Wilder Teens - Story of the Day
September 18, 2019
Wilder Teen Parents,
Today was our first day at McKinney Falls State Park. Students were excited to be at this beautiful venue and looking forward to scouting and establishing a teen camp at this location. They were especially excited about the prospect of dipping their feet in the creek during break time. In addition to having lots of fun, our learning outcomes for the day were for students to be able to:
Use basic sun navigation in conjunction with basic map and compass navigation to determine their location, direction, and location and distance between points on the land.
Use recently acquired carving skills and tree/wood knowledge to build bow drill friction fire kits.
Identify and process natural materials for making tinder bundles for friction fire coals.
To use their curiosity and follow their passions in exploring nature mysteries and nature’s impromptu learning opportunities.
To burn off some morning energy, we started the day with a game, Otter Steals The Fish, and capture the flag. Students had some rowdy fun while demonstrating good sportsmanship and kindness in play. We began our navigation studies with looking at how the sun’s position in the sky during various times of the day and different seasons can give us clues as to where north is and which direction we are facing. We used an inflatable earth ball and a tennis ball to model this as well as graphic posters and modelings as learning aids. Students took to this quickly and practiced using their shadow, time of day, and compass to test theories learned in the morning throughout the day.
We then moved on to basic map and compass where students took park maps, oriented them to the north, and then used natural features around them to determine their location. They used a compass and map scale to determine distances and direction between different points. We then put the map to use and students navigated themselves to the parks edge. Students had fun working together to solve these navigation challenges, and performed strongly with these tasks. I am excited to see what they can achieve as we build on these skills throughout the year.
We then explored the fringes of the park to find a suitable teen camp. Students located a scenic bluff above the creek that had good shade and view of the surrounding area. We used this area to work on carving the components for a bow drill friction fire kit. Almost everyone completed a kit, and some began burning in their spindle for their first coal, which we will be continuing next class. Students seemed to enjoy the complexity and skill involved in creating their sets.
Throughout the work today, students took breaks to cool off in the creek, visit with newly formed friends, and explore nature mysteries such as raccoon and hog scat, crows hunting grasshoppers, and the various fish and minnows in the creek.
The amount of litter and trash around the creek area was a point of concern for students. Many mentioned this during closing circle and they expressed feelings of sadness, frustration, and being “bummed.” They decided that we will start bringing trash bags so that we can start cleaning up a little bit each class and bring back the trash to the park dumpsters. Amazing.
Again, a joy and pleasure to work with your children. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, and concerns.
April 25, 2019
The air was cool but the sun warmed our faces as it shone down through the curtain of blue nearly cloudless sky. Dew sat on the grass causing it to glimmer in the light as if handfuls of jewels had been flung down. Each drop a tiny watery world.
Grapes have begun to form in bunches and are plumping on the vines that decorate the wall of green that separates the parking lot from the life of the land. Dewberries are moving from pink to delicious black in the brambles, mulberries are weighting the mulberry trees and the humble hackberry, staple of deer and sweet, crunchy treat to those who know, it is beginning to take it's place on the trees again.
McKinney is lush and alive with food and medicine and useful plant resources. After sign in and a rousing round or two of "mosquito, salmon, bear" (an ecological tag game) we took a walk to expand our awareness of the plants .
We found not just the ones mentioned but also prickly ash for numbing, and yarrow which has historical uses as both food and medicine. The stalk was chewed or stewed to induce sweating to “break” fevers and colds. People also pound the stalks into a pulp to be applied to bruises, sprains, and swelling. It has many other uses.
Our old friend plantain was there, in case we need a vitamin rich snack or a poultice for bug bites, burns, or poison ivy, Plantains have antimicrobial properties besides being anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Native peoples used them for salads and teas as well salves, and poultices.
We saw frost weed coming in to be harvested in the fall for new hand drill spindles for fire, and the catkins hanging low on the mesquite trees promising us nutrient dense flour for ash cakes when the heat of the final days of summer have parched the land. We shared our gratitude for the incredible provision that the plants provide.
Then we wandered north past the upper falls and then across onion creek and into the cold, clear, shallow mouth of Williamson creek where it makes its confluence.
We waded up it noting tracks in the mud banks and keeping a lookout for snakes who seek the cool abundance of the side creek on hot days as well. We found all manner of reptiles. Both turtles and snakes abounded as well as the tracks of Armadillo, raccoons, deer, coyotes and possibly an otter, it had the slightly neater than doglike look, the webbing and dropped toe, but so unlikely....
