Welcome to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom's Advisory Committee site
How did an forgotten, trash strewn, buckthorn infested, random bike trail riddled woodland become an outdoor learning area? A group of local neighbors and St. Paul Park and Recreation worked together to make this amazing transformation happen. The Como Woodland is now a place for you to explore and study, listen to birds, see a fox, take a photo of a wildflower in the spring, and learn about this history and story behind Como Park and the Woodland.
Come see for yourself and explore the trails! download a map to find the woodland within larger Como Park.
If you're a teacher, bring your students to listen, write, draw, study, collect data, have a quiet space. For teachers bringing students, the first step is to request a free permit at 651-266-6400. These FREE permits will help to track numbers and activities for grant reporting and maintain an appropriate level of use for the environmental health and sustainability of the outdoor classroom.
Be part of this continuing transformation. Here are ways you can be involved:
- There are both ongoing and periodic volunteer activities to help control the invasive species and assist with planting desired species.
- Join the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom Advisory Committee. Members of this committee provide advice to St. Paul Park and Recreation on the maintenance and ongoing restoration of the woodland, they help plan and volunteer at restoration and special events, and they help teachers get started in an outdoor classroom experience for their students.
- Do you have interpretive or science skills? Can you ID birds, trees, flowers, or butterfies? Because there is no dedicated paid staff to lead students and teachers that visit the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, your skills and time could be valuable. Contact the Como Woodland Advisory Committee Chair and that person will help you get connected.
NEWS AND EVENTS 2023
Spring Como Woodland Nature Tour, Early Birds & Bloomers - May 16, 5:30 to 6:30PM
Hurrah for May! Forest flowers will be coming up, oak trees will be leafing out, birds will be singing, and woodland creatures will be active, so there will be much to see and hear. We'll meet at the Kilmer Fireplace to start the tour. Joan McKearnan, professor of biology & environmental science, Anoka-Ramsey Community College; Britt Forsberg, University of Minnesota Extension Educator; and Elizabeth Carls, Master Naturalist volunteer will be our guides for this tour. Stay tuned for a sign-up link or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Citywide Spring Cleanup at Como Woodland & Como Park - April 22, 9 to 11:30AM
The 37th annual Citywide Spring Cleanup is hosted by Saint Paul Parks & Recreation and Saint Paul Public Works.
Again this year, Como Lakeside Pavilion will hand out trash bags for volunteers. However, if you would like to come directly to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, Joan will be picking up trash in CWOC and she will bring extra bags for you: Joan will leave those extra trash bags at the Kilmer Fireplace area by 9:15AM. This is a rain or shine event. No registration required - just show up with a willingness to help pick up litter in the Como Woodland and/or in the surrounding Como Park.
Como Woodland's Free Self-guided Educational System Open to the Public
CWOC is open for use all year long. Teachers and public citizens are encouraged to use the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom pathway guide post system located at our 17-acre CWOC site in Como Park. There are QR coded posts which link you to lessons in local natural history and human history throughout the site. Onsite visitors can access an abbreviated CWOC guidebook with a smartphone that is loaded with a QR code reader app or from SPPR website: CW guide QR code update. You can also access our online book formatted version of Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom Guidebook: www.stpaul.gov/sites/default/files/Media%20Root/Parks%20%26%20Recreation/CWOC_Guidebook_March2017.pdf
Please adhere to current COVID-19 safety required by the City of Saint Paul: stpaul.gov/parks-covid19
March 13, 2023 message to Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom Steward volunteers
"Good afternoon, I hope this email finds you well! Though winter does not seem to be over just yet, I am reaching out to talk about warmer weather. As we get into spring I am writing to see if you have interest in being a CWOC Steward again in 2023. If you are unable to join us we thank you for your past work but we definitely understand that plans change. I need to know the following by April 3. Are you coming back yes or no? Happy with your plot or would you like to move? Once I hear back from everyone I will create the map, condition report, email waiver and let you know if will be having a training or not. A heads up there will be a Pot Luck Picnic on June 14th (around 6pm) put on by the CWOC Advisory Committee. All are welcome to that! More details to come as we get closer. Thank you," Tricia Wehrle, SPPR Volunteer Coordinator.
