Wilderness Survival

It was 4 a.m. and still dark outside when Wonder learners stepped into the unknown. Woken early from their daily routines, they each had a red and orange backpack full of the bare essentials; clothes, snacks, fire starters, compass, whistle and shiny Trailblazer badges they worked so hard to earn. It was an hour ride to the ranch, an unfamiliar terrain where learners were ready to face challenges, work together as a team, and spend the next two days camping in the wilderness.

At the beginning of the quest, learners accepted a call to adventure:

Call to Adventure

“As Humans, we have basic needs that are important for our survival and well being. The most basic needs are: Food, Water, Shelter and Sleep. Do you agree? What about needs like health and security? Or personal identity, family, friendship, confidence, and creativity? Which ones are more important to all humans? Which ones are more important to you? In this quest, you will learn the skills and science to survive in the wilderness, you will discover new truths about your own identity, and you will learn more about the natural world around us. If you were stranded in the wild, do you have the skills to meet your basic needs and survive?

Road of Trials

Over the course of the next five weeks, learners learned how to tie knots, build shelters, purify water, forage for edible plants, prep a fish, start a fire, make bear bags for overnight food storage, give basic first aid care, navigate using a compass, and practice responsibility to the environment. The socratic discussions covered ethical dilemmas like, “Imagine this, you are hiking up a trail and have a limited supply of water. You see another hiker who is in dire need of water. You know your own supply is dwindling. Do you stop and give them your water, or do you carry on and get help some other way?”

The Final Showdown

Once they arrived at the campsite, each squad started with their most difficult challenge yet: to carry a 25 lb. sandbag across a three mile long rocky terrain with their team. Three of the four teams made it all the way with the load. The team reflected on how each member of the team was crucial in carrying the log across. In the afternoon, the team played games at the campsite, and squads competed in a raft building challenge. Wonder 3 learners constructed their own shelters and Wonder 2 learners set up tents. By this time, a cold draft was settling in with the twilight. The night ended with reflections and food by the campfire.

The cold windy night became the perfect backdrop for deeper friendships as learners shared s’mores and helped each other secure their shelters. The team woke up before sunrise the next morning. A silent hike presented its own set of trials, with uneven ground, muddy trails, and freezing cold temperatures. The tribe watched a magical sunrise from the top of the hill, and soon, spirits were high again, as the team enjoyed “the best egg burritos ever” back at the campsite. Later that afternoon, after fishing at the lake, families joined in for an Exhibition of Learning where learners taught survival skills to their parents. Each hero went home having changed through the experience.