Fifth-grade students from Lafayette Township School traveled to the New Jersey School of Conservation this May to learn more about the natural world around them. Here, through the combined efforts of Lafayette coordinator Kara Tremain and the School of Conservation Program Coordinator Lisa Mills, students got to experience a variety of courses meant to give them a better understanding of ecosystems and conservation. Classes included Woodworking, Questing, Conservation Photography, Herpetology, Archery, and Boating.
Students got the chance to get crafty during woodworking. This course gives students a look into early American woodworking techniques, as well as some of the tools used by early craftsmen. Looking at DeGroat cabin, an authentic pioneer cabin built in the 1860s, they could observe how early woodworking would have been put to use to construct a home. They then put those skills to use, working together to build a birdhouse to take back to school.
During Questing, students are put in charge of their learning. By following clues through the forest, students lead a discovery hike and learn more about the forest ecosystem at Stokes along the way. Birds, amphibians, trees, and mammals are the topics that help students consider why different parts of the ecosystem are important to the whole. They also search for any signs of wildlife along the way, a common find being scat piles. These piles can tell a lot about the animals in the forest including what they eat and where they’re active!
The fifth graders also took an in-depth look at reptiles and amphibians during Herpetology class. Students learn about the traits that make these animals unique, and what special characteristics they have. They then get the opportunity to meet some of NJSOC’s educational animals. This can help students feel more comfortable with the idea of reptiles and amphibians, which are usually thought of as creepy crawly things. Students also get the chance to get outside and search for some reptiles and amphibians on their own. Spring is the perfect time to do this since many species are just laying eggs or hatching. Many tadpoles, salamanders, newts, and frogs were found, which allows students to discuss the important role that amphibians play in their environment.
Taking pictures encourages appreciation of the natural world. Pictures can be an impressive way to convey environmental issues to the public and to get people to care about things going on beyond the boundaries of their own backyard. In Conservation Photography, students are encouraged to see nature as art. They discuss some of the reasons why people take pictures and why it is important, as well as some of the techniques used to make a good picture. After this, they hit the trails to get some nature pictures of their own. Using the skills they learned, students took some fantastic pictures to take home with them as a souvenir.
Experiencing the outdoors through sports is another fantastic way to get students excited about being outside. While at the School of Conservation, students got the chance to try their hand at archery. Students loved practicing target shooting and the opportunity to get a little competitive with each other. The fifth graders also got to get out in canoes to experience the campus from a different perspective. Practicing canoeing techniques on the lake is a great chance to see some of the incredible wildlife here including many species of turtles, birds, and even an otter who sometimes stops by.
All of the staff here at the School of Conservation would like to thank Lafayette for another fantastic trip. A huge shout out to all the teachers and parents who worked hard to make this trip possible. We look forward to seeing you again next year!
By Katie Tharrett