Rumson Students Endure Wintery Weather During Their Annual Outdoor Environmental Education Experience

Once again, the Rumson Country Day School returns to the snow covered landscape of Montclair State University's environmental field station, the New Jersey School of Conservation.

Veronica Puza

A student captures a different perspective on the tracks left by a red fox in the snow along the shoreline of Lake Wapalanne during Conservation Photography.

   During the first week of February, the Rumson Country Day School had a chilly yet rewarding experience during their four-day trip to the New Jersey School of Conservation. Within those four days the students partook in a variety of classes, including Orienteering, Metalsmithing, Confidence Course, Conservation Photography and Survival.

            As tradition dictates, the first activity had the entire group of students participate in the Action Socialization Experiences.  The ASE’s are designed to foster teamwork and cooperation among the students.  Through a series of challenges, the students learn the value of effective communication, planning and cooperation. The ASE’s are focused on the skills that students will need to develop to be a successful team player in the real world.

            Something that is unique to RCDS is their re-visitation to the ASE activity on their last day. However, for this second go around, the level of difficulty for each of the challenges is a bit harder in order to evaluate how well the students have learned to work together during their visit.

            The Orienteering class was taught by Rumson teacher Raquel Falotico.  This hands-on session kept all of the students involved in learning the parts of compass, how to set a bearing and how to identify an appropriate landmark.  While developing an appreciation for using a compass accurately, the students took turns leading the group through the forest on the orienteering course. The School of Conservation believes that teaching basic orienteering skills to students is an essential outdoor skill that develops their confidence and increases their comfort level in natural areas. Ultimately, this should foster a greater appreciation and improved environmental ethic, which is the goal of our environmental education program.

            Rumson’s students also participated in one of our Wilderness Education Activities, a Survival class, taught by Rumson teacher Mark Fallone. This class taught students about what to do in survival situations and how to apply those skills to their everyday lives. For example, one exercise used the acronym S.T.O.P., which stand for Slow down – Think – Observe – Plan.  In a crisis situation it is imperative to stay calm and follow through each step in order to achieve the right state of mind to handle the situation. Students can use the same exercise in their day-to-day lives by using this method to prepare for taking an important test. If you start to panic when that piece of paper is in front of you, the best thing to do is to slow down, think about how you are going to approach it, observe the questions, and then plan out how you’re going to accomplish the task at hand.  Along with the S.T.O.P. exercise, other topics covered in Survival class were prioritizing our needs, improvisation, as well as resourcefulness when confronted with a sticky situation.

Another popular class the students took during their stay was Conservation Photography.  Rumson teacher Casey McChesney took the lead in this class, helping the students understand the connection between photography and the conservation movement.  After some basic instructions on how to take a good picture, the students travel around campus capturing images for the natural landscape.  Towards the end of the class, each student prints out their favorite image and presents it to the rest of the class.

            To break up the more academic classes, the Rumson students participated in a full-group activity called Web of Life, an exciting game of predator and prey. This session enables the students to simulate how the food web operates in nature, and provides for some good old-fashioned running around fun. 

Metalsmithing was also taught during Rumson’s visit and was enjoyed by all.  This class gave the students a chance to work with a blacksmith and learn about the historical use of natural resources, like iron ore.

            On behalf of all the SOC staff, we would like to thank Rumson for continuing the long-standing tradition of their annual visit to Stokes. A special thank you to long-standing coordinator, Tom Scott, as well as all of the teachers and chaperones for taking the lead in many classes during their stay here. See you next year!