School Forests Highlights
School Forests Highlights
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.
In the case of the Mankato East High School Forest, invasive European buckthorn provided the unhealthy shade of green in the understory. Late October is the best time to identify buckthorn trees and shrubs because their leaves remain dark green long after native trees have lost their leaves. Connecting her students' labor and interest with the school forest's management plan, Ms. Battern created the outdoor project, which opened students' eyes to why invasive species are so damaging to native ecosystems. Students learned that their actions—removing lots of buckthorn trees and treating the stumps—can help improve a forest's health. The students are also replanting the site with native goldenrod, wild ginger, and hickory trees. The classes were grateful to Randy Schindle, DNR private lands specialist, who helped lead students in their efforts and provided guidance on the restoration project. (Story paraphrased from the Mankato Free Press.)
Fifth graders at Virginia School Forest are learning the history of their area and practicing real-world skills thanks to the hard work of many individuals and organizations. Throughout the year they explore an original homestead in the forest, watch a re-enactor demonstrate camping and survival techniques in the 1700s, and investigate an adjacent logging camp to learn about 1890s forest industry. In addition, the students study and participate in survival activities and practice setting up camps in the School Forest. School Forest coordinator Chris Holmes says that camp skills are a fun way for students to practice organization and team building. Student teams organize, pack, set-up camp, cook, clean, pack-up, and put away gear, all in a day. Their new practice campsite was created and installed by Virginia High School students, Virginia teachers, and volunteers from ArcelorMittal Steel and was made possible through donations and grant dollars.