THIS POST BY RACHEL EDWARDS, SUMMER TEACHING APPRENTICE
This was the week of Stone Age Artisans and the Wolf Journey Arts & Music Camp at Dash Point State Park in Federal Way. We had a huge campsite to ourselves and eleven kids came to share in the fun of making useful things the stone age way. Andrew Twele was the lead instructor for this camp and I was assisting him. Andrew has many skills and was an excellent teacher of them. The week was set up to explore the gifts of plants on Monday, animals Tuesday, stone on Wednesday, and fire on Thursday. On each day we shared stories about these gifts that the Earth gives us and we took time to share in thanksgiving for these gifts.
On Monday the day of plants, we began with knife safety skills since being an artisan involves constant use of a knife. To help us with our carving skills we first made rabbit sticks. Rabbit sticks are used in survival when you need to take the life of a rabbit so that you can feed yourself. It is essentially a stick that you throw to stun a rabbit so you can catch him. We had lots of time to practice throwing our sticks at stuffed animals. All the kids really enjoyed this activity. The next activity was the making of bamboo spears. We first split one end of the bamboo so that we could separate it into four sharp points. Then cordage is wrapped around the splits, the ends burned in the fire, and finally sharpened with a knife. The last activity on the day of plants was the making of our bows. Most of the kids were super into this. We all started with sticks of vine maple. Vine maple is a strong wood that can take the bending without breaking. We learned how to choose which side of the stick should be the belly and back of the bow. You want the back of the bow to be free from anything that could weaken it causing it to break during use. We all found the middle of the bow and began carving out from the middle towards the end with a gradual decrease in the amount of wood left so that you get a nice bend. This would be a project we would continue to work on throughout the week. Making a bow takes lots of time, especially when doing it all by hand. We spent the evening around the campfire singing songs.
Tuesday was the day of animals. This day included the beginning of tanning a deer hide. Four people volunteered to take on the tanning as a project. The tanning would take many hours and we worked on it for a few days. We also made beef jerky by first hanging it in the sun and later smoking it over the fire. Andrew spent time teaching the kids how to make dead fall traps which is something they all requested to be taught. I missed most of this lesson because I was helping with the jerky preparation. We got to practice throwing our rabbit sticks some more and later we brought out the leather for leather working. Some kids made pouches and other things.
Wednesday was the day of stone. Andrew shared a really awesome story about a stonecutter and the power of being able to make things out of stone and I shared some geologic facts about the how the earth formed the stones we would be working with. We spent most of the day working with soapstone. One of the campers had brought a huge slab of soapstone for all of us to carve. The kids spent most of the day with the files in their hands turning the stone into art. A well loved activity by all, including myself. The afternoon was spent learning the art of flintknapping. This art takes much practice, skill, and patience. I missed most of this lesson, but some of the kids were able to get some really nice pieces to break off the obsidian chunks. One camper made an awesome knife that I was really stoked on.
Thursday was the day of fire. On this day we finished smoking the jerky over the fire and hard work was put into finishing the hide. After the scraping, soaking, and stretching of the hide comes the smoking which gives the hide a nice coloring and also prevents water from getting in. I was impressed by all the hard work put into the hide and how nice it turned out. Each of the four people who worked on it got to take home a piece of it. During the swim break, Andrew and I prepared the archery practice area and the afternoon was spent shooting arrows. We spent our last night roasting hot dogs and smores over the fire and singing songs and sharing of the week.
Friday we packed up and headed to the Wolf House in Puyallup where we prepared presentations for the parents. The parents arrived in the afternoon and we all shared in potluck and the kids blew my mind with their awesome presentations. They had learned so much over the week and it really showed when they presented.
This week was one of my favorite camp weeks. I loved learning these new skills and how we all sat around working so hard on projects. It was a nice way to end a busy summer. Next week I leave Wolf Camp and head off on new adventures. I am grateful to have spent my summer here and am looking forward to taking all of these new skills learned to a deeper level. Being proficient at earth skills takes more than just a few months. Thank you Wolf Camp!