West Virginia Firewise in the Classroom

Firewise in the Classroom 2017 and Beyond

The Eagle Promise Charitable Fund (EPCF) was dissolved in December of 2011. The previously developed lesson plans for the WV Firewise in the Classroom initiative continues to be available to anyone wanting to develop and implement a Firewise in the Classroom program in their community and / or State. All content from the EPCF web-site has been in place on The Woods Community Foundation web-site beingfirewise.org. beginning in 2013.

The curriculum was developed in 2007 based on the Minnesota Firewise in the Classroom curriculum and updated in 2009. All lessons are correlated to national and West Virginia Academic Standards in Geography and Science. Even though the curriculum was developed using AtlasGDS system, the majority of the lesson material and presentations are still relevant to new GIS technologies used in K-12 schools in West Virginia and Minnesota.

The mapping software technology when the WV Firewise in the Classroom was initiated is no longer available. A newer GIS / GPS technology, which has broad application uses, is ArcGIS. There are two versions of ArcGIS software that are available to educators and students. ArcGIS Online has a wealth of features, lessons and data FREE to anyone. The desktop version of ArcGIS is available FREE to K-12 schools in the United States. Its application goes well beyond any specific use for Firewise.

Mr. Ken Pekarek was our consultant in the development of the West Virginia Firewise in Firewise in the Classroom curriculum initiative. This was done through his company GIS 4 Schools, LLC. Mr. Pekarek continues his Firewise in the Classroom work currently in the State of Minnesota. By going to the following URL link http://www.gis4schools.org/wildfireeducation/westvirginiafirewise.html you will be able to access updates to both the Minnesota Firewise in the Classroom curriculum and to lessons Mr. Pekarek continues to develop using the ArcGIS Online software.

Mr. Ken Pekarek is developing new lessons that will utilize the ArcGIS Online system. He will continue to post new lessons and presentations on his GIS 4 Schools web site. Click on the link below to check the availability of ArcGIS Online lessons develop so far: http://www.gis4schools.org/wildfireeducation/westvirginiafirewise.html.

The following link reference gives details to all of Mr. Pekarek’s involvement as a consultant to EPCF and the WV Firewise in the Classroom Grants covering the time period from 2007 thru 2011 on a PDF file. This included curriculum development, on-site visits for classroom and field assessments which included Level 1 (L1) and Level 2 (L2) appraisals, and post visit work. Post visit work included the development and production of GIS Density Surface Model Maps (DSM) from L1 Assessments and L2 Hazard Assessment maps for each of the five (5) L2 field trips here at The Woods. Click here.

Referencing L1 and L2 work mentioned above. Go to L2 Evaluations link (2008 - 2011) L2 – Individual Wildfire Home Hazard Assessment – The Woods http://beingfirewise.org/class_hazard_assessment.html The need, background, development, and the establishment of the WV Firewise in the Classroom from 2007 thru 2011 can be found in the write-up below. 

The Need for Firewise in the Classroom in West Virginia

The Need for Firewise in the Classroom in West Virginia people can play a critical role in helping communities reduce the wildfire risk of homes by conducting Firewise Assessments. These assessments of a community are critical to planning and implementing mitigation to prevent homes from loss to wildfire. A community needs to know where its high-risk homes are, and what factors make those homes high risk. Many communities have very few paid staff, and do not have the resources to do an assessment. Middle and high school students are an untapped resource and as future home owners, it is in their best interest to make their community safe. Firewise West Virginia in the Classroom Project provides a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assess the wildfire risk of their community and to educate their community on steps that can be taken to reduce that risk. The curriculum is correlated to national and West Virginia Academic Standards in Geography and Science. Through the Firewise in the Classroom Project, students gain content knowledge, apply new skills, are exposed to potential career paths, and provide valuable data to their community and state. Firewise West Virginia in the Classroom is modeled after Minnesota’s Firewise in the Classroom Project.

Background on establishing Firewise in the Classroom in West Virginia:

  • Establishing and adapting the Minnesota DNR Firewise in the Classroom model to West Virginia
    The Eagle Promise Charitable Foundation (EPCF) has worked closely with the Rodger Ozburn and the West Virginia Division of Forestry (WVDOF) along with the Woods Homeowners Association (WHOA), Hedgesville, WV in helping WHOA to become the first Firewise Community in Berkeley County and the second in the state of West Virginia. Because of the limited number of staff in the WVDOF, the WVDOF and the Eagle Promise Charitable Fund worked together to establish and replicate for the state of West Virginia a model that has been successfully established in Minnesota by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) and their Firewise in the Classroom initiative. Tom Eiber, retired from the MNDNR, worked closely with the WVDOF and the EPCF to establish this same program for the State of West Virginia. The MNDNR Firewise Communities program helps communities assess and reduce the risk of wildfire to homes. The Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education (MAGE) has developed a standards-based, hands-on Firewise Communities project that integrates GIS and GPS technologies into the classrooms of local schools. This program utilizes a combination of students in local schools coupled with the technologies of GIS and GPS, which aids homeowners and communities as they become National Firewise Communities.

  • Developing a model so other school districts could use
    The EPCF worked with members of the administration of HHS to bring the MNDNR and its MAGE model to HHS. The MNDNR program has been adapted to meet all WVDOE curriculum standards. This program fits nicely with the recently announced “21st Century Schools that Work” program by the WVDOE, with HHS being one of the sixteen schools selected to be a participant in this program. HHS will be first school in the state of WV to help establish the model of the West Virginia Alliance for Geographic Education (WVAGE) program. The program model being put forward by the EPCF and the WVDOF and developed at HHS will be the model utilized by others when it is moved to other school districts in the state of West Virginia sometime in the future. The EPCF has been working closely with HHS Principal Don Dellinger, Assistant Principal Ron Lyons and science teacher Sun Schroyer from the planning to implementation of the Firewise in the Classroom Project. The WVAGE program initiative at HHS will not only familiarize the students to GIS and GPS technologies but give them hands on experience with the technologies. The Firewise in the Classroom program will also give the students the opportunity to interact with the varied constituencies within the community at large while working to help those communities become Firewise Communities. Those other constituencies include: local volunteer fire departments, the local home owners associations, and leaders in Berkeley County. This program will bring visibility both to HHS and its participating students.
Student Assessment
Students conducting Level 1 Wildfire Risk Assessment

WV Firewise in the Classroom:

Other Links:

Technical Assistance available from:

Ken Pekarek, GIS 4 Schools LLC

Students and bus
Field Trip to Woods for L2 Assessment