“Looking back” on the Outdoor Education Program
Ed’s note: The following letter were in response to the March 2010 “Looking back” photo. Click here to view it.
Oh I can remember quite well the outdoor education experience referred to in the recent article of TCNJ Magazine. That December of l965 was one of the coldest on record. The nights never went above 10 degrees. The log cabins were warm near the ceilings but cold toward the floors, so we flipped coins to see who got the top bunks. We could hear the field mice scampering across the floor as we tried to get to sleep. The toilets and showers were a cold distant walk from the cabins. Ducks were frozen in the ponds in the morning, subjects of night predators. The cable traversing was exhilarating except for those faint of heart. The evening skits put on by students and professors were highlights of the trip. We all ate and laughed together experiencing a close bond between faculty and students. Unfortunately, I sprained an ankle the last day on a hiking trail. I was a commuter and lived with my parents in Trenton at the time. I remember sleeping for 20 hours when I got home after taking a long hot shower. My wife graduated in 1970 and we still share amusing anecdotes about our outdoor week on many occasions. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. This was a highlight of my college years and only wish I could do it all over again.
Nick Bratis ’67
I got so excited when I saw the photo of students at Stokes in the ’60s. It was a valuable program that should have continued. I feel as though I’m the luckiest person to have gone to the School of Conservation, although not entirely as a student.
The School of Conservation has played a major part in my entire adult life. I grew up in the “Pine Barrens” of South Jersey, never having been west of Philly or north of Trenton State College until I went to Stokes in 1966. I was mesmerized by the rocks! I remember being lost with Marti Kostreba during an orienteering lesson. I never knew a swamp could have rocks in it! When we visited Tillman’s Ravine, I thought it was the most beautiful place on Earth, and that I’d never see it again.
Fast forward to 1970. I was married to Jim Merritt ’68 who was hired by Dr. John Kirk at SOC as the outdoor recreation and survival skills specialist. I lived on the SOC campus for 10 years, using my master’s degree in Environmental Education to teach there part time (including orienteering and geology of Tillman’s)! My daughters were born and raised there and have wonderful memories of our “Enchanted Forest.” Who can claim to live where you can roll out of bed in the morning and go outside to play in a yard that is larger than 20,000 acres?
Currently I am retired, living on a beautiful lake a stone’s throw (love those rocks!) from Stokes. Dr. Kirk finally retired and also lives on the same lake. We share lots of SOC tales.
The School of Conservation has served hundreds of thousands of New Jersey elementary students through the years, and maybe some of those teachers accompanying them had been a state college student lucky enough to go to “Stokes” for a week of outdoor education. I was truly lucky to have actually lived the dream.
Eleanor Jennings Merritt Haney Murphy ’67
What an interesting memory the “Looking back” March 2010 triggered. I remember the experience fondly. Let’s remember this was the time of folk music, coffee houses and the height of the beatnik era. TSC had free concerts of Bob Dylan, The Limelighters, Odetta and others who personified the time. A week at Camp Wapalanne in Stokes State Forest was another “happening.” Except for slipping on a rock and falling into a stream it was a wonderful break from the usual classroom routine. That was one of the perks of attending a small college and I will always remember it with a smile.
Shelley Neidich (Rochelle Hodosh) ’66
In the fall of 1964, I was part of the first wave of the baby boom generation to hit Trenton State College, the class of 1968. (Trenton State—68!) Rumor had it that TSC admitted a lot more students than they actually had room for that year, expecting that many would go to other colleges or universities. But that didn’t happen. Our sheer numbers meant not enough dorm rooms on campus for freshmen, the need for having classes on Saturdays, and endless hours spent making up a schedule by hand containing all the required courses for a semester only to learn when you got to the front of the line to submit your schedule that one of your classes had just filled. So, it was back to the drawing board to start over. It also meant that when it came time for our “Outdoor Education” experience in junior year, the usual spring and fall sessions weren’t enough to accommodate our numbers. So, a winter session had to be added. I was assigned to the winter session at Camp Wapalanne in Stokes State Forest. [As I was] not much of a camper to begin with (actually this was my first camping experience), this was a rather traumatic. There was a lot of snow on the ground. It was very cold. Our bathrooms and showers were not in our cabins, but in a separate building. That made showers and shampoos problematic. There were lots of girls in each cabin, which made sleeping problematic. (Think of a weeklong pajama party where singing, card playing, and pillow fights last into the wee hours every night.) When I came home I slept for 20 hours straight. But I, and everyone else in the winter session, somehow survived. I still have a picture of myself crossing a rope bridge over an icy stream, dated March 1967.
