China School's Forest
A Working and Learning Forest
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China School's Forest-China, Maine
The China School's Forest, located in China, Maine is town-owned property open to public day use. The property is adjacent to China Primary and China Middle Schools and visitors can access the trails from the school parking lot areas. The middle school entrance is by the soccer field and the primary school entrance is by the bus circle. There are four trail loops off a central main trail and these trails feature unique outdoor classroom areas demonstrating a variety of forestry management strategies as well as features of the Maine forest ecosystem. Students and teachers frequently use these outdoor classrooms to enhance and support their learning experience. A portion of the main trail features tree identification signs and information about tree growth. Another trail loop features life-size Maine animal cut outs. Designed to show the forest as a dynamic ecosystem, we are a certified Maine Tree Farm, winning the Outstanding Maine Tree Farm Award in 1997. The trails and outdoor classrooms are managed by a small group of volunteers and is a true community project. Most structures and trails are supported by grants and community donations.
There is always something new for children and adults to discover on our trails.
Trails are open to the public during daylight hours.
Please leash and clean up after your pet.
Paper copies of the trail map may be available at each trailhead (off the middle school soccer field or by the primary school bus circle). We encourage you to take a picture of the large map so you have it as a handy reference when on the trails. Along the trails, signs highlight outdoor classroom areas, forest management strategies and natural history information. Please remember you are in a forest. Trails have roots, rocks, some wet areas, grass and other natural features common in forested areas. Trails are maintained by volunteers, so please take home any trash you bring in. Dog owners must clean up after their pet.
The Latest Forest News
Scarecrows, Story Walks and Back to School
School is back in session and our trails are ready for lots of visitors!
From September 26-October 31, we will have TWO Story Walks in our forest. The Scarecrow wanders from the China Primary School bus circle to The Reading Tree and Let's Go on a Leaf Hunt begins near the access road behind the football field and go along our Tree Identification Trail. Both are great for families to enjoy.
We also have a "Stories and Scarecrows Family Event" at 1pm on October 2 (rain date October 9) that begins at the primary school bus circle. We will read two stories and complete a fun craft. This activity is perfect for our preK-4th grade friends and their families. Please preregister by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also excited that our forest gnomes will soon be making an appearance!
Late Summer 2021
January 1, 2025
In early summer, we installed several trail cameras due to vandalism. Thankfully, our summer visitors have been very respectful of the forest and the structures. We would like to thank our many dog-walkers for cleaning up after their pets and keeping pets on a leash to protect both your pup and other visitors.
We hosted one nature day-camp and the kids loved exploring at the pond for three days. It was so nice to see kids having fun outside.
A local family shared their Story Walk, Seven Silly Eaters for the month of June and much of July. Thank you for helping make our forest a fun place to visit!
In August, we put out a new Story Walk, The Gruffalo and added a tub of books at the Reading Tree for our friends to enjoy. We also added several Tree ID signs on the main trail.
We have a few projects that need to be tackled this fall, including repairing the small bridge by the primary school playground, building some simple benches and repairing the compass. If you are available to help, contact us by email and we can discuss the projects. Our trails and structures are maintained by volunteers, so help is always appreciated.
Spring 2021 Update
January 1, 2025
As spring "marches" along, we continue to work on a variety of projects at the China School's Forest. Over the winter, we shared two different story walks and will put out another one later this spring. Students and families are enjoying them and it is fun to see the photos being linked to our facebook page.
In March, local resident, Susan Cottle, completed a Maine Master Naturalist capstone project, creating a new TREE ID TRAIL in our forest. The trail runs from the entrance by the football field/CMS up to the Stone Wall Story Learning Station. More signs will be added throughout the spring and summer.
Other forest friends used their creative energy to make forest gnomes and decorated them for several holidays. It has been fun to search for them in the forest!
As folks walk the trails, we would encourage you to help clean off the sticks and branches that fell over the winter. We hope to have a spring work day - there are always lots of projects that need to be done as a group or individually including cutting up large fallen trees, repairing some outdoor classroom areas, moving dirt to improve drainage and more. Volunteers are always needed and MUCH appreciated. If you enjoy the trails, we would encourage you to step up and help be a trail steward.
