Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

People Who Work in the Woods: Download PDF

This information is taken from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Kids for Trees. For more information and activities about trees, check their website.

SUBJECTS: Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Art
SKILLS: gaining information, reading, communication
OBJECTIVE: Students will learn that there are many types of jobs that people do in the forest - from the foresters and forest rangers who manage and protect the forest, to the scientists who study nature in the forest, to the timber industry workers who harvest trees for products and plant new trees to renew the forest.


Many lucky people get to work in the woods. They do a variety of jobs that are important for a lot of different reasons.

The Forests' Best Friends. Forests are large areas of land covered with trees and plants. Forestry is the part of science that studies how to protect forests and make them productive. Foresters are the scientists who manage forests to keep them healthy and help people understand and use the forest wisely. The main job of foresters is to manage the forest and help trees grow. They measure trees. They fight forest fires and plan how to prevent fires. They decide when it is time to harvest, or cut down, trees. When there is a problem in the forest - when the trees are sick with a disease, when the deer living there do not have enough to eat, when the water has become polluted - foresters find ways to solve the problem. Forest rangers are the forests' friends too. Their job is to help people understand and enjoy the forest. They teach people how to enjoy the forest without hurting it by causing fires, throwing away litter, or destroying plants.

The Woods Are Full of "ists." Not all scientists wear white coats and work with test tubes in laboratories. Many kinds of scientists work in the forest. For them the forest is like a big laboratory. All of these kinds of scientists study special things, and their names all seem to have an "ist" on the end. Botanists study plants. Zoologists study animals. Ornithologists study birds. Herpetologists study snakes and frogs. Entomologists study bugs. Ichthyologists study fish. That's just a few of the "ists" in the woods. Fish and wildlife biologists study and manage the wildlife, especially game species for hunters and fishermen.

At a Nursery. In a hospital a nursery is where new babies stay until they go home with their parents. Did you know there are tree nurseries too? People who work in nurseries grow new trees, shrubs and other plants. Trees start from seeds grown in seedbeds, sometimes in a special glass house called a greenhouse. Some trees and shrubs are grown from cuttings. Cuttings are small pieces of a branch from a tree or shrub that are used to grow new trees and shrubs. When trees become a little bigger (seedlings), workers transplant them in fields where they have more room to grow. When the seedlings become a little bigger (saplings) they are ready to be transplanted again to their permanent homes - to yards, streets, parks, orchards and even to the forest.

bug.gif Timber. Many people have jobs in the timber industry. They harvest trees to make wood products and paper. That's right! The paper on your desk came from a tree! People then plant new trees to take the place of the ones that they cut down. It is important that the people in the timber industry are careful because it takes good management to grow trees as a renewable resource.


Invite a forestry related professional to visit the class and make a presentation on the nature of his or her job.

After discussing different types of jobs in the forest, ask students to think about what their favorite forest job would be. Students should draw a picture pertaining to his or her ideal forest job and be prepared to present it to the class and explain the job

Discuss some of the specialized scientists that work in the woods - biologists, zoologists, herpetologists, etc. Have the class create names for some new highly specialized "ologists." What might they call a scientist who studied hollow trees? Or a scientist who studied pollywogs? Or a scientists who studied owls? Encourage students to make up their own "ologists."

Forest rangers teach people how to protect the forest. Foresters and Conservation Police Officers also protect the forest by making sure timber is not illegally cut and that special plant and animal populations are not removed or harmed. Start a class discussion on ways that people can protect the forest. On the chalkboard keep a list of the students' ideas which might include: Don't litter. Be careful with fire. Don't harm plants, etc. When you have a list, ask students to pick one idea and draw a picture that illustrates it.

Have each student visit the school library or public library and find a book about people who work in the woods or a book that features someone who works with trees. Help as many individual students as possible share their books with the class.

botanist, entomologist, forester, forestry, herpetologist, ichthyologist, ornithologist, zoologist, game, wildlife biologist, cutting, management, seedling, sapling, greenhouse, transplant, harvest, renewable resource, timber industry, productive

Next lesson - Let's Plant a Tree

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