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The 200 acres of Pingry's Basking Ridge Campus, nestled in the Watchung and Somerset Hills of central New Jersey, are not simply a picture postcard of verdant farmland and rolling woodlands. To students accustomed to biology labs, music rooms, and art studios, they offer an exquisitely boundless outdoor classroom.
And last fall, 11 Middle Schoolers eagerly explored its nooks and crannies, hiking trails, and campsite in a newly launched, trimester-long athletics and activity block offering, appropriately titled, Outdoor Education.
Every afternoon (except Fridays), from 2:10–3:30 p.m., these sixth, seventh, and eighth graders broached the borders of their school building to experience some of the lessons—both tangible and experiential—that only nature can teach: leadership skills (how to lead hikes and plan routes); self-care (watching for blisters, packing the right equipment, staying hydrated); the "leave-no trace" principles of camping; map reading; naturalism; fire safety; bear safety; trail etiquette; water purification techniques; and wilderness cooking (that is, preparing mac 'n cheese, hot chocolate, and ramen using camp stoves), among other proficiencies. Bushwhacking through Pingry's woods—clearing trails, that is—was another highlight. Landscape photography was also incorporated into the class, giving students a chance to interact with and interpret the natural world they observed.
"This class allows students to experience nature in the comfort of their own school, with familiar teachers," says Experiential Education Coordinator and visual arts teacher Rebecca Sullivan, a faculty leader of the fall course, along with Middle School math teacher Jeff Feinberg. "For students who want to learn more about outdoor wilderness and leadership skills but never had the opportunity before, this is a great introduction. These are life skills, you have them forever."
To find out more about what local trails the group explored, what they learned, and how Pingry's new flock of chickens factors in, read the full article in the summer issue of The Pingry Review!
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, email@example.com