Elaine M. (Negran) Burgin ’68
I graduated from Trenton State in 1962 as an elementary major and went on to teach math in a middle school in Kingwood, TX, for 20 years—loved every minute of it. My husband and I are now retired and living on Cape Cod.
Lots of memories came back to me from the article on Outdoor Education in the ’60s. My future husband was attending Seton Hall University and saw the Sunday cover edition of Newark News Magazine, March 12, 1961. He very excitedly called and told me I was on the cover, along with four other girls and an instructor. I’m the one squatting down in front of the huge tee pee. Inside that section of the paper were also lots of other color pictures with many other students.
Barb Romaskiewicz Fahrenholz ’62
I took part in the TSC Outdoor Education Program. We spent a week at Camp Wapalanne in Stokes State Forest. As I recall, we stayed in cabins that slept eight to 10 people. Programs included nature hikes, canoeing, and row boating. There were also some unsanctioned coed activities at night.
Jim Kitchell ’67
I remember Camp Wapalanne well. I was a Math major and we went to Stokes State Forest in December 1966. It was very cold and there was snow and ice on the ground. On one of our afternoon outings in the forest, our group got lost. We were frightened, cold, and hungry and it was now dark out. The ground was uneven and snow covered. The ruts containing water had a top layer of ice. We couldn’t see where we were stepping. Our shoes, socks, and feet were soaking wet. We heard a car pass in the distance and walked in that direction until we came to a road. Meanwhile the forest ranger and state police were out looking for us. We were rescued on the road. By the time we got back to camp, dinner was no longer being served and we ate cold leftovers.
I also remember our last night there. Each cottage performed in the farewell show. Our group acted out the poem, “The Night Before Christmas.” We all wore long-john pajamas and ended our performance by mooning the audience. All in all, it was a fun experience.
Joyce Vasco Zisa ’68
HI! I wanted to answer your question as to whether I took part in TCNJ’s Outdoor education program. When I was attending in the late 1950s/early 1960s there was no outdoor education programs, per se. However during my first semester, three other gals and I were stuck staying at an old farmhouse out behind the school and down Green Lane quite a ways. (We walked to school through the cow pastures, down Green Lane and onto campus via the “backway.” ) I guess you could say that was outdoor education! Believe me, my roommate, Kathy Riss, and I were VERY happy to get into a dorm the next semester. No more hiding in closets when the “powers that be” came around to inspect the dorm rooms where we were staying with friends! It was much better starting our sophomore year! (P.S. I know we sound like delinquents, but we did pretty well scholastically!)
Katherine “Kit” Saunders Nordeen
I am a 1971 graduate of TSC. I went to Wapalanne my junior year, 1969-1970. I don’t have any stories, but I have great memories. I loved traversing the ravines on the ropes, got lost in the bushes orienteering, and did not do well at archery. I think we only went for three days in the fall of 1969.
On another note, I was sorry to read about Dr. Turk. As freshman, we all had to take a bus ride up to Lambertville to see the geography of the area, especially the high water marks on the trees from the Delaware River flood of 1955.
I was also part of the group that slept on cots in other dorms while we waited for Cromwell Hall to be finished. At that time, there were no men allowed past the reception area in each dorm. In fact, if any male came on the floor you would hear “Man on the floor” being yelled out. We also took turns having phone duty during study hours.
