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Beacon Archive

December 2002
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Learning to Survive

In mid-November Ken Bruland showed another facet of his multi-talented personality by teaching survival skills to the 9th and 10th graders at the School. This followed the on-the-beach astronomy classes he gave every Monday night last summer (attended by as many as 15 people) and came just before his conversational Spanish class got underway.

The Survival Class began with the 17 students meeting in the classroom to discuss techniques. The second day, after a half-hour lecture the students went outside to try walking in a straight line using a compass. The next two days involved 3-hour field lessons, first for the 9th-graders and then for the 10th-graders. The field experience saw the group head from the Christian Brothers to a predetermined spot on Font Lake's shore using only a compass, followed by a kind of scavenger hunt for cookies and hot chocolate: to claim the prize, they had to follow clues found on notes attached to birch trees. The older group had the added challenge of circumventing a swamp using the "box technique."
There was a final follow-up session in the classroom to review the experience and be prepped on other tricks not used during the field test: paying attention to the sun (or moon or stars) and wind, and learning how to work out from a re-chosen reference point. Even though we're on an Island and can't get too lost, it's easy to get turned around and not make it out of the woods in time. Just ask Mike Russell, who once again had to organize a search party to find a hunter lost after dark in the beaver swamp south of Hannigan's Road.

Ken hopes to give the course again in the spring. And then again next fall, for hunters a week before the season opens. But the conventional wisdom gleaned from other wild areas is that those who might become lost are too stubborn (read 'macho') to ever submit to such a course.

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