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School Forests in Wisconsin are unique to each district

No two school forests are the same. Each school forest is designed based upon the physical school forest property, location, and school culture. Use the resources below as ideas to build your program upon.

We hope the examples you find throughout this page will provide guidance as your school forest evolves. The websites, photos, and descriptions give you an idea of the features, trails, and facilities found at school forests throughout Wisconsin. Examples from other school forests can be found here by visiting the links to view photos, and check out another school forest’s webpage or Facebook page. There is also information below for curricular resources you can use with students on your school forest. If you have any questions regarding a specific feature and would like to know more about it, contact Gretchen or Steve.

Use the following links to skip to specific resources:

School Forest Site Facilities and Features

Before planning your school forest facilities, you need to ask yourself two questions:

1. What are the needs at the school forest related to how the site will be used educationally?
You don’t need to build a large classroom with dorms if you will be doing day programs with small groups of students. Figure out your educational goals before planning your facilities. Your educational programs should dictate the buildings or features on your site.

2. How can we use the facilities to meet educational goals?
Helping students understand where our resources come from and how our lifestyle decisions impact environmental and social quality are the greatest goals of school forest education.

Outdoor ClassroomsClassrooms

A variety of options – from simple shelters to “lodges” complete with classrooms and dorms – exist for classroom buildings on school forests. The most important thing to consider is how the facility will be used. Obviously, a building used occasionally to get out of the elements should be designed much differently than a building used for overnight programs. It is important to consider what programs will be conducted at the school forest before designing a facility. Below are examples and photos of education facilities on some of Wisconsin’s school forests.

Shelters and Classrooms

trails and signs

Trails and Signs

A great trail system allows students to utilize the entire school forest; lessons can be more in-depth and memorable. Trail markers help students, teachers, and the community navigate and explore your school forest. Depending on design and placement, they can greatly enhance or detract from visitors’ experiences.

Trail and Interpretive Signs
Entrance Signs
Bridges Boardwalks and Trails

Outdoor Teaching Areas

Outdoor Teaching Areas

Consider where students will learn while in the forest. Is there seating available to conduct a lesson or an open area for them to run and explore?

Teaching Areas
Fire Pits



Restrooms are often an essential addition to facilities at the school forest (anyone who has spent much time with a 1st grader understands this!). The options for restrooms include rented portable restrooms, outhouses (from traditional to “modern”), to bathrooms built into the classroom or dorm. You will want to consider number and frequency of people using them, access (do you want people to go into a building to use the restroom), and location. Options for waste disposal include a vault system (in which waste is pumped out periodically), septic system (percolation into the ground), or composting toilets. Check with your county Planning & Zoning Department or Health Department for regulations regarding restrooms in your area.

Restroom Facilities


Vandalism can be a concern at any outdoor education site, but its occurrence is rare. Don’t let it discourage your school forest plans.

The document below provides some helpful suggestions to discourage vandalism.


School Forests on the web

School Forest Websites & Facebook Pages:

School Forest Profiles

The Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association partnered with LEAF to spotlight school forests in several issues of Wisconsin Woodlands, their member newsletter.
Click on the images below to read about your Wisconsin School Forests! 

Laona, Crandon, & Wabeno
Southern Door
Rahr Memorial
West Salem
Evansville & Janesville
Auburndale & Pittsville
Marinette County

Curriculum and Lessons

LEAF Lessons

Portions of the LEAF lessons were specifically designed to be done with students in the forest. To find these, look at the end of each K-12 grade band guide and you will find lessons entitled “Field Enhancement”. If you have a smaller forest adjacent to your school or want lessons to do with students on your school grounds, use the LEAF Urban Forestry Guide. LEAF’s Wildland Fire guide provides lessons designed to teach students basic wildland fire principles.

View LEAF Lesson Guides

Environmental Monitoring

Citizen Science environmental monitoring projects are great ways to get students involved with relevant, real-world projects that can enhance your classroom instruction at the school forest. The information that students collect is used by citizens, scientists, and/or agencies to monitor environmental quality. Students gain ecological knowledge, learn about data collection, practice scientific inquiry, acquire observation skills, and utilize critical thinking skills. There are a wide diversity of projects in which to involve your students.

Environmental Monitoring Project Ideas


This “by teachers, for teachers” resource produced by LEAF brings together forestry course syllabi, curriculum maps, PowerPoint presentations, lessons, and other useful resources. Click the link below to view the whole Scope & Sequence formatted in a google spreadsheet.

