Oshkosh Area School District focused on preserving and enhancing outdoor learning space
Tucked behind Oakwood Elementary School, Sheldon Nature Area, offers endless learning opportunities for students and the public. Nearly 50 community members recently gathered to learn about the area and its potential. The opportunity was made possible by volunteers of the Sheldon Nature Area Committee (SNAC), the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD), and the OASD Education Foundation.
Encompassing 26-acres, the Sheldon Nature Area is located at 1225 N Oakwood Road in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At least eight native Wisconsin ecosystems exist or are under development in the area including prairie, wetland, wet-mesic forest, old field, evergreen forest, oak savanna, pond, and stream. In 1991 the area was donated to the District, and with the help of a lot of hardworking volunteers and a grant from the EPA, the area was cleaned up and redesigned. Since then, numerous improvements and investments have been made to the area including planting native plants, creating two miles of gravel trails and bridges, constructing a floating classroom in the pond, and constructing an outdoor classroom and pavilion. The Sheldon Nature Area is open to the public, and visitors are welcome to explore and enjoy the area. Additionally, the area’s large pavilion can be reserved by community members through the Oshkosh Recreation Department’s facilities reservation request process.
The OASD and SNAC volunteers are committed to preserving and enhancing the Sheldon Nature Area, including having the area designated as a school forest. School forests present teachers and students with numerous opportunities to learn in the outdoors. Additionally, as a designated school forest, the area would benefit from Department of Natural Resources (DNR) support, including curriculum resources, land management assistance and more.
Unfortunately, the Sheldon Nature Area - along with many areas in Wisconsin - is experiencing a severe infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). An invasive beetle that has decimated ash trees all over the midwest. At Sheldon, 95% of the seven-acre forested area is Green Ash and much of it is already infested and dead or dying due to EAB. The OASD and SNAC volunteers have been working to develop a solution to stop the spread and preserve the area as an incredible natural resource and educational space for students and community members. While it may look different, the OASD and SNAC volunteers are confident that the Sheldon Nature Area will continue to thrive for generations to come.
The District’s school forest designation will go to the Board of Education for approval on August 24, 2022. Questions regarding the nature area can be directed to: Steve Maassen, President of Sheldon Nature Area Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or Drew Niehans, OASD Executive Director of Business Services at email@example.com.
More information and progress reports will be available on the OASD website at www.oshkosh.k12.wi.us/district/sheldon-nature-area.