Here in the Northwoods, we are gearing up for winter with our first small snowstorm under our belts. More importantly, we are gearing up for Solos. Wednesday through Friday this week all of the students will be hunkering down at their solo site to enjoy the calm serenity of nature. They will have the rare opportunity to unplug from technology as well as unplug from social life for a couple of days.
Throughout the semester in Outdoor Skills class we have been teaching them a variety of skills they will get to use while out on their solo such as campsite selection and noticing where they should and should not set up a tent to mitigate risks, bear hangs and how to use a bear vault, knots and how to set up their own tarp shelter, how to make their own debris shelter (which they can build on their solo if they wish, while also setting up their tent so they have a backup shelter if the weather gets too inclement), and fire-building. This week in class we are helping to get them all packed up and prepared for this great adventure in solitude.
Throughout the semester we also hold skills workshops after school. These workshops help provide another opportunity outside of class to hone in on various skills. Since the students are not packed out with a backpacking stove for solos we provided multiple skills workshops after school for them to practice the art of fire-building. Many of them learned that it wasn’t as easy as it looks when you are working with a lighter and wet tinder, kindling, and fuel. However, they persevered and eventually, everyone that came to the skills workshop had their own small fire going. They even got to cook bread on a stick at one of the fire-building workshops (kind of like you would cook a marshmallow on a stick, except this time it was bread).
Another skills workshop the students could attend was an alcohol stove building workshop. There they learned how to make their own stove out of an empty soda can. Lastly, there was a knot-tying workshop. The students realized that if they did not practice the knots they learned in class every now and then, they were easy to forget. By the end of the workshop, everyone was back up to speed and we had a blast racing each other to see who could tie various knots the quickest.
It is exciting to have a chance to practice the skills they have learned in a real-life scenario. They know that they are supported behind the scenes if they really need us during solos, but otherwise, they are taking the lead to take care of themselves.
Photos contributed by Rob Houle, Tech and Media Specialist, Kate Houle, Communications Specialist, and Jennifer Anderson, Marketing and Enrollment Associate.