Education is a core part of ACES’ Forest Program. Through education we aim to connect both children and adults to their local forests, and in doing so, help them develop a more complete understanding and appreciation of the amazing ecosystems that surround them.
In both first and fourth grade, students at Aspen Elementary School, Basalt Elementary School and Crystal River Elementary School learn about the dynamic and changing nature of forests. In first grade they delve into the many ways forests can change. For many students (and adults) forest change happens on timescales that are difficult to perceive, or so suddenly that it seems unnatural. First graders complete the lesson with the understanding that forests are not static and the ability to identify at least four ways they can change.
In fourth grade, we take the concept of forest change further, focusing on forest succession. We go beyond individual agents of change and examine how different changes fit together. We follow forests as they evolve from freshly disturbed, to primary forest, then to transitional forest, and finally to climax forest.
Over the next year we plan to expand our forest education program to better leverage our Forest Health Index (FHI). The FHI utilizes data from over 20 climatic, ecological, and socioeconomic indicators to provide an assessment of the current health of the forest. Currently the FHI is being used in a local middle school classroom to teach life zones and data analysis. The FHI offers a forest-centered ecological education, paired with data-driven science tailored for the classroom environment. In the future, we plan to expand the FHI into an interactive platform which will allow students to download local sensor data and upload local observations.