A Living Classroom Offering Lessons for a Lifetime
As many of you know, Black Hill Nature Programs (BHNP) is committed to building community around Black Hill Regional Park and plan to do so for years to come. The key to that plan is building a Sustainable Education Every Day (SEED) classroom where we can offer expanded environmental education programs, nature-based learning, and invest in the future stewards of our lands.
WE HAVE A GROWING NEED FOR A SEED CLASSROOM!
Perched above Little Seneca Lake, the Visitor Center is found in the heart of Black Hill Regional Park, where the Center welcomes more than 35,000 visitors per year. The Center offers services and programming to a dedicated to public, however the building has reached its capacity. With the explosion of housing developments in the surrounding Cabin Branch region, the Center has experienced even greater demand for programming that can no longer be accommodated in the 25 seat auditorium.
Nature programming registration has grown from 1,317 to 4,294, participants per year, however children are often turned away from receiving valuable environmental education opportunities due to the classroom’s limitations. We need a space to grow our current and future program offerings for school fieldtrips, a weekly Nature Preschool, and rental opportunities in a way that honors our designation as a Maryland Green Center.
BUILDING COMPONENTS THAT TEACH
As leaders in innovation and sustainability, Montgomery Parks has decided to install a SEED classroom on the site of a former maintenance yard located within walking distance of the Center. A SEED classroom is a sustainable, net-zero energy, net-zero water, non-toxic, modular learning space built to Living Building Challenge standards. Naturalist staff will be able to incorporate STEM curriculum into programming based on the functions of the classroom. This building can educate and demonstrate how people can have a comfortable, beautiful space that doesn’t hurt the environment!
Net-zero water and Net-zero energy – The classroom will produce its own water, through collection, and its own energy, through solar panels.
LBC materials Red List compliant – There are no toxic materials used in the building. The air is free and clear of all the chemical toxins normally found in portables that make kids and teachers sick.
The most efficient mechanical systems available – Energy recovery ventilator (ERV) for optimum ventilation and indoor air quality as well as heightened energy efficiency.
Living wall fed by treated greywater – Brings living, growing things right into the classroom and all the learning opportunities that come with it.
Composting toilet – Composting toilets provide high efficiency, and great learning portals for everything from microbiology to exploring alternative treatment systems from composting to city wide treatment options.
Abundant natural day lighting – Triple-paned windows and Solatube skylights, provide natural light and a connection to the outdoors, without compromising insulation.
Solar photovoltaic array – Calculated to provide for the exact energy needs of each classroom, photovoltaics provide all the classroom energy needs. Digital monitors and an online dashboard allow students to track the energy production and consumption of the classroom and change their behaviors to see what impact they have on the data.
Rainwater collection and filtering – All of the rainwater that falls on the SEED classroom’s roof is collected in a primary interior cistern and secondary exterior cistern. Gauges and a digital monitor allows students to track rainwater collection and use.
THE SEED SITE PLAN
As you can see from the rendering, our building plans have started to take shape. The SEED classroom will allow Black Hill Nature Center to significantly increase its programming impact through educational and scientific experiences.
Our Proposed Expansion Will:
- Provide new classroom space
- Host a greater number of schools seeking environmental education programs
- Increase Nature Preschool to 3 days per week
- Offer presentation space for guest lecturers
- Create a meeting space for community organizations
- Become a special event space