The Minnesota School Forest Program is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota schools.
The purpose of the program is to increase outdoor education activities at schools. This is done by working with schools to designate a nearby forest or portion of a schoolyard as an “outdoor classroom.” Teachers use their school forest to teach math, language arts, social studies, science, art, music, and physical education. In return, the DNR offers education and site management assistance to ensure every school forest is used long-term.
A variety of research supports the physical, mental, social, and cognitive benefits of outdoor learning for both students and teachers. To this end, the DNR provides various education support for teachers, such as the School Forest Activity Board, Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project WILD.
School forests also improve forest stewardship in schools and communities. DNR cooperative and urban foresters guide school forests in important decisions surrounding the establishment, forest health, habitat restoration, harvesting, and planting. Often, school forest sites are highly visible examples of healthy forests used for education and community recreation.
School Forest History
Dr. C.V. Hobson, a former Bemidji State University geography professor and state legislator, is credited with creating the school forest concept. He actively campaigned for the passage of the School Forest Law (MN Statutes, Section 89.41), which authorizes public education institutions to establish and maintain school forests. The Minnesota Legislature passed the law in 1949. One year later, the Blackduck School Forest was designated, marking the first of many schools to enroll in the program.
Since 1949 the program has adapted to meet the needs of Minnesota's schools. Currently there are more than 145 School Forests ranging in size from less than one acre to 300 acres of land, totaling more than 8,000 acres. School forests across the state include sites in rural, suburban, and urban areas; at public and private schools; and reach preschool through university students. No matter the school, all school forests work toward the same goal of connecting students to the natural world while building student confidence, sense of community, skill level, and knowledge base.
School Forest Contacts
Questions? Contact the School Forest program