We held our Wilderness Survival class at several locations this past month.  The majority (if not all) of each class was spent outside which was an effective way to safely illustrate the importance of preparing oneself mentally for a survival situation.  We started each evening by teaching everyone how to make strong rope out of raffia.  Though one won’t find raffia growing in the Pacific Northwest (it’s from a palm tree!), it’s one of the easiest fibers to use when learning the reverse wrap process.  Each class progressed differently based upon the location, timing and student’s interests but generally we followed the same outline.

Seattle class learning the Critical Order of Survival.

Chris spent some time teaching the Critical Order of Survival and everyone practiced some simple breathing techniques.  We talked about the importance of shelter, water and fire (and a metal pot!) and learned various ways to purify water (with and without modern conveniences such as a water filter or iodine tablets).

During the class co-sponsored by Seattle Backpackers, we had a brief navigation discussion and broke up into groups to do some basic map work.  It was billed as a one-minute navigation training, but in effect, it was designed to train experienced hikers and backpackers how to quickly show friends and children how topographic lines work. Suffice it to say that it’s critical to use an area that includes familiar landmarks on it, which is easy to do nowadays with Google maps and selecting the “landscape” feature.

Then students learned a simple method for determining whether they are right or left dominant.  This is especially important to know when hiking through underbrush and using a compass to navigate. We forgot to do this for the class co-sponsored by Kitsap Outdoors, but we promise to include it for them during our February class  on Tracking Olympic Mountain Wildlife.

After the navigation exercise in Seattle, everyone was invited to taste water that had been purified that evening using iodine tablets.  It wasn’t bad at all.  It’s amazing how many people have carried around the tablets for years but have never tried them.

A student learning if she is left or right dominant.

Chris is showing the group his burn bowl and explaining why it's so important to remember a metal bowl. Making a burn bowl takes hours (and that's after you find the right piece of wood to use)!

Next thing we did in Seattle was to give everyone a survival scenario to ponder, and then we broke into groups to discuss how we would respond.  A spokesperson from each group shared the plan the team came up with.

The Snohomish class working together to build a miniature debris hut.

We brought tall, dry grass, bags of leaves and bundles of sticks for making miniature shelters.  Chris talked about the benefits of making a debris hut (nature’s sleeping bag) vs. a lean-to type shelter and when each would be most appropriate to build.  Depending on the size of the group, everyone participated in building a single shelter or were split into two groups with each having 5 minutes to create their own shelter.  Afterwards, Chris evaluated the shelters and offered tips for making them warmer, more secure and weatherproof.

The Kitsap group working on their debris hut.

Chris is evaluating Seattle's debris hut.

Then it was time for everyone’s favorite – fire!  Chris talked about various methods for creating a spark and how to catch that spark and blow it into flame.  Everyone learned about different materials that could be used as tinder (such as cedar, cattail, jute and fireweed) and helped process them into a tinder bundle.  Some of the students practiced the flint and steel method and Chris demonstrated both the hand-drill (typically used in the more dry regions of the country) and the bow-drill (our preferred method for this region).

Chris shows the Kitsap group how to blow tinder into flame after making fire using a bow-drill.

One of our Snohomish students makes her first fire using flint and steel.

The Seattle class watches as Chris puts his coal (bow-drill) into the tinder bundle they made and blows it into flame.

A Snohomish student is learning about the proper form needed to make a bow-drill fire.

After the show, we learned about some of the most important plants to know in order to survive in the wilderness.  Cattail rhizomes are tasty after being cooked on the coals, stinging nettles are delicious cooked or raw (yep, really!) and pine, spruce and fir needles are high in vitamin C and make an excellent tea.

Steeping western white pine needles in boiling water to make tea.

What a fun month focusing on Wilderness Survival! Next up for February: Tracking Animals Along the Pacific Northwest Trails


We had a rainy Tuesday in Puyallup and a sunny Wednesday in Snohomish for our classes on Wilderness Survival.  We spent the first part of each class inside talking about the Critical Order of Survival then headed outside to practice what we learned. 

