Highlights About Our School Forests
This December, 5th and 6th grade students, along with teacher Tom Frericks, at William Kelley Elementary in Silver Bay, headed into Bird Hill School Forest to tackle math standards by doing a real live timber cruise. To prep his students, Tom invited Lake County forester Justin Mayne to demonstrate the tools the students will be using. Employing activities from the School Forest activity board and tools borrowed from the School Forest program, students practiced using clinometers, prisms, diameter tapes, and increment borers. Soon, the students will don snowshoes to traverse the 3-foot snow layer and stake out 10 plots that will measure 20 x 20 feet. Groups of 5 students each will study their plot for 2 hours, while presenters rotate through the groups to help students measure tree circumference, height, and age; estimate the number of trees in their plot; identify species; and compare air temperature with soil temperature. After the cruising data is collected and analyzed, the students will compare their findings with Justin's from his professional timber cruise. The data will be used to guide a timber harvest which the woodshop instructor plans to conduct this winter with a small portable sawmill purchased by the district. Finally, the wood will be used for assorted projects.
Hugo School Forest
Only 60 feet wide, but nearly 400 feet long, the Hugo School Forest is essentially a former windbreak planted in the days when the town of Hugo was surrounded by mostly farms. Today, Hugo Elementary is surrounded by condos and subdivisions, and the teachers have adopted this narrow forest east of the building as their own. Hugo Elementary serves preK-1 students. The 1.2-acre site, mostly planted red pine and deciduous understory trees, is perfect for young children to explore and learn. The school intends to allow children to explore the natural world, and will improve the site by woodchipping trails and creating openings for nature play spaces. After students graduate from Hugo, they advance to Oneka Elementary, which serves grades 2–5, and is adjacent to the 25-acre Oneka-Hugo School Forest.
SEA-cret School Forest
Students at the Robbinsdale School of Engineering and Arts (SEA) named the 1.6 acres of wooded areas on the school grounds the SEA-cret School Forest. Located in a densely populated neighborhood in Golden Valley, the SEA-cret School Forest is used by students and teachers as a welcome quiet refuge for study. Cara Rieckenberg, the School Forest site coordinator, is excited to use the forest to teach a variety of subjects to K-6 students. The school plans to improve the site by removing buckthorn and expanding trails with help from parents and community members.
The School Forest program welcomes Lester Park School Forest! This spring, Lester Park Elementary in Duluth designated a ½–acre wooded ravine across the street as their School Forest. The "58th Street Creek" runs through the forest and students will work with the city of Duluth to rename to creek to reflect natural features around it. Dramatic exposures of bedrock, boulders, and deciduous trees line the steep creek sides. The school building, which opened in 2011, combines K-1 students from Rockridge Elementary and grade 3-5 students from Lester Park. Teachers recognize that activities need to be built into curriculum in order to best use their new outdoor classroom. This site will allow more frequent trips to the outdoors, in addition to the annual field trip to Wolf Ridge.