| Ford Church

How to Make a Fire (And Anything Else): Colorado Academy Learns Stone Age Survival Skills

Whether you are camping out for a weekend or climbing to the top of Longs Peak, surviving in the wilderness can be an empowering, humbling, and enriching experience.  However not many people in this day and age choose to spend their lives relying only on what the natural landscape has to offer.  Yet that’s exactly what some of the students of Colorado Academy chose to do when they signed up for the Cottonwood Institute’s Stone Age Survival Skills Course.  For five days at the end of May, these students lived, learned, and worked at the survival skills school known as Earth Knack in Crestone, Colorado.  Under the instruction of Robin Blankenship, the owner of Earth Knack, and her partner, Mike O’Donal, students learned a plethora of new survival skills that not only made use of the natural resources around them, but also challenged their intellectual and creative abilities as they used ancient methods to help sustain their modern lifestyles.

“With stone age survival, adaptation is one of the most important skills to have,” said Clark Patton, one of the instructors who went on the course.  Adaptability was certainly a learned skill for Robin, who built her family’s home from the ground up, and one that was strengthened for the students of Colorado Academy during the course.  By the end of their five-day stay, the students knew how to make fire from friction using bow drills, create cordage from plants, construct their own hunting weapons, and were even able to make arrowheads using the ancient and challenging technique known as flint knapping.  They helped lay the foundation for a new workshop at Earth Knack, shoveling dirt to level the ground and clearing away tree stumps and branches that would have gotten in the way of the new structure.  A day was also spent at Sand Dunes National Park, where they learned about camouflage as well as animal tracking techniques used by the Apache and the Bushmen of Africa.

The students of Colorado Academy not only gained a better understanding of primitive survival at Earth Knack: they gained a broader perspective of the natural world.  They realized that the natural landscape has much to offer each and every one of us, and that we not only have the ability to change their relationship to the land but also to make use of its potential in different ways.  These students learned that it is possible to live off the land and still remain a part of the modern world.

“Being able to take value of the wilderness is important,” said Aleyna Porreca, a student instructor who also went on the course.  “When students can learn outdoor skills you wouldn’t use in everyday life and then combine those skills with an appreciation for the outdoors in the city…I think that’s the most valuable thing they can take away from their experience.”


Categories: Notes From The Field

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