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posted: Wed, Apr 29th, 2015

Nature: Earth science’s classroom 

When the sixth-graders lumbered out of the bus at 5:15 p.m., their shoulders slumped and their legs were like lead. They never knew science could be so exhausting.

The team had just visited the YMCA camp on Fairview Lake in Stillwater. The full-day excursion in the chilly Appalachians mixed outdoor activities and team-building activities with a whole lot of science. Everywhere there were examples of physical and chemical changes that take place on Earth and that are part of the sixth grade science curriculum. 

These included erosion, weathering, the formation of different types of rock, continental collisions that created the mountains, and the glacial erosion and melting that formed Fairview Lake itself.

YMCA guides and educators led the students through the day of active learning. 

“This is an immersive experience that meets next generation science standards,” said MOMS science teacher Ann Greszczak. “We’re taking students outside and hiking in the woods, and climbing over sticks and rocks. They are learning by experience and applying that knowledge in a real way.”

Students learned to use a compass and navigate through the woods. In one activity, they had to find their way using instructions that listed only directional compass points and number of paces. (No cell phone GPS allowed!)

The sixth-graders also hiked up a mountain. It was a two or three mile excursion and when they reached the top they could see three states around them. The elevation was high enough so that the students could feel the difference in air pressure and the thinner oxygen levels – phenomena they had read about in their science books.

Ms. Greszczak has brought her team here annually for eight or nine years. This year, however, she went three times since all three MOMS sixth-grade teams took part – two in the fall and one in early April.

Many teachers, though, were experiencing the Fairview trip for the first time.

“It was a good combination of fun and information,” said MOMS math teacher Sean Kelley, who took part just a few weeks ago. “I think the kids went home and told their parents that they want to go back in the summer when the weather’s warmer. For me, the big benefit was learning more about my students and their personalities in a relaxed, non-school setting. It was a different level of interaction.” 

You can learn more about the Fairview YMCA camp at:


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Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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