Stories of the Day - Teen Wilderness Adventure 

March 11, 2017

We had a fairly small group today due to some vacationing teens and rainy weather, but we had a great day working on some vital survival skills.

We started off with a fun (and muddy) activity with the younger group called Run Rabbit Run. This game puts the teens in the lonely position of a rabbit trying to escape a pack of hungry coyotes. A humbling experience for sure! After the activity, the teens split from the younger group and circled up at the Osage building where Mike (keeping with the rabbit motif) told a Wiley Coyote / Roadrunner style story about a rabbit and fox. I for one had not heard this story before and was quite entertained.

The rest of the morning was spent learning about wild edible and medicinal plants. First, I talked to the teens about the most dangerous (and potentially deadly) plants that grow in our area (poison hemlock, water hemlock, datura, mountain laurel, poison ivy, and oleander). There are only a few plants in our area that can kill a person when eating even a small amount so if you know those ones well, then you can easily avoid them. Then, identifying the edible and medicinal plants becomes a lot less stressful and dangerous. The teens learned that accurate identification is the most important part of finding edible and medicinal plants. You have to be sure that what you are about to put in your mouth is what you think it is. So, we learned some basic botany terms, leaf shapes, leaf arrangements, etc. We also talked about some helpful field guides that can help them learn and ID plants.

After talking about the basics, we set out on a plant walk to actually try to ID some plants, practice our botany skills, and eat some plants. We saw wood sorrel, “cucumber plant”, greenbriar, yaupon, dewberry, henbit, wild onion, and even a native passionflower to name a few. I think the teens liked the pleasantly sour tasting wood sorrel the most followed closely by the cucumber plant. We finished the plant walk by trekking along the creek back to the Osage building just in time for lunch.

Post-lunch, Mike introduced the activity for the afternoon: survival bows. Last month, the teens got to practice shooting some survival bows, but this month the teens learned how to actually make them. Mike gave a thorough rundown of how and why survival (or quickie) bows are made. The teens then learned some basic terminology of bow building and how to even out the bend of both limbs of the bow (a process known as tillering). Then, the teens got to work carving some ligustrum staves. I think the teens learned pretty quickly that bow making takes a good amount of effort, but by the end of the day, we had a few perfectly useable bows that could shoot an arrow straight and hit a target at around 30 ft. Not a bad start! 

And just like that, it was nearly time to go. This day really flew by! We ended with a quick circle to share our favorite parts of the day and discuss next month: the overnight. Mike and I got some ideas from the teens on what they would like to focus on during the overnight that we are really pumped about. We will be sending out logistics for the overnight in a separate email soon.

We had a great time with the teens and are looking forward to next month’s overnight!

Best,

Eric


December 12, 2016

Good evening families,

Eric and I had a great time with your teens today, and hopefully they have returned home with stories of shelter building, fire making, tracking, trap building, and wild edibles! 

The day was gray and chilly, but definitely nothing we couldn't handle. After running around in the field for a bit to warm up, the group worked together to light a fire. We reminded each other of our names before being ready to get started with our first activity: shelter building. 

Each teen was given a blank note card which represented them, and they were told that in 35 minutes a massive, but isolated storm was going to dump a liter of cold water directly above them! If the card stayed dry, they survived. If it got wet, they did not. This is one of my favorite activities to do with groups because of the creativity that comes out of it, especially for first timers. Eric or I purposely did not tell them any specifics on how to build a shelter, we wanted them to explore their own ideas about how to keep their piece of paper dry. Using natural materials like sticks, leaves, mud, bark, and rocks, each teen invented a unique shelter and then we got to test them out. During the storm we pointed out major themes which led to either success or failure. Things like: slope and thickness of roof, drainage, material selection, size, location, etc. 

During lunch some of us found small grubs inside of acorns and opted to roast them over the fire for a snack. Yum. After lunch we introduced trap making by saying that traps work to get us food even while we sleep in survival. This sounded appealing to the group. To me, trap making provides lessons in not only carving and wood working but engineering, physics, and geometry. Angles, measurements, and planes are all important to a successful trap. It is certainly challenging, and fun! They enjoyed the second individual challenge of the day and mostly everyone in the group was able to carve and set up a "figure four" trap. 

As we were finishing up trap making, I was challenged to make a bow and arrow in only five minutes. It took me six, oh well, and they were intrigued to watch me work and excited at a chance to shoot it when I finished. After they took turns, a discussion came up as to where are the best places to hunt and place traps. Well, we needed to seriously up our tracking skills!

So I grabbed a stick and began to run away, making marks in the ground as I ran and hid. Eric led the group on an expedition to find me. This is a fun activity that we will build upon during the following months and a great lead in to understanding what tracking is - the language of nature, an essential piece to deep nature connection and being a competent survivalist.

On the way back we found a large bush of Texas's wild hot pepper, Chili Pequien, growing near the trail and a few challenged themselves to see if they could eat one. There were definitely a few moments of regret, followed by feelings of empowerment, "yeah I did that!" "It wasn't thaaat bad". See you all next month. Have a great holiday season.


My best,

Mike


November 21, 2015

Such a great day with your teens today! The theme of the day: Survival.

We started with a name game to get everyone acquainted. And then I began quizzing them on the order of survival. Attitude, shelter, water, fire, and food.

A shelter activity was first. I gave them each an index card sized paper and told them that in a half hour I was going to dump a liter of water onto it. They were allowed to use anything natural from the surrounding area to keep it dry. The goal of a survival shelter is always to be as comfortable as you would be in your bed. A few drips of water on the index card would be acceptable, but beyond that would be hypothermic death! It was really cool to see them modeling their shelters off of primitive peoples and wild animals. One dug a burrow beneath a leaning tree and another built one out of mud based on the Pueblo people of the South East. Some of their shelters were successful, and some were not. But it definitely provided a learning experience for all!

Next was fire. I gave them each three matches and forty minutes to burn a string set a foot and a half above their fire pits. Most of them struggled a bit, although one group was successful. I told them to all sit and watch me do it, and gave one of them my stop watch to time me. I ran around the area, grabbing fire wood and burnt the string in less than ten minutes. It was really cool debriefing with them and asking them what I had done differently than them. I gave them a second chance at the challenge and the second time they were all successful! 

We roasted pecans over our fires and told stories of what we had learned so far that day. Next was hunting techniques, and we all took turns throwing sticks at plastic milk jugs I had strung up between two trees. I then tied the plastic jug to a LONG string and dragged it down the trail. I had them hide on the side of the trail and pop up to throw their stick at the "rabbit". 

The final activity brought us back to the first most important aspect of survival: Attitude and Awareness. I invited them all to take off their shoes and put on a blindfold. Gently, I guided them over to a string that was strung up through the forest and put each of the hands on it. They each walked along the sting until they reached the end. The result was a transformation from an excited group of teens to a much calmer version of the same group. I allowed them to share their experiences and it was positive for each of them, although a common theme was that the thoughts in their head would make them unbalanced. I told them that using their senses, instead of only their minds, is a good practice for further connecting to the wilderness. 

The day flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for pick up. Thanks for a great day with your teens.

My best,

Mike

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