I just watched Thomas Elpel’s new dvd Classroom In The Woods; Primitive Skills For Public Schools. It is a documentary shot on location in Montana where he and his team from the Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School take junior high class on a 3-day primitive camping trip. In addition to following the journey of the students, it is filled with interviews with students, classroom teachers and the Hollowtop team where they discuss not just the how, but also the why of outdoor education and how primitve skills can add a tangible connection to the natural world.
Watching the kids transition from experiencing the natural world as something that’s foreign and scary to somewhere to call home is amazing to watch.
Thomas Elpel has written numerous books, shot numerous videos, and been an incredible ambassador for outdoor living and wilderness education for more than 20 years. This dvd is inspiring for both classroom teachers and outdoor educators. I can say this because I watched it with my wife who is a classroom teacher, and she was impressed by both what they covered and how they covered it. If you have kids, you’ll want them to spend time learning from Elpel and his team, both for the expert instruction and for the grounded educational philosophy that guides their teaching.
Learn more about Thomas Elpel and the Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School on his site hollowtop.com.
About the dvd:
“Amid a growing awareness of the need to reconnect kids with nature, Classroom in the Woods vividly demonstrates the power and promise of hands-on, immersive experiences to put kids in touch with the real world. In this enlightening video, author and educator Thomas J. Elpel brings a class of junior high students out into the woods for three days and two nights of hands-on wilderness survival and primitive skills experience.
Leaving textbooks behind, the kids revel at the opportunity for hands-on learning, as they build a shelter, forage for wild edible plants, make a bow and drill fire set, stalk and observe wildlife, and bake bread in a stone oven. The students create fire from wood, and then use that fire to shape bowls and spoons and cook their food. In the process, they learn about themselves building self-confidence, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and attunement to their surroundings.
More than just survival skills, these experiences help give kids a better grasp of the world around them. Pursuing similar goals as author Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods, Elpel provides a model demonstration of the kind of whole-person education that every kid should be entitled to. Run time: 50 minutes, plus 30 minutes of bonus features expanding on specific skills.”