There were tadpoles and bluegill rock nests clean swept among the rocks in the clear water and tons, tons, of poison ivy. We hopefully stayed out of that.
We hiked through the creek to a gravel beach at the base of some clay cliffs and set a minnow trap before wandering further upstream to explore. We turned into the outflow of an even smaller spring fed channel. The growth was dense here and our path was tight and shaded. The little waterway was lined at times with conglomerate cliffs cloaked in moss and ferns. We moved up it until Zach almost accidentally grabbed a blotched water snake. It's okay, it was smallish and non venomous, but space was tight and I'd rather all snake encounters be conscious and I was concerned that we had all gotten so close without spotting it. We turned around.
Once back to where we had left our bags we checked our minnow trap and retrieved our bait. I had some hand lines so we trekked back to the lower falls with our live bait to find a likelier fishing spot with the plan that if the group could catch a legal fish and get a friction fire at a firepit I would let them clean, cook and eat their fish.
Unfortunately, although they caught two beautiful bass neither were keepers. We left unsuccessful, but motivated. It was a great day and we can't wait to see you all next week in Bastrop at the camp out.
Anne and the Wilder Teen team
April 17, 2019
The sky was the color of dishwater and a light rain was falling on us as we met together this morning.
Some gathered at McKinney near the waiting van. Others arrived directly to the land in Bastrop.
Soon though we were all assembled and we sat for morning circle together. We grounded ourselves through breathing and listening and with quiet minds we shared gratitude for the land and for the things in our lives that bring us joy and a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment.
We did a quick couple rounds of the mimicry game monarchs and viceroys where participants use expanded vision and close observation to determine who is the secret leader and leaves the rest of the crowd exposed as mimics.
Neal then went on to explain the buckskin guild he will be teaching, which is special to him because he was given this ancestral knowledge by a mentor who is counting on him to teach what he learned to pass on the skill, and I explained the friction fire guild that I will be offering to ensure that our fire questing students and who ever else is excited about fire have one on one instruction to build their confidence moving forward.
The groups split.
Neal's crew spent the morning initiating their work on deer skins. The hides had been soaking in water overnight and the group pulled them out and put them on beams to scrape off the hair, and grain them. They put in the careful and physically demanding work of scraping and graining the hide without putting holes in it. Then they stripped the membrane from the other side. The group worked diligently throughout the morning. Next week they will soften and emulsify them.
Over in my group we started with a quick skills assessment so that I could meet each student where they were and give them challenges appropriate to their skill.
We looked at the parts of the kit and how to make them and then we spent the time up to lunch focusing on technique for bow drill. The kits were imperfect and a good deal of frustration had been shared in the group when we stopped for lunch at the challenge course. We ate and put up one new beam before heading back to work more. We stopped to cut a couple new bows and then went back to focused work for an hour or so before heading down to the creek to gather new fireboards.
With buckskins the hides were coming along and hands and backs were sore so Neal had the groups bag their hides and lead them to the challenge course for a short break.
Late in the afternoon, when our time together was drawing to a close we met to circle together and share what we had learned.
It was great that for the most part the rain held off. We're excited to see you again next week at McKinney Falls.
If your student is thinking of fire quest and has not already submitted a letter of intent it is time start thinking about that.
Anne and Neal, The Wilder Teen Team
November 7, 2019
When we woke this morning the land was shrouded in fog. Dense and grey it wrapped around trees and buildings, blurring outlines and making our cars feel like cocoons as we made our way to the Earth Native land in Bastrop.
Once we arrived the group headed down the hill for games with the coyote group until sign in had ended. Foxtails was a far flung and chaotic battle amongst the fallen leaves of the huge pecans and the scattering of box elders the fringe the camp.
Once sign in was complete our group split off from the coyotes and headed off trail through the dense brush of the Autumn woods. We skirted burrows and dens now visible because of the trails of disturbed leaves marking trips in and out. Our awareness was challenged by green briar and poison ivy along our route, but it wasn't long before we were at home in teen camp.
We settled into morning circle, sharing gratitude and acknowledging things that bring joy to our lives. Then, because today is the day we were set to mentor the coyote group on friction fire we set to work talking about the art of questioning. Neal led another bow drill demo patiently explained each action. We then opened it up for questions about how to address various problems that are commonly encountered.