Collecting leaves for the debris hut.

Collecting grass to use as insulation for our shelter.


Creating a mini debris hut for Skye's stuffed dragon.

After heading outside at each of the locations, we spent a few minutes talking about what to do (and what not to do!) if you get lost in the woods.  Skye did a couple of demonstrations (many thanks to our  volunteers!) to show everyone how a search dog works when looking for lost people.

The beginnings of a debris hut (spine and ribs).


Chris taught everyone about the importance of breathing and how it can even help to warm you up a bit!  Then everyone tried to see how long they could hold their breath.  Chris won out this week at 1 minute 16 seconds.  It’s really hard to do unless you practice.

Learning the stages of building a debris hut.

We walked around at the various locations looking for and talking about places that might provide natural shelter.  We learned about the 5 W’s (wood, wind/weather, water, widow-makers and wigglies) and their importance in selecting a safe place to stay.

The Snohomish homeschool class and their mini debris hut.


The Puyallup after school class and their debris hut.

Depending on the location, students chose a site and spent a few minutes gathering supplies from the surrounding area to make a shelter.  We brought materials such as tall dry grass, leaves and branches with us to the Snohomish class for everyone to use.  Then Chris evaluated everyone’s debris huts and offered suggestions.

Pulling apart jute rope for use in a tinder bundle.


A spark from flint and steel landed on the char-cloth and will soon be blown into flame.


Creating fire with flint and steel.


Another successful flint and steel demonstration.

We talked about using water in a survival situation and how to sterilize it by rock boiling if you don’t have some sort of pot or kettle available.  Then Chris demonstrated how to make fire using flint and steel and by friction using a bow-drill.  Finally we discussed the importance of food and some of the native plants that could be used as wild edibles if needed.

Making tinder from cedar in preparation of the bow-drill fire demonstration.


Bow-drill demonstration - creating fire by friction.


Skye on the steps of the Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish watching the bow-drill demonstration.


Where there's smoke...


Learning proper bow-drill form.


Discussing what to do during a fictional wilderness survival situation.

The topics we discussed are so vitally important and there is so much information to share that we were only able to provide the briefest of summaries in our two hours together.  Our hope is that with this overview of the basics each family will be able to assess their level of preparedness and work to fill in the gaps so they’ll be ready should the need arise.

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | January 15, 2011

Survival Shelters at the Earth Lodge

It was an overcast, cool morning when we met up at the Earth Lodge.  Rain was forecast for the afternoon and we were hopeful that our shelters would be complete before it began.  Bibiana and her family decided they would like a lean-to built near their earth lodge – a place where family and guests could rest and warm up by the fire while working.  We checked out several locations as a group, discussing the pros and cons of each spot, and finally settled on an area nestled nearby among the Douglas firs. 

Building the lean-to near the Earth Lodge.

Chris taught us how to decide the best placement based upon the terrain, prevailing weather and area safety (considering the 5 W’s:  wood, wind/weather, water, wigglies and widow-makers).  The family had some materials (cedar landscape posts, rocks, cedar bark) available for us to use so we began by measuring to determine the size shelter to build.  Then we used a post-hole digger to make holes for the side beams.  Brace beams were lashed on and the top support beam was added and lashed into place.  In the meantime, Chris explained that heat could be reflected from a fire to warm those in the shelter.  We discussed placement of the fire and reflection wall in terms of safety during both winter and summer (when nearby ground and trees would become a fire hazard) and we decided on a location to dig a pit and build a small wall.

Rocks were moved from around the yard and formed into a reflection wall behind the fire pit we dug. We added soil to the wall to help cement the rocks together and close any gaps.

Once the supports were lashed together on the lean-to, we added more beams to the back then covered it (back and sides) with cedar bark.  We carried in douglas fir boughs for the floor (they are so comfortable to sit on and they smell wonderful). 

The lean-to is angled so people can sit comfortably inside out of the weather. We have added other large branches for additional support and are placing cedar bark like shingles on the back and sides to make it weatherproof.

