The Madison School Forest

Conservation is the state of harmony between man and the land” – Aldo Leopold.

Inspired by Leopold, Paul furthered his dream to combine his passions for education and conservation by launching the Madison School Summer Conservation program. Started in 1953, students enrolled in the summer program would earn school credit in exchange for working on conservation projects.  It was the first program of its kind in the nation.  As a successful and visionary educational model, this program spawned several similar efforts across Wisconsin.


The summer conservation program started with protecting waters and streams, but he advanced the idea to include forestry.  In 1958 an anonymous donor gave 160 acres of forest land to the Madison public school system to be used for educational purposes and as an outdoor laboratory.  The forest land, previously known as “Stewart’s woods” is located 13 miles from Madison, southwest of Verona off of Highway 69.

This land became known as the Madison School Forest.  The Madison School Forest became home to numerous outdoor education programs, with Paul serving as the  founding director of its summer conservation program.


In 1980, an area of the School Forest was dedicated to Paul Olson.  Olson Oak Woods  is located off the Wilderness Trail. “Mount Olson/Paul’s Peak” is located just south of the main camp, and is the highest point in the forest.

Today, school children and others visit are able to visit the School Forest to learn about nature and enjoy the beauty of the environment thanks in part by Paul’s efforts in building an “outdoor classroom.”

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