The New Jersey School of Conservation was happy to welcome the girls from The Brearley School once again for a week of engaging ecology classes and outdoor activities. This educational trip continues a tradition of environmental education going back over thirty years and this year’s sixth grade class arrived in Stokes State Forest ready to reaffirm that dedication. After an introduction to the school’s rules and faculty, the girls all headed to their first challenge: The Action Socialization Experiences, or ASE’s. During this team-building activity, each group rotated through a variety of tasks that pushed them to effectively communicate and cooperate to achieve their goals. At the end of each challenge, they discussed what worked, why it worked, and how they could bring these lessons forward to the next tasks and beyond. The girls rose to meet each problem head-on and their enthusiasm set the tone for the entire trip, much to the pleasure of their instructors. After the team-building challenges, the girls split into smaller groups and rotated through a variety of other classes.
The girls tackled the issue of self-confidence at either the confidence course or the climbing wall. Regardless of their choice, each student was introduced to the School of Conservation’s policy of “challenge by choice”. Although students can opt-out of any of the challenges, if the student makes the decision to try a challenge, they must give a 100% effort. Whether they faced the elevated wire and ropes course or scaled one of the faces of our wall, each girl excelled and pushed the boundaries of their comfort zones. Only by stepping out of this zone are we able to grow as individuals and build our confidence. Needless to say, the Brearley girls rose to the occasion!
The archery class allowed the girls a chance to sharpen their marksmanship skills on our outdoor range. Once the students learned the proper form for shooting with our recurve bows, they got a chance to unleash their more competitive sides in a small tournament-style competition. During boating, the girls had to again work as teams to safety pilot their canoes around Lake Wapalanne. They reviewed the basic techniques for paddling and worked together to carry and launch their boats. Again, competitive streaks emerged and races soon broke out between teams, but always ended in laughs. Both activities focus on starting from the basics, building a solid foundation, and practicing good form. This is an important set of skills to learn, and we hope the girls continue to push themselves and one another to improve on those skills.
Stokes State Forest offers many trails to explore and the chance to marvel at the wonders of nature so available to us on campus. Conservation Photography was a chance for the girls to take a walk among the trees and capture a few of those wonders. They integrated techniques such as lighting, composition, and the ‘rule of thirds’ into their photos to emphasize their individual perspectives. Afterwards, they discussed the importance of photography in efforts to conserve wildlands and framed one of their own pictures to take home. The girls continued the discussion of conserving natural resources in Metalsmithing. While heating the iron to bend for their S-hooks, the girls learned the importance of coal as a non-renewable energy source that we still use today for electricity. They discussed alternative energy sources and suggested insightful ways that they could decrease energy usage by changing their own habits.
Before they left, the Brearley girls let their theatrical sides shine through. In the Wildlife Challenge class, each group in the grade was assigned a local species and tasked with educating their peers about that animal through song, dance, a skit, or any other imaginative medium they could concoct. The level of creativity and character that the girls displayed was admirable, and the light sense of humor was a good note on which to end their trip. All of the educators at the New Jersey School of Conservation would like to wish the Brearley girls the very best as they pursue future endeavors. We hope that they take the lessons that they learned at the conservation center beyond the trees of Stokes and inspire their friends and family to do their part to protect our life supporting natural environment. We would like to thank all of the teachers and counselors involved in the trip, especially the coordinator, Mr. Tim Brownell. All of us look forward to meeting the next cohort of sixth graders for an equally enjoyable trip next year.