Teachers learn about lumber

Thursday, June 19, 2008
Ronnie Cook, left, of Cook Lumber in Reelsville talks to Jeff Miegel, a technology teacher from DeMotte, about the lumber industry Thursday as part of the DNR Forestry Division's Project Learning Tree.

Six teachers from Northern Indiana descended upon Cook Lumber in Reelsville Thursday morning.

The teachers are part of the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Indiana Project Learning Tree (PLT), an environmental education program. Their mission was to learn about the lumber industry from how to measure a tree all the way to the finished wood product. This took them from a forest on C.R. 900S near Cloverdale to Cook Lumber, where they toured the facilities with Ronnie Cook, down to a natural wood flooring business in Spencer.

DNR Forestry Educator Donna Rogler said, "We do these sorts of tours every year. We are the oldest environmental education agency and have been around for 32 years."

The program takes educators -- generally K-12 -- on these tours to show them how things are done. This tour also included an educator from Butler's science education program.

During the tour, Cook gave the educators a tour of the facility discussing the process of taking lumber from a tree and transforming it into a useful commodity.

"We have a use for everything that comes in here, even the sawdust," Cook said. "The sawdust is shipped to a paper mill in Ky., but we try to keep as much business in Indiana as possible."

In fact, Cook exports products around the world, including Italy, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the United States.

All the lumber that is higher grade is shipped off to be used primarily in furniture and flooring, while the lower grade is used for constructing pallets.

Cook told the educators that when the raw lumber arrives, it is around 60-percent water. The wood is laid outside to dry out as much naturally as possible. Then it is put in a kiln where they get the water percent down to around six.

"Our kiln doesn't get very hot. Usually when boards get warped it is from them getting too hot in the kiln," Cook said.

The tour then went to the next destination where the logs were being sawed into smaller, rectangular pieces. All the pieces that did not fit a certain dimension were scrapped and the smaller junk pieces were being turned into sawdust.

Participating in PLT will offer the educators material to take back to their classrooms. Included in a packet handed out to all participants is a pamphlet of possible activities to use within their classroom.

PRL sets standards for environmental education excellence at the elementary, middle and secondary levels and increases students' understand of the environment.

The program is designed to teach students how to think, not what to think about environmental issues.

"On this trip, most of the men are technology teachers, what used to be called 'shop class'," Rogler said.

Invitations were sent out to all educators as well as Soil and Water Conservation educators. Though, anyone with interest in the tour topic is welcome to join them.

These tours are only offered once per year.

Indiana's lumber industry is the fourth largest manufacturing employer in the state with just over 54,000 employees.

The bulk of wood-using mills are in the southern part of the state near large blocks of forestland.

For more information on PLT, including tours and workshops, visit www.IN.gov/dnr/nrec or contact the Indiana state coordinator at (317) 549-0354.

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