Although the students in our alternative wilderness school also attend classes throughout the day, the bedrock of our unique approach to education has always placed a strong focus on actual student experience with a hands-on approach. It is our goal that every student will experience at least one 2-3 week canoe trip during their 10-12 month attendance and they have weekly exposure to a very strong hands-on woodshop program in additon to Boy Scout adventure education classes. We continue to believe that this aspect of our program in combination with all our teachers dedication, has an undeniably positive effect on our students overall educational experience and our test scores just recently re-enforced this.
Today I led three scouting classes on Firem n' Chit training which has a focus on safe fire usage while camping. The training is a lot of fun which also leads to some interesting conversations during the class and when students complete the course which is about three 50-minute classes they will receive certification cards and official 2nd Class Boy Scout credits.
This activity creates a great challenge on snowy/rainy January days and the kids love it. During my demonstrations I emphasize that lighting a camp fire should only take one single match if they did everything correctly. In addition to new skills learned the students must also work together as a team to be successful. That means effective communication before and during the contest will be crucial for a chance at success.
After a 15 minute review I then led a carving class around our small campfire. The day was somewhat damp and the air a little "nippy" so the fire provided some warmth for our fingers while also creating a warm atmosphere for an otherwise balmy day. Some of the kids worked on carving their spoons while others worked on small totem poles and a lot of progress was made. Since this class has successfully completed this sessions course requirements, next week I'll probably take them on a short hike into the woods for another fire building review while demonstrating a few new skills. Kids eat up this kind of stuff and the hands-on element of my classes is a perfect complement to their other scheduled classes thus giving them a more balanced approach to a successful educational experience.