School Forest news
Highlights About Our School Forests
Chainsaws, Logging, and State Champs
High school students in the Grand Rapids School Forest Program, run under their FFA chapter, graduate with advanced stewardship plan writing knowledge and extensive skills in operating basic logging equipment. School Forest Coordinator Shawn Linder offers a variety of courses that teach students safety, skills, and knowledge in operating chainsaws, skidders, and the school's new log forwarder trailer, along with the nuts and bolts of stewardship plan writing. Students develop a stewardship plan and put the management pieces into action—by thinning red pine, removing hazard trees, conducting a timber stand assessment, the works! Students harvest timber which is sold locally for pulp, chopped for firewood sales, or turned into lumber for use on student projects in the carpentry class. Students also offer these skills to area landowners for a fee to support their FFA and School Forest Program. The FFA students also use this knowledge to compete in career development events on the regional, state, and national levels, and have won six state championships in the past 10 years!
A freshly killed deer was found last month by Laporte School Forest site coordinator Dale Klingenberg. The carcass lay about 20 feet off the main trail, nestled in a grove of jack and red pine. Although it was still snowing, fresh tracks revealed that several animals had very recently visited the site: crow, coyote, and wolf. Dan Wiley, the DNR forester accompanying Dale on the walk, surmised that it was a wolf-killed deer. Teachable moments like these abound in school forests, and Dale plans to use this one with his high school students to teach ecology in action.
Given the permission and power tools, even a lone volunteer can make a huge dent in a School Forest's buckthorn patch. That's exactly what was seen at TrinityLone Oak's School Forest. Teacher Julie Wilke reports, "Last fall, a volunteer from the church came in and went crazy—lashing out buckthorn left and right. He made paths in the forest, and even brought in some new trees to plant. Now, from the school, we can once again see all the way to the pond." One teacher noted that it looked the way it did 30 years ago when she was in elementary school at Trinity Lone Oak. Instead of a buckthorn wall, now that the space is opened up and people are using it. The first grade teacher put up a bat house. Teachers and kids are exploring. During Grandparents' Day, students gave forest tours and a bunch of grandparents went out and loved it!
Inspiration is hard to find when your window looks out at nothing but a courtyard full of snow. So the School Forest committee at Jefferson Elementary in Blaine brainstormed a way to bring a little pizazz to the outdoor scene. They decided to bring in a single tree and then let students deck it out with a smorgasbord of goodies for wildlife.
First, teachers got permission to erect a tree. Then students who attend the before-and after-school Adventures Plus classes worked hard to create feeders from pinecones, seed, popcorn, and shortening (a substitute for peanut butter to respect student allergies). They found that seeds without shells work best to prevent messes and potentially clog the drain pipe in the center of the courtyard. Finally they hung and draped the goodies around the tree to attract birds. To sustain the effort, the group is also involving parents by asking for donations of seed and feeders.
Wildlife has discovered the tree—now teachers are having students observe and write about what they see in the courtyard.