This weekend, Kingsley High School wilderness students packed their bags for the annual Winter Camping trip.
A group of mostly senior students headed to the district's 500-acre property off Hammer Road to eat, sleep, and survive using skills they learned in class.
"Ahead of the trip, we learn about fire building, dressing for the outdoors, how to pack a backpack or sled, leaf and tree identification, and then we do a lot of hiking so they're comfortable," said wilderness teacher Boone Scharp.
Mr. Scharp has been leading students on the excursion for the past 17 years, but he's never had a weekend like this one.
"This feels like cheating!" he exclaimed, marveling at the weekend's unusually warm weather.
On Saturday, students enjoyed nearly 40-degree weather and full sunshine, the perfect ingredients for staying warm and building the Quinzhee shelters to sleep in.
"The snow is really packable which is helpful because when it's really really cold, it's too powdery. We are so spoiled, we can make bricks and make a real
igloo, we can goof around," said Mr. Scharp.
How to build a Quinzhee
Make a big pile of snow
Form it into a mound
Pack it down a bit
Allow the snow to harden
Dig a small entrance
Place straw or other natural materials on the bottom of the shelter to provide a barrier between your body and the cold snow
"They say if you're in a survival situation, the act of building the Quinzhee keeps your body temperature up, and then when you finally go inside, so long as you have straw, or cattails, or grass to keep you off the cold ground, the interior will be about 40-50 degrees," said Mr. Scharp.
Once their shelter is built, students have leisure time and work to prepare dinner. "Stone Soup" was on the menu, and each student brought a cooked item to add to the pot.
Later that night, students enjoyed songs and conversation around the fire.
"My goal for this trip would not only be to have them feel good about the skills that they're learning, but I would like them to be able to pack a backpack, set up a tent, have the basic skills to cook outdoors, and then when they graduate, be able to go and travel."
Big Plans for the Future
For future trips, Mr. Scharp wants to add a fundraiser component to the weekend. He hopes to build one or a few large shelters that community members could rent for the night "like an Airbnb." The package would include a dinner around the campfire and proceeds would benefit his class.
"We would fix them a wild, foraged meal, play music, tell stories about the Hill Sisters [who donated the camping property to the school]. We're hoping to do this next year, maybe on the Friday of that weekend."
To learn more about Wildnerness class, contact Boone Scharp at email@example.com.