Last September, the students at Minnetonka’s St. David’s Center hosted some pretty cool guests: a team from the Conservation Corps of Minnesota (CCM), which partnered with the DNR to help improve school forests around the state. “Our first priority was to make the St. David’s school forest safer by removing hazardous trees,” says Kim Pleticha, communications coordinator for the DNR’s division of forestry. “Then, St. David’s wanted to enhance the kids’ outdoor learning experience by building some tables, benches and a cute little house….[They] wanted more natural play features, and this project made that happen.”
“We also had three classes of kids [preschool through second grade] participate in a service-learning opportunity put on by the CCM team,” adds Jayson Palm, St. David’s Center’s director of facilities and risk management. “CCM showed the kids the gear they used, and then had the kids help pick up the twigs and branches that had fallen during the week.” Staff members at the center had worked for several months to come up with a list of potential projects for the initiative (which they received after applying to the CCM program). “We’d been dreaming for a while of several projects, but didn’t have the bandwidth to accomplish them,” says Palm.
Both Pleticha and Palm say the biggest reward of the collaboration was seeing the students’ excitement about it. Palm says, “The kids pressed themselves up against the playground fence to get a good look at the CCM group as they worked” and asked lots of questions. “The service-learning project was icing on the cake.”
Pleticha adds, “The CCM crew told us they really loved this project—the loved the work, the teachers, and especially the students. (I mentioned the kids were adorable, right?)”
St. David’s Center
3395 Plymouth Road, Minnetonka
St. David’s Center has a designated school forest, which means the DNR supports them with education and forest management. The DNR has more than 130 school forests across the state. Learn more by clicking here.