What is a School Forest?

Presented to the Williams Bay School Board Meeting 10.26.20

Essentially, a school forest is an outdoor classroom; it is land registered through the state community forest program and owned or controlled by a public or private school and used for environmental education and natural resource management.

LEAF (Learning, Experiences, & Activities in Forestry) is Wisconsin’s K-12 Forestry Education Program  and the result of a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources – Division of Forestry and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education in the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point. 

Wisconsin has 412 registered school forests containing more than 28,000 acres; over 300,000 Wisconsin students and are learning about Wisconsin forests each year through LEAF supported programs.  It does not matter if you have a few square feet or 80 acres, any city, village, town or school district that has legal control of forested property can apply.

LEAF provides extensive Wisconsin-focused curriculum, professional development, and funding.  The curriculum meets state mandated education standards in science, language arts, math, social studies, environmental education, art, and agriculture education, and meets national core standards. 

Research has shown that using the environment as a theme across subject areas increases standardized test scores, improves attendance, and decreases behavior problems.  Teaching in and about forests enhances student learning in most subject areas and grade levels; it is an extension of the classroom that enriches learning through hands-on, experiential approaches that are difficult to duplicate in the classroom.

School Forests strengthen school and community relationships through partnerships with community members and businesses while re-localizing education, connecting students to their natural environment and serving as the context for understanding how management decisions and their life-style choices are related.

School Forests foster a sense of place and is essential in creating relevancy in education as well as assuring that we strive to live well in our place.  In addition to their educational and community benefits, School Forests can generate income from the sale of timber and non-timber forest products and rental of the facilities (in this case the woods and trails).