Friday, July 22, 2011

Hunger Games Camp: Survival Skills

While most of the activities for the week-long Hunger Games Camp were active, outdoor, run-around type things where the tributes were earning points in an effort to become the victor of the Hunger Games.  Every once in a while, though, we took some time to do more passive activities just for fun.  One such example was the Survival Skills training.  This 3-hour session was led by Bill (and Nick?) from Ancestral Knowledge, a wilderness education organization located just over the border in Maryland*.  The guys from Ancestral Knowledge definitely know their stuff, and their resourcefulness and know-how would make Katniss Everdeen proud!

During the time they were with us (one ungodly hot morning), they covered the basics for wilderness survival: find/make shelter (and stay warm), locate water, procure food and build a fire.  Because we were limited on time, they briefly went over strategies for staying warm, such as stuffing your clothes full of leaves, and how to use streams and rivers as guides to get one to safety (aka, follow the stream to the river, the river to civilization).  We mainly focused on food-related skills: making cordage (rope) from plants, knot tying, alternatives to knives and making fire!  Most of what we covered might sound a little ho-hum, but the tributes loved it!  Almost everyone was able to quickly catch on with tying the various knots, and campers added their own little spin to the activity by seeing who could not only learn the knot, but also do it with their eyes closed. Whenever someone managed to get the knot without needing to see it, they beamed with pride.

The real hit during this session (aside from seeing fire "made") was cordage.  After Bill demonstrated how to make rope using the innards of a branch of dogbane, the kids got to make their own, using raffia.  And they loved it!  It's fairly easy to do and goes quickly once you get the hang of it.  Boys were competing to see who could make the longest rope.  Girls were making necklaces and bracelets.  When one of the male tributes asked if there was a knife he could use to cut his cordage, an impromptu lesson on how to turn rocks into knives (using only rocks to form and shape other rocks) ensued.  A good time was had by all!

We closed with the Ancestral Knowledge guys showing us a couple of ways to build a fire.  Then it was time for lunch.  But a few kids stayed behind to ask questions and even got to try out throwing a spear using the atlatl.  Definitely a highlight of the day!

I definitely want to bring these guys back next time.  We'll probably mix up the skills taught, dedicating a bit more time to letting the kids try out spear throwing (why not?) and maybe adding some additional skills.

*There are tons of wilderness education organizations, so just Google around to see what's near you.  If all else fails, there may be an accomplished boy scout or boy scout leader who can come in and cover some basic wilderness skills.

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