Letter: Schools launch School Forest Programs

St. Anthony Park Elementary School wants to extend environmental learning opportunities for students in grades K-5 and has applied to become part of the Minnesota School Forest Program. The program was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1948 and is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry. There are 139 School Forest Programs in Minnesota. These programs designate the outdoors as a classroom and learning space. If approved, the St. Anthony Park program would be called Langford Park School Forest Program.

In April, staff coordinators from the St. Paul Public Schools, St. Anthony Park Elementary School (Langford Park), Murray Middle School (College Park) and Crossroads Elementary School (Marydale Park) met with representatives from the DNR and the City of St. Paul to work out joint powers of agreement for park usage. Other schools in St. Paul Public Schools—including American Indian Magnet, Como Park Senior High and Como Park Elementary— have successfully established School Forest Programs.

Sixteen staff members at St. Anthony Park are working with Karen Christenson, one of the school’s science specialists, and Susan Fredrickson, a fifth-grade teacher, to establish the program and ensure the natural environment of Langford Park will not be altered but will be used by students to employ the natural world as a means to learn topics such as math, science, reading, writing, geography and the arts.

Benefits to St. Anthony Park Elementary students and staff include free educational materials, free workshops, assistance finding grant opportunities, staff development centered around integration of the outdoor classroom

and, of course, the enjoyment and appreciation of our outdoor environment.

The City of St. Paul and the DNR estimate the approval process would take a few months, and the expected official start of the program at St. Anthony Park Elementary would be this fall.

For more information about the School Forest Program, visit www.mndnr.gov/schoolforest.

Below is the mission of the Langford Park School Forest Program.

Langford Park School Forest

We are preparing our students to be well-rounded, lifelong learners who make informed environmental observations and decisions as part of a world-class education.

MISSION:

• To continue our rich tradition of utilizing the outdoors to teach students about our natural resources through direct experience.

• To connect our students to the natural environment through hands- on, cross-curricular activities in our schoolyard and the adjacent parkland.

• To promote and encourage wise stewardship of our land and resources, with particular attention to our three existing gardens.

Ruth Krider, teacher, St. Anthony Park Elementary School

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