The Wisconsin School Forest program welcomes the addition of a new forest recently registered by the Merrill Area Public Schools to this statewide program. This new 25-acre school forest is known as the Maple Grove School Forest and is located on the Maple Grove Charter School site. Students have a long tradition of tapping the maples on site to create syrup and adopted unique trees in the forest that look like the number “4.” An outdoor classroom is also available for teachers and students to use for incorporating the forest into their curriculum.
“The property already has a unique history and this milestone will open the doors for a whole new chapter of learning for the students that attend here,” said Dale Bergman, MAPS Buildings and Grounds Supervisor.
The Nels P. Evjue Memorial Forest, registered as a school forest in 1945, is frequently used by the district and seen as a leader in school forest programming in Wisconsin. Merrill Area Public Schools can proudly boast of having two forests for students to learn in and explore.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources forester, Bill Millis, assisted the school district with the registration process, will be creating a stewardship plan for the land, and will continue to ensure this property is sustainably managed as a healthy forest.
“Establishing this area as a school forest requires collaboration,” said Dr. John Sample, MAPS Superintendent. “We are very fortunate to have this resource and the support necessary to create a dynamic learning environment for our students.”
Registered school forests receive a variety of benefits. They are eligible to receive free forest management assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, receive free seedlings from the state nursery program, and receive assistance from the statewide school forest education specialist.
School forests are remarkable educational resources that are available to help schools meet state-mandated education standards, serve as a focus to integrate environmental education into the school’s curriculum, provide hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, strengthen school-community relations, demonstrate sustainable natural resource management, and produce income for education activities.
Wisconsin has a long and proud school forest tradition. The community forest law, which allowed schools, organizations, and municipalities to own property for forest management purposes, was passed in 1927. The first school forests in the United States were registered the following year at Laona, Wabeno and Crandon. The program has grown considerably since its inception to include more than 400 registered school forests owned by over 230 school districts and private schools and eight higher education institutions.
The statewide school forest program is coordinated by the LEAF Program. As a partnership between the WDNR – Division of Forestry and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education in the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point, the statewide school forest program provides resources to help school forests achieve their full potential.