Outdoor learning sanctuary offers educational opportunities for students
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Across from Marshfield Senior High School, on Palmetto Avenue, a three acre parcel of land had been vacant and untouched until it was identified as an ideal spot for an outdoor learning environment.
The land, owned by a development firm, will be donated to the School District of Marshfield. Though not yet officially owned by the school district, the land has already been put to use. Designated the Marshfield Outdoor Learning Sanctuary (MOLS), school and community volunteers are developing the area to serve as a multi-purpose educational and recreational wetland that residents can enjoy and students can utilize for learning purposes.
The property is a natural wetland. Three ponds were excavated in 2009 to further encourage development of the habitat. Marshfield High School (MHS) Building Technology students have constructed boardwalks to help visitors traverse the property, which is densely packed with dogwood, shrub-carr, cattails, and an expansive sedge meadow.
Educational signs provide information about the wetland and plant life throughout the property. MHS Biology students compiled the information for the signs, and the Marshfield Sunrise Rotary Club funded the signs’ construction.
“Basically, (we) are striving to integrate the K-12 curriculum activities into what we’re developing here,” said Jane Wagner, a volunteer with MOLS and a former high school teacher. The mission of MOLS is “Striving to enhance environmental stewardship, healthy lifestyles, and respect for wetland habitat.”
Environmental Science students from the High School do water quality testing on the land and study the wetland ecosystem. Art photography students have used the habitat for projects as well. MOLS volunteers also believe that the area could provide students hands-on experience in the fields of horticulture, forestry, and wildlife management.
Volunteers plan to construct a shelter on the property in the future. Wagner said the shelter, which will be open-air, would serve as a laboratory for students when they are working on projects.
“It is not just a school district project. It is a community project,” Wagner said. The MOLS Committee envisions the wetland as a place the entire community can enjoy.
One of the obstacles to developing the land is the presence of buckthorn, an invasive plant species that has overgrown some of the boardwalks and walking trails on the property. The Wisconsin Conservation Corps will come to Marshfield Oct. 20-25 to help clear the buckthorn and to widen and smooth the trail surface to make it more accessible.
Funding for the WisCorps team and the wetland development comes from a District 6250 Rotary Simplified Grant, Marshfield Sunrise and Noon Rotary Clubs, and the Marshfield Area Community Foundation.
Wagner said that it has been a true community effort to get this project off the ground and that she appreciates the support of all the groups that have assisted in developing MOLS.
“In all the years that I’ve lived in Marshfield, I’ve experienced Marshfield as such a generous community,” Wagner said. “The School District has been so supportive of this project, the Rotary clubs, and now the District 6250 Rotary Foundation, the numerous volunteers that work with us. (I would like to thank) the wonderful community that we live in for their generosity,” Wagner said.
MOLS committee members are seeking $100 donors for Aldo Leopold commemorative benches that will be placed along the trails. Donors may have the name of someone they would like to commemorate carved into the benches by MHS Building Technology students when they construct them this winter.
For more information about the project or to get involved with the Marshfield Outdoor Learning Sanctuary, contact Jane Wagner by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.