Treasured Wausau School Forest Needs Updates
FOR USA TODAY NETWORK-WISCONSIN
I doubt that there are many of you who are not aware of one of the Wausau School District’s seemingly hidden gems: the Wausau School Forest, off of Marathon County KK in Mosinee and 11 miles southwest of the city on the banks of the Wisconsin River. The forest has been a part of the district’s curriculum since 1942 and has provided special learning experiences for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Wausau School District since that time. The forest of pine and hardwoods covering more than 400 acres has been a classroom unlike any other. Here, students have learned about nature, working together and recognizing that there is a little more inside of themselves than they thought possible.
The School Forest is used throughout the year by a variety of school district and private groups. The quiet setting provides a perfect retreat for many Wausau area organizations. Through all four seasons, the school forest is a wonderful opportunity to see nature at its best.
The mission of the Wausau School Forest is to recognize the interrelatedness and interdependency of all things on our planet, while the mission of environmental education is to help students become knowledgeable, skilled, and dedicated citizens who are willing to work toward achieving and maintaining a dynamic equilibrium between quality of life and the quality of the environment. The focus of our programming centers around awareness, knowledge, skills, citizen action and stewardship. Our district scaffolds this development throughout our curriculum by offering the following focus at each grade level:
Pre/K: Museum tour, nature hike, and library exposure
First grade: Microscopes, insects and sailboats
Second grade: Birds, adaptations and bird feeders
Third grade: Turkeys, bears, habitats, adaptations and human influences
Fourth grade: Lumberjacks, forestry, Wisconsin history and Native Americans
Fifth grade: Deer, wolves, winter recreation, survival skills andraptors
Sixth grade: Team building, obstacle courses, archery, rappelling, forest management and kayaking
Seventh grade: Stream studies and GPS usage
Eighth grade: Human effects on the environment and surviving the elements
Ninth-12th grades: Individualized curriculum determined by high school/leadership.
You may be surprised to learn that the original buildings at the Wausau School Forest were former Civil Conservation Corps facilities built during World War II. The buildings we currently use were first positioned on logs and later on concrete blocks with no mortar. As you can imagine, those facilities are falling into significant distress and are beyond repair in many instances.For example, the windows date pre-1950, are single pane, and were screwed and caulked into place. The roof, floors and fireplace all have shifted and have been damaged over time. Thus, the district is preparing to launch a campaign to construct new education facilities to better meet the needs of our students and to inspire future generations.
For inquiries regarding the Wausau School Forest or how you might be able to assist, please contact Jerry Maney, environmental education coordinator, at 715-693-3607.
Kathleen Williams is superintendent of the Wausau School District.