Winter Tour of Como Woodland - February 25, wrap-up
The foot of snow that fell in the days before this event didn't detour the 50 attendees, which included our four hardy tour leaders: Lisa, Britt, Elizabeth and Joan; sign-in helpers Michael-jon and Gary. Thank you, Susan Jane for providing the hot chocolate that warmed everyone up before they set out on the tours to discover the signs of and the survival strategies of Como Woodland's animals and plants. We also welcomed help of the Urban Roots youth volunteers from Eastside St. Paul.
PAST EVENTS WRAP UP AND NEWS
Unhappy News To Report
"Teri Heyer [our longtime CWAC Chair] passed away December 24 surrounded by family. Both Deb and I have appreciated all the hard work she put into CWOC for over 10 years and maybe closer to 15 years. She was good at keeping the advisory committee connected to each other and to other organizations,including SPPR. I enjoyed the many hours we pulled garlic mustard and burdock together talking about ecology, books, and family. I admired the way that she faced her illness with optimism, only finally succumbing to it. She was not only a Chair Extraordinaire,but a Person Extraordinaire. Her death [from brain cancer] is truly a tragic event." Take care, Joan
*The CWAC and SPPR Natural Resources Department will be planting a tree in the Spring 2023 to remember Teri.
Wrap-up Como Woodland Nature tour Bees, Butterflies & Bugs Aug. 20, 2022
Thank you one and all for any and all help you provided to make last Saturday’s Bees, Butterflies, Bugs Nature Tour a success. We had 30 people at the event including exuberant, bug-loving children and equally exuberant adults. Special thanks go to our tour leader Britt Forsberg and our tour guides Joan McKearnan and Scott Magnuson. Susan Jane Cheney and Deb Robinson took care of tour reception and clean up duties. And the weather was perfect! Last I heard we added 19 new species of insects and spiders to our iNaturalist list (which I will post on our website as soon as I get a completed list).
Wrap-up Como Woodland is for the Birds – June Nature Tour. Saturday, June 18, 2022
We had a beautiful day on the morning of the tour. Fourteen people were in attendance including four CWAC members. The Como Woodland has long supported those birds that are just passing through on migration, those birds that stay for the breeding season, and those year-round resident birds that call this urban oasis home. Many thanks to Joan McKearnan, professor of biology & environmental science, Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Britt Forsberg, University of Minnesota Extension Educator for offering their talents to guide the tour.
Wrap-up: City Nature Challenge 2022 in CWOC and Twin Cities from April 29 to May 2, 2022
Thanks to all who participated in this year's event. Since 2016, the City Nature Challenge has grown from a friendly competition to a global celebration of urban biodiversity. By documenting the plants and animals that live nearby, you have contributed to a vast data set that will help inform conservation decisions. The final numbers of observations for our 13 county area and the Como Woodland area will be identified and posted on the iNaturalist website. Visit https://www.inaturalist.org. to learn more as the iNaturalist community helps identify your observations. There's also the project for CWOC that a Master Naturalist created as a capstone project: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/como-woodland-outdoor-classroom
Wrap-up: Explore the Nature of Winter at the Como Woodland
This, our first winter tour event, was held on a cold, windy afternoon on Feb 19, 2022. Many thanks to Susan Jane, Joan, Britt, Lisa, Laura, and Elizabeth for leading the 21 hardy attendees through the Como Woodland. Trees and bees, prairie plants and paw prints were all pointed out and discussed by our winter nature guides. But the highlight of this tour was hearing coyotes howling back to a passing fire truck siren and later seeing those two coyotes in the woodland. And fire-toasted s’mores were the warm ending to a very cool winter adventure.
