Bridge and lake in autumn
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Gill St. Bernard Experiences Environmental Education Tradition at NJSOC

Posted in: NJSOC Announcements

Environmental Educator, Chris Shea, with students in Tillman’s Ravine

Gill St. Bernard Experiences Environmental Education Tradition at NJSOC

The NJ School of Conservation was thrilled to welcome the 5th and 6th grade students of Gill St. Bernard school to the campus for a three-day trip (one overnight for each grade). They had beautiful weather and enjoyed several different environmental classes, where they learned physical outdoor recreation skills as well as how to tell what a healthy ecosystem looks like. 

Both groups of students started their trip with teambuilding activities called Group Initiatives. Each grade experienced different obstacles designed for their experience level and needed to work together in teams to solve them. Through hard work, good listening skills, and leadership, each small group tackled their challenges and their skills improve over time.

During the 5th grade trip, students had the opportunity to go for an interpretive hike though Tillman’s Ravine, a beautiful area of mature hemlock trees and a rocky stream where they learned about the geology and history of the place. During the hike, students flipped over rocks and logs to search for salamanders, hunted for frogs, and found hikers’ natural artwork along the trail. 

Student participate in the Climbing Wall activity

The 5th graders also enjoyed some outdoor recreation activities like the climbing wall where they learned how to belay as a team while one at a time they climbed the wall. After starting out with the twenty foot wall, they moved on to the thirty-five foot side, where they could choose what path they wanted to attempt as their belaying team cheered them on from below. 

For 6th grade students, classes like Survival/Orienteering presented new challenges; learning how to use a compass, figuring out how the body prioritizes its basic needs in a survival situation, and learning how to effectively build a campfire. At the end of their class, the students built their own debris shelters and tried to make them as comfortable and structurally sound as possible. 

Herpetology, another fun outdoor class, offered students a chance to learn about the reptiles and amphibians living in our NJ forests and streams. After meeting the classroom snakes and turtles that call the NJSOC home, the classes headed outside to test out their nets and catch some critters. At the end of class, the students made observations about the frogs, newts, and other animals they caught and what that meant for the environment they were in. 

The educators and staff of the New Jersey School of a Conservation would like to thank the coordinator, Zoey Tuohy, and all the teachers for making this visit possible. We wish the sixth grade class of Gill St. Bernard the very best in their future endeavors, and look forward to seeing the fifth-graders again next year for another fantastic trip!


Written by Mary Birrer