Schools with school forests and the DNR each have specific responsibilities to ensure that land is used consistent with program goals and educational activities are supported appropriately.
School Forest Application Steps
What the DNR does for school forests
Schools need two things to successfully support a school’s ability to teach outdoors:
- A safe, interesting place
- Educational support
The DNR offers to school forests:
- School Forest Staff-Program staff provides lessons, help teachers develop curriculum, connect teachers with DNR programs, support school forest site committees, visit and walk your site, help with legal issues, write grants, etc.
- Support mailings-The DNR mails to schools resources to support and expand outdoor education two to three times each school year.
- Activity Board-The Activity Board contains hundreds of outdoor lessons by and for teachers to use school forests across the state.
- Educational materials-Teachers get access to the School Forest Activity Board developed by and for school Forest teachers. We also provide resources from Project Learning Tree and other DNR education programs.
- Newsletter-The School Forest Program emails a monthly newsletter to site coordinators during the school year. The newsletter contains information on grants, training opportunities, news, and activities.
- Grant opportunities-The staff works to find grant funding or partner support relevant to school forests.
- Teaching in Your School Forest Workshops-DNR offers free, site-specific workshops that focus on outdoor teaching and classroom management, the benefits of outdoor learning, and grade-appropriate outdoor lessons.
- Annual Conference/Summit/Regional Training-At least every other year, the program offers a free conference or summit to bring together site coordinators, teachers, and administrators from across the state to learn about new program happenings, discuss current issues and needs, and explore educational opportunities. The conferences are free and substitute teacher stipends are typically provided.
- Tree Cookies & Field Desks-Program staff coordinate with DNR volunteers to deliver free classroom sets of tree cookies and field desks to interested school forests.
- Foresters-DNR foresters are available to help schools identify, plan, and implement school forest activities.
- Stewardship Plans-A forester will work with each site to write a school forest stewardship plan free of charge. A copy of each site's current stewardship plan is kept at the DNR School Forest Program office.
- Other DNR Support-DNR Wildlife, Ecological Resources, and other staff provide support for special projects.
Accountability – The School Forest Program exists by MN Statutes, Section 89.41. When school staff changes, the DNR will work to re-engage the school’s long-term commitment to the program. Site leaders can address comments or concerns to School Forest Program staff. If the DNR does not comply with the above criteria, school site leaders can appeal to the state forester or the DNR commissioner.
What schools need to do to stay active in the program
School forests sites have committed long-term to natural resource and outdoor education.
Participation from multiple teachers, administrators, parents, and community members is vital to a site's success
- Assign a School Forest Site Coordinator to be the main contact between the school and the DNR.
- Maintain a School Forest committee who convenes at least once a year to plan and make decisions regarding your school forest. A site coordinator may also choose to delegate responsibilities to committee members.
- Carry out at least 5 educational activities in the school forest every year. These can include lessons by teachers, after-school programs, or community partners (e.g. scouts, youth groups).
- Complete an Annual Report that documents how the school is using the school forest.
- Provide adequate funding. Schools should treat their school forest like any other classroom by providing sufficient funding to support transportation, maintenance, and teaching supplies. If necessary, schools will create a plan for revenue generated from the site. Money generated from the sale of timber or forest products (such as maple syrup or balsam boughs) from school forest land should be used to support your school forest or other natural resource education activities.
- Manage their land according to their woodland stewardship plans to ensure sustainable forest management. If harvesting occurs, the school will follow Minnesota Forest Resources Council timber harvesting guidelines.
Accountability – If the school is unable to fulfill their responsibilities, the School Forest Program staff will work with the school to create a plan that brings the site into compliance.
Sites that are unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities lose program benefits and certification in the School Forest Program.
When schools that use tax-forfeited land fall out of compliance, the DNR will notify the appropriate state or county authorities to reconvey the land.