The Wolfpack Squad of the OAK Klub decided to go on their own survival campout this year, being inspired by the older, Green Machine Squad that went on one last summer. They spent months in preparation by practicing basic outdoor skills: building fires, making primitive shelters, caring for and using a pocket knife, catching and cleaning fish, purifying drinking water, and identifying and cooking edible plants.
These aren’t just individual skills to learn, but skills to practice in a group. They also learned that a group working together has a much better chance of surviving than an individual trying to make it on their own.
The scenario for the survival campout was based on a typical summer activity – fishing. But in this scenario they bring no food, and they have to spend the night in the woods due to bad weather. Considering that these were fourth and fifth graders, some allowances were made.
Besides their fishing gear they brought sleeping bags, tarps and ropes, but no tent pegs. They were also given just one bottle of water to start the day; same for the adult helpers. And to stress the importance of working together and making group decisions based on what they had been learning, they were allowed to pick five items from a variety of gear before the survival campout started.
The items they chose showed they had a good idea of what was most important, and a realistic understanding of their own abilities. They selected a first aid kit, matches, cooking kit, compass, and a pamphlet on edible plants. Among the items they chose not to take included toilet paper, an axe, saw, water purification filter, shovel, canteen, and flashlight.
Their choices may seem odd, but they wisely went through the first aid kit, which included a small flashlight, water purification tablets, and waterproof matches before making the final decisions.
But why take additional matches? Well, they knew their weak point was the ability to make a fire using only a few matches. They might not be able to make a fire at all without the extra matches.
So it was finally time for these adventurous boys to take on the group challenge of surviving in the wilderness with a minimum amount of equipment, limited experience, and a man-sized dose of determination. They were taken to the top of a hill where they hiked down to a secluded pond.
The Adult Helpers then left them alone as much as practical while still keeping an eye on things. First, they set up an ingenious system of tarps that provided ventilation but could also protect them from the wind and rain.
Then it was time to catch dinner! The fish were biting, and then caught. The skills learned during the previous months showed their value as they built a fire ring, started a fire with just two matches, cleaned and cooked their catch, and boiled water to purify it for drinking.
As the day wore on some expected rain began to fall, but it didn’t dampen their spirits. The boys still had enough gumption to climb up to Cedar Ledge where they had their dessert – low bush blueberries.
By the time they got back to camp the rain was falling heavier and their eyelids were growing heavier, too. But their shelter was waiting for them and they were soon enjoying some well-earned sleep.
During the night the rain increased and became a real downpour. But by morning had eased up a bit, which still made packing up a soggy affair. Soon the Squad was on their way back up the hill to the vehicles ready to take them to town and a breakfast of pancakes in a warm, dry restaurant.
But did everything go smoothly? Was there nothing new to experience and learn? Was it just something to check off a bucket list?
Certainly not! While on this survival campout the boys heard the real-life survival story of Bill Lawrence who got separated from his hunting partners and remained lost for five days. They learned about the four S’s when lost in the woods: Stop, Shelter, Signal, and Stay. But even though Bill Lawrence did none of these, he survived anyway because he kept a good attitude. Praying to his Creator gave him strength and hope through his ordeal. Because he became determined to survive, he DID survive. And these boys kept a good attitude, too!
Yes, they learned that if you cook fish in a frying pan and then use it as a lid for boiling a pot of water it will add a distinctive, smoky, fishy taste to your otherwise purified drinking water. And, yes, if you sleep under a hole in a tarp in the rain your sleeping bag will get wet. And, yes, if you don’t drink much water, eat only fried fish, and no edible plants you will have a tummy ache in the morning.
Yet although these difficulties were acknowledged, they weren’t whined about. The Wolfpack Squad showed they were survivors by the positive attitude they kept through the entire outdoor adventure. It will be exciting to see what their next adventure will be. They will surely be up to the challenge!
OAK (Outdoor Adventure Klub) is a Ministry of North Street Community Church for boys, kindergarten through 12th grade, and is funded by donations – no joining fee. It is a place where boys can be boys, guided by Christian men. Each Squad in the Klub has boys of about the same age.
For details, call Jeff Deutschle, Klub coordinator, at (570) 673-4275.