The Moorestown Friends School 7th Grade departed for their annual trip to Stokes State Forest on Wednesday, February 26. They spent three days and two nights at the New Jersey School of Conservation, a division of Montclair State University that aims to solve environmental problems by cultivating environmentally responsible behaviors in scientists, teachers, and students. The MFS students returned excited about the outdoors and motivated to promote sustainable practices in their community.
“We had a lot of classes,” said 7th grader Emma Geertgens. “There was Native American Life, where we learned a lot about Native Americans and their culture. We also had a Conservation Photography class — there were contests where people took pictures with a message about conserving nature.”
Geertgens also described a “Black Bears” course, where her group learned how to conserve materials, and “Survival,” where the class learned how to live without certain amenities.
“We did an activity where we had to pick seven things that we would save if Mrs. Casne crashed our helicopter in the wilderness. We made a shelter out of a tarp and a fallen-down tree,” said Geertgens.
Middle School English Teacher Deb Casne was one of the chaperones on the trip, which she values highly and tries to attend each year.
“This trip has been happening since before I arrived at Moorestown Friends,” said Casne. “The Owens family set up an endowment [The Owens Outdoor Fund] specifically for outdoor education, and it covers the trip. It’s a bonding experience for the kids, but more important than that is the outdoor education itself.”
On this year’s trip, the ice on the pond was 14 inches thick, so the students were able to curl and play on the ice. Each night, they attended an evening presentation — one night they were introduced to a live wolf, and another night they met a python, an alligator, an Asian water monitor, and a snapping turtle. There was a special bonfire where Middle School Service Coordinator Jake Greenberg recited the long poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”
“They have such a good time and make new friends that they didn’t expect,” said Casne. “They see people in different ways, including their teachers.”
The other chaperones on the trip were Allison Funk, Claire Scribner, Charlie Isdell, and David Gamber.
“It was cold!” concluded Geertgens. “But we had a good time.”