December 13, 2008

Naturalist Challenges, Advanced Fire-Making, and Northwest Trek

The last week of classes before the holidays at the Wilderness Certification Program was exciting and challenging. On Wednesday we put the skills and knowledge we've acquired to the test in three different naturalist challenges. In the first challenge, two teams competed to light a friction fire on a rainy day to pop a balloon in under an hour and a half. Team Chupacabra passed with flying colors but unfortunately the weather got the better of Team Owl, who did however manage to keep their tinder bundle smoldering for over an hour. On Thursday, the real challenge started when we built our own bow drill kits out of entirely natural material harvested that day. Luckily it wasn't raining that day, but finding dry wood was difficult to say the least. Never the less, two different groups still blew a coal into flames; it was a good day. On Friday we went to Northwest Trek to learn more about wildlife native to the Northwest.

A striped skunk wakes from his nap to eye the camera.

A giant pacific salamander close up.
Finally! A huge coal from an all natural bow drill kit.
Some sort of slime fungus, looks like grape jelly.
Some inner cedar bark shavings drying in the sun for tinder.

Happy holidays to all, will post again after the new year!

December 9, 2008

Mentoring, Bird Language, and Permaculture Terraces

This week, Allan "Hawkeye" Sande, founder of Quiet Heart Wilderness School, came out to the Wilderness Certification Program again, this time to teach us about "creating the need" (to learn) when mentoring young students. We talked about how to inspire young minds and bring out their desire to learn. For example, if a kid had something to cook over the fire, but nothing to grab it with when it was nice and hot, a need was created for tongs. We got to be the kids and made tongs out of sticks and rawhide.

Then, Hawkeye told us that he was feeling a bit sick and needed some dandelion roots to make a detoxification tea. He created a need for us to make digging sticks.

He gave us a challenge as well. He wanted the biggest, most beautiful roots. This made me much more intrigued and excited about digging up a dandelion. Common needs of most people, and especially young people, we learned, are acceptance, challenge, self esteem, passion, curiosity, and physical and emotional needs. By setting up challenges, sparking that curiosity or passion, and teaching in a visually exciting atmosphere (in the forest, near a creek, around a fire, etc.), we can successfully create needs for children to learn.

Thursday was another bird language day. We played a game of "name that bird," which the Owls won (take that Chupacabras!). At our sit spots we listened hard for a good forty minutes. Every one of us recognized that as the sun poked into the canopy, the chatter of the birds picked up quickly. The Golden-crowned Kinglets were the most active near my sit spot, and I also watched a Winter Wren feed. Every time he flew from bush to bush, he let out a "kip kip," which was responded to by another Winter Wren about 50 feet northeast. We tried to stay invisible to the birds in order to not interrupt their singing, which some indigenous groups characterize as a bird's "thanksgiving ritual."

Friday was another Permaculture day with Adam Rawson of Eden Cultivation. We learned about earthworks in general (by tractor or hand) and the benefits of terracing, swales, and path making. We also learned a lot about water and water storage. The route that water takes from its source to its point of use should be carefully designed to ensure enough water, clean water, efficiency, and most importantly, sustainability. Water comes from a known, renewable source. It then needs to be collected, conveyed, and stored in tanks, barrels, ponds, earth, vegetation, etc. We learned about irrigation systems, and looked into pipes' capacities for pressure and flow.