Santa Monica Mountains post-Woolsey Fire

Fire Ecology

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Students are introduced to the topic of wildland fire through use of an interactive story map. After exploring the natural and human history of wildland fires, students learn about tools scientists and land managers use to understand how fire interacts with a landscape. Using student-guided design, students test their predictions when fire is introduced to a model forest landscape.



Two educators lead each 40 to 60 minute session as presenter and host using a video conference platform such as Zoom. Attending teachers participate as chaperones who observe and assist students as needed. Interactive technology tools may include Prezi, Jamboards, Google Earth, breakout sessions and participant polls. NatureBridge educators provide teachers with information to share with students who are unable to attend.

Session 1: Community Building 40-60 minute live session

Students will meet NatureBridge educators and work as a group to establish community norms and guidelines. Students will have space to discuss how fire has impacted them and their communities and build a safe learning environment that accepts and acknowledges the emotional challenges that fire creates, while also gaining an understanding of the role fire plays in California ecosystems. Students will participate in a land acknowledgement of the traditional tribes of Yosemite as well as the students' home communities.

Session 2: Fire Ecology Intro 40-60 minute live session

Students explore the natural and human history of wildland fires as well as the science behind wildland fires. Students then turn their attention to how land management around fire has changed over the last century, from an era of full wildland fire suppression to a more modern approach and a possible return to more natural systems of fire. 

Session 3: Fire Boards 40-60 minute live session

Students examine aspects of the fire behavior triangle and assign fire danger risks in a variety of California landscapes. Students use this knowledge to provide input in the design of model forests and make predictions on how that landscape could be affected by fire. After predictions are made, the model forests are ignited by NatureBridge staff while students share their observations on the fire behavior and impacts. Students then discuss suggestions for how fire scientists and land managers could make decisions about land-management strategies around wildland fire.


Students will be able to:

  • Explain the natural history of wildland fire on western US landscapes.
  • Explain the roles that humans have played in modifying forest landscapes in response to catastrophic wildland fires.
  • Describe how fires affect an ecosystem in natural and unnatural ways.
  • Analyze and assign fire danger risks using tools and skills designed by fire scientists and land managers.
  • Make suggestions on how landscapes can be managed in regard to wildland fires.

NGSS Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS2.C; ESS2.A; ESS2.D

Practices of Science and Engineering: Developing and Using Models; Planning and Carrying out Investigations; Analyzing and interpreting Data; Constructing explanations and designing solutions;

Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect; Systems and Models; Stability and Change;


Materials needed

Access to a computer, tablet or other online learning compatible device. Paper and drawing/coloring supplies.

Adult Expectations

At least one teacher will be present throughout each live online session. Other adults may attend by invitation from the teacher or group coordinator. All attending adults must complete NatureBridge’s Participant Registration Form in advance of the session. 

It is the responsibility of attending adults to support student learning and safety during large group instruction and small breakout sessions by following the expectations listed below. 

  • Support students in staying on task. 
  • Address discipline concerns, while allowing students to be engaged and answer questions on their own. 
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude and model inclusive behavior.
  • Communicate with the group’s NatureBridge educator about the educational plan and offer constructive feedback when appropriate.

Schedule this program

We successfully piloted our first season of Distance Learning programs this fall and will resume programming in February 2021. If you would like more information about a Distance Learning program for your class, please fill out the form below and our outreach team will be in touch with you in January to discuss your interest in more detail. 

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