Lafayette School Ventures to Montclair State University's NJSOC

Local school spends time learning about the environment in Stokes State Forest

Emily Bonder

A student tries to identify a plant during the Plant Life class.

On a beautiful day in mid May Lafayette Township School brought their 5th graders to the New Jersey School of Conservation (NJSOC) in the middle of Stokes State Forest for their annual environmental education trip.  The Lafayette students had a great three-day trip experiencing a variety of different outdoor classes and activities.  They started their trip off with an activity known as the Action Socialization Experiences (ASE’s).  These experiences consist of a series of challenges that the students have to work together to solve.  The challenges require all the students to communicate effectively in order to come up with and implement a plan for tackling the challenge.  All the Lafayette students in each of the field groups worked together nicely to solve the challenges.   The ASE’s are a great way to start the NJSOC experience and it wasn’t long before the Lafayette students were talking and listening to their classmates in a new way. 

Throughout their visit the students took part in a variety of different classes focusing on the natural environment.  In a Herpetology class they learned about reptiles and amphibians before being outfitted with dip-nets to sample the waters around Lake Wapalanne looking for the critters they just learned about.   The weather cooperated nicely for this activity and everyone captured and examined different species of frogs, turtles and salamanders. 

The Plant Life class was a big hit as the students searched the great outdoors for different native and non-native plants. The students learned about the process of collecting and classifying different specimens.  At the end of the class, each student informed the rest of the class about the plant they chose and then created and laminated a bookmark of the specimen to take home with them.

A significant part of the NJSOC environmental experience centers around the historical uses of natural resources.  During the Early American Woodworking class the Lafayette students learned about the development of the tools that were used in early American times.  After some instruction on how to use the tools, the students then created an artifact, of their own choosing, out of a piece of wood.

Mixed in with these classes, the field groups also spent some time on the NJSOC Confidence Course.  The Confidence Course allows the students to work together, challenge themselves and build personal confidence.  As the Lafayette students worked their way through the individual elements on the course, everyone gained confidence in their ability to tackle novel experiences.

The fifth graders from the Lafayette School were a pleasure to host at Montclair State University’s environmental field station, the New Jersey School of Conservation.  We thank all the teachers and parents who helped out, especially Kara Tremain for organizing and leading this trip.  We look forward to seeing the students and teachers from Lafayette School next year!