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Wood Magic at Virginia Tech

Over 10,000 children, teachers, guests, and volunteers have participated in our Annual Wood Magic Shows at Virginia Tech. This science education program for 4th and 5th graders presents factual information in an entertaining, engaging, and interactive way. Underlining themes include how wood adds value to our quality of life, how the forest products industry is taking a responsible approach to the use of natural resources, and how science is used to improve production of recyclable forest products.

The events and curricula are designed around Virginia's Standards of Learning and use Mississippi State's highly successful Wood Magic Science Fair as a template. However at our show, each class has their own tour guide who meets the bus, guides them through each event, answers their questions, and assists with loading the buses to get back home. Some events are similar to Mississippi's; some are entirely new.

Children, teachers, and industry guests take part in a variety of fun-filled activities, demonstrations, and experiments. In addition to making a wood sandwich (plywood) out of yellow-poplar veneer and adhesive film, they see the intricate architecture of tree leaves and termites in the scanning electron microscope, bend a piece of wood and see how houses are designed with knowledge of bending properties, learn the role of terpenes in determining how a tree or piece of wood smells, learn how termites and other crawly critters use chemicals in wood for food and how to prevent termite attacks, sand off the surface of a used pallet and discover that just a few swipes of the sander reveals intact and highly usable solid wood, watch a 9-minute video told by a tree on how wood is used to make houses and how many trees are replanted for each harvested, get wet up to their elbows when they make paper from recycled cardboard box fiber, and even puff up their cheeks to blow soap bubbles through red oak sticks. Lastly, each child plants a tree seed for the finale and receives a certificate for participating.

Before the teachers take their classes home, we give them a bag of gifts, information, and Wood Magic souvenirs. The teacher bags contain numerous gifts, educational packets, demonstration items, and fun things for the children and a stamped, self-addressed evaluation form.

The Show is a success because of the many faculty, staff, and student volunteers that donate their time and considerable energy. In total about 100 people volunteer each year to help with the program, including most of the Wood Science faculty, staff and graduate students and many undergraduate students. Volunteers also come from the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife Department, the Academic Programs Office, and the Dean's Office. Several industry and agency guests also attend and a few help conduct the events.

Co-sponsoring the event, with the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, is the Virginia Forest Products Association. Funding for the program comes almost entirely from industry and agency donations. The Virginia Tech Outreach Division contributed start-up funds also. The list of donors is quite long and we are most appreciative.

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