Wood Magic Science Fair

More then 4,000 fourth graders visited Mississippi State’s forest products complex to learn about the magic of wood.
The annual Wood Magic Science Fair introduces students to the world of forestry and the benefits of forests, forest products and wildlife.
“It got started when professors at the Forest Products Laboratory realized that children were getting a biased view of the forest products industry and forestry.  A view that said cutting down any trees at all was bad,” said David Jones, Assistant Extension Professor in the Forest Products Department. “So the faculty got together and created the fair to educate children about how forests are renewable and that more trees are planted for every tree that is harvested, and to show all of the products that we use everyday that contain wood.”
Students traveled through 13 different stations revolving around a different wood topic. The stations were manned by graduate students from the department, volunteers from the college and university and the faculty of the forest products department.
“The goal of the fair is to give students, teachers, and parents the opportunity to learn about wood and forests and their impacts in our lives,” Jones said. “That way they can be educated about one of the largest businesses in Mississippi, forest products, from paper, lumber, plywood, OSB, to the chemicals found in shampoo and toothpaste that we would not have if it was not for forests and the people that utilize them.”
Wood sandwich taught the children about plywood, how it is made and what things can be built from it. Some students got to see first hand the strength of plywood when they easily broke a single layer, but could not, with all their might, break a double layer.
The children stopped by the sawmill to see how a cylindrical tree truck can be turned into wood planks. The chem-is-tree station described all the chemical products people get from trees like vanilla extract and Pine-Sol.
The creepy crawly termite station taught children that though the insects pose a risk to buildings, they are still one of nature’s most efficient bioreactors because of their amazing ability to produce mass quantities of hydrogen for their size.
“My favorite one was when they spoke about termites and how they demonstrated termites could be led in one direction based on what was in the wood,” Starkville Academy student Rebecca Breckenridge said.
At the Who Killed Snappy station, students got to play the role of detective to find out who killed the forestry department’s favorite alligator, Snappy, when a tree fell on him. By inspecting sawdust, the children were able to decipher that the cut trees were pine, oak and cypress.
Children also got to make recycled paper and learned how to identify different types of trees based on their fruit, bark and leaves. They also got a lesson in porosity when they found they could blow bubbles through a solid piece of red oak.
“This is a great learning experience for all ages.  I am very glad our classes got to go and learn all the different uses for wood and how wood products are made,” SA teacher Kim Robertson. “I know I learned as much as the children did and would love to bring another group next year.”