We took a break from our lean-to project to watch a special talk on ultralight travel given by our friend, Tim Kropf.  He did an amazing job covering the main aspects of going ultralight.  He set up some shelters (in the rain, it was raining by then) for us to check out and showed us his special, lightweight packs (and how to pack them!) and all of his gear.  I’ve (this is Kim writing) been hiking and bushwhacking around the Pacific Northwest for years now and I was amazed at all of the tips and tricks he had to lighten one’s load.  I think my favorite tip was to replace the padding inside the backpack straps with socks!  Oh, and the stove he uses…  It was a truly inspiring presentation and we were all thankful that he shared it with us (and gave us all a pack list!).

These are two ultralight shelters we learned about during Tim's awesome presentation!

Tim pulled everything out of his pack so we could see examples of all of the little changes one can make to lighten the load. Truly inspiring.

Then it was back over to the lean-to for our next lesson:  fire by friction!  Chris showed us how to create fire using a bow-drill.  We all stood back and watched as a tiny coal formed in the dust from the base board and spindle (both cedar) and chris placed it into his tinder bundle (cedar and cattail down).  We gathered around as he blew it into flame then built up a nice little fire in the pit we had dug.

Skill and intention combined to make this another successful fire by friction demonstration.

A beautiful fire for a beautiful lean-to.

After a quick talk on the proper selection of rocks (if you choose poorly, your rocks can explode in the fire and launch dangerous shards quite a distance), we placed several in the fire to heat for our next lesson:  rock boiling.  Rock boiling is the method by which you can boil water (to kill things like giardia) in a wooden bowl (you had to make/burn out because you forgot your metal pot) without catching your bowl on fire.  It really does work and we had a brave volunteer taste-tester who said the water didn’t taste too bad (though it was a little ashy).

Chris is moving the red-hot rocks from the fire to the burn bowl with some improvised tongs.

Rock boiling really does work. It takes practice and is an important survival skill. Notice the smaller burn bowl is resting on an even larger burn bowl.

We also spent some time out in the woods near the house and learned how to build a debris hut.  I think the most important lesson learned is that it takes a long time to build one so if you think you’re going to need it, start early, be efficient and work hard!  We utilized our knowledge of the 5 W’s to help us select a site then began collecting materials from the surrounding area.  While some people worked on the frame, others collected debris (leaves, dead fern fronds and downed Douglas fir boughs) for the inside.  This is, after all, nature’s sleeping bag so the contents of the hut must be stuffed (= totally packed in tight) in order to keep you as warm as possible all night.  It’s important to build your shelter in a safe location that is near your building materials.  It wastes too much time and energy those two things aren’t close together.  Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.  Try to build one and you’ll see what I mean!  When doing demonstrations we try to mostly use only downed material but in a real survival situation, use whatever you can get your hands on.  However we did use some vine maple branches to lash together the frame. 

The spine and ribs used to form the debris hut along with some debris on the inside.

When you’re all done it should take you at least 10 minutes to wriggle in (because it’s so tightly packed with material) feet first.  Make sure to leave some extra debris within arms reach that you can draw in toward you to form a door.  And, depending upon where you are and the temperature and weather, you will need 1-3 feet of additional debris on top of your shelter to increase your warmth or weather proof (bark can also be used if placed like shingles, and if you can find enough of it).  One that’s done, and before you climb in for the night, pile heavy branches on top so your shelter doesn’t come apart if you wiggle around in the night.  And remember, it may not be comfortable but you’ll survive the night.

Trying our debris hut on for size. Notice all of the leaves underneath. It's vitally important to have a good barrier between you and the ground.

We ended this great day with a beautiful meal of Elk Stew provided by Bibiana, Darkfeather and Lisa from meat the Joe had hunted. Can’t wait for this spring when we have a work party to work on the Earth Lodge, and then next February when we do this “shelter workshop” starting in the luxury of the finished lodge!

