For many years Cottonwood Institute (CI) has partnered with military programs to provide outings for kids and families serving in the US Military. This year, CI is offering 3 programs as part of a series of engagements with the Colorado Army National Guard. On Wednesday July 12th, three CI instructors took a long drive to Buena Vista to be part of the Army National Guard kids camp at Silvercliff Ranch.
Cottonwood Institute facilitated the Military Kids Fire Workshop; a four-hour workshop that focused on friction fire and the basics of fire starting. With a group of about 28 students ranging in age from 9 to 16, instructors led discussion on how humans have historically interacted with fire, the many methods of starting it, and then explored friction fire in depth. There were demonstrations and opportunity for each student to try their hand at the bow-drill, strikers with cotton balls, and learn how these skills translate to survival priorities. Cottonwood Institute also always touches on fire safety and leave-no-trace ethics around the use of fire in the backcountry.
As instructors arrived at the camp and readied their activities for the afternoon workshop, it began to rain. That rain continued off and on for the entirety of the workshop and into the evening. With their savvy skills for on-the-fly adjustments, instructors were able to nimbly re-craft the workshop on the spot to be accomplished mostly indoors and still get students active, engaged, and practicing hands-on fire techniques. After some games and discussion, students divided into small groups to participate in three sessions to alternately learn bow-drill, striker and cotton ball skills, and survival priorities around fire. Each group came fresh and enthusiastic to every new round. They were often frustrated by the difficulty of the bow-drill and the complexity of the process but reveled in the small joys in perseverance and any signs of smoke! They found success with the strikers, and were able to talk more about how to start fires on rainy days if you didn’t have a shelter, and ask all the zany questions they could muster in the survival priorities session. At the end of the afternoon, students had a new appreciation for the practice required to start a fire and the need to carry a lighter and matches and possibly a third source of combustion when you venture into the woods.
Many thanks to the Colorado Army National Guard Youth Program for their continued partnership and all the folks who make their programming possible, including Enterprise Holdings Foundation and Microsoft Corporation.
For images from the afternoon, click here.