Education

Providing opportunities to learn about – and from – the forest is a key objective of Wells-Barkerville Community Forest.

These learning opportunities are provided, in part, with this regularly updated web site, with a regular open house event, and with community forums and seminars.

In addition, interpretive signs will be erected at key locations in the coming years.

Our most recent open house was at the Wells Legion in early October where community members assisted in the development of plans for the community forest by identifying important social and environmental values in and near the forest.

Our most ambitious education project is The Learning Forest, the 40 hectares of the community forest closest to Wells and to the Wells-Barkerville Community Forest. This part of the forest will be devoted to education and research involving community members, professional researchers and, in particular, students.

Learning Forest Projects

The flora and fauna of the Learning Forest will be intensively studied: first, to establish base line data; then, to monitor and analyze changing populations and dynamics resulting from experimentation and, in particular, climate change.

A planned hydrometeorological station will collect precipitation, temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind direction, wind speed, snow conditions and soil moisture data to monitor and analyze climate change trends.

Intensive forestry will study test plots of forest to determine best practices to optimize the growth and yield of timber, the retention of plant diversity, the maintenance of wildlife habitat, and for adaptation to climate change.

Other plant communities and lichen and fungi will be studied, particularly the upslope migration of plant communities in a warming climate. Population changes of bees and other insects, birds, mammals, amphibians and fish will be studied to learn the responses to climate change and to the diversification of the forest.

Experiments with agroforestry will include the reintroduction of previously present indigenous food plants, medicinal plants and plants used to produce dyes and fibre, and other plants that may thrive in a changing climate will be introduced.

Adaptation to climate change will include “assisted migration”, the anticipation of the natural introduction, in a changing climate, of tree species such as cedar by planting these in experimental plots.

Naturally occurring species such as birch, usually suppressed in British Columbia, will be cultivated and managed to diversify the forest, make it more resilient to climate change, and ensure it is more resilient to wildfire in a warming climate.

Interpretive signs will identify the forest as a place for both formal and public education programs and for forest research. Most notably these signs will explain initiatives to monitor climate change and experiments in the adaptation of forest management to climate change.

Many of the research sites will be maintained as part of their natural science studies by teachers and students at the Wells-Barkerville Community School. A new trail will connect the school to the Learning Forest, just a few hundred meters from the school.

Elementary School Program

Teaching staff envision almost daily walks with elementary school students into this “living classroom” where the children’s natural curiosity will be stimulated and encouraged and where the forest will provide a natural science focus to their learning.

Hands-on learning activities will enable students to compare and contrast different species of trees, plants, fungi, lichens, and wildlife. As they advance students will measure changes in the flora and fauna, analyze their interactions, and learn about the complex interaction of the natural world with the human community. They will progress from observation, measurement and simple experimentation to more complex analysis and to building and structuring knowledge.

Secondary School Program

The teaching staff, parents and other community members also envision a secondary school program in Wells that would provide learning opportunities to Wells students and to students from other communities.

The emphasis would be on place-based learning with active student participation in a wide variety of community activities. The learning objectives of the BC curriculum would be attained though participation in a variety of hands-on projects rather than the classroom teaching of subjects in isolation from one another.

Among these projects there will be many in the Learning Forest: forest monitoring programs, forest research projects and forest management initiatives. Forest recreation, the focus of several secondary school programs in British Columbia, would only be a small part of the Wells high school program. Instead the Wells program will emphasize the study of forest ecosystems and, in particular, changing forest dynamics driven by various causes, particularly climate change.

Visiting Students and Researchers

The Learning Forest will also be available to academic, professional and citizen scientists conducting forest research. In particular, monitoring climate change and researching initiatives to adapt the forest ecosystem to rapid climate change will be encouraged.