On the very blustery morning of November 25th, the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) welcomed another group of seventh graders from Jefferson Township Middle School. Sixty students filed off the buses armored in their heavy winter jackets and sleeping bags for a two-day, one-night adventure in Stokes State Forest. After stowing away their gear, they started a long day of exciting classes with a lightning round of ASE’s (team building activities) to get the students thinking and working together in their new activity groups. Then the preteens were off to a myriad of classes that encompassed all of the teaching areas at the NJSOC, from history and the humanities, to outdoor pursuits and the sciences.
The beautiful fall sun made it a perfect day to be outside even if the temperature barely reached above the freezing mark. However, the Jefferson students were well prepared and took on their outdoor classes with enthusiasm and excitement. In Orienteering, the children learned true wilderness skills by navigating through Stokes State Forest, bushwhacking through the trees and discovering an old beaver pond in the process. Other classes stopped to look at the forest more closely, like during Plant Life where everyone became a botanist for a day and learned to not only identify a native New Jersey flower but also created a pressed flower bookmark to take home with them. The students also explored the forest in other ways, getting a closer look to the natural world through a lens and camera in Conservation Photography.
This time of year students are not the only thing bustling around the NJSOC. Yes, the winter snow birds were out to welcome the Jefferson Falcons to Ornithology, where practiced their binocular skills and learned how to identify our feathered friends. Even after all these classes it was not time for the Falcons to roost quite yet. New Games and A Touch of Nature live animal show before dinner and a Square Dance and Campfire after dinner completed their marathon day.
The next morning was bittersweet. Students were welcomed by a fresh layer of fluffy snow on the ground for their departure day. Prepared with plenty of hand-warmers and hats, the students took their last morning class. Some of them braved the Climbing Wall with bare hands, while others were welcomed by the warm stove in the DeGroat Cabin for a history lesson in Pioneer Life and a side of freshly-made cornbread. Either way, the Jefferson Falcons took their classes in stride, finishing out their morning with another round of team building and then lunch before they headed back home for the Thanksgiving break.