by Gretchen Marshall
WAEE conference participants who chose to attend the field
trip to the Southern Door School Forest were treated to a beautiful fall
afternoon. We were guided on a tour through the forest by elementary principal Laurie
Connell and school forest coordinator Mike Toneys. The 50 acre property
contains a diversity of habitats including a mixed hardwood forest, field,
pond, spruce plantation, and cave. This forest has some of the largest beech
trees I have ever seen! Trails run throughout the entire property and are
clearly marked on the sign located at the entrance to the forest.
What are students learning about at the forest? Here is a
snippet of a few of the things we discovered: Students and teachers gravitate
toward the pond to study the living organisms that inhabit it. There are a
handful of crudely constructed wildlife observation blinds that high school
students use to collect data. Beginning in elementary school, each student
receives a plot of land to study and collect data about each year. By the time
the students reach high school, they have ten to twelve years’ worth of
research data. What a great longitudinal study!
Facilities on the property include a nature center and sugar
shack for maple syrup production. The nature center is a beautifully
refurbished farm building. This enclosed shelter is a place for classes to
gather and provides storage for supplies.
One of the most unique features of the school forest site is
the cave. While it is not accessible to students or staff, the Southern Door School
proudly boasts of its future environmental benefits. The cave entrance is
sealed, but has the potential to help rejuvenate the Wisconsin bat population currently
under threat from disease.
The Southern Door forest is a diverse property that hosts
excellent learning opportunities for the students and teachers who are fortunate
to be a part of this community. If you would like further information about the
Southern Door School Forest or its educational programming, please contact Mike
Toneys at firstname.lastname@example.org.