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Timber supports trail improvement

Fourth grade students snowshoe along the Burstrom Trail in this 2013 photo. (Submitted photo)

Students at Four Corners Elementary School will get a lesson in logging soon.

The Superior School Board on Tuesday approved the harvest of 300 cords of timber from the 40-acre school property. It’s a good time to make the cut, according to Four Corners Principal Jack Jarnis.

“The trees are at the age where we have to either take them down or lose them,” he said. He doesn’t expect the logging to take place until next winter, due to the early snow this year.

Revenue from the sale would be used to update and maintain another natural resource, the school’s 25-year-old Burstrom Trail. The trail blazed in 1985 reflects the rural nature of the school and the local connection to the land, Jarnis said. Teachers have found it to be an inspiring outdoor classroom.

“So many things that happen out on the trail could never happen in the classroom,” said first grade teacher Nate Schilling.

Thursday night, for example, Robin Silvernale led her second grade class and their families on an owl hunt along the one-mile trail. Inspired by the book “Owl Moon,” the students prepared cookies and hot chocolate for the more than 70 participants prior to the event. After a snack and retelling of the story, they strapped on head lamps and snowshoes to walk the trail in search of owls.

Each year, students collect maple sap along the trail and turn it into syrup. The yearlong activity starts with collecting wood in the fall and continues until their syrup is consumed at a pancake breakfast. Along the way, they learn about density, marketing, tree identification, measuring, Ojibwe culture and more.

“All in all, we manage to integrate every subject area into this project,” said fourth grade teacher Debra Jones. “We get outside often and get many physical workouts. We experience the change of seasons up close and personal. It’s a wonderful time to be at the country school.”

It provides an opportunity for the older students to become teachers, as well, as they lead the younger ones along the trail to explain the process.

“Our students look forward to syruping while they are at Four Corners,” Jones said. “It is a rite of passage here.”

The trail is home to many animals, including snowshoe hare, birds and deer. Schilling’s favorite season outdoors with students is fall.

“Just the leaf identification and how excited they get finding something new,” he said, and reading what they write about the experience in their journals.

In addition to the logging revenue, members of the Four Corners’ Burstrom Trail and Outdoor Education Committee are applying for a Wisconsin Environmental Education Board grant to finance the trail updates.

Every year, older students from Four Corners get the chance to see old-fashioned logging with horses as part of their “Log a Load” curriculum, Jarnis said. The logging project will offer them a learning opportunity, as well, as they see modern timber harvesting practices. And they’ll be able to watch the forest reclaim clearings in coming years.