Module Six

If Trees Could Talk Modules

From Forest to Farm to Urban Forest

One of the creeks running through the Duke Forest. Duke Forest pamphlet, 1990.


From Forest to Farm to Urban Forest has students examine what happens when the post-World War Two urban development boom crowds out the forest. Students will examine the land-use history of Duke Forest in Durham, North Carolina, from 1930 on, and the variety of stakeholder opinions on the future of the forest. Students will also reflect on how science and technology have changed people's perception of the natural world.

Image Caption: One of the creeks running through the Duke Forest. Duke Forest pamphlet, 1990.


  • The student will explain the impact of suburbanization on the lives of postwar Americans.
    (Era 9: Postwar United States)
  • Social Studies
    • The student will show through specific example how science and technology have changed people's perceptions of the social and natural world, such as in their relationship to the lands, animal life, family life, and economic needs, wants and security.
      (Standard VIII, Science, Technology & Society: b)




Teacher Preparation:

Download and print: Module 6 Teacher and Student PDFs using Adobe Acrobat and make one copy per student of the student pages (except pages 9 and 10).

Day 2 activity: Copy the Map Analysis Tool onto a transparency, one per student. Print a color copy of the 2006 Map of Durham, one per student. Obtain 2 pieces of tracing paper and a green, black and yellow colored pencil for each student.


Class Extensions

Using census data, determine the population change in your local community from 1930 to the present. Compare and contrast a map of your community today with a map from the 1930’s. Have students conduct an oral history of someone in their local community on the subject of local land-use change. Compare these changes with those on the Duke Forest.

Create sketch maps of your community’s comparing forest/green space to urbanized land at two different time periods. Have students research the answers to the following questions: 1) Who owns the forest/green space in your town today? 2) How much is likely to remain “green” in perpetuity? 3) Compare property values of houses abutting green space to housing abutting urbanized land.

Do Activity #2 to compare a rural research forest with an urban research forest.

Do Activity #7 to learn about the benefits of maintaining urban forests.

Team Teaching Possibilities

Technology: Worksheet 5 asks students to summarize the viewpoints of the various people involved in the debate concerning the potential development of Duke Forest during the 1980s. Since the exercise encourages students to look at different perspectives, a technology teacher could design a simple WebQuest that would allow students the opportunity to critically analyze the complexities surrounding this issue.

English: Assign students the task of writing an editorial that expresses an opinion about the potential development of Duke Forest (or nearby urban forest) or a letter to the editor about the possible development of a nearby forest. Encourage students to use facts they learned from the activity to substantiate their point of view.

Math: Since Worksheet 3 incorporates math skills, this exercise could be introduced in a social studies class and completed in a math class.

Science: Have students explore the scientific studies that have transpired in Duke Forest (or a local forest) in order to get a better idea of how forests can help lead to advancements in science. Use this website to learn about research projects in Duke Forest.


Lynch, Ida Philips. The Duke Forest at 75: A Resource for All Seasons. Durham, NC: Office of the Duke Forest, 2006.

Korstian, Clarence F. Clarence F. Korstian: Forty Years of Forestry. Oral History Interview by Elwood R. Maunder. New Haven, CT: Forest History Society, 1969.

Korstian, Clarence F. and William Maughan. “The Duke Forest: A Demonstration and Research Laboratory,” Forestry Bulletin No. 1. Durham, NC: Duke University, 1935.

MacCleery, Douglas. American Forests, A History of Resiliency and Recovery. Durham, NC: Forest History Society, 2011. [Order]

Miller, Robert W. Urban Forestry: Planning and Managing Urban Greenspaces. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2007.


Forest History Society Bibliographic resources on forestry, conservation and environmental history, and the book American Forests: A History of Resiliency and Recovery.

Duke Forest The Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University hosts this web site. The Forest has been managed for research and teaching purposes since the early 1930s. The focus on forestry education and research includes a broad range of studies in the ecological and environmental sciences.

Duke Homestead The North Carolina Division of Archives and History compiled the history of the Duke Family estate.