by Greg Klimes, Teaching Faculty, RMOT, Faculty of Science and Technology, Vancouver Island University

greg4A couple of blogs ago I wrote about our upcoming overnight field camp in the forests of Vancouver Island and only 30 minutes west of VIU. Here’s what happened.

Not surprisingly to many field trips lately, it was sunny and warm. Don’t ask how or why, it just was. We all arrived on site around 1:30 pm with 26 students excited to get underway. After a brief discussion on the boundaries of the camp area and safety around using an axe and Swede saw, the students divided into groups of 3 and 4. Off they went to find a sheltered site to build their lean-to and gather some firewood for the night. The key to every camps success is to accomplice these 2 very basic tasks within the daylight window, which for us that day was about 5 more hours.

Morning snowfalls were in the forecast so a generous amount of dry wood was priority number one. Clothing observed looked good, with extra layers waiting for night time temps forecasted to be just below zero. My colleagues and I also started assembling our lean-to and collecting firewood. We were located in the center of the designated forest, an area the size of VIU’s Nanaimo campus.

At dusk, the usual social aspect of the field trip kicked in and the 6 to 7 individual campfires became beacons in the darkening forest. Dinners are prepped and cooked over crackling fires, Beans and a variety of tube-steaks (smokies) was a common sight this year, with variations of fried onions and s’mores popping up along with other exotics like fish and game harvested last fall.

As instructors, what we saw throughout the afternoon was a high level of teamwork, problem solving, and even some analytical thinking with all the teams pulling together, as they raced the last light, to get as comfortable as possible. Traditionally, no sleeping bags or foamies are allowed, so a generous harvest of fir and spruce boughs become the mattress of choice.

Once camps were completed (and by the way, they all looked great!), we were amazed at the high level of energy and enthusiasm with this class. This may have had something to do with the awesome weather. For the first time in my 13 campouts, the students organized a “Capture the Flag” game which lasted the entire night.  While the instructors napped and stayed warm around our fire, bobbing headlamps in the distance could be seen moving between camps throughout the night.

From the dirty, tired and sleepy smiles I saw in the morning, as they cleaned and dismantled their camps, while the first snowflakes fell, I knew this was another successful outdoor classroom. It is these unusual, fun, and teambuilding field trips that will be remembered years after graduation.