Seattle Adventure Sports is wrapping up its fall quarter at John Hay Elementary, teaching Outdoor Living Skills on campus to 3rd-5th graders as a custom class called “Outdoor Wilderness”.

How do you judge success? For us, a group of kids who come tearing out of school Tuesday afternoons to see us, not wanting the quarter to end, or wanting another day of every activity sounds pretty successful to us here at SAS!

Each day we worked as a group to set up our Lavvo- our home for the afternoon, and our dry space in case of inclement weather. Even from the beginning, this is a student lead activity- our staff was there for support and advice if asked, but quickly these kids had the art of set up down to a science!

We started off the quarter working on teambuilding activities, including inclusivity, problem solving, and leadership. One of the very first activities we did was a blind “sheep dog” lead around the campus, where the youngest and shyest students were leading their older peers via word of mouth.

We then spent an afternoon learning some basic knots, and using those to make tarp shelters of our own. Working in small groups, we saw a HUGE variety in shelter types (burritos to A-frames). Some students were captivated by knots, and kept asking for more, while others were ready to move on- the beautiful thing is- that is okay! We did both. Students who were ready for more learned complex knots such as the tautline hitch, bowline, truckers hitch, and others that we use on a day-to-day basis in our bushcraft and wilderness living classes. Other students spent time using rope and their newly developed knots to overcome an obstacle course as a team set up on campus.

Next came navigation- a great success- for many students it was their first time using a compass. After learning the basics we jumped right in to orienteering- following a compass course from one point to the next to either win a race or get to the goal line. Often times we see people guessing where the end destination is, or where the next marker is, but time and again the student who is slowly moving with eyes locked on their compass dial is the first person to complete the course. This was so popular and exciting that they asked for a second helping, and we set an even more challenging course the following week!

We spent our rainiest class day building shelters out of natural materials- trees, grasses, fallen tree limbs, etc.- the kind of emergency shelter you’d make if you were stuck in the wilderness overnight. We had one student go and find a dry spot, sheltered from wind and rain by good tree cover and a large overhanging rock- very opportunistic! Others built teepees of tree boughs, others opted for lean-tos, or even a jacket draped over a tree branch as an emergency shelter. On a rainy day, this provided instant environmental feedback on whether or not their planned shelter would work.

For our final activity of the quarter we worked on some basic first aid and wilderness evacuation techniques- because who wouldn’t want to be carried by their schoolmates around campus? We took turns moving each other, using a tarp drag, a backpack carry, a BAR technique, and a hand evacuation. After experimenting with that, we used real first aid supplies you might carry on a day trip like tape, gauze, or splints, combined with what the students had (an umbrella makes a really nice splint we discovered!), to immobilize limbs, joints, apply a pressure dressing to a wound, or tape an ankle in case you had to hike out after a minor injury.

What is important in working with children? Is it hard skills, life lessons, or experiences? Anyone can learn to tie a knot, or build a shelter at any age, but to experience young people to the out of doors at a young age is critical. Even over 10 short sessions, seeing this group at first shying away from the rain and then embracing it by the end, running, smiling, and shouting for joy!

If you want to know more about Seattle Adventure Sports coming to work with your school, send us a message!

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