Interlochen Arts Academy
Teaching teenagers to chop down trees was not on our bucket list for 2019 or 2020, but it ended up being a highlight of both years. Working closely with the Interlochen Arts Academy we co-created a venture to use a local forest as a place for immersive, hands-on learning, teaching students to understand and use the forest with respect and awe. The confidence, focus and enthusiasm of these students grew with every swing of the axe and stroke of the saw!
Teaching principles of sustainable forest management, design and construction at Interlochen Academy for the Arts
Pilot Projects was hired as the “artist in residence” by Interlochen Academy for the Arts, with support from Wilsonart, to co-create a hands on ecological learning experience for this renowned high school in northern Michigan. Our three-semester program over 2019 and 2020 is taking students on a journey of research, design, prototyping, and finally constructing an outdoor lakeside teaching and learning pavilion made from wood sourced from the campus’s own forests. This fall, students in professor Mary Ellen Newport’s ecology classes established and surveyed the forest to understand its ecology and timber stocks, created a micro-forest management plan, and designed scale-model wooden bridges made from timber they could sustainably harvest from this small forest area. Working in groups they felled, bucked, milled, and dried timber and then fabricated 1:10 scale models of “mass timber” bridges. We are thrilled to see new skills and knowledge being developed through this challenge - for the students, and for us too! (Stay tuned for more photos on our project page, and the final bridge test results in early February).
The students took trees from the forest, and created “lumber” for their mass timber bridges at 1:10 scale. Bridges were then load-tested in the following semester to great fanfare.
This project, while small in scale, encapsulates the global systems thinking approach to integrating ecology, city-building, and design that defines our recent work.