The jovial Stone Bridge seventh graders returned to the New Jersey School of Conservation for another action-packed adventure in the heart of Stokes State Forest. Ushering in the first week of spring and the promise of warmer weather, the students took to their classes bright-eyed and bushy-tailed much like the wildlife shuffling through the forest. Thanks to the Stone Bridge coordinator Mrs. Beth Hansen and the School of Conservation’s Lisa Mills, the students had a variety of classes ranging from ecological lessons and social sciences to extreme outdoor pursuits like rock climbing to enjoy.
During their stay, the students took part in Pioneer Life, a class that revisits the pre-industrial era to demonstrate how American pioneers used natural resources in their daily lives. They explored the old DeGroat cabin and learned about the hard work and daily chores the pioneers had to do every day. The seventh graders had fun splitting wood and cooking cornbread on a wood-burning stove. The class truly recreates the atmosphere of bygone days, as the DeGroat Cabin was originally constructed in 1865 only four miles away from the NJSOC. DeGroat cabin was moved to the SOC campus in the 1970s to be used as an immersive classroom.
Standing tall up in the forest canopy, the SOC’s climbing wall is both a daunting physical test and a mental challenge. The Stone-Bridge seventh graders took to the wall with unrelenting fervor and proved to themselves that embracing challenge provides the opportunity to grow, build confidence, and find they are endlessly capable. From 35 feet above the forest floor, the smiles were wide and the cheers of classmates echoed throughout the woods.
The SOC’s Web of Life class rounded out students’ trip of discovery and fun. The seventh graders learned the core aspects of Stokes State Forest wildlife ecology. First, they participated in a discussion about energy transfer through the trophic levels from producers to top-level consumers. These included herbivores, omnivores, and predators that reside in Stokes State Forest. Ready for competition, the students were assigned a role in the food web and went outside for an ecological simulation in the form of a game of tag. The goal was to collect all the basic needs for survival and live out the round without being eaten by a predator. The students had a blast running around competing with their classmates pretending to be wild animals.
As always, the School of Conservation staff loved having the enthusiastic students, teachers, and chaperones from Stone Bridge back on campus. We look forward to another great trip next year.
Written by Chris Shea