Outdoor Skills Workshop
Wilderness Teaching Fellow, Emily Hayne

Throughout the semester students have practiced outdoor skills in the form of knot-tying, building debris shelters, canoeing, and backcountry cooking. Students expand their skills participating in outdoor activities during class, after school and on weekends. Under the careful guidance of staff, students have practiced lumberjack skills such as sawing and chopping wood, axe throwing, and fire building. In addition to practicing lumberjacking in their Outdoor Skills class, students had the opportunity to watch professional lumberjacks demonstrate their skills at Conserve School several weeks ago. Ellie, from Washington D.C. shares, "Lumberjack lessons and events have widened my idea of what outdoor skills are. I used to think that outdoor skills just included things like backpacking, rock climbing and canoeing, but really there so much more."

Eager to try some events themselves, interested students joined in this after school relay to practice safety and precision with tools and wood. Ellie and Hannah were among the group of students who participated in the lumberjack relay. Even though the month of November ended with strong chilling winds, students still found the time and spirit for outdoor play. Competitive lumberjack and outdoor Skills Teaching Fellow, Kate Witkowski, offered an outdoor skills workshop for about 20 students for the relay. They gathered to listen to the instructions for the activity and then prepared for the event by dividing into groups. The teams selected a member to throw an axe at a target and another to chop wood. Lastly, the team decided who would stack wood to effectively start a fire. Students took turns in the relay, many finding their own power behind the axe and enjoying the warmth of the fire that they sustained in the below freezing temperatures.

Hannah from Poolesville, Maryland reflected on what she's learned this semester about lumberjacking. She shares, "Throughout the semester I have learned that lumberjacking events are still very current and competitive. I was so impressed watching the lumberjack show and seeing how much strength and intensity all of the competitors had. I didn't realize how dangerous it was." Hannah expands on how using wood tools has influenced her understanding of outdoor skills as well as being confident in the outdoors, " I have learned how to throw axes and it was so much fun to practice. Sticking the axe in the target makes me feel powerful and excited. I feel confident in my wood chopping skills and throughout the semester my knowledge of outdoor recreation has developed. I would like other people to know that lumberjacking is a really cool sport and is a lot more complex and amazing than most people might think. I learned how recently, powerful women lumberjacks have been able to compete in bigger competitions like nationals."

Ellie shares final thoughts on her experience with developing outdoor skills, "Before this semester, I didn't really know anything about lumberjacking. I learned how to split wood properly and throw axes. It was so much fun, and I'd love to be able to pursue it when I go home. I hope that people in parts of the country, such as DC, where I'm from, can learn about lumberjacking, because no one knows the sport exists. I hope they also learn that lumberjacking isn't just for middle aged white men with beards dressed in plaid, it's for everyone."