The New Jersey School of Conservation was once again happy to welcome the girls of Brearley for a week of engaging ecology classes and outdoor activities. This 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 activity: Action Socialization Experiences, or ASEs. This team-building class has the girls split into groups and rotate through a series of challenging tasks. The challenges are all designed so that no one person can complete them alone. However, instructors are less interested in seeing the task completed as they are in seeing how the girls develop as a team across all of the tasks. The girls of Brearley strengthened the bonds of friendship and expanded their communication skills, creating a positive atmosphere that lasted for the rest of the trip. After this, the girls split into their advisory groups and headed out for their individual classes.
The girls had to again work as teams to safety pilot their canoes around Lake Wapalanne during boating. They reviewed the basic techniques for paddling, and worked together to carry and launch their boats. Archery allowed the girls a chance to sharpen their marksmanship skills on our range. Once the students brushed up on the proper form for shooting with our new compound bows, they got a chance to unleash their more competitive sides. 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, not just from athletic and recreational standpoints, and we hope the girls continue to push themselves and one another.
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 NJSOC instructors do not force anyone to attempt any of the elements, if the student makes the decision to try we expect them to give 100% of their effort. Those on the confidence course had the opportunity to try out some new elements to the NJSOC, not only building confidence in themselves, but in each other. On the climbing wall, the girls cheered each other on and some had the opportunity to try the moving “caterpillar” climb. Needless to say, Brearley’s girls hardly had difficulty taking on new challenges or pushing themselves higher.
Stokes State Forest offers many trails to explore and the chance to marvel at the readily available beauty of nature. Conservation Photography was a chance for the girls of Brearley to take a walk among the trees and capture a few of those wonderful scenes. 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 wildlife 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 girls of Brearley got the opportunity to let their theatrical sides shine through. In Wildlife Challenge, each group in the grade was assigned a local species and tasked with educating their peers about their animal through song, dance, a skit, or any other imaginative medium they could come up with. The level of creativity and character the girls displayed was admirable, and the light sense of humor was a good note to end their trip on. All educators at the New Jersey School of Conservation would like to wish the sixth grade class of Brearley the very best in their future endeavors. We hope that they take the lessons they learned here beyond the trees of Stokes and inspire their friends and family to do their part to protect our environment. We would like to thank all of the teachers and counselors involved in the trip, especially the coordinator, Cait Bradley. All of us look forward to meeting next years’ sixth graders for an equally enjoyable trip next year.
Written by Erin Keller