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | January 13, 2011

Wilderness Survival Homeschool Class in Bellingham, Olympia & Vancouver

In Bellingham on Tuesday, it was a cold, snowy day! After some quick introductions, a few exercises to help us stay warm and a fictitious emergency scenario in front of  Village Books we walked over to Padden Creek Trail to continue class.  Each family was given a packet of emergency preparedness and survival handouts to take home to read and discuss.  Then we talked about several suggestions for preparing our homes and selves for the unexpected.  In Olympia, we met on the Evergreen State College campus and spent most of the time in the woods near the library.  In Vancouver, we discussed emergency preparedness in the Community Center before heading out to explore the grounds for shelter-making materials, wild edibles and to learn how to make fire.

Staying warm and having fun in the snow.

After heading outside at each of the locations, we spent a few minutes talking about what to do (and what not to do!) if you get lost in the woods.  Skye did a couple of demonstrations (many thanks to our  volunteers!) to show everyone how a search dog works when looking for lost people.

Chris taught everyone about the Critical Order of Survival.  We began by learning the importance of breathing and how it can even help to warm you up a bit!  Then everyone tried to see how long they could hold their breath.  Chris won out at 1 minute 9 seconds.  It’s really hard to do unless you practice.

Everyone is practicing deep breathing.

We walked down the trails, through the woods and around the grounds at the various locations looking for places that might provide natural shelter.  We learned about the 5 W’s (wood, wind/weather, water, widow-makers and wigglies) and their importance in selecting a safe place to stay.

Chris is teaching the Bellingham group how to tell if branches are dead and good for building a fire.


Making a wooden frame for a stuffed animal sized debris hut.


Gathering leaves to use for warmth inside the debris hut.

The Vancouver group tests to see if the debris is think enough to keep Skye's giraffe dry in a "torrential downpour".

Depending on the location, students chose a site and spent a few minutes gathering supplies from the surrounding area to make a teepee fire and/or shelter.  Chris evaluated everyone’s sites and fires and offered suggestions.

Western redcedar offers excellent protection from the elements and provides wood for fire, shelter, tools, clothing and so much more.

The Olympia homeschool group used wood they found nearby as the shelter roof then lined and weatherproofed the sides with strips of bark from an old stump.

We talked about using water in a survival situation and how to sterilize it by rock boiling if you don’t have some sort of pot or kettle available.  Then Chris demonstrated how to make fire by friction using a bow drill.  Finally we continued on the trail and discussed the importance of food and some of the native plants that could be used as wild edibles if needed.

Chris shows the group a burn bowl and shares how to make one.


The kids learn how to make tinder from cedar.

Chris demonstrates how to make a fire using a bow drill.


Skye looks on as Chris demonstrates fire by friction.

The Olympia group built a lean-to to protect their fire and reflect it's heat.

Chris and the group are sampling blackberry pith as a wild edible. It's not as tasty as ice cream but it (among other things) will help get you through.

The topics we discussed are so vitally important and there is so much information to share that we were only able to provide the briefest of summaries in our two hours together.  Our hope is that with this overview of the basics each family will be able to assess their level of preparedness and work to fill in the gaps so they’ll be ready should the need arise.

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | November 15, 2010

Puyallup Classes Harvest Willow and Rose Hips

The rain held off for our homeschool class today but by the time the afterschool class started it was drizzling and dark.  No matter, we had plenty to learn and do.  We started off both classes with a quick go-around about changes we had noticed in nature since we had met last time.  Many of the trees have lost their leaves and hummingbirds are still being seen.  We had our first frost a few weeks ago so the rosehips are ready for harvesting.  As we talked, we kept our hands busy practicing the reverse wrap method of making cordage. 

Gathered around our phenology calendar.

We checked out the Wolf Camp phenology calendar and talked about the importance of noting when we see changes in nature and charting those changes year after year. 

Reading about happenings in nature throughout the year.

We headed outside to learn the length of our stride so we could better judge distances and pace off the area for our study sites.  The kids had a great time practicing and counting their paces!

Learning how to pace off distances.

Heading back after our pacing exercise.


Everyone was then tasked with drawing a square foot of ground of their choice and all of the things on it (leaves, twigs, flowers, etc.) in 3 minutes.  The concentration was amazing and the drawings were excellent.

