Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nature Adventure Class - Week 1

As you have been follow my MooseBoots wandering, you may have noticed a propensity toward living more closely with Nature.  You know that we take a class once a month to learn skills that allow us to live WITH, not ON, the Earth.  So, it should be no surprise that when the opportunity arose to participate in a new weekly class, we jumped.

This week was the first week of our Nature Adventure class.  The class was created as a means of getting homeschoolers some socialization by a woman who had trained with Tom Brown.  You may have heard of his book, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth, which is a precious book for me.  When she published the class, the response was overwhelming and two classes were created.  She also enlisted the aid of Mike, an instructor at the Maine Primitive Skills School, to help teach these larger than expected classes.

The pace of this class is much different than that of our monthly class.  The kids were engaged and we moved from topic to topic as seemingly the ideal time to keep interest.  We started with a name game to get everyone comfortable with all of the other people in the class.  Luckily, we were fortunate enough to know almost half of the people fairly well anyway ... no discomfort from us (of course, my girls aren't really shy and make friends readily).  Afterwards, we discussed our senses and how to use them differently -  we talked about soft eyes and deer ear.  We also talked about how to move in Nature (foxwalk and heron stalking).  Then, we played a game to practice each of these things.

First, we played a game to practice foxwalking.  Three kids sat in the middle of a circle blindfolded.  The rest of the group was to walk toward the center, retrieve and item and walk back with their item.  The kids in the middle would yell freeze and point when they heard someone/something.  The person who made the noise was "out".  The kids were really engaged and so, we played two rounds.

Then, we played "bluejay, monarch, and viceroy."  In the game, a person is selected to be the bluejay and is removed from the circle.  Then, a monarch is selected.  The monarch is the "leader" and all of the "viceroys" must mimic the monarch.  Then, the bluejay is brought back and must identify the "monarch".  The game was to help with soft eyes, seeing using wide angle vision instead of looking directly at something.  I found it incredibly difficult to do with my own arms moving in front of my sight.

Next, each kid was blindfolded and told to sit until he could feel his own heartbeat.  Then, he was guided to a string course.  The blindfolded child then needed to follow the string, using touch and hearing.  It was a great exercise for the kids.

The final game was to "find your tree."  Wendy and I partnered for this.  Your partner is blindfolded and then you guide you partner, via a circuitous path, to a tree.  Your partner then feels, smells, tastes, and hears everything she can about the tree/location and is then led away.  The exercise is for you partner to then find her tree.  I tried to cheat  make the game more challenging by removing any of the other sticks laying around the tree that Wendy might use to identify her tree (after she had felt them there).  She did find her tree without difficulty (in spite of the fact that when she said it was her tree I said, "no").  I was able to find mine (and identify the type blindfolded) without any trouble as well.  It was fun.

The final exercise in the woods was to gather wood to make a fire.  My girls, and several other kids who had built fires previously) went about gathering dry wood and bark.  Many simply picked up wet wood from the ground.  The ultimate goal was to build a fire, using one match, to burn a string tied horizontally across a fire pit.

During the walk back to the fire pit, we stopped and learned about Sarsasparilla.  I have seen this plant millions of time and never knew what it was.  Of course, it is commonly thought of as Poison Ivy, which it is not.  Then, back at the fire pit, the kids were told to build the fire while Mike got his matches.  The fire was built and a match lighter was selected.  After three attempts, another fire lighter, Little Fire Faery, was selected.  She, in spite of the the other kids badgering her to light the "dry" leaves, lit the birch bark, because she knows that birch bark will burn even if it is just pulled from a stream.  She was successful with her first match ... of course, we have the kids take turns building fires in our fire pit.  She was calm and in spite of peer pressure did what she knew to be right.  I am so proud.

Afterwards, we talked for a bit.  It was amazing to find that I shared similar experiences with several of the other adults (professional training - accounting, engineering, etc., but a desire/need to reconnect).  Mike for instance graduated from college with a degree in accounting and realized that that was not for him (he, as I said, is an instructor teaching wilderness skills).

This MooseBoots journey required me to participate in this class as well.  There is currently no plan to continue beyond 7 weeks, but ....  At this point, I expect to get some flack from work about missed time, but I have also decided that they need me more than I need them and they are welcome to send me packing.  This path requires nothing less than commitment and dedication.  I am coming to a crossroads and the outcome of the decision, when it needs to be made, is already clear.  I am simply waiting to see what is along the rest of the path, which is not so clear.


  1. Aw, man, I wish I lived closer to you guys...the class sounds amazing. A friend of mine went to Tom Brown's tracker school in New Jersey, as well, and will often mete out little lessons whenever we are out in nature. We had hoped to study and work together alot more this summer, but unfortunately, it never happenened.

    And how proud you and Wendy must have been of your little one when she was chosen to light the fire and she had the confidence and experience to do it correctly! Way to go, you guys!

  2. Julie, I am sorry it didn't work out, but encourage you to stick with it. I have found learning happens when you least expect it ... just be open. We were very proud of Little Fire Faery ... she is very sensitive and will often let others bully her.

  3. Luuuuuua, thank you. And, welcome to my MooseBoots path.


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