The Hewitt School Visits NJSOC

The sixth grade girls from NYC experience the great outdoors in Stokes State Forest

Erin Keller

The Hewitt girls enjoy an interpretive hike through the woods

The New Jersey School of Conservation had the pleasure of hosting The Hewitt School’s sixth grade class as they returned for their annual environmental field trip. After an introduction to the School of Conservation and a safety briefing, the sixth graders took full advantage of the wide variety of recreational activities and environmental classes on the schedule. Their first day was packed full of exciting courses, and the students’ enthusiasm never waned.

In Stream-Geo Ecology, students identified natural water sources and discussed how water management plans break areas of land up into watersheds to better monitor water quality. The students took a hike along the Big Flat Brook and learned about the ways in which fresh water sources can change landscapes and can become polluted as they move from one large body of water to the next. After catching some stream-dwelling invertebrates to examine water quality, the girls were challenged to use their newfound knowledge to educate others and change water consumption habits at home.

The girls also took to the woods on our trails for interpretive hikes. Each hike was unique, taking on its own life based on the student’s own curiosity. While the NJSOC instructor stopped and discussed any wildlife or phenomena they saw, the students pointed out a variety of interesting finds as well. Using this form of instruction, we hope to impress upon the students the importance of asking not only the “what”, but the “why” and “how” of the world around them. Continued questioning is at the foundation of science, and natural curiosity is something we hope to kindle in all our students.

Most of the sixth graders were given the opportunity to test their confidence on the school’s climbing wall. The School of Conservation has a policy of “challenge-by-choice”, meaning no student is ever forced to participate if they feel uncomfortable. However, if the girls chose to put on a climbing harness, we expect them to give 100% of their effort on the either twenty or thirty-five foot face. The girls certainly did not shy away from this challenge and instead conquered the wall while gaining confidence in themselves.

A few students also had the opportunity to learn about the history of the DeGroat family cabin in the Pioneer Life class. Originally built around 1865 and historically restored on the grounds of NJSOC in 1975, the home of John DeGroat and his family offered the girls a glimpse into a pre-industrial lifestyle. After defining the four basic needs of humans as air, shelter, water, and food, the girls then discussed the challenges that early Americans would have to obtain these needs each day. The students then prepared cornbread on a traditional cast-iron stove, fueled by wood that they split from logs, and topped it with butter that they made themselves, making the treat all the sweeter for their hard work.

In the Metalsmithing class, the girls learned more about Early American history and the importance of iron as a resource that changed the pioneer lifestyle. Each student worked as an apprentice blacksmith during the class and hammered iron rods into S-hooks to take home. The necessity of heating iron to make it workable by placing it in a charcoal fire led to a discussion about our reliance on coal to produce electricity to power our homes. The girls then learned the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy sources, and talked about the benefits and flaws of each from a conservation standpoint.

The educators and staff of the New Jersey School of a Conservation would like to thank the coordinator, Tim Clare, and all the teachers for making this visit possible. We wish the sixth grade class of The Hewitt School the very best in their future endeavors, and look forward to the next generation of bright minds visiting our campus next year!