Forests and Fire Field Course
CU Science Discovery, Cal-Wood Education Center and Nature Kids Lafayette
2022 Innovative EE Program Award Recipient
The ‘Forests & Fire’ residential field course is a collaborative program led by CU Science Discovery, Cal-Wood Education Center and Nature Kids / Las Jóvenes de la Naturaleza (NKJN) that immerses teens in field work focused on wildfire ecology and post-fire forest restoration. The three partner organizations led the first pilot of this course in summer 2021 and the second iteration of the 5-day course in summer 2022. The program is motivated by the 2020 Cal-Wood Fire, which consumed more than half of Cal-Wood’s forest and created a natural laboratory to study wildfire ecology, forest restoration and the impacts of fire mitigation efforts. The project engages underrepresented teens in authentic STEM research and collective action in response to the urgent local issue of wildfire in order to better understand how to effectively foster and leverage constructive hope to inspire and motivate environmental action in a time of climate change-driven natural disasters.
In 2021, 13 teens participated, working alongside scientists and using a variety of field research techniques and technologies (including tree cores, vegetation transects and drones) to examine the wildfire’s impacts on Cal-Wood’s forest, making seed balls to distribute in the burned area, and collaborating with a writer and artist to create a community art installation as a memorial to the fire. In 2022, 16 teens participated, studying the impact of wildfire on soil, water and erosion, sharing their stories, hopes and fears about wildfire and climate change, and engaging in resilience-building environmental action projects.