Livingston Park Elementary Students Make Connections at the NJSOC

Danny Cramer

Students listen to instructions from Graduate Assistant, Kelly Triece, as they get ready for the ASE's

“Woodworking was definitely my favorite. Except for probably boating.”

“What? At lunch you said survival was your favorite.”

“Oh yeah…well, it’s top three. Plus ASEs.”

“So…top four?”

“Sure!”

Fifth graders from Livingston Park Elementary arrived at the NJSOC on October 16th for three days of environmental education and team-building challenges. They quickly learned that the hardest part of the trip would be picking only one favorite highlight out of a tightly packed schedule of fun and interesting opportunities.

They began their adventures with Action Socialization Experiences (ASEs): a series of challenges tackled by teams of ten to twelve students. While the students may not have immediately solved each puzzle set before them, they made important connections amongst themselves and learned the value of teamwork and effective communication – skills they would continue to hone throughout the week. After completing a scavenger hunt designed to familiarize them with the School of Conservation and the flora and fauna therein, the students headed to dinner in Big Timbers, the campus dining hall.

Over the following two days, the Livingston fifth-graders continued their explorations into the NJSOC and surrounding Stokes State Forest in a variety of settings: boating on Lake Wapalanne, archery, pre-industrial woodworking, papermaking, and the Confidence Course, a low ropes course designed to promote individual and group growth by allowing students to explore the boundaries of their comfort zones. They also had several opportunities to act as scientists. For Black Bear Ecology, students learned about New Jersey’s bear population and headed out to the woods to search for signs of bear activity. In the water ecology class, students searched streams for benthic macro-invertebrates in order to determine the quality of the NJSOC’s water supply.

At the end of their classes, students reflected on what they had learned about the environment, and they made connections between their own growth as individuals and humanity’s efforts to preserve the Earth for future generations. “It made me realize how much I lean on other people, and if we spread that around, more people will want to work together to help the planet,” one student said of the Confidence Course.

Even after three days full of excitement, many students expressed disappointment at the brevity of their trip. “It will be nice to use my own bathroom, since I forgot my toothpaste at home,” one boy told me. “But I am going miss it here.”

Everyone at the NJSOC would like to extend a sincere ‘thank you’ to Chris Kocis and all of the chaperones from Livingston Park for their dedication and support throughout the week.