DNR, Michigan Tree Farm System host program to help fund transportation for forest field trips

LAPEER COUNTY — “Nature Deficit Disorder” describes how children are disconnected from nature because they spend most of their time inside with smartphones, television and computers instead of playing outside with their friends, classmates and families. Author Richard Louv popularized the term in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.” This is true of both urban and rural children and getting worse as more children have smartphones instead of hiking sticks. However, many organizations are working hard to get children outside to discover Michigan’s beautiful forests.

Wheels to Woods

Wheels to Woods, hosted by the Michigan Tree Farm System in partnership with the DNR Forest Resources Division, works to do just that. School field trips are a great way to get students outside to learn about the forest, but many schools in Michigan do not have adequate funding for transportation. Through Wheels to Woods, foresters are providing up to $1,000 per school to help teachers with transportation costs for educational field trips to any forest.

In the first half of 2016, Wheels to Woods funded 75 field trips that brought 6,145 students, 250 teachers, and 991 parents outside into the forest.

Students have studied Great Lakes coastal forests, wetlands, forest management, invasive plants, endangered species, maple syrup, birds, predators and even explored the forest by canoe. Students have gone to nature centers, county parks, state parks, family forests, national forests and forests owned by their school. Most of the first 75 trips have been urban schools in the southern Lower Peninsula, although all schools in Michigan are eligible.

Wheels to Woods is supported by generous donations from the United States Forest Service, DNR Forest Stewardship Program, Michigan Tree Farm System, American Forest Foundation, Michigan Forest Products Council, Michigan Association of Timbermen, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, Michigan Forest Foundation, Michigan Project Learning Tree, Michigan Society of American Foresters and other foresters and forest-product companies. Wheels to Woods has obligated 85 percent of its available funds and needs to raise more funds to offer grants to schools in the fall. The first 75 trips have cost only $4.50 per student.

What Can You Do?

There are a variety of things you can do to help get students outside and into a forest.

Volunteer with a local scout, church or other youth group to go hiking or camping in the woods this summer.

If you own forest land, offer to host an educational field trip this fall for a nearby school.

“Like” the Michigan Tree Farm System Facebook page to see students outside exploring the forest.

Share the news about Wheels to Woods funding with teachers at local schools. The one page application form is available at www.TreeFarmSystem.org/School-Forests.

Donate to the Michigan Tree Farm System to help offer Wheels to Woods again this fall. Donations are tax deductible, and all funds are used for the schools. Send a check payable to the “Michigan Tree Farm Committee,” with “Wheels to Woods” on the memo line, to 110 West Michigan Avenue, Suite 100, Lansing, MI 48933.

Forest Facts.

Did you know that Michigan’s Project Learning Tree has trained more than 3,000 teachers and informal educators in outdoor education curriculum? Project Learning Tree is sponsored by the American Forest Foundation, the same national organization hosting the American Tree Farm System.

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