The New Jersey School of Conservation was happy to welcome Arthur M. Judd Elementary School once again for their annual fifth grade class trip. This trip marks the 42nd year of Judd’s dedication to outdoor environmental education and this year’s fifth graders arrived at Stokes State Forest eager to take part in the tradition. After an introduction to the school’s rules and faculty, the students all headed to their first challenge: Action Socialization Experiences, or ASEs. During this team-building activity, each group rotates through a variety of tasks that pushes them to effectively communicate and cooperate to achieve their goals. At the end of each task, they discuss what worked, why it worked, and how they could utilize these lessons for the next tasks and beyond. ASE tasks are designed so that one person alone cannot complete them, so even if one student managed to come up with a solution, they would need to rely on their group to help pull it off. After this, the students split into smaller groups and rotated through a variety of other classes. Between their classes, the students also got to rotate through recreational activities like Wall Climbing, Archery, Confidence Course, Rocket Launching, and New Games.
Stokes State Forest offers many trails to explore and the chance to marvel at the wonders of nature so available to us. Conservation Photography was a chance for the students of Judd 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 an individual perspective. Afterwards, they discussed the importance of photography in efforts to conserve wildlife and framed one of their own pictures to take home. Orienteering also allowed the students a closer look at the wilds around them. The students were introduced to the parts of a compass and learned how to set or determine a bearing based on land markings. After that, their new abilities were tested by receiving a bearing from an instructor and one-by-one leading the group from point to point along a course. Along the way, they learned how to determine their pace length and how to determine the accuracy of a landmark by back bearing. The fifth graders successfully navigated their way back to the School of Conservation and gained an appreciation for the skill needed to navigate by compass through the wilderness.
Not only did the students get to explore the state forest, but they also learned about a few creatures that inhabit it. White-tailed Deer and Beaver Ecology both introduce the students to some of our wild neighbors. Each class starts with a discussion of different facets of the animal’s life, such as physiology, diet, and interaction with humans. The lesson then moves to a short hike to relevant sites on NJSOC’s campus to look for signs of wildlife. Forest and Water Ecology dive deeper into the habitats that these species inhabit. While students discussed the roles that our trees play in maintaining a stable ecosystem in Forest Ecology, those in Water Ecology learned how all habitats are connected through the constant flow of streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Either by taking a hike and learning the trees that make up New Jersey’s forests or by turning over rocks in the streams to meet some of our aquatic locals, the fifth graders got to learn about what different factors keep an ecosystem healthy.
During their stay, students also got the chance to learn about the early American life in Colonial Homelife and Metalsmithing. While the latter introduced the students to the process of learning a trade, the former talked about the familial aspect of daily life. The Colonial Homelife class toured the DeGroat cabin, an authentic 19th century cabin built by John DeGroat for his family. The group cooked apple cobbler in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Students in Metalsmithing became apprentice blacksmiths and learned what their job entailed. They worked in pairs to shape iron rods into S-hooks and individually to create a tin pattern.
The educators and staff of the New Jersey School of a Conservation would like to thank the coordinator, Karen Homeyer, and all of the teachers and chaperones for making this visit possible. We wish the fifth grade class of Arthur M. Judd Elementary School the very best in their future endeavors, and look forward to next year’s class joining us!
Article written by Erin Keller