By Nisha M. ’25
Photos by Mrs. Noecker
Over two exciting nights, the sixth grade learned about many different aspects of nature, in addition to team-building skills and how to work together on our trip to Outdoor School at the Penn State Nature Center at Shaver’s Creek.
The class, counselors, and teachers all ate together, “family style,” passing plates and serving others. At the beginning and end of every meal, we sang songs about the Earth and gardening.
We went outside at night for activities with our cabin groups that required a lot of collaboration. The cabin groups would work together to figure out how to complete the challenge. This teamwork is not only an important social skill for us to know now, it is also a vital, long-term skill that will help all of us later on.
In our learning groups, we went to the creek to learn about the water cycle. We learned all about pollution by inspecting the water to find small creatures who are either pollution-tolerant or intolerant. Afterward, we made Soil Soup, whose broth was creek water and into which we added moss, crushed rocks and more. Then we were told that it wouldn’t be finished for at least 100 years, because that is how long it takes for soil to develop. This activity helped everyone learn about the importance of the tiniest bit of soil, as well as erosion.
Another particularly memorable experience was a visit from a broad shouldered hawk named Tea. We learned about the characteristics of raptors, while the hawk flew around and was rewarded with rabbit meat.
This fun and thrilling day ended with a nighttime hike. To learn about nocturnal animals that largely depend on their hearing, like owls, we played games where we had to rely on hearing only. At the end, a counselor performed the calls of three owls native to Pennsylvania, to see if any would call back. Although no owls answered the calls, we still had a blast.
We went back in time to the 1800s to learn about different jobs people did out of necessity in the past, such as making butter, weaving and woodworking. The counselors, all Penn State students, dressed up to match their profession. Some showed us old wooden toys and games, while others were contemporary archaeologists, trying to better understand the lives of people from a long time ago, based on the artifacts that remained of their presence.
Our trip to Outdoor School was a wonderful learning experience for all of the students. It was a great way to become more independent and self-reliant, while also having fun the entire time.