(Lydia Hastings is working at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center as the Marketing AmeriCorps VISTA. She originally joined the OEC staff over the summer as the Kitchen Coordinator.)
It was a chilly, cold evening, with snowflakes flying through a sky full of shades of gray, when eight Leaders in Action students pulled into the parking lot of the Outdoor Education Center for their end of the season Wilderness Skills Course. Luckily for the students, they were greeted by smiling faces, a warm fireplace and hot cocoa to indulge in. Instead of the bitter cold elements of old man winter, the students would spend the night in the cozy warmth of the OEC’s Lodge.
The students came to the Center to participate in a weekend-long Wilderness Skills Course and wind down from the hustle and bustle of their fall semester. For most of the students, this was their first introduction to the OEC and a new experience of being away from home for a night. LIA staff and students made the most of their time by playing entertaining games and enjoying the warmth of the fire as they relaxed in the lounge. They roasted s’mores, popped popcorn, watched movies and by the end of the evening all were ready to climb into their bunks and sleep the night away.
The following day marked the beginning of the wilderness survival skills session. With the sun up and winter gear on, the group made their way into the chilly elements to test their knowledge of basic survival skills. Each student received an essential ‘Survival Kit’ and they were taught how to use the tools found in the kits. Later they learned different techniques for building a fire out of materials found at-hand as well as the importance of building shelters and how to create different shelters in different areas. The students were able to show off their newfound knowledge when they were split into three teams and asked to create their own shelters. Working together and building leadership skills, the students collaborated on their wilderness refuges. After the shelters were constructed using natural material found in the woods, the group got a chance to look at each other’s shelters and explain their own creations. Prizes were awarded for the different elements the students incorporated into their shelters, ranging from “The Most Rustic” to “The Most Luxurious”.
The students also learned how animals survive during the winter months and the importance that camouflage has on both protecting animals from predators and allowing animals to catch pray. This idea was reinforced when they had to then camouflage themselves in the wilderness to keep for being ‘spotted’ by their peers during a hike in the woods.
Overall the students learned invaluable tools at the OEC that they will be able to take with them in life. Armed with new skill sets, not only for the woods but for working together in the world, the LIA students are more prepared for upcoming challenges. The OEC prides itself on teaching the values of sustainability and cultivates imagination in all who wish to find it.