Great Hollow Wilderness School

Highlights from the Hollow: week 5

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The Tuesday group must be the sneakiest. They escape pictures like little rookie ninjas. But they can’t hide their traces yet…. walking through the 5 car means seeing clues to what they might be up to. Clues of wood shavings, tools neatly piled, and sweatshirts not so neatly piled, as if they were peeled off mid-run and abandoned without a thought. If their backpacks were left behind, I know they are off for a short game nearby. If the backpacks are gone, I know they have headed into the deep woods for something; perhaps hunting for magic, testing their skills, or practicing teamwork.

At this stage in the game, often what happens is that imagined community starts being replaced by true community. What I mean by that is, conflicts have surfaced already, making known some of the seemingly problematic issues of either personalities or group dynamics. But what happens after that, when held in a type of space that fosters both individual gifts as well as group strength…. is that the group finds themselves feeling more than the sum of their parts. They begin to negotiate, speak up as well as listen, and contribute effort on behalf of both themselves and the good of the group. It’s one of the most rewarding processes I have had the privilege to witness. 

Along with the story of this group, each day there is a story read. The book pictured is the recall of the explorations of Sven Hedin, arguably ‘one of our last great explorers’, cite the several places where his biography is found. Ethan has a knack for finding exceptional reads.

Thursday was filled with sweetness and fun. The Scouts got to create their own T-shirst from both natural dyes and craft paint, and played some new, challenging team games which I’ve been hearing about all week. In fact, the Scouts outwitted the Pioneers.

Up at the legendary log cabin, after the rousing game with the Scouts, the fires were set up for the day. A short but important lesson on maintaining heat was covered (after a failed attempt to transport a small coal earlier), and the coals were piled strategically for cooking. Sweet roots and twigs were simmered down into a sticky, concentrated syrup. While the supplies were being set, we headed out for a tree observation walk, using our near and far vision to decipher varying tree bark patterns. In the winter when there are no leaves, knowing the bark of a medicinal or edible tree species can mean life or death, food or famine. The students began by seeing obvious differences, and worked there way towards finer and finer detail. Soon, they were noticing the very subtle variances between the Lenticels (trunk and root pores) of the black birch and black cherry, as well as new bark and old bark.  

 

Appalachian elixir

 The syrup was poured into the seltzer water and made a new years style celebration of fizz. The kids lined up for a very fancy traditional treat, after their hard earned home made ice cream. 

 

hand tossed ice cream

The squishing wasn’t difficult….. until all the hands were freezing cold!! That’s when they got creative…. wrapping the bags up in extra jackets or the bottom of their sweatshirts, and playing catch like a cold potato. 

We had a potent debrief at the end of the day, discussing value to work ratio. It was unanimous that no one would trade a gallon of store bought root beer for even a cup of their own hand made. 

For this week, the Pioneers are tasked to investigate a process, source to product, of something they don’t know about yet. It could be a food item, an appliance, a chair…. anything that spikes their curiosity.

The Wilderness Challenge had some more team initiatives to tackle this week, with a cinnamon swirl of literature somewhat analogous to their own challenges….. discussing the homework writing by Kurt Vonnegut: Harrison Bergeron.  The keyword of the day was appropriately: potential.

up up and away

Their homework for this week is to research the cause, effects, and treatments for hypothermia, an essential set of knowledge for any dedicated trailblazer.

Nothing like good old fashioned elbow grease and determination! They managed to hoist everyone in the group. Their thinking skills were exercised again when challenged to make a one match fire and proceed to boil water in nothing but a paper cup. 

Gee, I can’t tell….. do you think they are happy with their work?

Friday’s adventures and discoveries were many. Bird language and seeds on the wind were explored, along with close observation of the many details of a new, unknown plant for each student. The microscope was put to good use for elephant grass seeds (did you know they are barbed?) A bird count sit spot unveiled countless feathered friends, whom either stay late in the season or must be die hard New Englanders.

The animal stories at lunch were especially hilarious. One about a very beloved but mischievous raccoon, and another about an unusual insect called a sphex. We all got a good healthy belly laugh.

The Micro Scouts waved their magic wands of cuteness over all of us on Friday….. with their curiosity, creativity and spontaneity. Together they examined bugs, measured the water level again, made leaf rubbings, wove a web of interdependence (a fun yarn game), made “sap” like the trees, and read good stories from the Jungle Book. It was a full and satisfying day! 

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