Michigan FFA Forestry Skills Contest




Author’s Note:        This manual is intended to be used by agriscience teachers who have an interest in training teams for the Michigan FFA Forestry Skills contest.  Additionally, the manual is designed as a 2 week teaching unit (based on a block schedule) that can be used as your classroom curriculum.  The manual is a compilation of several teaching resources and units.  Much of the material can easily be changed and adapted to fit your classroom and teaching needs. 


Block Scheduling Curriculum Timeline:

Day 1 – 3

            Tree Identification

Day 4 – 5

            Tree Measurement

Day 6 – 7

            Compassing and Pacing

Day 8 – 9

            Equipment Identification

Day 10

            Woodland Management Practices

Instructional Minutes

246 minutes

Tree Identification

164 minutes

Tree Measurement

164 minutes

Compassing and Pacing

164 minutes

Equipment Identification

82 minutes

Woodland Management Practices





Forestry Skills Contest Rules Manual


Forestry Skills Contest Scorecards






Tree Identification Teaching Unit (Day 1-3):

  1. Present an introduction to tree history and tree identification by using Tree History and Identification presentation.
  2. Following completion of the Tree History and Identification presentation unit, pass out the list of 29 Common Trees Found In Michigan.  This list includes all trees that can be used for the Forestry Skills Contest and should serve as a note taking guide for your students.  Using the Tree Identification Description List, and by means of discussion, provide student with identification characteristics for all 29 trees found on their list.  Require students to take detailed notes on the note taking guide.
  3. Using the Tree Identification Terms resource, either give your students a quiz, or a homework assignment.   
  4. Homework reading assignment: p. 1-15 of “Michigan Trees.”
  5. Begin working with students outdoors by identifying various trees with them.  Once you feel your students are ready to do so, begin using the Outdoor Tree Quiz Sheets to quiz the students on trees they are identifying. 

a.      When using the Outdoor Tree Quiz Sheets, distribute approximately 10 sheets to each student.  Lead a group of students to the appropriate tree and give them approximately 1 minute to identify the tree and record their answer.  After you have collected each quiz sheet, discuss with the students the tree they just identified; be sure to point out identification characteristics you provided them from the Tree Identification Description List.


Additional Tree Identification Teaching Resources:

1.      Tree/Leaf Identification Project

*       Student Assignment

*       Designed to help students learn how to identify trees by completing a comprehensive leaf/tree collection.

*       Recommended for use in fall as leaves are available for collection at that time.

2.      Parts of a Tree

*       PowerPoint Presentation

*       A resource created by Heather Dombroski.  Recommended for students whom have not yet had a plant and soil science class.

3.      Identifying Forest Trees

*       Student Curriculum (32 pages)

*       A resource from the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

4.      Identifying Forest Trees

*       Teacher’s Curriculum (40 pages)

*       A resource from the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.






Tree Measurement Teaching Unit (Day 4-5):

1.      Present an introduction to forest measurements by using Forest Measurements presentation.

2.      Pass out How Much Lumber is in That Tree? reading assignment.  The reading assignment is intended to be used in collaboration with How Much Lumber is in That Tree? reading assignment questions. 

3.      Class Demonstration

Using a section of log, or a student, demonstrate the proper way to use a Biltmore Stick to measure the diameter of a tree.  In your demonstration be sure to consider the following items:

a.      The stick should be 25’ from your eye.

b.      Measurements should always be taken at 4.5’ off the ground.

c.      When taking your reading you should shift only your eye, not your head.

Finally, explain the difference between measuring a tree’s circumference and a tree’s diameter.  Demonstrate the reading you get when you measure with a regular sewing tape.  Make sure that students understand that a Biltmore Stick has been calibrated to automatically convert the reading into a diameter reading. 

4.      Following completion of assignment #2 and class demonstration #3, take students to a nearby woodlot.  In groups of two, have them measure the DBH and the height in logs of at least 10 trees, using only a Biltmore Stick.  While the groups are measuring their trees, visit each group to ensure they are using the Biltmore Sticks correctly. 

NOTE:  In order to students to correctly measure the height of a tree using only a Biltmore Stick, they must have previously learned how to determine their pace (see unit on compass and pacing). 

5.      Using the Forestry Tree Volume Practice Exercise, teach students how to record information gathered into a Tree Volume Table.  A second set of data is provided in the Tree Measurement Data Sheet, this resource is intended to be used as a supplemental assignment or a quiz for students.  Once students understand how to use a Tree Volume Table, they can use the data they recorded in assignment step #3 and determine the total number of board feed in the trees they measured.


