Gimme Shelter: Nest-Building for Fun and Education

By | July 5, 2011

In his book, Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, Tom Brown says that kids have a special instinct for survival and often do better when lost in the woods than adults. Grown-ups have heard all the stories, and this gives them even more reason to panic or give in to despair. They also have years of proper grooming and a life lived indoors that makes them hesitant to dig down and get as dirty as survival might require. Kids, on the other hand, often do exactly what they’re supposed to. When they’re cold, they build a nest or burrow into the brush. They take things slow and many times don’t stray miles from their path.

We’ve been talking a lot about shelter since spring. Grace and Tater hunt down bird nests, and we watch the chickadees in the hollow branch of a tree outside. We follow squirrels around the big trees in the yard and try to find their home. Under the deck we watch the chipmunk holes waiting for one of them to poke out its head.

This weekend we decided to put some of our observations to work and build a shelter of our own. With a maple tree out back we have plenty of branches to work with (these trees shed like an Irish setter!). I’d also trimmed some trees and shrubs, so after making a simple tripod it was easy enough for the kids to fill in two sides and there we have a simple lean-to.

The kids played in this for two days and couldn’t wait for grandparents and cousins to come over and see their project.

For now this is a test run. In September Grace and I are going to build a full-out survival shelter and spend the night in it. It will be stuffed with dead leaves for insulation and whatever we can find to keep rain and dew from soaking through to our beds. And hopefully it will be cold enough outside to keep bugs from crawling all over us.

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