Field Guide: Second grade learns fire making skills

Read on for the latest happenings in USN's Young Naturalist Program.
By Lauren Hagan, Naturalist Teacher

Our second grade naturalists braved the frigid temps to venture out for an incredible Forest Day. After arriving at the Lodge, we reviewed the expectations for using this special area in Edwin Warner Park. We are careful to practice social distancing even outside in the forest, and we always adhere to the leave no trace principles. We travel in parties of at least two people, respect all living things, and respect the right of all people to enjoy nature. In the woods we take care of ourselves and each other. Forest Day is all about community — our class community and on a larger scale, our community with nature.

After this important discussion, students ventured out into the forest for free exploration. Our young naturalists are well aware of our boundaries, and it’s truly a joy to watch them bound down the front field and disappear into the forest. Giving students this precious unstructured time outside is an essential part of every Forest Day. Curiosity abounds as students engage in imaginative play, navigating up and down the usually dry creek bed looking to see if the treasures they observed before have changed or are present still. Our explorers climb on downed trees, swing on wild grape vines, search for mushrooms, fossils, and other natural wonders, roll down
the hill, build forts — really the sky is the limit. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I’ve heard students whisper, “I love the forest.” on more than one occasion.

As we gathered back at the Lodge, our second graders engaged in a brief discussion about the history of human interaction with fire. The first fossil record of naturally occurring fires dates back to 450 million years ago. Fossil records of fires that were built by humans date back to one million years ago in a cave near South Africa. Many scientists and historians agree that the mastery of fire was one of the most important turning points in human history. Ask your naturalist to explain how the ability to build fires changed things for humans. Also, see if they can remember the three things a fire needs.

After all this talk about fire, students were finally ready to attempt to build their own fires. We began with a demonstration of a safe method for students to build a small campfire using a prepared tinder box and small pieces of dry firewood. Next, students worked in small groups with each person in the group taking on a specific job to help perform the task. We had the cotton ball preparer, the teepee builder, and the match striker. Two teachers were present to closely monitor the groups as they worked. All the teams were successful at building a small contained fire. They enjoyed the warmth they had created while making a sketch of their fire. All students learned how to safely extinguish a fire, too.

During our closing circle, many students shared about the pride they felt upon learning a new skill. We ended with a discussion about fire safety and with reminders that you would never attempt to light matches or build a fire without the help of an adult.
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    • Crockett Zieher '31, Hayden Sasser '31, and Anna Wolf '31 enjoy the warmth of the fire they built.

    • Ayanna Harris '31 plays gleefully on a fallen log in the forest.

    • Kate Jahangir '31 and Nick Keegan '31 work together to make a fire.

    • Elijah Woodruff '31 observes a lichen on a branch.

    • After making a fire, students sketched drawings of their flames.

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