ARCHIVAL EVENTS AND NEWS
Shout Out to the Master Naturalists
The Como Woodland Advisory Committee would like to thank the current class of Master Naturalists for including the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom in their capstone projects again this year - great work! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SvjsM-zTKvr8JqHoI_5j7aZbVFDal9hg/view
New Story Map of Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom https://tinyurl.com/CWOCstorymap.
For those of you looking for a quick overview of the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom Guidebook and information posts, check out the new Story Map; Thank you, project Advisor, Britt Forsberg, for putting that together for us.
Saint Paul Audubon Sponsored Brush Hauling Event Report on October 23, 2021.
From Maggie Barnick, SPPR Natural Resources Tech: "The brush hauling event with Audubon went great! NR staff cut buckthorn and other invasive or diseased/dying small diameter trees from three areas of the outdoor classroom: the two oak savannas, and the tallgrass prairie. Volunteers hauled approximately 33 cubic yards of woody debris in about an hour and a half of time. After that, we spread native seed mixes designed for each area (oak savanna, tallgrass prairie, and we also seeded the short grass prairie with a specific mix as well!). Seed was all collected at other volunteer events. I believe we had just under 15 volunteers. It was a great morning to get out!" Thank you, volunteers, Saint Paul Audubon, and Natural Resources staff.
Advisory Committee Pop-up Seed Collection Outing in Como Woodland on October 22, 2021.
Project Advisors Teri, Joan, and Deb harvested sends from Cutleaf Coneflowers, Side Oats Grama, and Big Bluestem from Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom's Tallgrass Prairie, Shortgrass Prairie, and Wet Forest plant communities. The seeds will later be sown or propagated and planted to increase plant diversity for wildlife and pollinators.
Autumn Worm Survey Results in Como Woodland on October 2021.
Project Advisors Joan McKearnan (and Deb Robinson) conducted worms surveys in CWOC on 2 October and 8 October.
Joan's report: "We had tried [on Oct. 2] at two of the propagation garden beds and in the wet forest and got no worms and only a couple in the wet forest, so we decided that perhaps it would be better to wait until it was a little dryer. On Oct. 8, surveyed in five locations and recorded the following results with 1/2 gallon pours of mustard water: Propagation Garden Bed in one of the eastern beds - 0 worms; Propagation Garden Bed in one of the western beds - 2 worms probably epigeic, but not Amynthas worms; Wet Forest - 10 worms (2 Lumbricus terrestris, others unknown, no Amynthas); Oak Savannah (northwest of fireplace where we had planted earlier in the summer) - 6 worms, no Amynthas); Oak Woodlands - 15 worms (several Lumbricus terrestris, no Amynthas)
*Conclusions: It is best to sample when it hasn't rained on the same day; The propagation garden seems to have a low population of worms at the surface which means you will not be spreading more when you transplant plants: Jumping worms (Amynthas sp.) have not invaded CWOC yet, at least where we sampled."
Saint Paul Parks Conservancy honors Como Woodland Advisory Committee on their Volunteer Recognition page: https://www.saintpaulparksconservancy.org/2021/05/volunteer-spotlight-como-woodland-advisors/
2021 Como Woodland August Nature Tour Wrap-up
On the morning of August 21we had 20 people attending this 2-hour educational/informational tour. Many thanks to Como Woodland Advisor guides Joan McKearnan, Britt Forsberg, Teri Heyer, Lisa Held, Susan Jane Cheney, Deb Robinson, and Gary Banks who shared their time and knowledge about CWOC's plants, pollinators, birds, animal tracks, project history, and site documentation. Any inquiries about this event contact Deb at: email@example.com
Shared Pictures from the Como Woodland
Visitors photos are posted on our Natural Resources Tour page.
National Lands Day Seed Collection Event in CWOC recap Held on Saturday afternoon, September 26, 2020.
