This past weekend, the students ventured outside of the more familiar Pisgah Forest and up into the windy mountain ranges of the “high country.” Their destination: Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center, nestled deep in the hollers close to Boone, North Carolina: a place where pens and paper serve no purpose save to record and remember ancient techniques that have been passed down for countless generations. Leaving their calculators and books back at OA, the students instead laced up their boots, threw on some warm layers, grabbed their sharp knives, and prepared for what would become a truly wondrous and eye-opening experience.
For their entire tenure here at The Outdoor Academy, the students practice living and coexisting in a community with each other, and this past weekend, they learned even more of the skills necessary to coexist with the natural world all around them. With only a knife and a few other tools, the students learned primitive techniques for constructing shelters, tracking and trapping animals, building fires, and cooking without stoves. At Buffalo Cove, the students were not be allowed to use a lighter to start a fire, but instead were required to use the primitive method of “fire by friction.” This approach to fire building uses only the friction created from an ancient piece of technology, known as a bow drill, to start a coal, which is then used to ignite separate pieces of wood. This was only one of the many exciting challenges students faced this last weekend. Other tasks included tracking their peers through the woods, cooking venison stew over a fire, and building trails as part of a work crew.
In an era where our continued dependence on fossil fuels is unsustainable, we, as inhabitants of this earth, must once again learn how to live in harmony with our natural world. It is crucial for new generations of young adults to learn the effects fossil fuels have on our environment and to also learn the hard skills and techniques required to live and exist with as little impact as possible. This I believe, more than anything else, is probably the most important education one can ever receive.