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Nov 06
Exploring the Southern Door School Forest

by Gretchen MarshallSouthern-Door-School-Forest_October-2012-015.png
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


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