set to travel to 30 states in ten years, reaching more than 630,000 children and adults to date, to teach the lumber journey and explore the value of sustainable forestry.
The overwhelmingly positive response to both the Forever Forest exhibit and classroom kits has led us to the beginning stages of designing an App for junior high students (grades 6-8) that’s expected to launch in 2024.
The more game-ified educational program will reinforce awareness and learning about sustainable forestry and wood products through age-appropriate topics and help kids see the potential for careers in the industry. A corresponding website will make them aware of all the companies, schools, and career paths available to them.
The health of the industry—and the planet—demands that we close the skills gap and attract the energy, talent, and ingenuity of a new generation. Together, we’re priming the pump to create an ongoing supply of talent.
Support from dedicated individuals and organizations like Nyle Dry Kilns and DMSi Software helps make this mission a reality. On the topic of industry-related education, we had the opportunity to gather thoughts from Henry German, President of eLIMBS, a DMSi Company, and Jeremy Howard, President of Nyle Dry Kilns (and a current NAFF Board Member).
Learning On The Job
Neither Henry German nor Jeremy Howard set out looking for a career in the wood products industry. Instead, the job came first and deep industry knowledge was developed through their work experiences.
The Sky Is The Limit
Henry was introduced to the industry when he joined DMSi, the family business that provides business, accounting, operations and inventory management software to lumber yards and the building materials industry. Now, 10 years later, with diverse experience behind him, he is a champion of teaching kids the truth about sustainable forestry.
When Jeremy joined Nyle Systems, a producer of Hardwood and softwood kilns and heat treating systems, he was trained as a software engineer. He began his career at Nyle Systems in 2004 as a programmer/developer, hired to run equipment that dries lumber. Through a succession of various roles over the years, Jeremy worked with lots of great people and gained vast industry experience. Along the way, he says he’s done pretty much everything and “had the opportunity to see the equipment and the whole process.”
Strong Support For Teaching Kids
Both German and Howard are strong supporters of the NAFF’s work educating kids. Henry points out that it’s a natural human reaction to feel that cutting down trees is negative and sustainable forestry is a difficult concept for kids to grasp. “Especially as a child you don’t have the context to understand how complex of an idea that is and it’s just easier to think, trees growing is good which means cutting them down is bad.” He feels kids need “the proper context to understand the whole picture.”
German says it’s a message that “is difficult to sustain without dedication and dedication can be difficult to transfer from one generation to the next.” He values NAFF’s work teaching children because, “It takes a lot of education efforts from one generation to the next to ensure that [a] false message doesn’t propagate again.”
Building The Industry Through Education
Jeremy supports NAFF’s education program and says, “there is great benefit in sharing education early with kids—to give them an understanding.” They need to learn “how is the table made or how are buildings constructed — the way kids are taught about concrete, plastic, and steel.” He adds that his own kids “are intrigued to find out how things are made.”
Nyle has a strong focus on education, especially at the college level, and Jeremy is excited to see younger engineers joining the industry. More and more young people have knowledge about wood being renewable, and he says the “development of CLT to build skyscrapers has excited younger people” because it helps the environment and allows them to create something that lasts.
He notes that the wood products industry has many roles for people with all types of skills from manufacturing to finance, sales to welding. He feels the future looks bright, especially as more young people choose careers in the forest products industry, equipped with greater understanding.
Keeping the industry strong and vibrant requires a continuing influx of new talent. Our chosen role involves cultivating an interest in the field through teaching youngsters all about wood. We want to help them understand how wood products are made and how wood is a wise and sustainable choice for many everyday items, from shampoo and toothpaste to furniture, decking and building materials.
Accomplishments have been great since we embarked on this adventure. It’s a journey, one we’re happy to share with those interested in partnering with us:
Donations: Purchase kits at any time. Partner with us as a matching sponsor for our Back-to-School Kit Drive in August, or for Giving Tuesday, November 28.
Corporate Sponsorship of the Junior High App: Become a $10K or higher sponsor (total estimated cost is $250,000). We expect the app to be in constant use for five years before needing an update, giving sponsors broad exposure and an active role in expanding awareness and education across a wide population of young people.
Start the Conversation: Meet kids where they are – request a kit and volunteer to teach it in your area.
We’re very optimistic about the future. Together we’re stimulating awareness and interest in the next generation to keep a steady stream of talent flowing into the industry for years to come.
For more information about the North American Forest Foundation (NAFF) or how you can support our educational endeavors, email email@example.com or visit www.northamericanforestfoundation.org.