I am proud to say that I am still friends with many people from my class at TSC.
Kathleen Dougherty Murphy ’71
In the March 2010 issue of the TCNJ Magazine, I was so surprised to see some of my classmates in the article “Looking Back.” I graduated from TCNJ in 1962 with a degree in Elementary Education. For one week in our junior year we attended the Outdoor Education Program.
I am not in the picture, but did attend the same week. Two of my classmates I can identify are Anne Dunn Herndon and Doris Perry Corcoran. Anne lives in Annapolis, MD, and sadly Doris is deceased. I spoke to Anne and you will probably hear from her. If I can find my yearbook, I believe I could identify most of the students in the picture.
What a wonderful experience this was—to spend a week in the out-of-doors learning about nature and our connections with it. As, I look back at it I know we had a great learning experience that led to all of us being better in the classrooms and leading field trips with the students. We learned about biology, zoology, geology and even the weather. We ate together and lived together and had a learning experience I will never forget. I learned so much about myself and my other classmates along the way.
I found the following on the Web site on “Stokes State Forest” — The NJ School of Conservation, created in 1949, is a former Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. It is 240 acres, mostly forest, and contains 30 acres of campus, an 1813 carriage house, and a cabin built in 1860. From September 1 to June 30, they teach school children about the environment. Almost 9,000 kids a year from schools all over the state come for the experience. It is now run by Montclair State College.
I taught school in East Windsor Township for two years before my children were born and then I moved to Virginia. I taught many lessons about trees, insects, soil, conservation and the environment. I always had a love for the outdoors and led Cub Scout troops on many outing. I had a career in economic estimation for MITRE Corp a Federally Funded Research and Development Center in McLean, VA. I received an MS in Technology and Management focusing on Management Information Systems from American University in DC. I continued teaching and mentoring throughout my career. I still have a love of the outdoors.
Now in my retirement I live in Ft. Myers, Fl and have volunteered at the Bailey-Mathews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island for 10 years. We bring 4th graders to the museum to learn about mollusks and the environment in Southwest Florida. I still love nature and children and much of that started at “Trenton State College”.
Thanks for putting the picture in the magazine – it brings back many memories of our great college days. We all were so well prepared to go into the classroom and move on to other subject areas. I have TCNJ to thank for that.
Margaret “Peg” Bisignani ’62
Apparently, the name Wapalanne is no longer used at Stokes State Forest, but it is what we all called the “outdoor experience” when I attended (then called) Trenton State College. The Class of 1964 was the largest class ever at that time, so in order for all of us to have the experience, some of us had to go in the winter. Normally, these camping times in rustic cabins were only held in the fall and spring. I was one of the juniors who was selected for this new season, which provided a previously not offered option for one day, that being skiing at Great Gorge. My friend, Linda Westall, had gone skiing before and encouraged me to try it over visiting the dairy farm. And what an experience it was! After putting on extremely uncomfortable leather lace up ski boots, I put on the skis. I was expected to negotiate with the additional yard of wood in front of my toss, without being able to bend my ankles, on the snow to the practice area, where we were instructed on how to “snowplow.” After my lesson, Linda and I got on the chair lift. Not surprisingly, I fell at the top… and near the top…. not so far from the top…. in the middle… toward the bottom… and at the bottom…. on my bottom! My shins ached, my rear hurt, and I was freezing!
I did, however, end up skiing for over 20 years after that, all over the country. I still remember orienteering (but not so sure I could still get myself out of the woods without a GPS), and learning that of the three basics for survival—food, water, and shelter—water was the most important thing to find, followed by shelter. One can survive for days without food (not happily, though). The experience learning about ecology also helped me instill that love in my fourth-grade students during the years I taught, taking them to the Great Swamp both in fall and spring of the same school year. Until I read the article in the recent TCNJ magazine, I didn’t realize this requirement for graduation with an education degree was no longer in force. It is a loss.
