Huron Pines Leads Day of Service to Spruce up Vanderbilt School Forest

Over 100 volunteers came together at Vanderbilt Area School (VAS) on May 21 for a Day of Service to enhance the school grounds and school forest through landscaping, tree planting and trail building. The entire student body participated alongside local volunteers, AmeriCorps members and Huron Pines staff. Each spring the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program leads a day of service for AmeriCorps members from across the region to come together to support a community project.

Huron Pines has been partnering with the Vanderbilt Area School since 2017 to help students, staff and the community reimagine their school forest property as a place to extend their classroom learning to an outdoor setting and build connections to their natural community. The 2021 Day of Service was a way to continue that effort while engaging Huron Pines AmeriCorps members in a meaningful project to benefit the students and residents of Vanderbilt.

“Vanderbilt Area School is a great location for this year’s service project because of their school forest and trails which are open for students and the public to use throughout the year,” said Amanda Vanaman, Huron Pines AmeriCorps Program Manager. “Not only do students have the benefit of participating in educational programs like nature journaling and observation at their outdoor classroom but the community can use it year round for hiking and snowshoeing. The bonus is that our AmeriCorps members get to work directly with students on a project that’s beneficial to their school and community.”

Over 2,000 red and white pines were planted on the school forest property. The first major step in a forest management initiative that aims to cut new trails and plant 9,900 trees across the 110-acre forest over the coming year. The tree planting project is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Stewardship Program with funding from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Project Learning Tree, and the Arbor Day Foundation.

In addition to tree planting, volunteers worked across several project sites. Huron Pines AmeriCorps members and Huron Pines staff led VAS staff and K-12 students in landscaping and planting hardwood trees near the school, trail clearing and building, and the completion of a school forest classroom.  

“One of our goals is to instill a sense of pride in the students in their school and the property and days like this really accomplish that,” said Principal Matt Saunders. “This is something the kids will talk about for years to come.”

To prepare for the Day of Service, Vanderbilt students built wooden garden boxes for the schoolyard, a weatherproof classroom supply storage box, and additional seating for the school forest classroom that were installed during the event.

Huron Pines AmeriCorps is a program of Huron Pines and is supported in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Michigan Community Service Commission, Huron Pines and contributions from host sites. The Vanderbilt Day of Service was supported by the Otsego Community Foundation COPS Fund, Kohnert Family Fund, Rotary Club of Gaylord Fund, Cwik Holly by Golly Fund, Youth Fund and the Kiwanis Club of Gaylord. In-kind materials, equipment and assistance were provided by Bunker & Sons Sawmill, Home Depot and M&M Excavating.

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