Jennifer Atkinson and Dave Stokes teach first class at new Environmental Education and Research Center

students looking at papers in the park

IAS faculty members Jennifer Atkinson and Dave Stokes taught UW Bothell's first class at the new Environmental Education and Research Center (EERC) at St. Edward State Park. 

"Our Home in the Forest," a Discovery Core class co-taught by Atkinson and Stokes, stretches the boundaries of what constitutes a classroom. As discussed in a recent UW Bothell news story on the class: 

"Not content to study nature at a distance, students went from learning in a typical 900-square-foot room to a 326-acre forest, rich with opportunity. Located at St. Edward Park in Kenmore, WA the class was made possible through a collaboration between UW Bothell and Washington State Parks. Together they created the Environmental Education Research Center, a new, university-led learning facility designed for the appreciation, study, and stewardship of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem.

“The EERC provides students with a unique field experience that is only six miles away from campus,” said David Stokes, professor, and co-teacher of the class. “The park itself has a spectacular forest — it is the best example of intact mature native forest in the Seattle metro area.”

masked student sitting in the forest writingBecause of construction delays on the new EERC classroom, which is now expected to open in early 2022, all in-person meetings for "Our Home in the Forest" took place in the St. Edward forest itself. This made for an especially memorable experience as our region was hit with multiple "atmospheric rivers" and record-breaking rainfall during fall quarter. However, as Atkinson explained, “The students haven’t shied away from being out in the rain. In fact, we have had nearly perfect attendance this quarter — and this September to November has been the rainiest on record.”

Despite the intensely wet conditions, students expressed enthusiasm for the class in their interviews for the UW Bothell news story:

First-year student Tejasvi Narayanan said having the class off campus and outdoors is what made it special. After spending her senior year of high school alone and on a computer screen, she was excited about the opportunity to learn in a completely different setting: in the woods with friends. “This class was beyond my expectations. Not only did I go to class, but I also got to walk around the forest with classmates. That led to us having conversations we probably wouldn’t have had if we were just sitting at our desks, browsing on computers,” Narayanan said. “I have made really great friends that I will have for the rest of college because of this class.”

Student Lee Donohue also testified to the impact learning at St. Edward Park has made on his education. Donohue, who aspires to have a career in forestry, said taking a class at a state park had quite an allure. “I have never heard of a class like this before, let alone taken one,” he said. “I liked that I got to learn about ecology where it's most relevant, not in the classroom but in the forest. I didn’t have to imagine what the professors were talking about because I could see it in front of me, and that added so much to the experience.”

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