Such concentration!


Everyone got into the drawing.


A finished product.


Another great drawing with a beautiful bird!

Sharing details about their square foot with the group.

We played a quick game of fox and hare.

Sneaking up on the "hare".

Heading over the fence to collect rosehips.

Next it was time to harvest some fresh rosehips from the Nootka roses (one of our native roses) growing near our yard.  Everyone had a chance to check out our underground yellow jacket nest – from a safe distance, of course.  It was a little less active than earlier in the season but there were still several bees coming and going every minute. 

Getting a little help to reach the high branches.

Honorably collecting rosehips after the first frost.

Our rosehip harvest.

We harvested a basket of rosehips then turned our attention to the willow tree.  Everyone learned how to honorably remove branches from the tree then we headed back inside to process our materials.

Clipping willow branches.


Everyone practiced harvesting a few branches.

We made rosehip tea for everyone to taste and a willow decoction for the adults to try. 

Removing bark and leaves for our willow decoction.

Boiling the willow.


Our willow and rosehip harvest.

Splitting willow to make baskets.

It sure takes a lot of practice to split these things! See our rosehip tea steeping in the jar on the table?


Then we learned how to split willow branches to prepare for making baskets.  It takes a lot of practice to split them without breaking them!  Everyone got to take some home to see how far they could get.  Then it was time to bring our class to a close.  Chris and I can hardly wait ’til we meet again to learn about oak trees and acorns!  

A tasty end to a wonderful class.

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | November 10, 2010

Fun Adult Wolf Journey Class in Snohomish on Willows & Rose

It sure was cold Wednesday night but we were warm in Tim Noah’s Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish.  We started out the evening by introducing ourselves and talking a little about study sites and the Wolf Journey curriculum.  While we were sharing, we kept our hands busy by making cordage from the fibers of stinging nettle stalks we collected earlier in the month.  Then we learned about harvesting and processing rose hips.  I brought along a basketful I had harvested a few hours earlier so everyone could see how to prepare them.  Then we made a tasty rose hip and mint infusion (a.k.a. tea).  As the tea was steeping, we read about our native roses in Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast (affectionately known as Pojar).

Looking through the Top 10 Most Important Plants to Learn written by Chris and available at http://www.wolfcollege.com/wolfjourney/essays/plants.html

Then everyone was given a freshly harvested willow branch and we removed the leaves to make a decoction.  While the leaves were boiling, we researched willows in the reference books we brought and learned about the healing properties of the bark and leaves. 

Learning how to split willow branches used to make baskets.

Splitting willow branches is a challenging task and practice definitely helps.  It only takes a little pressure in the wrong direction to break the branch apart and then you have to start again.  At least there are plenty of branches available for practice! 

Working carefully on our willow branches.

Our time together was dwindling fast so we tasted and enjoyed the willow decoction before cleaning up and heading out into the crisp autumn air. 

A lovely end to another enjoyable and informative class!

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | October 21, 2010

Wolf Journey Classes Begin in Ellensburg on a Beautiful Fall Day!

Today’s class met at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park off Umtanum Rd.  The trees along the river were brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red.  We began our afternoon together learning how to spin rope out of raffia.  It takes some practice to get it right but before long all of the kids were making some nice cordage.

Spinning raffia into rope.

Practicing the reverse wrap method of making cordage.

Testing the strength of the rope after splicing in a new piece of raffia. Now that's some strong rope!

We learned how to lengthen the rope by splicing in a new piece of raffia.  Then we checked the strength of the splice with a good solid tug.  As the kids continued to work on their cordage, we each shared our life story – in 25 seconds!  It’s always great to hear about some of the amazing things kids love to do.  Once everyone had some time to practice their new skill, we took a break to learn about two very important awareness skills:  fox walk and owl eyes. 

Everyone is checking to see how far they can see with their peripheral vision.

Now we're practicing fox walking while using our owl eyes to watch Chris off on the sideline. We have to try to copy his gestures without actually looking directly at him.

