Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Forest Discovery: Interdisciplinary Place-Based Learning in the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

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Lissy Goralnik
Kari O'Connell
Mark Schulze
Michael Paul Nelson

This poster presents the conceptual framework for an in-development arts-humanities-environmental science interpretive learning trail in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in the Western Cascades in Oregon. The 1/2-mile Discovery Trail was developed in 2011 to provide visitor access to representative attributes and research foci of the experimental forest, including old growth and plantation forest, disturbance events, decomposition, and both flowing and seasonal streams. The trail was wired for Intranet wifi in 2014.  No formal interpretative programming currently exists. Our plan is to develop an interpretive learning trail and field trip support framework that captures the interdisciplinary inquiry taking place at the site, including a long-running writer’s residency and recent work by visual artists, as well as long-term research on forest, climate, water, and management systems. We will design this interpretation of place using theory from experiential, environmental, critical thinking, and free choice learning; sense of place scholarship; work on environmental ethics and moral development; and interpretation best practices. We will then align the curricula with the Next Generation Science Standards for middle- and high school science learning and literacy. Our plan is to build the interpretation and assessment into iPad technology to enable the use of visual and audio media within the interpretive experience, as well as to allow participants to interact directly with the material and potentially create their own, e.g. photographs, voice recordings, drawings, or reflective journaling. When the trail is complete, we plan to assess participant learning, moral development, and place relationships. The blend of art, humanities, and environmental science, as well as the emphasis on place relationships in addition to learning, is a novel approach both to interpretation and environmental ethics scholarship. It has great potential to impact the way participants learn about conservation and gain awareness about their own environmental values.