Wenonah’s Sixth-Graders Explore the Outdoors at the New Jersey School of Conservation

Danny Cramer

NJSOC educator, Walt Myers, teaches students about wilderness survival skills

During the first week of December, forty sixth-grade students from Wenonah Elementary School traveled from southern New Jersey to Montclair State University’s environmental field station, for a short series of educational explorations in Stokes State Forest. Over the course of three days and two nights, they tackled teambuilding exercises, worked with their hands, braved a rainstorm, socialized around their campfire, and learned valuable lessons about humanity’s interactions with the environment.

After an initial session of classes, Wenonah’s students gathered for Web of Life, a large-group activity designed to familiarize students with various concepts related to the food chain: predator-prey relationships, environmental carrying capacity, population tracking cycles, and bioaccumulation. Each student was given a specific role in a fictional food chain, along with a list of rules and goals for their assigned species. As they attempted to achieve their objectives and avoid being eaten by their predators, they came to understand the subtle bonds tying carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, and humans to the same fate. One student provided an apt summary of the lesson: “everything on the web affects us, and we affect everything else. It’s delicate.”

The next two days were filled with a variety of outdoor activities. In Black Bear Ecology and Beaver Ecology, students had the opportunity act as scientific researchers as they hiked throughout the SOC’s campus in search of signs of animal activity. During Wilderness Survival, students explored the forest with a different goal in mind: they learned several techniques necessary to survive effectively – if not comfortably – in wilderness environments. Finally, in Woodworking, Wenonah’s sixth-graders learned how to use pre-Industrial woodworking tools; at the end of class, students came away with small items that they had personally crafted.

We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to Bob LoCantore, Wenonah’s trip coordinator, and to all of the teachers and parents who gave their time and energy to contribute to a successful trip for their students. We look forward to seeing Wenonah return next year!