Storm King’s eighth-graders enjoyed a mix of outdoor activities, team building exercises, experiential learning, and fun at this year’s trip to Nature’s Classroom. On April 23-26, the entire class traveled to Ivoryton, Connecticut–one of Nature’s Classroom’s 13 sites located throughout New York and New England– to be fully immersed in their natural surroundings and collaborate with Mother Nature and one another.
Nature’s Classroom is an outdoor environmental education program started in 1973 which brings geological and human history to life at beautiful locations in New York and New England. Set on more than 700 acres of land, the Ivoryton site features pristine Bushy Hill Lake, pine tree plantations, old stone walls, and even a rare Cedar Swamp.
For the students, the trip to Nature’s Classroom was the culmination of SKS’ Middle School Science class which was spent hiking together, learning to identify trees and animals in nearby Black Rock Forest, conducting research, and learning about local and global conservation issues, among other topics. This year, the students enjoyed daily hikes, special interest classes, a science fair, team building challenges, a night hike, and a lot of Ga-Ga Ball.
On day one, the students arrived in Ivoryton just in time for their first lunch where they were presented with their first challenge: to reduce their food waste, better known as “ort.” To do this, they were asked to separate their waste into trash, compost, and ort. Then, the ort was measured to help the students become more mindful of their consumption practices and make more conscious choices. The goal by the end of the week was to reduce their ort to zero. Following lunch, the group settled into the lodge and spent the rest of the afternoon participating in a mix of team-building exercises, interactive education, and entertainment.
The following day, the group embarked on a hike to the Enchanted Forest and had a picnic lunch on a soft bed of pine needles as they learned how to build a campfire and other useful outdoor skills. Other activities included Deer Survival–a game designed to teach students about animal adaptations and how the environment impacts their survival. Students were also treated to a “Night Experience,” which taught them about human adaptations through activities which highlight the five senses. Another game, called Oil Wars, helped to illustrate how nations function and the fragility of the global world order.
During the course of the week, the students also engaged in several outdoor challenges, such as relying on teamwork to walk cables, balance a huge teeter-totter, swing the entire group onto a tiny platform, and others. On their final night, the students attended a Science Fair which featured stations which illustrated different scientific concepts in spectacular and fun ways. For example, the students used a plasma ball to learn about electricity and conductivity, witnessed Bernoulli’s principle in a fire tornado, electrocuted a pickle, and used pressure vacuums in a can-crushing experiment. In the evening, the fun continued back at the Lodge, where students played games, jammed with guitars and drums, and talked with one another.
“It was really nice to get to know my classmates a little better, even if we were separated for certain activities. My favorite activity about the trip was definitely Oil Wars. I learned about how fragile each nation is and how we must rely on each other,” commented eighth-grader Kaitlin Bou. “At Nature’s Classroom, I was able to bond with my peers like never before. From hikes to Ga-Ga ball, to our “Night Experience,” we were constantly enjoying the fresh air. Overall, my classmates and I have lots of good times and memories to look back on,” said fellow eighth-grader Angelynna Guzman.