The Iola-Scandinavia School District has had a designated school forest within the district for over 50 years.
Few people from the community, including most of the students, know anything about this land or are even aware that it exists.
A group of Iola-Scandinavia teachers are working hard to change that. They are hoping that, within a few years, our school forest areas can be added to the list of attractions that makes our community such a great place to live and our school district an exceptional place to get a well-rounded education.
School forest programs have been around our state for many years. Legislation was spearheaded in 1927 that permitted school districts to own land for forestry programs and in 1935 legislation was passed mandating conservation education be taught in high schools, vocational schools, universities or colleges.
In 1946, Trees for Tomorrow oversaw the development of northern school forests and within two years schools became eligible to receive services from Wisconsin foresters for forest management plans. Today, registered school forests receive forest management assistance from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) foresters, free nursery seedlings for planting, school forest grants and assistance from Gretchen Marshall, Wisconsin outdoor forestry education specialist.
The I-S School Forest started in 1958 with eight acres of land donated by Selmer Gjertson. It was officially registered in Waupaca County as the Iola-Scandinavia School Forest. This forest stand, consisting of red pine, white pine and some hardwood, is located about 1.5 miles south of the I-S Elementary School on State Highway 49.
Currently the I-S School Forest Committee is expanding the I-S School Forest by registering acreage on the school property southeast of the elementary school and the Jorgens Park property in Scandinavia. The I-S School Forest Committee successfully earned a $5,000 grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB) to develop curriculum and an education plan to enhance students’ environmental literacy and address the environmental and outdoor education needs of the I-S School District. Upon completion of the education plan we will be eligible for a $20,000 WEEB grant to implement the plan.
The educational values of outdoor environmental education are numerous. Environmental education helps increase environmental literacy (the understanding of human’s influence upon natural systems), develops skills necessary to understand and tackle environmental challenges, builds stewardship and inspires students to make informed decisions and take responsible action.
If you are interested in being a part of the I-S School Forest Plan or have questions, visit the school forest web page for contact information at: www.iola.k12.wi.us/school_forest.cfm.