December 21, 2020
From December 21 through January, we have a story walk in the forest! What is a story walk? We laminated the pages to Night Tree by Eve Bunting and placed the pages along the main trail. As you walk the trail, you can read the story. The story ends at our "Night Tree Grove" where you can bring your own bird-friendly seed and fruit ornaments to decorate the trees. The trails are not groomed, so if the snow is deep, you should bring snow shoes and/or sleds to pull little ones. The story walk will take about 15-20 minutes of walking & reading, but you can stay as long as you want to explore the other forest trails.
The story walk begins at the trail kiosk by the bus circle at China Primary School. You can park at the school parking lot and walk down to the kiosk. A trail map is located at the kiosk and paper maps may be available - we try to restock them as needed but you can always take a picture of the trail map so help save paper!
If you enjoy the walk, we would love to have you share pictures on our facebook page or #chinaschoolsforest in your social media.
January 1, 2025
2020 has been quite the year for all of us. While most programming in the forest has been on hold, the trails are still open to the public. The trails were busier than ever this summer and it was exciting to see so many people enjoying outdoor activity.
Over the summer and fall, many volunteers stepped forward to work on trail and outdoor classroom maintenance. Ten new interpretive signs were added, including signs to explain the harvest and thinning projects we completed in the spring. As the school year began, we added seating to several outdoor classroom areas, painted fun outdoor-shapes on several outdoor classrooms to make social-distancing easier for the children. We were able to cut some of the birch and maple from our thinning project into firewood to donate to folks in need.
As you can see, the forest is still active and with the addition of snow, we hope to see many friends enjoying the trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Virtual Forest Day
July 12, 2025
For many years, China School students and staff have participated in a school-wide Forest Day. Since students have been learning at home, we decided to have a VIRTUAL FOREST DAY. This page shares lots of resources you can explore with your family. Many of these activities can be done at your home or a local park. You could even make it a FOREST MONTH or a FOREST SUMMER! If you try some of these lessons, tag us at #chinaschoolsforest and we might even feature you on our facebook page!
These are some great resources to use when you explore outside this summer.
Videos on the China Primary School Youtube page. HERE
*Videos on the Maine Project Learning Tree website. HERE
*Links to great resource ideas on the China School Forest facebook page. HERE
*Family forest activities on the Maine Project Learning Tree. HERE
Awesome TEDed Earthschool Quests for all ages
April 23, 2020
In February and March 2020, a small wood harvest was conducted at the China School's Forest. The harvest took place on the main trail beyond the Reading Tree/Wood Yard area. The harvest involved approximately 20 acres with one section being thinned of mature and over-mature fir and the other section focusing on single-tree selection removing mostly large hemlock and beech. The goal of these harvests were to remove the mature or dying trees and open up space for remaining trees to grow while maintaining a healthy and diverse forest.
The Red Pine Plantation and Seed Tree areas were thinned leaving behind well-spaced, high-quality trees. By removing crowded trees, the remaining trees will have better access to sunlight, space, water and nutrients to grow strong and tall.
Interpretive signs will be installed and there will be public informational tours of these area, hopefully this summer.
Summer Programs - 2019
June 15, 2019
CHINA SCHOOL’S FOREST DAY CAMPS AND FAMILY FOREST ACTIVITIES
Local educator and Maine Master Naturalist, Anita Smith, will be offering several day camps and family forest activities at the China School Forest. All programs start at the China Primary School bus circle, 763 Lakeview Drive, China. Limited scholarships are available, upon request. For more information or registration form, contact Anita Smith at 968-2255 or email@example.com
For updates and to RSVP for Family Forest Events, see https://www.facebook.com/chinaschoolsforest/
Day camps are for children entering grades 2-6. Space is reserved once your registration form and fee are received and you receive a confirmation email. Each day camp is limited to 10 students and run rain or shine. Cost is $30, per child, per camp. We would also love to have a few students grades 7-12 join us as Jr. counselors. If interested, please email us.
July 8-10 Pond Explorers Day Camp: We will use dip nets and learn about pond plants and animals, play games, do crafts and meet some fascinating pond critters. Prepare to get wet! 12:00-3:00pm
July 24 – 26 Things with Wings Day Camp: Have fun learning about bugs, birds and bats! We will play games, catch bugs, dissect owl pellets and do some fun crafts at this wing-themed camp. 12:00-3:00pm.
August 5-7 Happy Camper Day Camp. Build your own nature forts, explore real animal pelts and skulls, make your own hiking stick and more during this camping-themed session. 12:00-3:00pm.