Scope and Sequence


Relevant science lessons for implementation in your school forest are now available! The subject links below take you to a page listing lessons you can implement at your school forest, with just a bit of preparation. All lessons are in PDF format. Special thanks to WSST for partnering on this project.

Biology concepts and activities that can be learned or facilitated at the School Forest:

Chemistry concepts and activities that can be learned or facilitated at the School Forest:

  • Classification of Matter
  • Measurement
    • Moles
    • Extrapolation
  • Atoms and their Structure
    • Soil Properties
  • Nuclear Chemistry
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Density
  • pH
    • Water Testing
    • Soil Lab
    • Plant Requirements for Growth
    • Soap’s Effects
  • Oxidation/Reduction Reactions
    • Soil Studies
    • Bioluminescence
  • Organic Chemistry
    • Phenols
    • Toxic Plants
    • Esters
  • Distillation
  • Water Chemistry
  • Metals and Minerals
    • Natural Dyes
  • Bonding
    • Snowflakes (exit LEAF)
    • Soil Properties
    • Nutrients in the Soil

Human Anatomy and Physiology concepts and activities that can be learned or facilitated at the School Forest:

  • Digestive System
    • Energy and Calculate Calories
    • Edible Plants
  • Skeletal and Muscular Systems
  • Circulatory System
    • Heart Rate in Outdoor Work/Exercise
  • Respiratory System
    • Allergens
  • Vectors/Disease
    • Population Study of Deer Ticks
  • Nervous System
    • Eyes: Night Vision and Adaptation
  • Miscellaneous

Physical Science concepts and activities that can be learned or facilitated at the School Forest:

  • Chemistry Basics
  • Introduction to Physics
  • Motion/Direction/Vectors
    • Orienteering
    • Speed and Distance
    • Mapping
  • Gas Laws
    • Weather
  • Light
    • Diffraction in Ponds and Streams
    • Measuring Light Differences in Ecosystems
    • Measuring Light Penetration in Water (using Sechhi disks)
    • Snow Blindness and Snow’s Reflective Properties
  • Friction
    • Snowshoeing
    • Cross-Country Skiing
    • Sledding and Tubing
  • Simple Machines
    • Timber Harvesting: How are machines designed to minimize impacts on the landscape?
    • History of Logging Equipment
    • Levers and Cant-hooks
  • Electricity/Energy
    • Solar Power
    • Trees that Generate Heat
  • Work
  • Heat
  • Water
  • Waves/Sound
    • Echolocation
    • Decibel Research in Different Habitats
    • Noise Reduction Capacity of Trees

Physics concepts and activities that can be learned or facilitated at the School Forest:

  • Acceleration
    • Falling Leaves
  • Aerodynamics
  • Miscellaneous
    • Soil Compression
    • Maple Sap Flow
  • Work
    • Harvesting Pine vs. Oak

Special Note: The concepts listed that do not contain a lesson can be taught at the school forest, we are just looking for submissions and ideas. If you have a lesson that corresponds to one of these concepts, please submit it (preferably in MS Word .doc or .docx format) for inclusion to Gretchen Marshall. Gretchen will review any lesson submitted related to biology, chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, physical science, and physics that can be taught outdoors. Lessons posted on this site include full attribution for the source of the lesson, so please cite your submission, especially if you are the source!

Also, if you have lessons for additional concepts not listed, please submit those, as well. If you are willing to be contacted by other teachers via email, please let Gretchen know.


Forestry kits are available for you to borrow at no cost. These kits contain supplemental lesson materials, fiction and non-fiction books focused on Wisconsin forests, and equipment for students to use when exploring in the forest. Check out the diversity of kits for use at your school forest.

View Forestry Kits

School Forest Resources

Use the buttons below to navigate the rest of the school forest website to find relevant information and resources for your local school forest programs.

About Wisconsin’s School Forests

Learn more about the Wisconsin’s School Forest Program’s history, and explore the registered School Forests around Wisconsin.

Getting Started / Registration

Learn more about the educational value that the School Forest Program offers, who is eligible to apply, and the registration process.

Developing Your School Forest Program

Developing your School Forest Program can be challenging. LEAF’s School Forest Program provides several tools to get you started.

Sustaining Your School Forest

LEAF provides several tools and resources you may find helpful as you think about programming to offer at your school forest.