The New Jersey School of Conservation was thrilled to welcome Bedminster Public School to our campus for their 5th grade field trip. During their 3-day, 2-night trip, the students were able to take part in several different lessons engaging them in not only the environmental experiences Stokes State Forest has to offer but also the area’s rich cultural history.
Bedminster started their outdoor education experience with Action Socialization Experience (ASEs), a team building experience. Faced with a challenge, small groups of students figured out how to work together to overcome the problem. Throughout the process, groups fostered communication, cooperation, and respect with their teammates while their teachers witnessed their improvement from one challenge to the next.
The climbing wall, one of the SOC’s most adventurous elements, allowed the students to push themselves individually as they climbed a 20 ft. wall to start, then moved on to the 35 ft. wall after everyone had a turn at the smaller wall. Each student learned helpful climbing techniques as well as how to put on a harness and helmet correctly, then cheered each other on and offered advice about where to step while their instructor belayed from below.
During Pioneer Life classes, students had the opportunity to learn more about what life would have been like for a farmer living in the 1860s by visiting the historic DeGroat cabin. They participated in and activities from that time period, including chopping wood to make a fire and making johnnycakes, a kind of cornbread eaten by early American pioneers. After learning about the pioneer lifestyle, students got to try their cornbread and hand made butter as well as try out some toys that kids of that era might have enjoyed.
In questing classes students to take the lead on the journey through the forest, where they followed clues to interesting places along the trail. Each stop had a fun task for students to complete, such as searching for amphibians or identifying nearby tree species to figure out which direction to go next. At the end, students were led to a box full of medallions, in the tradition of early English letterboxing (a similar activity to modern day geocaching).
Bedminster students also had the opportunity to go macroinvertebrate sampling in a nearby stream during their Water Ecology class. After a brief discussion about water and what water health means for the environment, students hypothesized about the level of pollution they might find in a stream here at the SOC. They learned how macroinvertebrates can be bio-indicators of stream health because of their sensitivity to polluted water and then headed out to search for macroinvertebrates, hoping to find some tiny animals to identify.
During Beaver Ecology, students shared what they knew about beavers, and asked questions about behavior, including how environments are engineered to create lodges and dams, diet, and natural predators. Then students went on a hike out to a wet meadow area where up until recently beavers had been found. The kids were able to see the remains of a dam, food raft, and lodge left behind when the beavers left the area.
The staff of the NJ School of Conservation would like to thank coordinator John Philips and all the Bedminster teachers for making this visit possible. We really enjoyed working with these students and wish them the best of luck with whatever adventures their futures bring. We look forward to Bedminster’s next environmental education trip with us!
Written by Mary Birrer