Sunday, September 06, 2009

Outdoor survival skills help city youth build self-confidence for school

SCHOOL HAS BEGUN and these youth from the Lincoln Park School Branch of the Boys and Girls Club have traded in their hiking backpacks for school backpacks. The skills they learned while hiking and camping this summer gave them more awareness of the environment and helped develop their self-confidence for everyday life. (Photo by Tim Canies)

By Tim Canies
September is back-to-school time. Some schools students will be writing about their summer vacations. For 11 youth from the Lincoln Park School branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs the subject matter of that assignment would be easy. They went backpacking for the first time. They participated in a new program named Kids vs. Wild, an outdoor leadership and environmental awareness program for kids ages 9 through 11. Club members gained confidence in the outdoors and in life by learning basic outdoor skills.

By learning to filter their own water, setting up and taking down their tents each day, building safe fires and navigating the trail, each club member learned to trust in his/her own abilities. By the end of the program each participant felt the pride that comes with learning a new skill, and gained self confidence that comes from having used that new skill to meet a challenge.
Each week starting in early June, the youth learned a different outdoor skill; water filtering, safe fire building, putting up tents, basic first aid, identifying local plants and animals and more. Learning these skills gave the youth confidence not only for backpacking and camping, but for life in general.

Staff members Robb Winterfeld, Mikaela Bercher and Tim Caines have a combined 48 years of backpacking experience and led the 11 youth on a three-day, two night adventure in the backcountry in early August.

The Northland Foundation provided funds for youth-sized backpacking equipment.
On August 5 the group embarked on their first outing. The backpacking campers covered over eight trail miles, starting at the Sonju Lake Road and finishing at the Finland Recreation Center.
Each night the group camped at a different remote lake. On two occasions freshly caught brook trout were on the menu.

The club participants had a great time, despite the difficult terrain they crossed each day. They worked hard each day, and enjoyed sitting around the campfire each evening before going to bed to the calls of noisy loons.