Fifth graders from Jersey City Public Schools journeyed up north to the New Jersey School of Conservation for an exciting trip of environmental education. They were able to learn the importance of our natural world by exploring outdoors. Through the efforts of Jersey City coordinator Rasheeidha Rodgers and NJSOC Program Coordinator Lisa Mills, a trip was planned to include a variety of experiences including Action Socialization Experiences (ASEs), Wildlife Ecology, Conservation Photography, Stream Geo-Ecology, and Pioneer Life.
The trip began with team-building activities at ASEs. Groups were given challenges meant to encourage students to build leadership, planning, listening, and problem-solving skills. Students had to work together to complete challenges, and could not consider themselves successful until everyone on their team had finished. They were then asked to reflect on their progress, as well as how they could improve on these skills at the next activity. ASEs are a great way to get students to work together and set a positive tone for the rest of the trip.
Jersey City students were given the chance to learn about the wildlife they might encounter outdoors. In Wildlife Ecology students are encouraged to think about what makes an animal or plant wild versus domestic. They were also asked to consider what value wildlife has for us as humans, both now and 300 years ago. Students then got the chance to be scientists by going outside and documenting signs of wildlife here at the School of Conservation. They found scat, woodpecker bore holes, and even saw some deer!
Along with appreciating nature scientifically, Jersey City students also had the opportunity to appreciate nature through art. In Conservation Photography, students learned the significance of photography in conservation efforts and some techniques used by photographers to make pictures more exciting. They were then able to get behind the camera. Students got to walk around the SOC campus and use their new knowledge to capture some amazing pictures of the New Jersey woodlands. They each got to take one of the photographs home as a souvenir of their time here.
The fifth graders also learned about the natural forces that formed the land during Stream Geo-Ecology. This class centers around the geological events such as glaciers and erosion that created the landscape in Stokes State forest. It also incorporates ecology of the Flatbrook Stream that runs through campus, allowing students to learn how pollution and environmental disturbances can impact this delicate ecosystem. Students then are able to see this in action as they travel to the streambed to look for macroinvertebrates (usually insect larvae) that can be indicators of stream health
Students rounded out their experience with Pioneer Life, a class that focuses on the culture of early settlers in the area, set in a real pioneer cabin belonging to the DeGroat family. The house was built in 1865 which gives an excellent insight into the lives of families during this time. Students learn about what tools the family would have used to construct the house and they get to try their hand at chopping wood for the fire. They also learn about what daily life would have been like and play with early American toys. Always a favorite, the students cook – and then get to eat – cornbread, which would’ve been a common meal for families during that era. All of the environmental educators and staff here at the SOC would like to thank Jersey City for another fantastic trip! We look forward to continued trips from Jersey City this year and in the future!
Written by Katie Tharrett