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Roaring Fork Valley 4th Graders Study Forest Succession

Posted in Kids' Corner

What is ACES Ed? Every ACES Ed class is a hybrid. An average lesson is likely to be driven by a combination of Colorado science standards, local issues and ecology, tradition (at Aspen Elementary, we've taught tracking to 3rd graders for almost 35 years), and the individual inspiration of the educator. This month we have a new fuel source for the 4th grade curriculum: the forest health initiative being carried out by another branch of ACES, For the Forest.

Jamie Cundiff was an ACES environmental educator at Aspen Elementary School from the fall of 2010 until the summer of 2012. She is now leading For the Forest's monitoring, restoration, and education programs. Combining her experience with the ACES Ed program and her current involvement with forest health, Jamie crafted an interactive lesson on forest succession.

4th grade students at Aspen Elementary School have recently been studying local life zones. Students have learned new terms like latitude and slope aspect, composed rap songs about the Alpine Zone, and illustrated simple topographic maps of the flora and fauna that thrive between 7,000’ and 12,000’ in the Roaring Fork Watershed. This week, students acted out the cyclical story of forest succession on the north-facing slopes of Aspen Mountain and the sunny, south-facing slopes of Smuggler Mountain. This led to a discussion of different types of disturbance and their effects on forest ecosystems. Soon, 4th graders at Crystal River Elementary School and Basalt Elementary School will do similar activities, replacing Ajax and Smuggler with mid-valley landmarks.

This is just one advantage of ACES Ed: drawing from so many different sources of energy and expertise, we can deliver science education that is uniquely relevant to students in this valley. We are also always looking for ways to extend learning into environmental stewardship. In a few years, 4th graders may assist For the Forest program in collecting forest health data on a field trip to Smuggler Mountain. We are ACES Ed, and we'll take our hybrid classroom wherever we can go!

~ Denali Barron, AES Educator