The Goodwillie and Nelson Families
Through the generosity of the Goodwillie & Nelson families, a permanent home for the Forest Hills Environmental School was planned, built and opened to 96 fifth and sixth graders in November of 2001. The school was named Goodwillie Environmental School to memorialize Kelly Goodwillie and his genuine love and respect for our natural environment.
Yes, dreams really do come true! The dream of having an environmental school in the Forest Hills School District was hard to imagine, but after the approval from the Board of Education it became a reality in the fall of 1999. The philosophy of integrating environmental education into the curriculum and using the outdoors as a motivation for learning was exciting and ignited a great deal of interest in the Forest Hills community. Portable classrooms were installed at Camp O’Malley, fifth grade students were selected and before long, two eager teachers and 44 excited students were ready to begin this adventure together. The enthusiasm and pioneering spirit of the students and parents from the first year created unforgettable memories for those that experienced it. Going to school at camp was a unique opportunity that few people will ever experience and for those that did it was magical.
In the winter of 2000, a decision was made for Forest Hills Environmental School to expand to include both 5th and 6th grades, but lack of classroom space presented an interesting challenge. The stars must have been aligned again because Jim and Mary Goodwillie Nelson granted a generous gift to Forest Hills Public Schools to build an environmental school. Their gift was used to build the first LEED certified “Green School” in Michigan – Goodwillie Environmental School, named for Kelly Goodwillie, an avid outdoorsman. In November 2001 we bade farewell to Camp O’Malley and boarded buses for our new school. It only seemed appropriate that the students would be introduced to their “living textbook” first, so hand in hand they walked silently through Seidman Park making their way to their new school building, a founding tradition they honor each year.
The following articles from past issues of the Forest Hills Public Schools’ newsletter, Focus, highlight the donation by the Goodwillie and Nelson families and the dedication of the school in November, 2001: