Jersey City Joint Activities Program Savors Another Meaningful Trip to the NJSOC

The students from the Jersey City School District enjoy their environmental field trip into Stokes State Forest.

Veronica Puza

A pair of students capture images of Lake Wapalanne during their Conservation Photography class.

            Students from the Jersey City Joint Activities Program encountered unusual weather on their trip to the School of Conservation during the first week of March. Quite the opposite of the saying that March comes “in like a lion, out like a lamb” the students were treated to some sixty-degree weather on their first day with the last two days being quite cold. Nevertheless, the students embraced the variable weather, and all the NJSOC had to offer them, with smiling faces and great attitudes.

            Although their first day brought the warm weather it also brought the rain. Because of this, the student’s schedules changed for the first day. Students partook in some different classes than were originally planned such as Ornithology, Metalsmithing, and Plant Life. All of these classes can be conducted inside, sheltering the children from the elements. At the NJSOC we are accommodating to the weather - whatever best serves the visiting school. We appreciated Jersey City’s flexibility, rolling with the changes and enjoying them to boot!

            Over the next two days of their visit the students engaged in classes that took them on a journey through the woods, exposed them to life before electricity, and had their eyes opened to the largest predator that inhabits our New Jersey forests.

            Questing is one of many Environmental Science classes that are taught at the NJSOC. During this class, the students start their journey from ‘the open space where everyone plays,’ and then through the 240 wooded acres that make up the SOC’s campus. During this journey the students learned about the natural history, wildlife, and habitats that make up the great state of New Jersey. Along the way each riddle led them closer and closer to the end of their ‘quest’ but not before calling for birds, identifying trees, and getting up close and personal with some slimy inhabitants.

            “What was that used for?” is a fairly common phrase we heard during our Pioneer Life class and for good reason. This class is conducted in a hand-hewn cabin built in the late 1800s. Artifacts line the walls of this building, with objects used for making candles, washing clothes, and even using the bathroom. Most of these devices are foreign to our modern eyes, which makes it such an enjoyable class to teach. Before the Industrial Revolution exponentially changed the way of life in the United States, this is how some of the first European settlers lived. Living as early settlers gave the students a new found appreciation of how effortless they have it compared to life before electricity, indoor plumbing, and the factories that provide us with goods. This class also leads by example that with hard work comes great reward. After trying their hand at chopping wood the class concluded with a heaping portion of Mrs. DeGroat’s famous cornbread.

            Not everyone is going to jump at the opportunity to get their hands on some bear droppings, but when it comes to our Black Bear Ecology class you better believe that these city kids didn’t shy away. Bear droppings, also known as ‘scat,’ is a term used for wildlife waste and was just one of the many things we talked about during our Black Bear Ecology class. Throughout this class we broke the stigma that bears are harmful and dangerous creatures, discussed the habits and habitats of a bear, and explored the trails for any signs that bears have left behind. This class gives a much better understanding of the largest predator that lives in New Jersey as well as erases some of the fears the students came with on their trip. Don’t worry, that bear scat that was found is made of rubber; we keep the authentic scat where it belongs. Outside!

            In addition to the classes mentioned above, Jersey City also participated in Stream Geo-Ecology and Conservation Photography. They also had some great night activities that consisted of a campfire, a square dance, a night hike, and a wonderful nature presentation given by a wildlife biologist.

            On behalf of the staff, it was a pleasure to have this bright group of students visit the NJSOC! A huge thank you goes out to Anthony Maglori, the coordinator for this trip, and the wonderful chaperones from Jersey City that made this trip as great as it was. Hope to see you next year!