Additional Tree Measurement Teaching Resources:

a.      Measuring Woodland Timber

*       Student Reading Assignment

b.      Measuring Woodland Timber Reading Questions

*       Student Reading Questions

*       For use as a reading assignment to accompany the Measuring Woodland Timber Reading Assignment.

c.      Measuring Woodland Timber Reading Questions – KEY

*       Teacher Resource

*       Key for correcting Measuring Woodland Timber Reading Questions

d.      Basic Forest Measurement

*       Student Reading Assignment

*       This bulletin was written by Tim Albritton, Forest Operations Specialist, from the Alabama Forestry Commission.






Compass and Pacing Teaching Unit (Day 6-7):

1.      The following are a list of resources that can be used to teach students about compassing and pacing.  It is intended that teachers and coaches use the following resources that fit their curriculum and teaching needs most appropriately.  The resources in this section have been divided into two sections; one on using a compass and one on figuring student’s paces.    


I.        USING A COMPASS (resources)

a.       How To Use a Compass,

*       A web site that teaches individuals how to use a compass and how to identify the components of a compass.   

a.      The Compass Alone

b.      Compass and Map Interacting

c.      Magnetic Declination and Uncertainty

d.      Suggested Exercises

e.      Buying a Compass


b.      Finding Your Way With a Compass (web site)

Finding Your Way With a Compass (PDF)

q       A lesson plan designed to teach students how to use a compass and how to identify the components of a compass.


II.      DETERMINING PACE  (resources)

a.      Where: Measuring Distances by Pacing

*       A “how-to” resource on figuring one’s pace and using it to measure distances.


b.      Estimating Distances

*       A lesson designed to teach students how to estimate distances using their pace.


c.      Pacing Distances  / Determining Your Pace

*       A lesson plan designed to help students determine their pace.  It is suggested that teachers use only the first part of this lesson.


Additional Compass and Pacing Teaching Resources:

a.      Be Expert With Map and Compass--The Complete Orienteering Handbook,

Bjon Kjellstrom, American Orienteering Service. 220 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.  ISBN#: 0-02-029265-1

*       Student & Teacher reference book

*       Suggested by the Michigan FFA




Equipment Identification Teaching Unit (Day 8-9):

1.      Begin this lesson by facilitating a discussion with students about equipment and tools that are used by people in different jobs and professions.  Following your discussion, ask each student to make a list of tools they can think of that are used in the forestry industry (tell them to try to focus on hand tools that can be used for forest measurement, etc.). 

2.      Following your discussion and brainstorm, use the Equipment Identification Pictures and Functions PowerPoint Presentation.  The presentation is intended to be used for the first time by a teacher with students taking notes.  Later, the presentation can be used by students as a means to study and quiz themselves or other classmates.

3.      Equipment Identification Equipment List with Picture Links; is a resource intended to be used for individual studying purposes.  The list includes the names of all 49 pieces of equipment with a link provided to a picture of each equipment piece.  This resource can be given to students to study on their own or can be used in the classroom.

4.      It is recommended that teachers use the Equipment Identification Equipment List with Picture Links to print off pictures that students can convert into flash cards for individual practice purposes.  In collaboration with the Equipment Identification Pictures and Functions PowerPoint Presentation, flash cards can be created that include equipment names, pictures as well as equipment functions. 






Woodland Management Practices Teaching Unit (Day 10):

1.      Assign Improving Harwood Timber Stands as a reading assignment. 

         NOTE:  Improving Hardwood Timber Stands is a bulletin that is printed by the Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service.  The publication was written by Russell P. Kidd and Melvin R. Koelling whom are both from the Department of Forestry.  The publication was published in December of 1991.  The bulletin number is E-1578.

2.      Following completion of the reading assignment, have student write a summary of the bulletin.  The summary should include the following items:

*       Three objectives of timber stand improvement and a description of each objective.

*       A description of the following items:

                                                  i.      Crop tree selection                    

                                                ii.      Basal Area Method

                                              iii.      Carrying out Thinning Operations

                                              iv.      Removing Unwanted Trees

                                                v.      Special considerations



1.      Five Day Forestry Teaching Unit

q       This is a 5 day teaching unit designed to cover the topics of Dendrology and Tree Measurements.  Many of the resources listed above are included in the unit.


2.      Michigan Trees (revised and updated) A Guide to the Trees of the Great Lakes Region. 2004. Burton V. Barnes and Warren H Wagner, Jr. University of Michigan Press.


3.      Woodland Stewardship: A Practical Guide for Midwestern Landowners. 1993. Alm, Alvin A. Alm, Melvin J. Baughman, Charles Blinn, Thomas G Eiber, and Scott Reed. Communication and Educational Technology Services, University of Minnesota Extension Service.