Today was a perfect beginning to the fall semester. After opening circle, we played a Wild West name game to get everyone acquainted, and headed into the big tent. Two returning FORESTers showed great finesse in starting a fire using a hand drill kit and a tinder bundle made of shredded cedar bark and cattail fluff. Since the air was so humid, the kit was reluctant to produce a coal. They stuck with it and the third try was the charm! We highlighted the importance of working through frustration and failure to a place of learning and success.
We told a story from the Pasamaquoddy Nation, written down by Joseph Bruchac, about two giants and how they shaped the world that we see today. In the story, one brother creates wonderful things, which the other brother tries to corrupt, aided by a mischievous Wolverine who runs around convincing animals to create trouble with people.
After the story, we launched into an orientation to the culture and conduct at FOREST. We went over the 3 Rs (Respect for Self, Others, and the Earth) as well as illustrating the importance of full participation, inclusivity, good work, and awareness of others and one’s own actions, to name a few. These things help us achieve a high level of physical and emotional safety, as well as allowing us to be a high functioning group of primates!
We then played a game involving high-speed running and dodging, as well as teamwork, before heading to the FOREST campsite. We swept through camp, making it shine. We raked and cleaned out the fire pit, gathered armloads of dry wood, and split firewood out of rounds. We decorated the area with flowers and, when we were done, it was beautiful. The forest looked like home.
After lunch, we launched into our Knife Safety Orientation. We thoroughly went over rules to keep everyone safe—and afterwards got to carving. New students crafted their own wooden hooks to hang their backpacks on, and returning students helped us out by carving points, on the ends of wooden stakes, that will become a part of the primitive shelter that we will build over the course of the next few weeks.
When all was done, we played a big forest game called Hawk and Bird Tribe, in which the large majority of students were birds, combing the landscape for hidden "food" while being periodically ambushed and pursued by hungry hawks. It was quite a game, involving lots of awareness, dodging of trees and fallen logs, and using only their bird vocalizations to communicate.
Wrapping up, everyone shared their Rose, Thorn, and Bud (favorite part of the day, biggest challenge, and what they are looking forward to this semester). We’re planning to have all those buds blossom!
—Josh and the staff