Skip to main content

Sustaining your school forest

Ensuring your school forest program is successful for years to come depends on a solid foundation set by your school district. The resources on this page showcase examples of tools, information, and materials from other schools that you can utilize to help build and maintain learning experiences at your school forest. Modify these examples and implement based on your district’s needs.

Use the following links to skip to specific resources:


Having solid, set policies for your school forest property and its use are crucial to the success and longevity of the program.
The following topics and examples will provide a beneficial foundation for your programs.


School forests are a particular kind of community forest owned or controlled by school districts. The first community forest law was passed in 1927. The law was updated in 1949 and 1965. Official text of the law can be found in Section 20 of Chapter 28.


When registering land as a school forest, the school board should adopt a resolution dedicating the land to be used as a school forest.
You can find examples of resolutions here for Mount Horeb.


A school district does not have to own property to have an official school forest. A district just needs to have legal control of a piece of property and land use agreements allow for this option. With a land use agreement, the school district is entering into an agreement with a municipality to allow that property to be used as a school forest by the district.


Whenever possible, we encourage districts to set aside a separate school forest fund for any income produced by or at the school forest instead of having the money go back to the district’s general fund. This separate school forest fund should support educational activities at the school forest.


Hunting is an important tradition and tool to control deer and other wildlife species in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Act 290 was created to clarify the issue of hunting on school forests. The statute specifically provides school boards the opportunity to allow hunting on school forests. The statute also amended related statutes (including “Gun-free school zones” and “Dangerous weapons other than firearms on school premises”) to allow for exceptions when a school board allows hunting on its school forests.


School forests are managed by districts in a variety of different ways. Very few districts can support full-time coordinators or even have a position devoted to the school forest program. However, here you will find some position descriptions for school forests that are fortunate to have a staff member dedicated to the school forest. Some of these documents are dated and the positions may not be accurate at this time.


Establishing a school forest committee is perhaps the most important activity to assist in the development and maintenance of the program. The committee should include individuals that represent diverse grade levels, subject areas, administration, and community partners.

School Forest Management

The two main pillars of school forests are sustainable management of the forest and using the property for education. One benefit of being a registered school forest is access to a local DNR forester who can provide management services for the property. DNR foresters are able to answer questions about the trees on your property, create a management plan, and help you implement any management prescriptions that are recommended to keep your forest healthy. Find your local DNR forester by using the DNR’s Forestry Assistance Locator. Select your county and then look for the name of the DNR “Service Forester” that appears at the bottom of the page.

Assessing the success of your school forest

Evaluating the effectiveness of your school forest program is a crucial component in a thriving and growing school forest program. Only by understanding where your strengths and weaknesses are, will your program be able to reach its full potential. The following tools will allow you to collect important data and information from others in your district. Use the information you collect to compile a report about the success of the school forest for your school board.

  • School Forest Use Tracking Tool: Use this document as a tool to keep track of the number of students, teachers, and community members (including parent chaperones) that use your school forest each year. This is a great tool for gathering information to then share with your school board!
  • School Forest Needs Assessment: A needs assessment can provide valuable information on the opportunities and challenges of using the school forest. Allow teachers, administrators, school staff, students, parents, and community members to complete the assessment to get the greatest diversity of opinions. Use the following example as a guideline to develop your needs assessment to address your specific district’s needs.  Don’t forget there are free online tools to help you conduct your survey as well that make it easier to administer and tabulate the results of the survey.
  • School Forest Field Trip Evaluation: After each field trip, have the teachers complete a field trip evaluation. Post field trip evaluations will indicate the success of the lessons and the field trip overall. This will help teachers remember what worked well during a particular field trip and what needs to be adjusted when doing a similar trip again. Use the following document as a guide to develop a field trip evaluation for your school forest.
  • Annual Wisconsin School Forest Survey Results: Each year the Wisconsin School Forest Program sends a survey to each school forest to gather statewide school forest information. The survey asks about school forest educational use, use by community members, and school forest financial spending. Click the link to view a summary of the statewide survey results.

Professional Development

Providing opportunities for your staff to become comfortable and knowledgeable about the school forest is a key component to the success of your program. LEAF offers the following opportunities to help ensure educators feel confident in using the school forest as an extension of their classroom.

Contact Gretchen Marshall at for more information about school forest professional development offerings.

School Forest Foundational Planning Workshop

School forests are incredible outdoor classrooms. Do you have a firm foundation to build your school forest program upon? Educators often recognize the uniqueness of having a school forest but struggle to understand how to use it with students. Having a written plan is a crucial step in developing your school forest program. We will look closely at the educational value of school forests, what natural resource features are on your property, connect the forest to classroom curriculum, discuss how to engage staff, and brainstorm ways to ensure learning at the school forest endures over time.


School district in-services can be customized to fit the specific needs to enhance educational experiences at your school forest. Take advantage of this professional development opportunity for your staff whether you have a new school forest and want to introduce educators to your newly registered property or to provide in-depth resources for teachers in a “veteran” school forest program. Ideally, we prefer at least 4 hours of time dedicated to the in-service, however, a 2-hour minimum in-service time is required.


The LEAF Program offers workshops, courses, and in-services as well for school districts that can apply directly to your work in the school forest. Check out these other opportunities that will increase your comfort level and knowledge of Wisconsin’s forests and ability to take students outdoors to learn.

previous slide
next slide

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.