Education of students of all ages is central to the mission of Black Rock Forest Consortium, and integrates directly with research and conservation activities. Goals include advancing science literacy and understanding of the natural world, and training scientists of the future.
School visits to Black Rock Forest have been integral to the Consortium's work since its inception in 1989, when six K-12 schools joined as founding members. Membership has since grown to include 13 private and public schools and districts, and Consortium staff support more than 13,000 student-visitor days annually at the Forest. There is a wide variety of activities and lessons across subject areas developed for use at the Forest, and a compendium of all curricular activities is maintained at the Science Center. In addition to K-12 students, the Consortium supports a wide range of undergraduate and graduate coursework, internship programs, and research opportunities working with its college and university members.
The Consortium helps students and teachers understand and appreciate the natural world in evolutionary and ecological contexts. Collaborative science curricula connect university and museum partners with K-12 students and teachers, partnering content experts with outstanding practicing teachers. The Consortium's newest mammalogy and herpetology modules are available for use in both the Forest and classroom. Future modules in forest ecology, entomology, environmental design and conservation genetics are planned. Teacher professional development is offered each year to ensure that all interested teachers can use the curricula effectively at the Forest and in their schools.
On November 5, 2016, Black Rock Forest Consortium hosted a pubilc tour of its new energy efficient tiny house, offering tours led by juniors from Avenues: The World School and their science teachers, Steven Carpenter and Jason Hoeksema, who designed and completed the tiny house build on forest property. The Integrated Science students designed and built the house in the spring of 2016 to study energy transfer in physical and electrical systems - as well as ecological systems, through a composting toilet study. With a budget of $15,000 and stringent requirements - including 100 s.f. of living space and off-grid energy sources to power light, heat, running water and appliances - the students had to extract maximum thermal performance from the house and choose which comforts of home to provide.
Tours of the tiny house are available by appointment only. For a "virtual" tour, see the photos and read the Times Herald Record's coverage of the tiny house tours; watch the Avenues video that explains the project and shows the tiny house being constructed; and take the 360 degree tour (which immediately follows the video on the Avenues blog).