News Post

State DNR Grants Blake School Forest Status

At about four acres, the wooded area to the south of Blake's Hopkins campus isn't large by most land standards. "But it doesn't seem small to the kids," says pre-kindergarten teacher Joanne Esser, who has been bringing her students to play, learn and explore in the woods for many years — and seeing big benefits as a result.

This past year, Esser and a group of teachers, parents and an administrator formed the School Forest Committee to help Blake obtain official School Forest status through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). After completing all the application requirements, the committee received approval from Blake's Board of Trustees to submit the request, which was approved by the DNR in May.

As a Minnesota School Forest, Blake can request a forester come out to look at the land and provide information on plants, trees and wildlife as well as advice on maintaining the area. The school will have access to teacher workshops on how to integrate use of the forest into curriculum. Student workshops are also available, as well as other teaching resources from the DNR.

Blake's School Forest Committee will submit an annual report to the DNR explaining how the forest is being used. The next step is to develop a long-range stewardship plan for the area. The committee hopes that, in addition to teachers, students and families, Blake's neighbors will also take advantage of the outdoor resources on campus.

"For me it's about the school preserving the beautiful resource of the woods and acknowledging the importance of outdoor learning," Esser says.

Blake School Forest Mission Statement
The Blake School Forest provides community members of all ages with cognitive, physical, social and affective learning opportunities. Through play and study, in groups or through solitary experiences, visitors develop a deeper understanding, appreciation, and awareness of the forest and become better stewards of the environment.