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:
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
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
Bridges Boardwalks and Trails
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?
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.
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 attached document provides some helpful suggestions to discourage vandalism.
School Forest Websites & Facebook Pages:
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!
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
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.
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