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The original FireWorks Curriculum was first published in 2000 by the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. It consisted of about 30 hands-on lessons for students primarily in elementary and middle school grades, and featured ecosystems in the Northern Rocky and Northern Cascade Mountains. Since its publication, use of FireWorks has been widespread, especially in the Northern Rocky Mountain region.

Newly published FireWorks curricula incorporate the latest science, additional topics, activities for high school students, and updated national educational standards. Curricula are split into three separate levels: elementary, middle, and high school, and include about 15 to 20 activities at each level (over 55 lessons in total).

Many activities in the FireWorks curricula are applicable wherever wildland fires occur (particularly activities in Units II and III), while activities about fire ecology and fire history (Units I, V and VI) are applicable only in specific regions. Because interest in using FireWorks spreads beyond the Northern Rocky and Cascade Mountains, we have been developing curricula for other regions. The Sierra Nevada curriculum was created in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Fire Sciences Laboratory, Plumas Unified School District, and Plumas National Forest. Modifications of some activities exist for the Missouri River Country, and a separate activity explores how and why the Pikunni people carry fire. The new Curricula for the Northern Rocky and Northern Cascade Mountains is nearly complete along with a ‘generic’ version for users to modify activities to fit their ecosystems.

The Goals and Objectives of the FireWorks Educational Program are:

1. To increase student understanding

  • of the physical science of combustion, especially in wildland fuels
  • that plant communities have many kinds of plants and animals, which change over time and influence one another
  • that fire is an important natural process in many ecosystems
  • that native plants and animals have ways to survive fire or reproduce after fire, or both
  • that people influence fire-dependent wildlands in the areas where they live
  • that people respond in different ways to fire-related questions

2. To enhance scientific literacy and critical thinking about science-related social issues among students, FireWorks aims to increase student skills in

  • making observations
  • classifying information
  • measuring, counting, and computing
  • stating and testing hypotheses
  • describing observations, both qualitatively and quantitatively
  • explaining reasoning
  • identifying and expressing responses to science-related questions
  • working in teams to solve problems
  • critical listening and reading