Students from Jersey City Public Schools had the opportunity to visit the School of Conservation this April for a few days of outdoor learning experiences. Through the efforts of Jersey City coordinator Anthony Maglori and School of Conservation Program Coordinator, Lisa Mills, the students got to experience a variety of courses. These included Action Socialization Experience (ASEs), Questing, Herpetology, Pioneer Life, and Confidence Course.
The trip began with team building at ASEs. In this activity, students are separated into small groups and are met with a variety of challenges. Each challenge is intended to boost communication, teamwork, and planning skills within the group since the challenge is not considered complete until every group member has been successful. This encourages the students to work together and sets a positive tone for the rest of their time here.
Students had plenty of opportunities to explore the natural world around them during their trip. Questing classes allowed the fifth graders the chance to experience many different aspects of Stokes State Forest. They are in charge of following the clues that will lead them on their quest. This class is also an excellent opportunity to spot signs of wildlife, and maybe even the animals themselves. The fifth graders also got an in-depth look at reptiles and amphibians during their Herpetology classes. They got the chance to meet SOC’s educational animals in the classroom, and then they have the chance to search for their own specimens. Spring is the perfect time to search for amphibians in Lake Wapalanne, and many groups caught tadpoles, newts, and even one giant water bug!
Jersey City students also got to learn about what it might have been like to live off the land during Pioneer Life. This class is taught in DeGroat cabin, an authentic pioneer cabin built in the 1860s. Students discuss how the pioneers met basic needs and what tools may have been used to get the job done. Students realize that life before automation, without modern conveniences, was labor intensive. Finishing out the class, the students make their own cornbread or “Johnny cake,” which is always a welcome treat.
The fifth graders were encouraged to get out of their comfort zones at the low ropes course during Confidence Course classes. Students got to try out a variety of different elements while teammates spotted them. This unique experience pushes students to try something new and learn to trust their team as they walk along wires strung above the ground.
The group ended their trip with Web of Life. This activity simulates how energy flows through a food web using a game of tag. Students are given ecological roles and after each round discuss correlating real-world scenarios. The entire environmental education staff of the School of Conservation would like to thank Jersey City for another fantastic trip. Special thanks to the teachers and chaperones who made the trip possible. We look forward to continuing this long-standing tradition!
Written by Katie Tharrett