Last week School Of The Forest partnered with the New Hampton School for their yearly “Project week”. New Hampton students pitch a lot of different potential ideas for the week, and then participate in whichever is selected. I had a great time running this program, and because New Hampton is a boarding school, getting to work with such a diverse and character filled group of young adults from around the country and world.
We spent the week bouncing from on-campus discussion about skills and knowledge necessary for a simple life outdoors, and learning and using practical skills at Burleigh Mountain. This was a short course, so students focused on the most important parts of outdoor living. Fire, shelter and food/water. Our last night was a big outdoor dinner and an overnight. It was a chilly week to be outdoors, let alone sleep out for a night after only recently being introduced to a lot of these skills. Temperatures stayed in the high teens/low twenties, and I have to applaud the students for seeing the week through.
That being said, conditions like that are a great teacher. Most of the students hadn’t spent any extended periods outdoors in the winter, and that was clear on the first day. They showed up in less than adequate clothing, or with a mindset of “tough it out and move on”. As we talked throughout the week about how our bodies lose heat, and how we can avoid that by our clothing and shelter choice, I watched them use that new found knowledge to adjust so that by the end of the week they were comfortable.
Our final night out was truly a culmination of the week. We talked about the stars, made a huge meal with all the different methods of cooking over a fire they’d learned and laughing and joking about the week. At our debrief the morning after we sat in a circle and discussed our highs and lows of the week. A good portion of the group talked about how much fun they’d had the night before, cooking over a fire, sledding down the mountain, and generally enjoying being outside on a night when they’d usually have been indoors. When I mentioned that living outdoors should always be that way, and that the point of struggling with learning things like fire starting and knots is to enable them to have more nights like that, I saw realization, appreciation a bit of understanding about the new options for being outdoors on a lot of faces.
That’s what this work is about.