Video project aims to make forestry fun

ESCANABA — Curiously, until now, there were no “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, about a wide range of forest and forestry topics.

MSU Extension and the forestry community in Michigan and Wisconsin is currently in the process of making a set of 30-35 YouTube videos. In spring 2019, a YouTube channel was created that features the first five episodes.


The main idea is to produce professionally-done video shorts, each 5-7 minutes, to be placed on a YouTube channel, and then supported by an informative website. Episodes would each address a particular topic about forests and forestry, especially topics related to management, logging, and industry. Many of the video themes will complement curriculum elements in school grades four through seven.

The overall tone of the videos would be light-hearted with a serious focus, somewhat like the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” programming. This approach, for school classrooms, has not been found on YouTube as a comparable educational resource, although many other good forestry videos are available. The videos will be supported by information on a website.

The YouTube channel currently has the first five episodes: “Crowns, Trunks, and Roots”, “Tree Regeneration”, “Jack Pine Forests”, “Carbon Cycle”, and “Photosynthesis and Respiration”. Now in post-production, soon to be posted, are five more episodes: “Logging Products”, “Mill Products”, “Vernal Pools”, “Tree ID #1”, and “Tree Growth”. The supporting website has been drafted and partially populated, but is not yet on-line.

The core team consists of three people. Bill Cook (Escanaba) and Georgia Peterson (East Lansing) are MSU Extension foresters. James Ford is the owner of Great Lakes Digital Video and tenure-track professor at Grand Valley State University. The team will be hitting it hard in 2019. The project will likely continue into 2020. A number of draft scripts have been prepared and list of potential topics has been assembled by an advisory team of foresters and teachers.

A year ago, the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association (GLTPA) board agreed to help financially support the project. This spring, the board agreed to continue that support. The GLTPA will have funded a quarter of the $40,000 project. Other contributors include the Society of American Foresters, Weyerhaeuser, the U.P. Sustainable Forestry and Wildlife Fund, and the Michigan Forest Foundation. Additional funding is necessary to reach the number of episodes desired.

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As an MSU Extension forester, Bill Cook provides educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Forest Biomass Innovation Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres.


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