My youngest son went on an unusual class trip a few weeks ago. Their tenth grade class had a choice of a number of options, and they decided on what is called a “tiyul shetach” – “survival trip”.
As soon as they got off the bus at their destination, the counselors asked them to turn in their watches and cell phones. This wasn’t a problem for my son (I have written before about how my kids are not addicted to the things) but it was a bit rough for a few of his friends.
For the next few days they could only wash in water that they brought themselves in a bucket, they only ate vegetarian food, they slept in sleeping bags under the stars, they had to take turns keeping watch at night so to keep the animals away, and they learned some very interesting skills. These skills used to be basic for survival, but we have bypassed them in our modern life.
One of the things they learned to do was to chip flint rocks, and weave rope out of plant materials. They then made primitive knives. The next skill was to make a fire – sticks, friction, and dry leaves and twigs.
They learned about camoflauge. The kids was divided into two, and one group needed to do whatever they could to blend in with the scenery, and the next group needed to find them.
Another skill they learned was what they called “walking like a fox”. They were blindfolded, and needed to place their feet very carefully before taking a step. Each one held onto a rope and was told to proceed all the way until they felt a piece of cloth which told them that they had reached the end. My son said that afterwards they were told to take off the blindfold and see the obstacles that they had walked through. He said that he would never have done it if he didn’t have he blindfold on!
Of course this type of thing is a lot of fun for a sixteen year old boy, but the three days taught the kids other things besides raw skills. When they were taught to build a fire, they were broken up into groups of two. My son said that one by one the other groups were successful in starting a fire, but he and his partner were having a bit of trouble. His partner started to get worried about their lack of progress, and kept looking at everyone else. My son told him, “don’t worry, we’ll do it. It doesn’t matter if other people do it faster, we’ll be ok”. In the end of course they were successful, and they both really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment.
They came back dirty and tired but very happy, and they all agreed that this class trip was a huge success.