We worked with the teens encouraging them to answer questions with questions this leading the student to think through the answer for themselves. We encouraged them to experiment and to work on team coals, and if they were struggling we would be there to help.
Then the group pulled out there own kits to try to diagnose the problems in our own techniques or kits so that we would have everything dialed in when we arrived at creekside camp.
With our kits prepped we left teen camp again. We made our way down the steep and muddy banks of the seasonal creek. We fox walked and stayed low in an effort to sneak into creekside without being spotted by the other group. Some of us made it closer than others.
The coyotes and teens were split into groups and worked side by side until lunch. Spindles were carved and hand holds billeted. They coached coyotes in v notch carving, in placing holes, and in tying bow strings.
They made tinder bundles and helped adjust technique. It was a really great learning opportunity for both groups. By teaching the teens were shown areas where they were weak too and were able to ask one of us to help.
After lunch the group was still engaged and worked on for a while longer. Several of the coyotes made coals and a couple even made them for the first time.
This is where our day went wrong. All the groups were working independently and instructors were moving between the groups assisting and answering questions as needed when one of the teens cut his left middle finger while carving a hand hold. He handled it with calmness and bravery but it was a cut that required stitches so after cleaning it up and stopping the bleeding we said good bye to him for the day. We hope to see him back at class soon.
It wasn't long after this that we put away our fire kits and our knives and made our way down to the cool tannin darkened waters if Cedar Creek. Here we tested from our labors. We crossed the creek balancing on downed trees and rough houses on a sand bar. Some of the group tried hand line fishing while others opted to climb vines or splash in the water.
Sandy, wet and tired we made our way back to sign out. The group accomplished a lot today and we are very proud of them.
We can't wait to see you all next week for the camp out.
Don't forget to sign up for the van if your teen needs it next week for the overnight.
Anne and Neal, the Wilder Teen Team
April 21, 2017
Hi Wilder Teen Families,
We had a great time on our field trip to Reimer's Ranch today. If you have never been out there you should let your teen take you on a little tour sometime. It is a really neat park. Though it is 500 acres I generally most enjoy the "Climber's Canyon". It is a canyon that has been cut out by a spring over thousands and thousands of years. It's extra special because it is hidden and you can't really see it until you are right on top of it. There is a year round spring that feeds the creek that runs through the canyon making beautiful crystal clear pools and there are some HUGE old-growth Cypress trees along the length. The creek dumps into the Pedernales river at the bottom of the canyon.
We started off our day with nature stories as usual before trekking down into the canyon trying not to slip on the slick stone on the way in. Once we dropped in we explored a little cave at the bottom that had stalactites and stalagmites in it and cool water/stone formations that you see in deep underground caves. We talked about how the rock is created through mineral deposits and how when a human touches it it "kills" the living stone feature when the oil from our skin transfers to the rock and clogs the rock up. We saw examples of pristine "living" rock as well as "dead" formations that had been touched. We also found the tracks of a really big snake and the trail of a Ringtailed Cat! Reimer's is one of my favorite places to look for Ringtail tracks because they love the rocky cliffs and canyon.
After exploring the upper canyon area we walked down trail to the lower canyon area where everyone spread out and explored around for a while. A few of the kids found a dead Cottonmouth which we poked with a stick for a while before realizing it was safe to check out more closely. Some of the teens also explored an old trash dump area where the old homesteaders would throw their garbage down into the canyon to get rid of it. Unfortunately after spending a lot of time along the Colorado river I have come to understand that this is a pretty common practice. Dumping trash into a ravine that feeds into a creek or river. Out of sight out of mind... Pretty sad. But, in this case, is sort of neat because this trash is pretty old. Some of it seems to even date back to the early 1900's. So there are a lot of cool old mysteries to be found.
After exploring the lower canyon we walked the trail down to the river and played a bit down along its banks. A game of "the ground is lava" was played as well as a massive green grape war (where teams of teens threw green grapes at one another). There was some great and not so great strategies on display.
After a while of hanging out we decided to explore up river. Little did we know though that the trail would peter out pretty quickly. So soon we were just making our own way along the bank...
Dodging bull nettle, noseburn, and muddy spots. After maybe 1/2 mile we realized that the going was getting a bit too tough and we decided to turn back. When we finally got back into the canyon everyone was super primed to chill in the cool spring-fed waters of the creek. A great cap to a really neat day. We then shared our favorite and least favorite parts of the day and then headed back up the canyon to the parking lot! Hope all of you parents had a great day too.
We'll see you all next week!