After learning and practicing the skills everyone headed into the woods to try their hand at Observation Alley (or Squeeky Game).  Prior to class, Skye and I went for a walk down the trail and Skye happened to “lose” several of her squeeky toys in the tall grass and nearby tree branches.  So the next activity was to fox walk down the path and using our owl eyes see how many squeeky toys we could find.  It’s amazing how difficult it is to see a round pink pig perched in a tree! 

Everyone was amazed at how sweet the grass stalks tasted. Grass is the most important plant to know.

Chris is showing how cottonwood bark (from downed trees) can be harvested and used to make rope.

We found this little fella under some cottonwood bark we pulled up. I'm pretty sure it's a wood cockroach. Awesome find!

Testing the strength of a small piece of cottonwood rope.

Heading back to the picnic table where we processed our finds.

Learning to twist the bark to make rope.

It's amazing how many uses there are for plants and trees.

 Some of the kids continued to work with the cottonwood bark and others learned how to process stinging nettles for their fiber.  It definitely takes some practice but the rewards are great.

Learning to remove the pith from the fibers of stinging nettles. Stinging nettle fibers are some of the strongest natural fibers found on the west side of the Cascades.

 After trying stinging nettle tea (everyone loved it!) the group headed out in search of some pine needles.  Pine needles are loaded with vitamin C and also make a very tasty tea.

Looking for acorns under a nearby oak tree.

 Before we knew it, it was time to pack up our things and gather in our closing circle.  Everyone shared their favorite activity of the afternoon and posed for class pictures.

Our closing circle by the river.

Our first Ellensburg homeschool class!

Family class photo!

  What a wonderful afternoon we shared.  We hope to see you all next month to learn all about willows!


Another beautiful October day!  Today we learned how to make cordage.  We started out using raffia in order to learn the reverse wrap method. 

Chris is showing everyone how to make cordage out of raffia.

Raffia is an easy material to use when first learning the reverse wrap method.

We practiced splicing in a new piece of raffia in order to increase the length of our ropes while not compromising strength and durability.  While our hands were busy, we shared our personal stories with one another and caught up a bit.  Then we headed outside to attempt a continuation of the navigation challenge from last month.

Tug-o-war to test the strength of the splice.

Using the map to help locate and identify various shrubs and trees.

Skye's waiting for her turn to help with the challenge.

We were broken into teams and each given a map of the general area.  Using the map we had to find and identify various trees and shrubs (with a little hint – the first letter of the name of the tree).  Everyone did a great job!  Then we headed over to the fish hatchery down the street and stopped to check out the farmed fish while on our way to collect stinging nettles. 

Checking out the thousands of hatchery fish.

Japanese knotweed, a highly invasive plant, grows along the bank of the creek behind the hatchery.

We spotted this spider fashioning its beautiful web near the creek.

We saw salmon making their way up Clark's Creek to spawn.

Clark’s Creek runs behind the hatchery and we were able to see several salmon coming upstream to spawn. 

Checking out an informative sign including drawings of various salmon species that spawn in Clark's Creek.

A bird's-eye view.

One large salmon was near the creek edge and Chris was able to slowly approach and gently hold it so the kids to get a good brief close-up. 

A close look at this amazing creature.

We watched from creekside and an overhead bridge before continuing up the trail to visit a spring coming from the hillside. 

You almost can't tell where the spring comes out of the hillside.

The kids gathered under a cedar for a story.

We gathered nearby and Chris shared the story of how nettles got their green color and their sting (thank you tree frogs and red ants!).  Then we spent some time learning how to respectfully harvest nettles with and without gloves (fresh nettles are delicious!) and what time of year they should be used for food, medicine and rope-making. 

The homeschool class.

Everyone did a fabulous job harvesting and we had very few stings!  Then we bundled the stalks and headed back to enjoy some stinging nettle tea and learn how to process the rest of the plant. 

Chris is showing everyone how to touch stinging nettle without getting stung.

Yep, he's really going to eat it. Raw. And you can too if you know how. 🙂

Last glance at the salmon as we headed out of the field.

