UNBC unveiled its newest classroom today. It’s located 60km east of Prince George in the Aleza lake Research Forest.

The Field Education Centre is built from locally supplied timber and sits on a rise overlooking the McGregor Mountains. The 1,200 foot square foot building can hold groups as large as 50 and will provide a place for students and researchers to conduct in-depth, in the field studies of the local forest ecology.

“This incredible structure here will allow our students, researchers, even community members to come out here, enjoy the incredible forest that we have around us but also study the ecology here,” says UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks. “It really adds to the experiential learning for our students that is such a key part of UNBC.”

The Aleza Lake Research Forest began as a BC Forest Services Experiment Station in 1924 and has been an integral part of UNBC programs, including Forestry, Natural Resource Management, Environmental Science and Outdoor Rec and Tourism, since 2000.

“Part of our job is to manage a 9,000 hectare research forest but a big part of our mandate is research and education,” says Mike Jull, who manages the Aleza Lake Research Forest. That’s the reason why the Aleza Lake Research Forest Society exists is to foster forestry and forest research and education.”

Jull is thrilled about the addition of the Field Education Centre to the forest’s educational offerings.

“It’s amazing. It’s a dream to have a building like this out at the research forest and a dream to have a field education centre where kids can come and learn about the environment,” he says. “A large part of what we’re going to be doing here is forest and environmental education events. UNBC will have field tours, field classes. What the university is trying to do is what they call experiential learning which means not just in the classroom but let’s get out into the field, let’s get out into the environment and learn.”

UNBC students appreciate the opportunity to get their hands dirty and put their knowledge to the test.

“It gives you the opportunity to actually take what you learn in the classroom and be like, ‘Oh, this is how you apply it on the ground.’ And you can do it on a weekday or the weekend – just come out here,” says recent Forestry graduate Samantha Gonzalez.

Gonzalez spent the past two summers working on the Field Education Centre and says it will makes things a lot more comfortable for students learning in the research forest. “We have a lot of silvaculture labs in the Forestry program that come out here for the weekend so it will be nice for them to be able to pit stop and have lunch out here.”

“The Field Education Centre will enhance the Aleza Lake Research Forest and make it even more relevant, rich and accessible to UNBC faculty, students and our community partners,” says Dr. Weeks. He adds that the building was made possible with donations from Dunkely Lumber, Moss Rock park Foundation and Integris Credit Union.

The benefits of the centre will spread beyond the university as the centre will be available to community and school groups on a non-profit basis.