Teacher recognized for school forests
By Jane Myhra
Rhonda Fechter, a teacher at Iola-Scandinavia Elementary, recently received a state award.
Fechter was recognized with a School Forest Award by the LEAF Program for her contributions to the school forests registered to the Iola-Scandinavia School District.
LEAF, the Wisconsin K-12 Forestry Education Program, recognizes students, individuals and organizations that have provided leadership and made significant contributions to their local school forests.
Wisconsin School Forest coordinator Gretchen Marshall presented the award to Fechter at Jorgens Park Preserve in Scandinavia.
“Fechter has been an inspiration in the development and growing use of the district’s school forest properties,” Marshall said. “Her dedication and commitment towards environmental education and the use of the school forest is amazing. She works tirelessly to make sure the forests are accessible and used by students, staff and the community.”
According to Marshall, Fechter has served on various boards that oversee the forests, written grants to fund supplies and facilities, planted trees with her students, provided professional development opportunities for staff and encouraged learning opportunities for all Iola-Scandinavia students at the forest.
“I am very proud to have been nominated and chosen for this award,” Fechter said. “However, the success of the Iola-Scandinavia school forests is also due to the staff, students and community members that participate in stewardship of our natural resources.”
“Fechter is an integral part of Iola-Scandinavia’s school forest committee. This team has provided hands-on learning experiences for community members and students and continues to build new opportunities at the school forest,” Marshall said. “Their talent, passion and love for integrating the environment with quality education shine through in their service to others, leadership style, love of learning and ability to create innovative learning experiences for Iola-Scandinavia students and staff.”
The Iola-Scandinavia School District currently has three school forest properties that function as outdoor classrooms, including Jorgens Park Preserve.
“We are fortunate to have the friends of Jorgens Park Preserve participating alongside the Iola-Scandinavia school district to provide this beautiful, diverse property for educational and recreational enjoyment,” Fechter said.
Wisconsin’s school forest program was created more than 80 years ago to allow schools to own property for forestry programs. The primary focus was to engage students in replanting forests.
Since those early days, the program has grown considerably due to the efforts of many individuals and organizations.
Today more than 400 school forests are available to integrate environmental education into schools’ curriculum, provide experiential learning for students, teachers and the public, meet state-mandated education standards, demonstrate sustainable natural resource management, strengthen school-community partnerships, and provide income for education activities.
“The current strength of the school forest program would not be possible without contributions from students, resource personnel, educators, community members and school administrators that help their school forests reach new heights.” Marshall said.
For more information about the School Forest Awards or the statewide school forest program, contact Gretchen Marshall, Wisconsin School Forest Coordinator, at 715-346-2633 or Gretchen.Marshall@uwsp.edu or visit www.leafprogram.org.