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Wilderness Skills

Practicing Self-Care

Practicing good self-care and hygiene is a simple but powerful way to promote self-esteem. Students at Open Sky have designated time daily and weekly to tend to their physical health. This not only helps keep individuals comfortable and healthy but also shows consideration for others and contributes to an overall sense of good morale in the team.

Building Shelters

Each Open Sky student receives a personal tarp as well as guidance on how to construct an individual shelter. We teach students to take time to make their shelters cozy, welcoming, and weatherproof. This process includes learning how to tie knots, anchors, and more. It's a technical and creative process we love seeing students master.

Bow Drilling Fire

Every student at Open Sky learns how to bow drill, or how to make fire with sticks. It is a challenging task, one that requires students to focus, pay attention to details, ask for help, and push through self-doubt. Can students do the emotional work, practice self-compassion, and demonstrate grit through the learning process? The result is something magical and rewarding.

Gathering Wood & Water

One of the first tasks upon reaching camp during expo is gathering wood and water to cook the evening meal. Students interact with the land in a way that inspires curiosity and connection while promoting responsibility and respect. For example, students are taught to only gather dead, down, and detached wood and purify water that comes from natural resources. Open Sky uses pump filters and treatment drops and tablets to purify all water gathered on expo.

Cooking Meals

With supervision and support from guides, students learn to prepare healthy, collaboratively made meals to keep them nourished in the field. Completing this task draws upon other wilderness skills they are learning (such as bow drilling fires), builds confidence and self-efficacy, and reinforces the connection between mind-body health. Students begin to see food as both fuel and medicine, a necessary part of being strong, healthy, and capable.

Reading Maps

Students learn essential orienteering skills, including how to use a compass, interpret maps, read topographic lines, and identify geographical features. The skills students develop through orienteering translate to many aspects of life. They begin to discover both literally and figuratively how to navigate challenging terrain and find themselves in the world.

Carving Spoons

Carving spoons is a way for students to develop a deeper relationship with the natural world, express creativity, and practice craftmanship. After harvesting a piece of wood, each student carves a unique shape to form a spoon they can use throughout their stay. With patience and meticulous effort, an ordinary branch becomes a beautiful and useful utensil.

Tying Knots

Tying quality knots is essential for countless day-to-day outdoor skills: building a personal shelter, building a group shelter, tying a pack, setting up a laundry line, and much more. Students learn six basic knots and become an expert in their favorite three.

Packing a Backpack

Students use internal frame backpacks to carry their clothing, gear, and food with them through the backcountry. They learn techniques on how to organize their pack so that it fits comfortably, important gear stays dry, and their food, water, and most-used items are accessible throughout the day. Learning how to efficiently and comfortably carry their gear helps students understand that it is less about the weight of the load and more about the way they carry it.

Working Together

Students work together to complete necessary camp chores, such as doing dishes or breaking down camp, which inspires them to take ownership over their space. For many students, chores were a struggle at home, as was independence related to task completion. At Open Sky, practicing these skills daily helps them hold themselves and each other accountable and create a strong group culture.