Twin Valley School District’s excited fourth graders trudged into French Creek State Park, about 260 strong, for an outdoor adventure for the 10th Annual French Creek Environmental Field Trip on May 9.

The field trip encompasses all 4th graders in the district from Honey Brook Elementary, Robeson Elementary and Twin Valley Elementary Centers. This year, the trip was led and organized by Twin Valley Elementary Center 4th grade teacher Susan Sanger along with her team Becky Johnson and Valerie Smith, both 4th grade teachers at Robeson Elementary Center.

“Years ago, three of us elementary teachers were at a Big Woods teacher day. We discussed how students are spending less and less time enjoying the outdoors, and the three of us love being outside,” said Sanger.

“Because 4th grade is the last grade in the elementary schools, we decided that we could do an outdoor environmental day and it would serve two purposes. One, it would give the students some ideas of things they could do outdoors and hopefully give them a love for some of these things, and two, it would be an opportunity to meet some students that they may be in class with the following year at the middle school,” she said.

Hopewell Lake Area served as the central base, with stations set-up throughout the park. Some of the teachers run stations while others chaperoned groups. Some Station Masters are experts from the community from local businesses and organizations who volunteer their time to take a day off from work to teach the children hands-on about nature.

Each student participated in four activities at stations that are too many to mention, A few included the study of birds’ adaptations of wings, feet, bills using binoculars and collecting; orienteering a mapped hike in the woods like a treasure hunt; and geocaching to find hidden geocaches with GPS devices and entering online data. There are 1,659,078 active geocaches and 5 million geocachers exist worldwide; one hidden in the park was located.

“I never thought I would have this much fun at a nature park,” said Ella Glass, 4th grader. “Now I understand it is a habitat. Now, I will look for birds in nature.”

Other activities included a Stream Study, finding critters in the stream to evaluate the ecosystem; Understanding an Enviroscapes community model and pollution; Understanding frogs; Mysterious Nature Writing; Big Woods Kickball; Outdoor First Aid; Nature Photography; and What’s Living in the lake?

“It was an extraordinary experience because I did Nature Photography, and I will do more,” said Seraphina Ware.

“A fun day to reunite with friends from other schools and to learn a lot,” said Breyne Mazzerelli.

Gianna Brugger said, “I liked my frog station!”

“It is an event the children love and talk about for years,” Sanger said.

And talk they did.

“My favorite part was getting to be in a group of people I didn’t know, to make nice new friends,” said Khloe Caldwell.

Zy’Arah Glover said, “I liked Big Woods Kickball,” and Jaiden Belser said, “A wonderful time.”

Nason Cook added, “It was fun because it was learning, but having fun.”

Margaret Wood said, “My favorite thing the fun stations, the solar-powered cars.” Lucas Myers agreed, “It was an exciting day. Met a lot of new people and learned a lot of new things.”

Teacher Rebecca Johnson’s students from Robeson Elementary summed it up,

Kasidy Whitmoyer said, “It’s a day to explore nature and not have to do schoolwork. You get to meet new people. It brings a lot of smiles to people’s faces and it’s an exciting adventure.”

Isabella Juryea said, “Many schools should have this field trip. You can have a great experience, learn, have fun and meet new people.”

“It’s a day to meet new people that you’ll know in Middle School. Maybe you’ll become friends and stay friends throughout life,” said Charlotte Lawson.

In our year of everlasting rain Sanger after 20 years of teaching in the TVSD said, “This year was very muddy and the kids, as well as the teachers, loved it. There is a sense of peacefulness when teaching in the outdoors.”

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