Maureen Miller Belote ’68
In the Sixties, every student at TSC was required to take part in the weeklong Outdoor Education Program at Camp Wapalanne in Stokes State Forest during their junior year. Each major discipline went at various times in the year. During the week we lived in small cabins, took part in day and night guided hikes, canoed, learned about various forms of wildlife, sat around campfires, and enjoyed the freedom and camaraderie of friends. It was a wonderful experience
The Physical Education Majors and the Science Majors attended during the fall session. My experience at Wapalanne was terrific, but it was overshadowed for all of us by a historic tragedy. I, a science major, and several of my physical education friends and football teammates had just ended one of the most successful football seasons up to that time. We had completed a 7-1 season having beaten archrival Montclair in the season finale. Only eight games were played at that time and the season ended before Thanksgiving. I and my teammates, having been under the pressure of football season from September to November anxiously looked forward to our Outdoor Education Week to relax, have fun, and enjoy nature away from studies and football. It was better than we even had anticipated. On Friday of that week we concluded the scheduled activities and boarded the busses, coaches from Starr Bus Company I think, for the trip home. Early afternoon we were close to the campus, just about at the Pennington Circle, when someone on the bus shouted above the chatter of 50 happy students, “Hey, did you hear what that guy said on the radio.” We had no electronic gadgetry at the time and the bus driver had the bus radio turned on for our benefit, though no one was listening to it except for that one student. The bus became silent as we all listened to the radio, and the announcer said, “The President has been shot. We do not know his condition.” There was absolute silence on that bus from that point until we got back to campus. Upon reaching campus we all hung around that bus and soon after, the announcer said, “President Kennedy has died of a gunshot wound.” We all walked away from the bus in total silence. The date was 22 November 1963.
Ron Chiste ’65
I imagine you received tons of responses on your inquiry about students’ mandatory week at Stokes Forest in the ’60s. I was graduated in 1968, (last name Cross, but have gone back to using my maiden name, Marriott) and was lucky enough to have participated in the College’s Outdoor Education Program in 1967. I experienced one of my “wow” moments at Stokes that only happens a few times in an average student’s educational experience. We had been asked to go outside and draw a natural scene. I sat on a little snowy mound and drew the trees in the distance. I brought the drawing back to the huge cafeteria and finished it in watercolors. Grading for the week was on pass/fail basis so after I had received my check mark for the completed project, I threw the painting into one of the open trashcans in the room. Later, when we returned to the cafeteria for dinner, there was my painting tacked to a bulletin board. Someone must have seen it and thought it worthy of redemption from the trash. It was one of those rare times when a 20-year-old kid receives a surprising validation that she had not been expecting at all. I had a brief stint as a teacher. But I had a long career in banking during which part of my responsibilities were in training and educational development. I always tried to assure that every student, average as I was, or stellar, as the fortunate few, bathed in the light of “WOW” moments. Every kid, two or 20, needs to feel success, genuine, sincere and, sometimes, unsolicited. Stokes Forest and my junior year at TSC (TCNJ) gave me one of those special moments and the wonderful memory of it.
Shirley Marriott ’68
Stokes—quite an experience! In 1961, there was an ancient Conestoga wagon parked on the shore of Lake Wapalanne. A few of us adventurous Elementary Ed. Majors decided we would really embrace life in the open Forgoing the more comfortable cabins, we arranged our sleeping bags on the weather-beaten boards of the wagon and settled in for the evening. Needless to say, the nippy evening temperature and various sounds of the night did not make for very restful sleep.
In the main lodge after each meal, a tall lanky gentleman (I think his name was Clem) would announce the upcoming activities, then conclude his discertation each and every time by looking at his watch and proclaiming, “And the correct Wapalanne time is….”
Years later I would find myself once again at Stokes with my group of fifth graders. The old Conestoga wagon and Clem were no longer there, but the experience was as unforgettable to them as it has been for me after all these years.
Karen Belnay Power ’62