The development of this class started with the TNSAR's Winter Awareness Guide.
The Winter Wilderness Survival Program for 4th Graders takes place on the school grounds of 6 of the local schools, and usually takes a total of about 2-3 hours to complete. Traditionally the schools which are visited include Prosser Charter, Incline Elementary, Kings Beach, Rideout, Truckee Elementary, and Glenshire. The program starts with an indoor group discussion with the entire 4th grade class, highlighting the purpose of the training, the different components of the training, and then inviting the kids to ask any questions they might have about TNSAR, searches, skiing, etc. Once complete, the kids are then broken into groups of 6-10 kids each, and taken outside to begin a a cycle through three different stations each of which focus on different aspects of winter awareness.
Station 1. S.T.O.P. and Observation. The goal of this station is for the students to memorize the S.T.O.P mnemonic and how it should be used. This is accomplished by establishing a scenario where you are lost (this does not have to be in the snow, and in fact is applicable in any situation where you may be lost). "You think you might be lost, you're not sure where you are, what are you going to do?
Stop! Why should you stop? Does it help to panic? Don't go further, don't get more lost. Don't panic!
Think! Use your head to gather information. Does anyone know where you are? What do you have with you? What time is it?
Observe! Use your eyes and ears! The weather: wind, snow, sun, clouds. Landmarks: hills, streams, roads, rocks. Friends: strong, tired, cold? Can you hear cars, dogs, people?
Plan! Using all of this information, make a plan.
Station 2. Shelters. The goal of this station is to teach the kids how to build a shelter with any available materials.
Using ski equipment, tree branches, solid stationary objects (a tree or large rock), and any other items we build a small shelter sufficient enough to stay dry and warm. The kids are then asked "how else can you keep warm?". Exercises, wearing all your available clothes, stuffing pine needles in your clothes, staying out of the wind, don't sit directly on the snow, etc. A small shelter built in the best location possible will go a long way towards keeping you warm and dry.
Station 3. Signals. The goal of this station is, once you have built a shelter, to know how to make effective signals to get attention.
It's important that you know how to get someone's attention, even if you happen to be resting in your shelter. What can you use and what can you do to let people know you are here? You need to make the area around you look different than the rest of the woods...make yourself BIG and OBVIOUS. Use a whistle (easier than yelling all day long), cross your skis in the snow, stamp out a giant X in the snow, and fill it in with pine needles, hang anything that you are not using in the trees, etc. There are many ideas for signals, and it's always important to think of all the possibilities.
By using props, a lot of enthusiasm, asking questions and getting the kids involved, and ensuring their attention throughout, we are able to make the training fun yet also make sure that the kids understand the seriousness of the lesson.