PCS School Forest History
The School Forest owes its existence to the foresight, back in 1957, of a School Board which decided to purchase not just the 12 acres needed as a site for the new local school, but also the additional 164 tract that included both the Sacketts Brook floodplain behind the school and the wooded hillside beyond the brook, all the way to the Bare Hill ridge. The Forest was partially logged in the early 1980’s and the logging roads began to be used by mountain bikes and various kinds of motorized vehicles. However, because of inadequate foot access over Sacketts Brook, for many years neither students nor townspeople made much use of the recreational and educational potential of this extensive and beautiful woodland.
During the early 90's various interested parties – the Putney Conservation Commission, the Windham Regional Commission, certain individuals, and ultimately the School Board itself – became involved in rectifying the situation. A School Forest Committee was established by the Board in early 2000, which began organizing winter snowshoe hikes and spring flower walks to increase public awareness of the Forest, and set about raising money to construct a sturdy footbridge over Sacketts Brook. Aided by a major matching grant from the Thomas Thompson Trust the Committee was able quickly to raise sufficient funds in the community and in November, 2001, an attractive structure bearing the student-chosen name, “The Portal to the Sacred Woods”, was dedicated at an all-school ceremony.
With the bridge in place it was now possible to begin developing a foot-trail system, relying almost entirely on student participation. The first After School Forest Program, involving only seven students, took place in Fall, 2002, creating a completely new foot-trail, the After School Trail. Since then successive Fall and Spring After- School Programs, involving growing numbers of students – over 10% of the student body in 2004-2005 – have created a network of fine, well-marked trails that are heavily used not only by students but also by large numbers of townspeople.
In the winter of 2004, the School Forest Committee organized the first on-campus outdoor component of the Winter Sports Program, emphasizing snow-shoeing and winter forest studies. The program was again offered in 2005 and its is expected that both it and the Fall and Spring After-School Programs will become an integral part of the School’s outdoor activities. Classes have begun to use the forest too, notable examples being a “planet walk” (demonstrating the relative distances in the solar system), a study of diseases of oak trees, and the identification and tagging of various tree species. From time to time the Committee organizes hikes for both kids and adults around themes like wildflowers, fern identification, and owl-calling. Lest we forget, we have our annual School Forest Day, a wonderful all-school activity where middle school students create myths - and accompanying costumes - and the entire school travels to various locations in the Forest to be treated to a dramatic performance of the myth.
the past several years the School Forest Committee has organized and led
six-week spring and fall programs in the School Forest. These take place
after school, two days a week, from 3 to 5 pm and are open to all
students in grades two through six. Activities have included building
six new trails, installing an information kiosk, constructing
a lean-to hideout, playing woodland games, maintaining the trail
system, and enjoying camp fires and swims in Sacketts Brook.
Out forest also gets plenty of use in the winter, as part of our winter sports program. Snow-shoeing and/or hiking, as well as some great sledding, have all taken place there during the winter months.
Walking through the forest during our annual School Forest Day * October 10, 2010