Get Outside - Urban Woodland for Kids
$218,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the city of St. Paul, Department of Parks and Recreation, to restore and develop an outdoor classroom for ecological education and historical interpretation at Como Regional Park in St. Paul. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2013, by which time the project must be completed and final products delivered.
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Outdoor classrooms provide students and community members with an opportunity to have hands-on experiences learning about the environment and about core subjects like science, math, and social studies using nature as the base context. This appropriation will help the city of St Paul develop an outdoor classroom at Como Regional Park that will provide environmental education, historical interpretation, and habitat for native wildlife in an inner-city community where environmental learning opportunities are rare. The development plan calls for control of invasive species for the 17 acre area, gravel pathways and signs to help visitors travel and interpret the site, and outdoor study areas featuring coniferous forest, oak savanna, tall-grass prairie, sedge meadow, transitional woodland, and propagation gardens for native plants. Site planners will work to establish the area as a MN DNR School Forest.
Trends amongst youth are showing decreasing interest in the nature world and declining involvement in outdoor recreation. Some attribute these changes to increased usage of computers and other technology that compete for the attention of young people. Through this appropriation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is partnering with several organizations to build on this potential contributing factor as being part of a possible solution by expanding a successfully piloted environmental education program that uses digital photography as a bridge between technology and outdoor experiences. Outdoor nature photography workshops for at least 1,000 teachers and naturalists are being conducted throughout the state that provide guidance on how to use outdoor digital photography to enhance student learning on classroom subjects including math, science, geography, arts, and language arts.
OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS
The City of Saint Paul developed a 17.65 acre outdoor classroom in Como Regional Park to provide environmental education, historical interpretation, and habitat for native wildlife in an inner-city community where environmental learning opportunities are rare. The woodland is located within five miles of over 75 public and private schools. To date, the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom has been utilized by 2,103 students and educators. It has become the School Forest for Great River School and Crossroads Elementary School through the MN DNR's School Forest Program.
The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund's investment in the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom has resulted in the development of outdoor study areas featuring coniferous woodland, oak savanna, tallgrass prairie, shortgrass prairie, transitional woodland, and terrace forest plant communities. Additionally, a propagation garden area has been constructed within the Classroom that will serve as a native plant demonstration garden for the public and will be utilized by students to grow native plants for the Classroom. ENRTF funds were also utilized to install 2,525 feet of ADA accessible gravel trails within the Classroom.
Funds were used to install four entry signs at each of the major entrances to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom. 27 numbered, interpretative posts were installed at key locations throughout the site. The City of Saint Paul has received $17,000 from the Minnesota Historical Society and is in the final stages of developing a guide book to the cultural and natural history of the site, referencing these numbered posts. When published, the guide book will be an invaluable resource for educators wishing to bring students to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom.
Community volunteers were engaged throughout the restoration process. 2,005 volunteers participated in restoration activities, including planting, invasive species removal, and trail construction.
PROJECT RESULTS USE AND DISSEMINATION
Our advisory committee, the Como Woodland Advisory Committee, has set up a website dedicated to the classroom: http://www.comowoodland.org/.. Progress about our project has been shared with the general public through our blog (http://restoresaintpaul.blogspot.com/.) and our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/saintpaulnaturalresources). Community volunteer events taking place in the classroom are highlighted on the City's website (http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=1043). The Minnesota Lottery recently highlighted the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom in their newly launched blog: http://blog.mnlottery.com/blog/2014/07/24/64/where_the_money_goes_como_woodland_outdoor_classroom.