Sixth graders from South Harrison Middle School traveled to Stokes State Forest this week for a four-day trip at the New Jersey School of Conservation. The students got the chance to try out lots of new things and learn more about the world around them. Together with South Harrison School’s Coordinator, Carolyn Olsen, and SOC’s Program Coordinator, Lisa Mills, planned an exciting and fun-filled trip. Students experienced a variety of courses including Boating, Archery, Metalsmithing, Pioneer Life, Orienteering, and a half day hike to Tillman’s Ravine and Sunrise Mountain.
Here at the School of Conservation, we love to promote activities that excite students about getting outdoors. Boating in Lake Wapalanne is one of the activities that lets students see the campus from a new perspective. The sixth graders were sent out onto the lake in canoes, hoping to see some of the wildlife that inhabits the lake including painted turtles, Great Blue herons, and even an occasional river otter! Getting into a boat is a great way for students to explore the world. The sixth graders also loved participating in Archery and target shooting with a bow and arrow. Students worked on their aim and engaged in a little friendly competition. Yet another great activity that gets kids outdoors, many areas have archery ranges where archers can practice their skills.
South Harrison’s sixth graders got the chance to try out something unique in Metalsmithing. This class teaches students about early blacksmiths, how they honed their craft, and just how much work was put in to making even small metal pieces by hand. Students then get the chance to get their own hands dirty as they take to the forge and crafted their own metal S-hook. They also got the chance to create more delicate designs by poking holes through tin, which would fall into the category of “white-smithing” due to the fact that working tin doesn’t require heat and therefore creates no soot.
Students learned about early settlers to this area during Pioneer Life. In connection to their discussions back at school about early civilizations, here they learn how pioneers here in America worked to secure the basic needs of shelter, food, and water. Students gain an appreciation of how much work all of these things required before automation as they try splitting wood by hand and making their own butter. Of course pioneer children had fun as well and students had a great time playing on stilts. At the end of a day of work, the class was treated to homemade cornbread or “Johnny cakes” that they worked together to cook on a wood burning stove.
During Orienteering, students learned how to use a compass to navigate in the world. By setting bearings and accurately tracking their direction, they trekked through the woods, learning different orienteering skills along the way. A sense of direction definitely came in handy as the students set out on their hikes as well. They began at Tillman’s Ravine, a unique natural area, filled with interesting geology as well as flora and fauna. After this they travelled to the top of Sunrise Mountain. Beginning at a pavilion constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, they hiked a small part of the Appalachian Trail before descending down the mountain towards the NJSOC. Along the way they discussed interesting natural features and got lots of practice navigating by reading trail markers.
All the educators and staff here would like to thank South Harrison for an excellent trip! A special thank you to the teachers and chaperones who worked so hard to make this trip possible. We look forward to South Harrison continuing this tradition in the future.
Written by Katie Tharrett