Greendale — Outdoor spaces could soon serve as classrooms.
The district is in the second year of its Sustainability Team, a three-year project that promotes environmental awareness. As part of the project, district educators also promote forestry, Environmental Science Teacher Kim Wahl told the School Board on Monday.
"One of the efforts of the (Sustainability Team) is to make better use of our natural spaces," Wahl said.
Special state-run programs would allow the district to transform wooded areas near schools into "school forests," where students could apply lessons with a hands-on approach, she said.
Wahl proposed using the state's LEAF program to develop classroom space on about 10.5 acres of Canterbury Woods, near Canterbury Elementary and Greendale Middle schools, and on 2.3 acres of Greendale High School's woods.
LEAF, Wisconsin's K-12 Forestry Education Program, has helped more than 350 schools register about 27,000 acres of forest parcels since its founding in 2001, according the program's website, www.uwsp.edu.
The program is a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-Division of Forestry and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point's Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education.
The schools already use the wooded areas as educational resources, "but (they) could be used more efficiently and more often," Wahl said. "So I volunteered my time as school forest coordinator to help in the efforts of establishing (the parcels) as school forests."
LEAF would provide free trees and assistance with forestry management if the district registered as a school forest.
Improvements would be necessary, such as installing platforms and benches, but Wahl did not have an initial cost estimate.
"I'm certainly in favor of using resources we have better … but I'm a little concerned about approving a plan for which we have no projected (costs)," School Board member Tom Slota said.
"I'm just starting from ground zero," Wahl replied. "I don't have solid numbers; it's something I'm just starting to scratch the surface on, but eventually I'll get that. It's a step-by-step process."
Wahl said grants would be available to fund the project and she would seek out volunteer labor.
"I think one of the things students are saying is that it'd be nice to have a path in the woods," Senior Student Board member Josh Bartelme said.
Bartelme, a student in an Advanced Placement environmental science class, said he enjoys research outdoors.
"It'd be fun to use the space as an educational resource because there are so many opportunities in it," he said. "I think it's really practical. You can take the content from the classroom and use it right away."
The School Board will vote on the proposal next week. If the district decides to apply for the LEAF program, a representative from the Department of Natural Resources must approve the project before a forest management plan can be developed. The district may use the wooded acres as school forests as long as a management plan is completed within one year.
WHAT: board votes on LEAF proposal
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Greendale High School library, 6801 Southway
CONTACT: district office, (414) 423-2700
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