School forest highlights

School forest snapshots

Using woods next to three schools in Minneapolis

Anwatin Middle School and Bryn Mawr Elementary in Minneapolis use 11.5 acres of school property as the Anwatin-Bryn Mawr School Forest. Their committees have worked to reduce invasive species, establish native plants, and develop a series of interpretive signs about plants growing in their school forest, with plant names in both English and Dakota. Minneapolis Nature Preschool also uses the site. This school forest is adjacent to Theodore Wirth Park.

Children explore the pond.

Children explore the pond in the Anwatin-Bryn Mawr School Forest, Minneapolis


From a boring lawn to diverse outdoor classroom

Located in highly urban Apple Valley, the Cedar Park Elementary STEM School transformed a 2.45-acres lawn to a bustling hub of outdoor learning. The school created a rain garden, prairie garden, weather station, raised garden beds, two sheds, and a nature play area. They have also planted trees native to Minnesota. The divserse student population find common grounds outdoors in their school forest every day.

students and teacher Exploring the natural world.

Exploring the natural world in the Cedar Park School Forest in Apple Valley.


A forest used by students, skiers, and geocachers in central Minesota

Located behind Forestview Middle School in Baxter, the 60-acre Dean Makey School Forest is a hub of activity for students, wildlife, and the community. Well-marked trails guide explorers and cross-country skiers through forests of aspen, oak, and mixed hardwoods. Students study wildlife through images collected from sets of trail cameras. Every year, Dean Makey, a DNR forester who lives in the area, provides the incoming class of kindergartners a tree to plant in the “Kindergarten Grove.” Each tree is labeled by year and teacher name. When the kindergartners enter middle school, they will see how their tree has grown along with them.  Map and photos

students use loppers to student using loppers to remove saplings.

Middle school students use loppers to remove saplings to reduce competition with their planted trees.


School forest at the edge of the prairie

The Discovery School Forest in Alexandria is a 95-acre school forest located behind the school building. The site has well-marked trails through forest and prairie open to classes and public users. Student projects on the site include engineering and building bridges, setting up geocaches, planting pollinator habitats, and studying macroinvertebrates in the pond. The music classes also use the forest to record nature sounds to incorporate into digital music.

Discovery School Forest sign showing locations of trails and pond.

The Discovery School Forest map identiifies trails and ponds behind the school.


A working forest generates funds for their school

Minnesota schools in the School Forest Program can collect profits generated from timber harvests to reinvest into their school forest. The forestry students at Grand Rapids High School actively manage the 192-acre Jon Rowe Memorial School Forest by inventorying trees, setting up harvests with their DNR forester, and performing small logging operations. Money can be used to create shelters, purchase class sets of snowshoes, or buy other materials. Classes can also harvest forest products such as balsam boughs and create and sell Christmas wreaths. Their FFA club, along with their teacher, has earned many national awards for their work. The school also hosts field days for Grand Rapids fourth graders.

DNR foresters work marking timber for harvest.

DNR foresters work with the high school forestry class as they mark timber for a real harvest.


Worth the drive

The rural Nevis School District provides on-demand bussing between the K-12 school in Nevis and their school forest 3 miles north of town. The 83-acre site has a parking area, a large garden area filled with pollinator-friendly plants, and benches built and installed by the high school shop class. Several wide, well-marked trails guide classes through forests of oak, aspen, and pine. The school plans to add a portable toilet and a dock to access a beaver pond.

A class of kindergarten students sitting on benches

A class of kindergarten students gathers at the benches in the Nevis School Forest.


School forest webpages and social media

Anwatin Bryn Mawr School Forest, Minneapolis
Brush Lake, Lake George, and Two Inlets school forests, Park Rapids
Como Woodlands Outdoor Classroom, St. Paul
Dean Makey School Forest, Baxter
Parkview Center School Forest, Roseville
Pike Lake School Forest, Proctor
Scenic Heights School Forest, Minnetonka
Trinity Lone Oak School Forest, Eagan
Waubun School Forest, Waubun


School forests in the news

Julia Battern, Mankato East High School science teacher, won the MFEA Buzz Ryan Award for tackling buckthorn with students. (YouTube)

Discovery School Forest in Alexandria (KXRA, 2023)

A Great Thing to Tap Into: School Forests Increasingly Popular in the Northland (Duluth News Tribune), 2022

Cedar Park Elementary students plant trees for school forest (Sun Media, Apple Valley, 2022)

The Giving Trees:  At the trailblazing Karner Blue Education Center in Blaine, children with special needs benefit from nature-based teaching tools, including a 5-acre school forest. (MCV magazine)

Forest Service brings sled dogs to North Woods (The Timberjay)

Cannon Fall Schools, Gemini continue partnership with school forest (cannonfallsbeacon.com)

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