Outdoor learning space at Discovery Middle School designated as an MNR School Forestry Site

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This means it gives school staff access to DNR outdoor learning training, resources for the DNR, as well as materials and programs for students, according to Lukas Gotto, DMS teacher and integration specialist.


In addition, it includes a long-term school forest management plan to help maintain and update the forest, which includes new trees, plants and, hopefully, wildlife, Gotto said. .

For a school to be designated as an MNR school forestry site, it had to own land owned by the school. According to Gotto, the school property sits on approximately 100 acres of land owned by the school district. Of this, about half was designated as forests, which will be used as an outdoor classroom.

An area behind Discovery Middle School was recently designated as a Department of Natural Resources school forestry site.  The land will be used for educational purposes, but is also open to the public as it includes nearly three kilometers of trails.  (Céleste Edenloff / Echo Press)

An area behind Discovery Middle School was recently designated as a Department of Natural Resources school forestry site. The land will be used for educational purposes, but is also open to the public as it includes nearly three kilometers of trails. (Céleste Edenloff / Echo Press)

In this forest there will be at least three outdoor classrooms and there are now almost three kilometers of trails that can be used by students, as well as the public for walking, running, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more, said Gotto. . To facilitate navigation in the region, two new large maps have been drawn up showing not only where the trails are, but also where the various sports fields are located, as well as the many ponds that are in the forest area.

Gotto said the ponds have now all been named equally, which will help students more easily identify which pond is which when studying water. In some science lessons, students take water samples from ponds. Instead of using “the north pond” or “the south pond”, the ponds are labeled Victoria, Geneva, Le Homme Dieu, Darling and Carlos, after the lakes in the region.

Lukas Gotto, teacher and integration specialist at Discovery Middle School, talks about the new forestry school behind DMS which includes ponds and trails, as well as lots of wildlife.  (Céleste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Lukas Gotto, teacher and integration specialist at Discovery Middle School, talks about the new forestry school behind DMS which includes ponds and trails, as well as lots of wildlife. (Céleste Edenloff / Echo Press)

In the forest area, which is west of the school, Gotto said the goal is to have every biome in Minnesota. This means it would include the community of plants and animals that occur naturally in the state, such as wildflowers, evergreens, and wetlands. He said the wildlife on the property is incredible and the wood duck houses that have been set up are fitted with cameras for students to observe and learn about the wood duck life cycle.

The school district has partnered with several organizations for all the work that has been done and several organizations have sponsored three aluminum docks that have been or will be installed on the trails, including Viking Sportsmen, Pheasants Forever, Alexandria Elks, Alexandria Rotary Club and the Society of Lakes of the Prairies Audubon.

Lukas Gotto points to one of the trails at the Department of Natural Resources new school forestry site at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria.  Gotto, teacher and integration specialist at DMS, helped build the network of trails behind the school.  (Céleste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Lukas Gotto points to one of the trails at the Department of Natural Resources new school forestry site at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria. Gotto, teacher and integration specialist at DMS, helped build the network of trails behind the school. (Céleste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Coming in August, 44 students in Grades 2 to 8 will participate in a “designer camp” and participate in the construction of outdoor classrooms, as well as the addition of signage on the trails and the ponds. The camp is scheduled for August 2-5.

Gotto said there were several reasons for all of the work that was done on the property, but the number one reason was the students.

“I wanted this for the kids,” he said. “And for the community. I just wanted it to be used for activities. It’s an amazing property and a great way to bring people out.


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