Forest brings families togetherAbout 60 people gathered at the Superior school forest recently to spend time with family and make Christmas decorations. The sweet scent of balsam filled the air as parents and children worked together to make the perfect wreath.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
About 60 people gathered at the Superior school forest recently to spend time with family and make Christmas decorations. The sweet scent of balsam filled the air as parents and children worked together to make the perfect wreath.
Some left with bulky, lopsided creations and others took away wreaths trimmed down to sparse circles of green. Yet regardless of the final product, many first-time wreath makers enjoyed themselves enough to make plans to return next year, like Beth DeGraef.
DeGraef attended with her four-year-old son Luke and her mother, Sue VanOvermeiren. Luke helped collect the balsam boughs in the morning, but when it came to constructing the wreath his mother and grandmother took the lead.
“I thought it was an easy thing, but then once doing it, it was a little difficult,” DeGraef said.
DeGraef ended up making two wreaths, and she said the second turned out much better than the first.
“It actually is easy,” said Roseann Larson, a math teacher at Superior Middle School. “It’s just that ending where you have to fit the last (bough) under.”
Larson was among the school district staff members volunteering time to help with the wreath program. She was new to the art of wreath-making at the start of the day, but by noon Larson was offering her expertise to first-timers Mike Weinandt and his daughter Scout.
“We’re making it for her mom,” Weinandt said. “It will be a little challenging, but I think I can manage once I get used to it.”
Scout, 7, said she had fun collecting the balsam boughs to make the wreath. When it came time to assemble the wreath, she arranged sprigs of balsam into neat clusters as her father worked with the wire and metal frame.
“I thought it would be something fun to do with my daughter, some time for us to spend together,” Weinandt said.
The wreath-making program, now in its third year under the management of the Superior school district, is meant to introduce families to the Superior school forest. The property is about five miles south of Pattison Park on Highway 35, so unless they chaperon students on a trip, many parents never have occasion to visit the school forest.
“We’re trying to really get the school forest program up and running again for all students as part of their learning experience at the school,” said Lori Danz, a Superior High School science teacher and member of the school forest advisory committee. “In addition to that, as part of the new vision for the school forest, we really want to make it accessible to the community.”
Danz said the school forest advisory committee hopes to offer four or five family events at the state forest this year and eventually expand to hold a family event each month. In February or March, a candlelight snowshoe will be held on the property. The date has not yet been set.
Ski trails are also in the process of being designed by a team at Superior Middle School. Danz said the trails should be available for use with a few years.
For instructional purposes, Danz also hopes to see increased use of the school forest.
A number of teachers have already designed lessons that incorporate a trip to the school forest.
In September and October this year, Danz said school groups utilized the school forest two to three days a week. Numbers dropped in November, but Danz said fewer teachers typically bring their students to the forest when the weather is cooler.
“I would like to see classes out there every day of the school year,” Danz said.
Danz said the district is in the process of developing programs for each grade level, but it will take a few years to complete. Eventually, she hopes to have class plans available that allow students to utilize the school forest in every season of the year.
Two new buildings recently constructed on the school forest property have helped increase teacher interest.
In May, the Superior School Board approved bids to begin construction work on the buildings. The building shells were completed during the summer, and the interiors are receiving finishing touches .
“Every week, teachers are asking, ‘Are they ready yet? Are they ready yet?’” Danz said.
For the first few years at least, Danz said the new structures will be little more than warm spaces with chalkboards for students to gather. Ultimately, Danz hopes to obtain funding to equip one building with computers and desks and convert the other into a science lab.
“We want to provide a true outdoor learning experience,” Danz said.