FAMILY FOREST FUN ACTIVITIES
Family Activities are for all ages, even our littlest friends! An adult must accompany the child for the activity. Please RSVP on our facebook page or by email so we have enough materials for all participants. Family Forest Activities are free, but donations are gratefully accepted to help cover the cost of materials. If we have to cancel, it will be posted on our facebook page the day before the event.
July 6 Family Forest Fun: Pond Explorers. Come explore the pond using dip nets and see discover lives under the water. Can you croak like a frog or fly like a dragonfly? Suggested donation $5. 9:30-11am.
July 27 Family Forest Fun: Nature Walk, Fairy Houses and Toad Homes Gather natural forest materials and build fairy houses and toad homes in our school forest. Suggested donation $5. 9:30-11am. For all ages. You can even wear your wings and learn to croak like a frog!
August 3 (China Community Days) Wildlife Trail Scavenger Hunt: Explore our NEW Maine Wildlife Trail. Can you solve the animal scavenger hunt puzzle? Meet at the China School Forest Tent at the football field at 11am.
China School's Forest Updates
June 15, 2019
Our Maine Wildlife Trail and enhanced Bird Watching Station are here!
Check out the Bird Watching Station to see how many birds you can find and identify.
Journey down the Wildlife Trail (Starting near the SEED TREE area). Can you find the 22 animals along the trail. Our informational sign and trail guide will be installed soon!
June 3, 2019
*Build a small, wooden little library to be installed at The Reading Tree (we have printed plans for this).
*Trail maintenance - trimming trees and branches, cutting up downed trees across the trails, building small bridges and bog bridges across wet areas.
*Leading programs for children, families and/or adults. Serving as a trail docent.
*Maintaining/Repairing outdoor classroom areas as needed.
*Building and installing benches along the trail.
*Trimming and pruning trees.
What other ideas do you have?
Message us for ways you can volunteer firstname.lastname@example.org
Check back often to stay in the loop! And reach out with any questions.
Each outdoor classroom area has an interpretive sign that helps visitors understand a particular forest feature.
SILVICULTURE is the art and science of managing forests for desired outcomes, based on the biological requirements of the trees.
This area shows four different forest management treatments – each ½ acre in size. These four sections were created in the winter of 1991-1992. When you glance around, what do you notice? Are all the trees the same type, size or age? Which treatment is most likely to improve our forest and regenerate more healthy trees for future harvests?
The Seed Tree Outdoor Classroom demonstrated one type of regenerating a forest stand. The original stand was harvested in 1985. The soil was scarified (or roughed up) so the seeds could germinate. Since 1985, these trees have been left to grow.
In March 2020, this area was thinned, leaving behind quality white birch and eastern white pine. An area east of the trail was left untouched as a research project. These two areas, thinned and unthinned, will be compared over the next 20 years to demonstrate what happens with thinned and unthinned forest.
Riparian areas are habitats along the edge of a water resource such as this stream. The strip of trees act as shelter and travel corridors for wildlife. Leaving this area undisturbed during forest harvests, helps lessen the effects of soil erosion and sedimentation in the stream.
At the Wildlife Pond, visitors can learn about wetland habitats, including animals and plants. Prior to 1995, this area was a small stream that often dried up in the summer. A causeway was added for logging, and the pond was created. This is a great place to learn about macroinvertebrates, insect and amphibian life cycles and pond habitats.
This station shows a section of rock known as a BEDROCK OUTCROP. Bedrock outcrops offer a view of the rock that underlies the soil, our continent and our planet. Geologists rely on bedrock outcrops to understand the geology of Maine, including the areas covered by soil.
Using a shelterwood method of silviculture, selected trees are harvested in stages over many years. The "best" trees are left to provide seeds and shelter for the younger trees. This area has a diversity of tree species, sizes and ages. Over time, the mature trees are harvested, leaving more of the site’s resources of soil, space and water for the immature trees to grow. Shelterwoods can be useful for growing high-quality trees used for lumber and provides suitable habitat for snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer and many bird species.
The Reading Tree
The Reading Tree is a large tree house built around the trunk of a large eastern white pine. The tree has multiple large trunks because an insect called a white-pine weevil attacked the tree when it was young, creating the multiple trunks. Trees like this are often called "wolf trees" or "pasture trees" because of their large branching pattern. Come and sit in this tree house and enjoy the peaceful forest. It is a great place to read a book!