We removed the leaves from the stalks and left them in place so they could decompose and help nourish the next generation of nettles.

Longest stalk for the homeschool group.

Longest stalk for the after school group.

With our new-found knowledge of making rope (from our raffia practice earlier), we were able to remove the fibers from some previously dried nettle stalks and make nettle cordage!   Everyone went away with some stalks to dry and process at home. 

Processing dried nettle stalks.

Stinging nettle tea is tasty and nutritious.

Breaking the stalks open to get to the pith.

Separating the pith from the fiber needed to make rope.

Rope that was hand-made from stinging nettle fiber.

Some of the other plants and animals we learned about today:  how to identify dogwoods by tearing the leaf, rose-hips and vitamin C, spruce needles and vitamin C, dragonflies, Japanese knotweed, salmon life cycle, salmonberry, youth-on-age (or piggy-back plant), giant bullwhip kelp (harvested on Orcas Island two days prior), belted kingfishers, great blue herons and killdeer. 

Dragonflies we found out in the backyard.

Great blue heron perched high above the fish hatchery.

A pair of killdeer that live in the gravel parking lot of the hatchery.

What a wonderful day we had.  See you all next month for an afternoon harvesting and processing willow, and much more!

It was a good day!

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | October 4, 2010

Beautiful Day & Homeschool Class at Edgewater Park in Mt. Vernon

It was such a beautiful day today that we went straight to the park to begin our class.  We started out with the basic awareness skills:  fox walk and owl eyes then played a round of fox and hare.  The foxes try to s-l-o-w-l-y stalk in on the hare (like a fox would do in real life) and the hare uses its owl eyes to call the foxes out if any movement is seen.

Everyone had a great time playing fox and hare.

Then we learned how to listen with our deer ears by cupping our ears different ways to isolate and augment sounds from all directions.  We followed up the lesson with a game where the “deer” closes his or her eyes as the “cougars” are stalking in (fox-walking, of course).  If the deer hears a cougar they can call him or her out by pointing at the cougar (the direction of the sound).

We all practiced our deer ears while fox walking.

Then it was time to learn some basics of sketching.  We started out with some timed drawings.  Everyone was given 30 seconds to draw the person across from them without looking at their paper.  We sure ended up with some funny looking people!  Then everyone had 30 seconds to draw a person while able to look down at their paper.  A lot more ears were in the right places!

We all had 10 seconds to look at Skye then 1 minute to sketch her. She approved!

We practiced drawing an object from memory (view for 10 seconds then sketch the details).  Fortunately we had a beautiful model, Skye-dog!  Then we talked about and practiced different ways to draw leaves.

Everyone is learning how to sketch the negative space around a leaf.

We talked about patterns such as alternate vs. opposite and looked at several examples including samples we brought (hawthorne, holly, spruce and ash) and trees that surrounded us in the park.  We also learned that not only do leaves grow alternate and opposite but the veins within the leaves can grow that way as well.

Learning the difference between alternate and opposite while drawing leaf veins.

Next the kids headed off to learn about animal tracking while I set up observation alley.  They learned the difference between canine and feline tracks and found examples of both prints in the mud.  Then they practiced their skills by tracking Skye where she both walked and ran across the mud.

Tracking the elusive border collie.

Looking at the difference between direct and indirect register.

Following the tracking introduction, the kids headed over to test their observation skills.  I had previously hidden several of Skye’s squeekie toys amongst the grass, shrubs and trees (all colors, shapes and sizes).  Their task was to walk through the area and use their owl eyes to see how many objects they could find.  It’s amazing how hard it can be to see a stuffed pink pig in a little tree!  Then we spent a few minutes learning about the uses of spruce and fir needles (and tasting them!).  We also talked about broad-leaf and lance-leaf plantain (nature’s bandaid) and its amazing healing properties. 

Off in search of Skye's "missing" toys - the navigation challenge!

After we finished our plant walk, we headed over to do the navigation challenge.  The kids were given a satellite image of the park with X’s marking the location of each toy.  After learning how to use a compass and orient the map, they headed out.

