Section IV: Suggested Classroom Activities

1) Before exploring the documents, discuss with students how their community is connected to forests. Have their travels brought them to the national parks or national forests? Do they have friends or relatives that work in the forest-products industry? Why is it significant that Washington is known as the "Evergreen State"?

2) Use maps to investigate Washington's forests. Have students look at maps and locate several important places related to the history of the state's forests: Port Blakely, Port Ludlow, Port Gamble, Port Orchard, the Olympic Peninsula, Grays Harbor, Forks, Shelton, Aberdeen, Willapa Bay, Puget Sound, Tacoma, etc. Also have students look at the amounts of land managed by state and federal agencies—the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the State Department of Natural Resources.

3) Have students read the accounts of Washington's forests written by early settlers. How did these individuals react to the region's forests? How accurate were the assessments and predictions made by Ezra Meeker, Asa Mercer, and others?

4) Ask students to role-play a labor dispute in the early twentieth century. Begin by having students read and discuss documents 20-29, which include letters by lumber executives, cartoons and writings by I.W.W. activists, and investigations of working conditions conducted by government officials. Split the class into three groups: Wobblies, lumber executives, and federal officials. Ask each side to present its opinions about particular labor issues, such as the eight-hour workday, workmen's compensation, living conditions in logging camps, and the ethics of conducting a strike during wartime. Extend the role-play by asking the government group to try to negotiate a compromise between the Wobblies and the executives.

5) Have the class create brochures. Some students could design employment brochures that make working in the woods sound appealing and that describe the skills and duties involved with various logging occupations. Another group could create I.W.W. tracts that detail the evils of the lumber barons and explain the workers' need to organize. Other students could produce pamphlets for the Washington Department of Labor that promote safety and contain statistics and images about injuries in the timber industry.

6) Organize a debate about the boundaries of Olympic National Park. After the class has read the documents about the creation of the park, split the students into two large groups—advocates of a large park and proponents of a small park. Have each group determine their arguments and choose three or four students to speak on their side's behalf. After the debate is over, have the entire class vote on a resolution to create a big park. Discuss the results of the debate and the rationales of the two sides.

7) Assign a research project. Have each student choose a significant event, person, occupation (such as whistle punk or rigger), or piece of equipment (like the donkey engine, chainsaw, or caterpillar tractor) in Washington's forest history. Encourage students to use oral history interviews and photographs as some of the sources for their research. Students could write a research paper and/or present their findings to the class orally.

8) Lead a discussion about images as historical sources. Consider presenting the images in the document collection as a slide show. What can photos and cartoons tell us about the history of Washington's forests? How has logging technology changed over time and how have these changes impacted the forests? Is it more powerful (and more informative) to read descriptions of logging camps or to see pictures of these camps? How can we use political cartoons as historical sources? What do these cartoons tell us about the beliefs and values of the people and groups that created them?

9) Using the documents or outside research as a guide, have students write imaginary letters, diary entries, or poetry based on the experiences of someone working in a logging camp or living in a mill town.

10) Stage a mock hearing about the old-growth forest controversy and President Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan. First, have the class examine the documents about the old-growth dispute. Assign each student a role to play—logger, millworker, scientist, environmentalist, Forest Service employee, lumber executive, U.S. Senator, etc. Have students prepare a statement to give at the hearing. After the hearing is over, discuss the different perspectives that were brought forth. Consider following up by asking students to write an essay analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the positions taken by the character that they played.

Section I Section II Section III Section V Section VI
Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest