BAXTER — With a 60-acre school forest filled with trails, a wetland area and plenty of wildlife right in their own backyard, Forestview Middle School fifth-graders don’t have to venture far to commune with nature.
On Tuesday and Thursday, Forestview fifth-graders participated in Forestry Days, an annual event where local natural resources experts teach them about forest management practices, tree identification and give them an introduction to the Dean Makey School Forest.
The best person to give a tour of the Dean Makey School Forest?
DNR forester Dean Makey, of course.
Makey began working with Forestview students in the spring of 2005, teaching them to plant and care for tree seedlings at the school forest. So far he and students have planted about 5,000 seedlings there. He teaches fifth-graders orientation to the school forest during Forestry Days.
Forestry Days was first held at Camp Ripley in 2006 but for the past six years has been held at Forestview. Gary Carson, head of the natural resources department at Central Lakes College, brought 25 of his natural resources college students with him to help lead two of the outdoor learning stations for students.
They taught the fifth-graders how to use forestry tools, like a clinometer, which is used to determine the height of a tree, and an increment borer, which is used to extract a sample from a living tree to examine the rings of the tree to figure out its age.
Other participating agencies in Forestry Days included Crow Wing County Land Services Department and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Robin Halvorson, a Forestview fifth-grade science teacher, also helps organize the event.
“What an awesome school this is,” said Carson. “And it’s just a good thing to see all the groups working together and doing this for the kids. For us at the college, we feel the more you can do in the community, the more exposure our students have, helps them develop their communication skills.”
Forestview has about 500 fifth-graders, who each spent a half day over the course of the two-day event learning about forestry.
Joshua Glenn, a Forestview fifth-grader, was all smiles after he and two friends used all their might to twist the increment borer to extract a sample out of a tree.
“I was pushing so hard, trying to keep it straight,” Glenn said.
“I think it was really cool and scientific. We learned to count rings and tell how old the tree was,” explained Morgan Sweet, a fifth-grader. She said she was excited to learn about the school forest and hopes to visit it again. “We can come out here if our parents are OK with it and enjoy it.”
“I liked going to the wetland and learning about the soil and mud and how it fills up to be wet,” said fifth-grader Jesse Meyer.
This was CLC natural resources student Robert Babb’s second year of volunteering for Forestry Days.
“They really like putting a hole in the tree,” Babb said with a laugh when speaking about the fifth-graders. “This is awesome. It’s good bringing people into the environment.”
Ryan Simonson, a natural resources manager for the county land services department, taught students tree identification.
“It’s great to see all the kids,” said Simonson. “I’m always surprised at how much they know about trees.”
Makey, who spends many hours volunteering in the school forest that bears his name, said several Forestview teachers take advantage of the forest as an outdoor classroom. He said science teachers and their students collect plant samples and study forest biomes, English teachers have their students make observations and write descriptive writings and poems about what they’ve observed, and for gym students go walking, running, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the forest. One teacher also has a birding club for students. Other athletic teams also train there.
The school forest is open to the public. Makey said the Forestview Builders Club donated benches that can be found along the trails within the forest.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.