In December 2019, the roof was replaced by local contractor, Blane Casey Building Contractor, Inc. and materials were donated by Ware Butler of Waterville. Thank you!
Forest Measurement Station
Foresters use a variety of ways to measure features in the forest. Our Wood Measurement Station features a cord of wood, and a demonstration of how dimensional lumber is cut from logs.
China Primary School Pavilion
The CPS Pavilion is a great place to enjoy a picnic or an outdoor lesson. Three picnic tables, several log benches and two tables help make this space suitable for a variety of uses.
Den Trees and snags are important features in a forest.
About 1/3 of our wildlife population depend on these trees. Birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians use these trees for nesting, roosting, cover and food supply. Foresters used to remove den trees and snags because of the potential for insects and disease. We now know that many birds eat the insects which helps prevent the spread of serious insects and disease problems to other trees.
Animal Tracking Pit
The Tracking Pit is located near the pond at the edge of a cedar swamp. If you look carefully, you just might see the tracks from one of the many animals that call our forest "home".
Red Pine Plantation
The Red Pine Plantation on is the only place in the China School's Forest where trees have been intentionally planted in rows. These red pines demonstrate one way to manage forests for wood products. By planting an area with one type of tree, it is easier to harvest mature trees all at one time. These trees were planted by students in 1998. If you look at the space between each whorl of branches on a red pine, you can see how much the tree grew that year. Some of these red pines grow over one foot a year!
This area underwent a pre-commercial thinning in April 2020. Over-crowded trees, non-red pines and unhealthy trees were cut and will decay over time, releasing nutrients back into the soil.
Bird Watching Station
The Bird Watching Station was created to provide a fun place for visitors to see and hear some of the many birds that call our forest home. Common birds include black-capped chickadee, common yellow-throat warbler, nuthatch, oven bird, robin and sparrows. In May 2019, China Middle School students painted wooden cut-outs of frequently seen birds and installed them so even when you can't see real birds, you can learn what they look like.
This outdoor classroom was created by an eagle scout and later a new roof was added by another eagle scout.
China Middle School Pavilion
The CMS Pavilion is located on the main trail adjacent to the middle school soccer field. This area features four picnic tables for small gatherings, outdoor class time or a picnic. A kiosk featuring a trail map is located nearby.
Throughout the forest, there are several large tree stumps. In the early 1900's, this area was farmland and many large pasture trees grew. Some of these large trees were removed in the 1980's and 1990's for safety reasons or to open up the forest canopy for other trees to grow. The remaining tree stumps are now covered with lichen and moss that are helping the stump to decompose and creating rich soil for the next generation of trees.
Located towards the back of the property, the logging bridge crosses a small stream near a beautiful hemlock grove. It is a wonderful place to sit and be contemplative. This bridge is located near our winter 2020 harvest areas. Interpretive signs have been put at both harvest areas to explain the goals and objectives of each plot.
Fairy House Village
Whether you call them Fairy Houses or Toad Homes, this area is a place to let your imagination free. Come build a home for our real and imaginary forest friends to enjoy.
This area is still in the development stage. If you have an interest in helping to create our pollinator garden, please contact us.
The Gathering Place
Created in 2017 by a local eagle scout, the Gathering Place is a great place for small groups to gather for lessons, conversation or just to take a rest along the trails.
Stone Wall Stories
Why is there a stone wall in the middle of the forest? Who built it and what does it teach us about Maine's past? This area was once farmland. Forests were cut and fields were plowed for crops in the mid-late 1800's. Fields were needed for livestock. Much of Maine has rocky soils left from glaciers long ago. The rocks were piled along the edge of the field, creating these stone walls. In the early 1900's, due to economic hard times and centralized "grocery stores", many farms were abandoned or the land was not used for agriculture. Trees began to reclaim these fields to create the forest you see today.
Maine Wildlife Trail
Created by students in Mrs. Maroon's 5th grade class, you will find a variety of wooden Maine animal silhouettes. This trail loop starts near the seed tree area. Brochures are located at the beginning of this trail to describe what you might discover as you walk along in the woods.
The TREE TRAIL is our most recent project in 2021. Along the trail, you will find signs that identify tree species and explain how to identify trees as well as what we can learn from the outside and inside of a tree. Many thanks to Susan Cottle, Maine Master Naturalist for creating and helping install the signs. Many thanks for Project Canopy and the Oak Grove School Foundation for funds to purchase the signs.