Before proceeding to the next location, they had to agree as a group which direction to go.

The kids also had to write the name of the object they found on the map (great way to practice spelling), then decide which direction to go next.

It was wonderful to see all the kids (and adults!) working together to find all of the toys.

All in all it was a wonderful day sharing and learning at the park.  We hope to see everyone again next month!


Posted by: wolfcampcollege | September 23, 2010

Homeschool and After School Youth Classes Begin in Puyallup

 Today we had the pleasure of sharing our home and yard with 5 families – not bad for the first class of the schoolyear!  We started each class inside (tough to do on this beautiful sunny afternoon) with an introduction to drawing.  

There are so many ways to learn and practice drawing but we primarily focused on two:  timed blind contour (with variations) and energy drawing.  I like to throw in the element of time when teaching nature drawing.  If you’re drawing a landscape or flower then you often have a long amount of time in which to capture the essence of the image, its defining characteristics and beauty.  At other times, a mystery bird may suddenly swoop down in front of you and alight on a branch for a few moments before taking flight again.  You only have a minimal amount of time to memorize its shape, feather patterns, colors and posture and then you must translate those things into a sketch that represents what you’ve just seen.  Not an easy task under the best of circumstances. 

The class is learning various ways to sketch things from nature such as western redcedar and Douglas fir.

  So we ran the kids through several timed drawings.  The first, and my favorite, begins with having each person look at the person across the table from them.  They are then given 30 seconds to draw the other’s face without looking down at their paper and ideally without lifting their pencil.  I think this is everyone’s favorite because the drawings are so funny!  Then they get to do it again (while able to look down) for 60 seconds.  Then, depending on the class we draw a variety of objects (some that they see for a few seconds then have to draw from memory and others that remain in front of them while they draw).  Today our objects consisted of each other, a bird, a bumblebee, feathers, some trees and even a Frost survival knife.  We talked about key characteristics to notice when trying to identify a bird such as eye stripes and wing bars and the identifying characteristics of some of the species in the pine order such as the sharp needles of spruces and the pointy red buds of Douglas fir trees.

Chris is teaching the students how to do the fox walk.

Then we headed outside to teach some awareness skills.  The kids were introduced to the fox walk, owl eyes and deer ears and we all practiced doing them around the yard.  We saw many birds flying around in the bushes near the house and even heard several of them singing in the trees.  We tried to hear as much as possible in a single direction by cupping our ears and listening one way then turning the opposite way to compare and contrast.  We handed out compasses and taught the groups how to find north (magnetic and true) and how to orient based on that information.  Then everyone heading out on a navigation challenge to recover the rest of Skye’s missing toys!

Learning how to use a compass.

Checking out a Stellar's jay flying over the house. We noticed it while using our owl eyes.

Practicing deer ears while fox walking.

Testing obervation skills with hidden squeeky toys. Skye found this one for us!

 Chris set up an observational challenge in the front yard.  Several of Skye’s squeeky toys were hidden and the challenge was to see how many items we could find in the yard that weren’t supposed to be there naturally.  All of this was done while fox walking and using our owl eyes.  We found a stuffed carrot, frog, beaver, wolf, skunk, dinosaur, kitty, and more.  Skye cheated by pulling out the penguin to play with before we got to it!  

It's amazing how hard it is to see a stuffed skunk in a rhododendron!

The boys are practicing with their compass - searching for true north.

Learning how to use a compass is an important navigational skill.

We headed inside with the afternoon group to learn more about study sites.

Back outside again, Chris taught everyone how to identify alder (Alnus rubra) among other important trees.

 We took the group out to see our study sites and I got to show off the “hornet willow” and ant/aphid farm along with several other trees and plants (including rose hips that we’ll be harvesting after the first frost).  We also talked a little bit about the edible and medicinal uses of some of the plants in the yard.  And we checked out the sand we placed on a few game trails to see if we could find some animal tracks. 

A young squirrel from the nest in our hawthorn tree came out to visit the class.

 All in all it was a great day to learn and grow together.  Hope to see everyone again next month!

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