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BeLEAF It or Not!
Article #312 July 2020
By Bill Cook

Curiously, until recently, there were few “fun” forestry videos on YouTube.  While many other good forestry videos can be found, “BeLeaf It or Not!” targets elementary school classrooms, with a “Bill Nye the Science Guy” approach, highlighting a growing range of forest and forestry topics. 

     MSU Extension and the forestry community in Michigan and Wisconsin are currently in the process of producing a collection of forestry videos for kids.  The YouTube Channel now has 17 episodes available, with three more soon to be added.  The latest two videos show some of the “cool tools” that foresters use to measure a forest. 


     The professionally-produced series, five to nine minute video shorts, is supported by an informative website [https://www.beleafitornot.org/home].  Each episode addresses a specific topic about forests and forestry such as ecology, management, logging, and the wood products industry.  The website provides a lesson plan and other background information that parents and teachers can use for their own educational needs.  Many of the video themes will complement curriculum elements in school grades four through seven. 
     The overall tone of the videos is designed to be light-hearted with plenty of goofy bits.  You can watch two logging processors having a swordfight or find out what bird poop might taste like!  Ever been snorkeling in a vernal pool?  How about a roller derby team to explain photosynthesis and respiration?  Ever seen a group of creative kids make music using forestry tools?  All that, and more, are part of this kid-friendly video series. 
     The core team consists of three people, two in front of the camera and one behind it.  Bill Cook (Escanaba) and Georgia Peterson (East Lansing) are MSU Extension foresters who lead the features.  James Ford, the videographer, is the owner of Great Lakes Digital Video and tenure-track professor at Grand Valley State University.
     Different videos also invite other members of the forestry community to help tell the story.  The team has been working on this project for over two years and hopes to keep going for at least another year.  They’ve had lots of help from teachers and foresters to make sure the content and style is on target.  
     The project has received great financial support from the forestry community, including the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA), Society of American Foresters-Foresters Fund, the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund, U.P. Sustainable Forestry and Wildlife Fund, and the Michigan Forest Foundation.  
     Check the videos out.  It’s a great way to introduce kids to our great northern forests!

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Photo caption:  Georgia Peterson and Bill Cook figure out how to measure the height of a tree.


TRAILER- This website was created by a consortium of forestry groups to help streamline information about forestry and coordinate forestry activities designed to benefit the family forest owner and various publics that make up our Michigan citizenry.  This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Retired Michigan State Extension Forester/Biologist.  Direct comments to cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.