CHIEFLAND – There are three main types of pines in Levy County: barred pines, loblolly pines, and swamp pines. According to forester Eric Handley, the easiest way to tell them apart is by the needles. Both slash and longleaf pines have needles about 8 to 12 inches long, but slash pine needles are clustered in pairs, while longleaves have three. Loblolly pines have shorter needles around 6 to 9 inches and the cones are much smaller.
This is just one of the lessons presented to local teachers during the recent Project Learning Tree training. Project Learning Tree (PLT) is a national program designed to work with K-12 educators to bring environmental education into the classroom. PLT is part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
The training was attended by teachers from across the county, in addition to Levy County Superintendent Chris Cowart. The PLT program was organized by Usher Land & Timber. Based in Chiefland, the family business is run by Ken, Lynetta (Usher) and Korey Griner. Earlier this year, Usher Farm also hosted students from Chiefland Elementary School, teaching them about local agriculture.
The PLT program was led by Florida State Coordinator Elise Cassie, along with Florida Forestry Service’s Joe MacKenzie and Usher staff.
“I think that’s going to help a lot in the classroom because really, students don’t study these subjects until they’ve reached the higher grades,” said Shauna Deskins, ESE teacher at Yankeetown School. “So it’s a way of bringing the outdoors into the classroom that keeps the kids engaged. They’ve come up with tons of ideas that we can bring back to class.