School Forests Highlights
Students in grades 2 through 5 pulled and wrenched buckthorn seedlings and saplings out of the Dowling School Forest. Tracy Young, site coordinator, taught students how to use "Buckthorn Betty," the name she gave to the weed wrenches used to pull buckthorn out of the ground. Each grade worked on a different area of the forest. Working in pairs, they looked for orange flagging tape that identified the invasive buckthorn. Then they got to work getting rid of the buckthorn. At the end of the period students worked together to haul out the pulled plants. Reflecting the accomplishment that follows all good work, one student excitedly asked, "Do we get to do this again?"
Dowling will plant native shrubs and trees in the following weeks to ward off invasive species from taking over the forest again.
Every fall and winter since 2012, Michael and Pam Pagelkopf fire up their workshop to construct 120 wooden field desks as their Minnesota Master Naturalist project. Then in spring, they reward themselves by personally delivering sets of 30 desks to four School Forests around the state. This year one of the recipients was Langford Park School Forest at St. Anthony Elementary in St. Paul. Teachers presented a slide show of the process the Pagelkopfs use to build the field desks. Karen Christenson, site coordinator, said "It was perfect timing because we just learned about the steps of the engineering design process." Students asked a variety of questions and then presented two large thank you cards to the Pagelkopfs. Students were excited to explore the desks and fill them with a variety of tools. After, they went right out to the School Forest with their new field desks to investigate micro-habitats under the trees.
Homecroft Elementary school in Duluth has designated 0.89 acres as their School Forest. This nice little forest was donated to the school by Pheasants Forever to be used as an outdoor learning area and wildlife habitat. Located just across the school field, the forest offers a great location to teach students about trees, forests, and wildlife. As their school board resolution stated the new School Forest will "have a positive impact on students, teachers, parents, and the community?a place that enhances an appreciation of natural resources and heightens community pride and involvement." The K-5 teachers are excited to start incorporating this space into their curriculum. It already includes a small loop trail. Plans for the future include managing the forest sustainably, building a seating area, and creating a wider, accessible trail.
After reading the book The Night Tree by Eve Bunting, students in Mrs. Propeck's reading class string popcorn and cranberries, gather apples, oranges, and bread crumbs, and bundle up. They head out to the Horace May School Forest in Bemidji to find their own "night tree" and decorate it, just like the family in the book does. The students finish by singing a carol and sipping hot chocolate as they look at their "gift" to the animals of the forest. It's one of the students' favorite activities and they often request to join the class again next year to visit their night tree once again.