This was yet another Seed Squad event that filled quickly to our 25 person limit. We harvested native seeds from Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom plant communities; Preregistration was required through SPPR Natural Resources: signup page. Thanks to all who participated!
Como Woodland Summer Open House recap
Five family groups joined us for the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom Summer Open House on Saturday morning August 22, 2020.
Como Woodland Advisory Committee members hosted the event. Susan Jane Cheney & Deb Robinson started the visitors with the QR coded guidebook and gave a project overview; Britt Forsberg covered Prairie plants and pointed out pollinators;Teri Heyer covered Oak plant communities; Joan McKearnan covered birds and Wet Forest plant community. That morning there was a lot to see: many fall warblers had dropped in to refuel, chipmunks were busy fighting over acorns, our resident doe with now-grown fawn made an appearance, and lots insect pollinators were enjoying the wildflowers. We hope our human visitors share their Como Woodland nature sightings on iNaturalist (iNaturalist.org).
Yearlong Bird Survey Update From January 2019 to February 2020
Thank you, Michael MacDonald and the many talented birders, who have generously volunteered countless hours to update the bird count for both the Como Woodland area and the Como Lake area, the yearlong count is done. The summary data for the Como Woodland bird count is: Total number of bird species seen - 86; Number of individual birds seen - 1,264; Most sighted bird species - American Robin; 24 species were only sighted once. Summary report: Como Park 2019 Bird Survey Summary
Full final report for Bird Survey: http://www.district10comopark.org/uploads/como_park_bird_survey_2019_report.pdf
District 10 article with Excel doc. pdf of 2006 and 2019 survey : http://www.district10comopark.org/bird_sightings_in_the_park_soar.html
Seed Squad Volunteers Como Woodland On September 19, 2019.
There were 15 volunteers for this year's drop-in seed collecting event in CWOC, and the volunteers worked so hard that we finished early. We collected seeds from grey coneflowers and several grasses in Como Woodland's two prairie areas. Those seeds will be propagated and planted in the 2020 growing season to increase plant diversity for wildlife and pollinators in Como Woodland and other natural parkland in St. Paul. This Seed Squad event was organized by our partners in the Saint Paul Parks & Recreation Natural Resources Department.
City Nature Challenge in the Como Woodland & Beyond The 2019 City Nature Challenge took place April 26 - 29. For the metro area we had 5,600 observations, which broke last year's numbers of 3,358 nature observations submitted to iNaturalist website (iNaturalist.org). At the CWOC site we had 75 participants that made over 75 observations. The City Nature Challenge is an annual international effort to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. It’s a bioblitz-style competition worldwide to see who can make the most observations, find the most species, and engage the most people. It was a wonderful weekend for aspiring citizen scientists, nature and science fans, and people of all ages and science backgrounds to observe and submit pictures of plants, animals, and fungi across the world.
EcoStewards Take on Invasive Plants in the Como Woodland In the first year (2015) ten EcoStewards put in an impressive 135 hours of volunteer time working on invasive plant control and removal in Como Woods. While there they also saw and heard birds and someone even found a puff ball mushroom as big as a football. In 2019 we are up to 14 active EcoStewards volunteering in the CWOC, but we could always use more help. For more information about how to become an EcoSteward go to: http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=5296
For EcoStewards - Invasive Species Survey Need to take a quick look at the Step Method of sampling invasive species? It's posted on this website (Tools for Educators - Environmental Ed Resources page). When you are at your Como Woodland site: copies of the Step Method and Survey Datas Sheets can be obtained from the locked Tool Cache Box (forgot the combo? contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Tricia Wehrle).
Wrap-up of Dedication of Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom It's worth remembering that fine Spring day years ago when we gathered together with students, teachers, Como Woodland Advisors, and dignitaries – all had assisted in bringing the CWOC project to fruition in one way or another and contributed to the project’s success. It was a day to celebrate the Dedication of the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) on May 20, 2015. READ MORE...