Bridge and lake in autumn
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Jefferson Gold visits Stokes State Forest for an environmental education experience

Posted in: NJSOC Announcements

Jefferson Gold Students during Conservation Photography

The New Jersey School of Conservation was happy to once again welcome the Gold Team of Jefferson Township Middle School for two days of outdoor activities and environmental classes. After an introduction to the school’s rules and faculty, the students refueled at lunch and took on their first class: Action Socialization Experiences, or ASEs. During this activity, groups rotate through a series of challenges that push them to sharpen their communication and cooperation skills. At the end of each challenge, they broke down the different problems that they faced and how they either failed or succeeded at overcoming them. After these team-building activities, the students split into smaller groups and rotated through a variety of other classes.

The Gold Team got to slow down and relax with a fishing pole in Fish Ecology. During class, the students discussed adaptations that fish have developed over thousands of years to live in their wet environment. In the chilly November waters of the lake live two different species of sunfish: bluegill and pumpkinseed, as well as a few largemouth bass. Each class was tasked with weighing, measuring, and identifying the species of the fish for a population study. However, it seems like the lake fish were getting ready for the winter and evaded our hooks! Luckily, the seventh-graders of Jefferson were able to take closer look at the denizens of Lake Wapalanne during Boating. The students worked in teams of two or three to explore in their canoes around the south end of the lake. Once they got used to the rhythm of paddling, their canoes were off exploring coves and downed trees around the edge of the lake, searching for the many turtles and frogs that make the lake their home. Some students even felt confident enough to start races and maneuver around the small islands in the water.

During their trip, the students were challenged to push themselves in various ways. On our Climbing Wall and Confidence Course, each individual was introduced to the School of Conservation’s policy of “challenge by choice.” People all have different skill and abilities that they can bring to a team setting, and so we all have different limits when it comes to challenging situations. No educator here ever forces a student to put on a harness or step onto a confidence element. However, once they do, we expect them to give one hundred percent of their effort to push themselves. It was very apparent that every student from Jefferson put their best effort forward and rose to the challenge. Students were also given the choice to test their confidence on the school’s archery range. The archery range required a different set of skills as students worked on shooting form and technique. Most learned pretty quickly that self-confidence was the real target of this course.

Jefferson Gold Students on the Climbing Wall

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 Jersey City to take a walk among the trees and capture nature at its finest. On their walk, the students learned to utilize techniques like lighting, colors, and the rule of thirds to highlight different perspectives of our natural world. As the next generation, the students’ views of our environment will shape future efforts to conserve and protect wild places, so it is important for them to become familiar with them. Afterwards, they printed one of their own photos to take home and discussed the how photography can impact conservation of our natural resources. Questing also tasked the seventh graders with finding their way through the woods, following clues to lead them to a stash of treasure hidden. While self-confidence is important to expand, we should not let it get in the way of teamwork. Students each had a chance to take the lead of the expedition, but also had to work through the clues together to reach their goal.

The educators and staff of the New Jersey School of a Conservation would like to thank the coordinator, Kelly Tarsitano, and all the teachers of the Jefferson Township Middle School for making this visit possible. We wish the seventh grade classes of the Gold Team the very best in their future endeavors, and look forward to the next cohort of their peers!

Written by Erin Keller