College of the Redwoods

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Humboldt State University

CR uses rich campus resources for educational opportunities

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, August 11, 2022 - 2:00pm

Our College of the Redwoods’ 270-acre Eureka campus, located on the traditional, ancestral land of the Wiyot people, in the forested hillside overlooking Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, includes extensive ponds, wetlands, riparian zones, and coast redwood, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir forests. The forest fauna is rich and includes major predators like mountain lions and black bears, as well as threatened and endangered species like fishers, marbled murrelets, and spotted owls. Our campus’ three ponds total about five acres and include two interconnected ponds to the north of central campus and a smaller pond to the southeast.

If you visit the Eureka campus, you will see that the land on which our campus sits is not only a remarkable asset in its own right, but one of the features that makes it unique in the California Community College system. Even so, the tremendous outdoor learning potential of our diverse and unique campus has not been fully realized. The Outdoor Campus Collaborative (OCC), an informal group of faculty, staff, administrators, students, and community members, are working to change this.

The goal of the OCC is to make CR a destination for place-based and regenerative ecological, historical, and cross-disciplinary studies and to train future leaders to confront and manage the growing threat of climate change holistically, with creativity, sensitivity, and a real-world skill set.

Our faculty know that place-based and project-based learning have deep benefits, and the OCC is encouraging instructors from all disciplines to contribute to and gain from the OCC vision. While the outdoor campus model is a natural fit for programs such as agriculture, forestry and natural resources, biology, and environmental science, we believe that it is also relevant for less-intuitive programs like environmental history, art, and Native American studies. Students in our trade programs like construction technology and welding may be engaged in trail and infrastructure maintenance and math students may help to decipher data. These various projects are especially relevant for nontraditional students who are looking for experiences outside of the classroom.

The OCC implementation plan includes four phases — baseline data collection, northern ponds renewal, nature trail restoration, and instructional pedagogical development. This coming fall, we will embark on the first phase of the OCC, which will include a study of the potential for our outdoor campus. It will include biological surveys, analysis and mapping of hydrology and soils, community use and needs, historical information, documentation of the current state, analysis and interpretation of data, research into regulations and permitting, and any other methods we can use to understand this place and shape our vision for its future.

Consultation with cultural groups, neighbors, and community partners such as Humboldt Trails Alliance, Redwood Coast Mountain Biking Association, Audubon, Mycology Society, Native Plant Society, Academy of the Redwoods, and the CR Child Development Center will help define trail requirements.

Reestablishing and maintaining access to the ponds is critical to the value of our outdoor campus as a learning laboratory. Research on the north ponds is already underway, and the OCC is consulting with foresters, California Fish and Wildlife, and restoration agencies to establish a plan for the work.

I am thrilled to announce that, due to the hard work of CR’s manager of grant initiatives and programs, Morgan Solem, project lead faculty Valerie Elder, Maria Morrow, and Karen Reiss, agriculture production manager Silas Sarvinski, and Dean Mike Haley, we have been selected to receive a supplemental Perkins award in the amount of $300,000 to support the OCC. This generous funding will go a long way towards establishing the OCC as a viable and promising new addition to our programmatic offerings.

I believe that our Outdoor Campus Collaborative is a perfect example of how an influential and innovative group of CR faculty and staff, committed to implementing our education and facilities master plans and dedicated to improving the student learning experience, can have an impact on the institution. The Board of Trustees and the administration are fully committed to bringing the OCC vision to life.

For more information about the OCC project and how you may get involved please contact any of the lead faculty involved via email at valerie-elder@redwoods.edu, maria-morrow@redwoods.edu or karen-reiss@redwoods.edu.

Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.