Wilderness Class at Kindle Farm

Written By: 
Zach Holmes

Where is it? Who can participate? When does it happen? Why would you care?... Kindle Farm has shared wilderness activities with students since the school opened. Brian Robertshaw was the first wilderness teacher at Kindle Farm. His skills and passion were passed down to many students and staff. I was one, wanting to share ancient wisdom, while enhancing awareness of self and the universe. I see all Kindle Farm classes and activities as intertwined, teaching positive sense of self, and being aware of others and the impact we have on others.

Where does wilderness happen? The government would claim it is large tracts of public land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Forest Service has a multi-purpose mission, while wilderness lands have a two part mission; preservation and recreation. I believe most people think wilderness is a pristine place, far from human impact. I also believe many people think wilderness is a place they cannot get to. Wilderness is everywhere and can be taught anywhere. Kindle Farm wilderness classes happen throughout Windham and Cheshire counties; from hiking Mount Monadnock, to planting garlic in the garden, to sitting outside playing and learning music from cultures around the world. All of our wilderness activities promote self-awareness and help us reflect on how our choices impact our relationship to life on earth. In my own classes, I teach all over Kindle Farm’s 97 acre property. Along the side of the road, in the raspberry patch, or on the back boundary of the property, in wilderness our classroom is our land. This helps instill that wilderness is everywhere; one only needs to pay attention to feel the wild within.

High school and Middle school students sign up each quarter to participate in our wilderness afternoon activity. The teachers of the class are the water, wind, earth, fire, and the students’ own inner voices, with myself as only a guide to help them learn to listen to the earth and their instincts. Students participate in sit spots, games, and making tools used by Native Americans. Games are designed either to enhance team building or strengthen their senses. Sit spot is a ‘habit of mind’ activity in which students sit motionless in the woods for a given amount of time. It’s ideal to return to the same spot each time. Creating a daily practice, one begins to notice very tiny changes in the habitat. Staying motionless is imperative; it allows all life around you to continue as if you are not there. A mindset to help this process is to take on the energy of your surroundings; being the log, rock, moss, or grass in which you sit. This practice is shared by many survivalists to be best equipped to handle a survival situation. Sit spot practice helps the woods feel like home,… if you are at home can you be lost? Teaching awareness helps train and bridge the conscious with the sub-conscious’ ability to sense what’s happening within and around.

With the world clearly headed toward reliance on technology for careers, socializing, communication, and leisure, why teach wilderness awareness classes? I continue to believe we need to know where we came from to know where we are going. I have also observed very energetic students sit in silence for 30 minutes while playing camouflage games. Students often comment about how mellow, peaceful, and relaxed they feel in wilderness class. In life students test authority, teachers, and peers; wilderness is a place to test the natural world. I believe all this testing leads towards a more aware sense of self.

Our wilderness students have participated in many activities this year; games including Fred, camouflage, ultimate samurai, predator/prey, laugh over laugh over, who changed what, track yourself, and also many blindfold games. The class also built a 10 person bow drill set and successfully blew a coal to flame. We have begun to build individual bow drill sets. We assembled a teepee skeleton in preparation for a teepee canvas. Students really enjoyed making long match fires, as well as a one match fire challenges. Wondering, wandering, tracking, and goofing off in the forest are of utmost importance during class.

My invitation to all who read this is to find a comfortable spot to go sit outside. Slowly allow quiet to enter your thoughts, then be, just be; after all… we are human- beings.