Added Acres Increases Possibilities
International Falls School Forest designated an additional 10.4 acres to their School Forest this fall. Since 1954 International Falls has enjoyed their 177-acre School Forest, which is located over 20 miles from the school. While they enjoy the diversity and experiences the larger forest presents, they wanted to encourage more outdoor instruction on a regular basis. Superintendent Kevin Grover partnered with the city of International Falls to designate Riverside Park and another small park area, both located right across the street from the high school. Students have already been using the park for a variety of class lessons. The school decided to also designate two areas adjacent to the elementary school so teachers had easy access for their younger students. They plan to add an outdoor seating area next year.
Students from Louis Parenteau's sixth grade class at Mountain Iron-Buhl School Forest worked hard through the mud and rain to install a boardwalk last spring. Students didn't mind at all and some even enjoyed getting a little extra mud on themselves. The boardwalk will help keep students' feet dry when they go through some very wet areas of the forest. Their next large project will be to remove buckthorn and create an outdoor seating area. Students in grades K-12 use the Mountain Iron-Buhl School Forest to learn about ecology, water, outdoor survival, geology, snowshoeing, and more.
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.