Matthews State Forest

Educational Programs

School group on the Matthews State Forest.

For information, or to schedule a trip, contact:

  • Zach Olinger
    Virginia Department of Forestry
    276.236.2322 ext. 103

The Matthews State Forest was a gift to the Commonwealth from the late Judge Jack Matthews. The Judge had a vision for his property. He wanted to create a state forest "To provide for the scientific, educational, and research needs for Southwest Virginia’s children and the public."

The Virginia Department of Forestry invites all educators to make use of this unique and valuable resource. Teachers and group leaders are welcome to schedule educational trips to the state forest. Trips could be "on your own" with the teacher conducting their own class using our 566 acre outdoor classroom or, specific, SOL-correlated lessons could be could be taught by DOF staff on any of, but not limited to, the following topics.  These topics can be adapted to suit any age group and can be taught in an outdoor setting where students can learn by doing, feeling, seeing, hearing, and smelling.  Many of these can be taught through fun, hands-on Project Learning Tree activities.  The citizens of Virginia are very fortunate to have the Matthews State Forest and we hope that you as an educator will take advantage of this resource.

Educational Themes

  • Educational programs are available to any group from pre k - adult
  • Teachers can request lessons covering specific topics, or SOLs.
  • Participants in educational experiences at the Matthews State Forest will increase their knowledge of one or more of the following topics:
  1. Basic tree biology, physiology, and taxonomy
    1. Tree identification
    2. Physical and growth features
    3. Needs of trees
  1. Basic forest ecology and forest types
    1. Appalachian ecosystems
    2. Succession and competition
    3. Characteristics of pine, upland hardwood, and bottomland/riparian hardwood forest types
    4. Other forest components (plants, soils, animals, etc.)
  1. Virginia’s forest wildlife
    1. Common species of wildlife in Southwest Virginia
    2. Food webs and other interactions
    3. Habitat requirements
    4. Focus on specific species
  1. Forests as renewable resources that produce many products and benefits
    1. Forest products
    2. Other benefits. See # 3, 5, 6
School group on the Matthews State Forest.
  1. Forest roles in maintaining the quality of water, air, and other environmental aspects
    1. Watershed / water quality /flood control
    2. Biodiversity of plants and animals
    3. Soil conservation / quality
    4. Air quality / carbon sequestration
    5. Climate (local to global)
    6. Pollination
  1. Water
    1. Water quality testing
    2. Aquatic life/ macro-invertebrates
    3. Watersheds
  1. Reasons and methods for managing forests
    1. Timber, paper, and other consumer goods
    2. Pine silviculture
    3. Hardwood silviculture
    4. Harvest systems (even and uneven-aged)
    5. Forestry Best Management Practices
    6. Intermediate prescriptions (prescribed fire, release, thinning, etc.)
    7. Site preparation and planting
  1. Historical uses of forest resources in Virginia
    1. Traditional uses and products
    2. Other topics
  1. Issues and factors that affect Virginia’s forests
    1. Invasive species
    2. Wildfire
    3. Pollution
    4. Land use changes
    5. Climate change
    6. Current issues of local or global importance (subject to change)
  1. Forestry and Natural Resource Career Skills
    1. Scientific methodology (observation, inquiry, data collection, etc.)
    2. Forestry skills (tree measurement, ID, stand assessment, etc.)
  1. Specific topics unique to the Matthews property
    1. Efforts to restore diminished species (e.g. American chestnut, shortleaf pine, bobwhite quail)

The above topic areas are broad and can be broken down into many, specific lessons covering different disciplines and age/grade levels. Lessons can be correlated to Science, Math, Social Studies, or English SOLs.