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FireWorks Educational Program

FireWorks is an educational program about the science of wildland fire, designed for students in grades 1-12.

To assemble individual activities, please see the FireWorks Trunk Contents in the Downloads & Users Guides box. 

Wildland fire provides a rich context for education because understanding of fire requires integration of several important concepts: properties of matter, ecosystem fluctuations and cycles, plant and animal habitat and survival, and human interactions with ecosystem.

The FireWorks program consists of a curriculum and a trunk of materials, including laboratory equipment, specimens, CDs, books, and kits of specialized materials for teachers. Content focuses on the physical science of fire behavior, human influences on fire, and fire ecology in the northern Rocky Mountains and North Cascades. The curriculum has also been adapted to Colorado ecology (implemented by Colorado Project Learning Tree ( and ecology of the Missouri River country (from the northern Rocky Mountain Front to the tallgrass prairies).


Photo: presentation1. To increase student understanding

- of the physical science of combustion, especially in wildland fuels
- that a forest has many kinds of plants and animals, which change over time and influence one another
- that fire is an important natural process in many forests
- that native plants and animals have ways to survive fire or reproduce after fire, or both
- that people influence fire-dependent wildlands in the areas where they live
- that people respond in different ways to fire-related questions

2. To enhance scientific literacy and critical thinking about science-related social issues among students, FireWorks aims to increase student skills in

Photo: presentation- making observations
- classifying information
- measuring, counting, and computing
- stating and testing hypotheses
- describing observations, both qualitatively and quantitatively
- explaining reasoning
- identifying and expressing responses to science-related questions
- working in teams to solve problems
- critical listening and reading

FireWorks reaches approximately 2,000 students per year.

Educator workshops are offered each year to teach educators, community leaders, and agency communicators how to use FireWorks. Two research projects have shown that FireWorks increases student and adult understanding of wildland fire (see FireWorks: Hands-on Education).

Image: fireworks display

Modified: Sep 12, 2017

Select Publications & Products

Parkinson, Tamara M.; Force, Jo Ellen; Smith, Jane Kapler. 2003. Hands-on learning: its effectiveness in teaching the public about wildland fire. Journal of Forestry. 101(7):21-26.

Smith, Jane Kapler; McMurray, Nancy E. 2004. FireWorks educational program and its effectiveness. In: Engstrom, R. T.; Galley, K. E. M.; de Groot, W. J., eds. Proceedings of the 22nd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: fire in temperate, boreal, and montane ecosystems; 2001 October 15-18; Kananaskis Village, Alberta, Canada. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 231-235.

Smith, Jane Kapler; McMurray, Nancy E. 2000. FireWorks curriculum featuring ponderosa, lodgepole, and whitebark pine forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-65. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 270 p.

Thomas, Linda R.; Walsh, James A.; Smith, Jane Kapler. 2000. Behavioral and Cognitive Evaluation of FireWorks Education Trunk. In: Smith, H. Y., ed. The Bitterroot Ecosystem Management Research Project--what we have learned: symposium proceedings; 1999 May 18-20; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-17. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 71-73. FireWorks trunks available for loan.