The stream and forest studies conducted at camp are based on inquiry. Students investigate the biotic and abiotic environment of these ecosystems for the purpose of discovering relationships between them and within them. All studies conducted reflect the true scientific process and produce valid scientific information. Students are expected to study the information produced, make appropriate comparisons and then draw conclusions. From the study, students are generally able to interpret community structure, food chains, prey-predator relationships and many other interactions.
Faculty and Staff
Each session of the camp runs for four days. Supervision of each camp session requires three to four biology teachers and an additional two to three support teachers. One support teacher serves as the camp director. The camp director is responsible for the successful completion of the program as scheduled and for the care and feeding of the campers. Discipline, safety, and student morale are also concerns of this individual. One biology teacher acts as the program coordinator. This person recruits and trains staff, orders transportation, schedules the students, plans the program and sees that all special science equipment and supplies are on hand. Last and most importantly, a cook who really knows how to fill empty stomachs, completes the adult staff.
Six to eight student counselors assist the biology teachers, supervise the sleeping cabins and assist during camp recreational activities. They are graduating seniors or recent graduates of John Burroughs School. Most of the counselors are knowledgeable of both science and the out-of-doors. They found the experience both meaningful and enjoyable as campers and now are returning to make their contribution to the program.
Forty-five to forty-eight students are taken to the camp at a time. The first group leaves for camp on Sunday morning and returns Wednesday afternoon. The second group leaves Wednesday morning and returns Saturday afternoon. This schedule causes each student to miss three days of regular school and one day of the weekend. Students not at camp attend school as regularly scheduled. They do not, however, attend biology classes on these days.
At camp, the students are divided into three groupings (A,B,C) for class purposes. They are also divided into different cabin groups and assigned to one of the counselors. Class groups are organized to achieve a mix of abilities and skills. Cabin groupings allow for friendships and compatibility. Class groups follow the master camp schedule. The scheduled classes bring the student into direct contact with two study areas, the forest and the stream. Each student also spends two evening hours with his/her group pooling, summarizing and analyzing the data collected during the day.
Formal testing is done following the camp. For accountability, while at the camp, students are responsible for all of the data collected. In addition, they answer a number of study questions and write two short reports based on their interpretation of the data. This work must all be completed before the student leaves for home. After returning to school the student is tested over the entire ecology unit of which the camp experience is a significant part.
Students are also evaluated subjectively for their effort, cooperation and attitude. On the last day of each camp session, counselors and teachers sit down together and rate each camper on the three criteria. Skills related to field work are observed and recorded by the individual biology teachers.
Student reports and questions from the field manual are completed during the final evening and final morning of the camp. These are subsequently read and graded by the teaching staff. Finally, after all the evidence is in, students are assigned a grade for their work.
Students evaluate the program each year during a follow-up class activity. We also hold a post-camp staff meeting for the purpose of discussing program accomplishments, necessary changes and minor trouble spots. When possible, we involve outside people in the program as counselors and teachers. They bring fresh ideas to us and have the ability to see the program from other vantage points. Several improvements have been made because of these evaluation activities. We rely most heavily on student evaluations and on the personal reports and responses from participating adults.
Confirmation of the program's worth was provided by the National
Science Teachers Association when, in 1983, the Drey Land Ecology
Study was selected as one of the 10 best biology programs in the
United States (1).