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Highlights About Our School Forests

images showing after the fire and 3 weeks laterWildfire provides valuable lessons
Dry winds, coupled with seven acres of dried grasses and dormant trees, fueled an unexpected fire at the Oneka School Forest in Hugo. Because the School Forest is located about 100 feet from the school's back door, students could watch while safely inside. They watched how crews from local fire departments and the DNR worked to contain the fire. Afterward, teachers capitalized on the experience, teaching students about fire, succession, and regrowth. For example, some students are tracking plants and growth in burned and unburned areas. Others are using math to measure evidence of fire?s height on trees. A group of fifth graders that went birding the day before and are now comparing pre- and post-fire wildlife observations. They're also discovering pieces of burned trash and using identification skills to figure out what it was before it melted. The best part is that both teachers and students now appreciate how fire affects an ecosystem and can watch how quickly nature grows back from the ashes.

Beaver Pond at Lakewood School forestEntering beaver's territory
Students at Lakewood School Forest in Duluth had an exciting winter trip in the forest. They went out to the pond to learn about ice conditions and safety. Suddenly, a noise came from under the ice below them. Thump! Thump! Thump! The students gasped and froze in place. Then they realized what it was, a beaver! The presence of beavers is nothing new to the students as they often study their tracks, mud slides, and observe the dams and chewed trees while visiting the forest. But this was quite the experience having the beaver so close and only separated by a thin layer of ice. The thumping was a way to send out an alarm to alert its mate to the danger of students nearby and to try and scare off the kids. They knew it was best to retreat and leave the beavers be.

blackduckBlackduck School Forest students take part in the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour

Students from the Blackduck School Forest took part in the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour in a variety of ways. In the spring, they created Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree. In May, the Future Farmers of America (FFA) students accompanied USDA Forest Service staff to learn about national Christmas tree qualities and how to search for the perfect tree. Then in October, during the tree cutting ceremony in the Chippewa National Forest, the FFA students ushered guests and helped manage the day's events. A few days later the tree visited the Blackduck School where all students were able to sign the trailer and see the tree. Mark Friesen, School Forest coordinator spoke at the event and highlighted the involvement of the FFA students.


garlough"We've got the whole forest in our hands"
Garlough School Forest hosted the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on its tour to the U.S. Capitol. All 440 students visited the tree and signed their names on the trailer. Students made ornaments earlier in the year and one boy even saw his on the tree during his visit! Students and parents listened to short talks by U.S. representatives Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, West St. Paul mayor John Zanmiller, and state forester Forrest Boe. Three students presented their own pieces created for the event. Then the whole school sang a song written especially for the tree "We've got the whole forest in our hands."