by LORI WINCE
Photo By Tim Norman/ThisWeek
Westerville resident Amanda Phillips, 8, gets help holding a tinder bundle from her aunt, New Albany resident Sandy Willmore. A middle school science teacher, Willmore encourages Philllips to blow to make the hot embers ignite during a Coyote Tracks West program at the Overbrook Jon Beltz Retreat Center April 8. Members of the NAMS Adventure Club and others from Ohio scout troops learned survival skills, including how to start a fire with a bow drill.
Members of the New Albany Middle School Adventure Club and their families learned to rub sticks together to make fire and to build shelters using only natural materials during the club's most recent event.
Club members and several scouts from Ohio spend the weekend at the John Bletz Retreat Center in Galena experiencing "Family Wilderness Survival Weekend," sponsored by Coyote Tracks West, of Oregon.
Sandy Willmore, a science teacher at the middle school, started the Adventure Club three years ago. She and her son had previously participated in a Coyote Tracks programs and found it to be a great experience, she said.
"It was a way for us to get back in touch with each other," she said.
When she asked Joe Kreuzman, director of Coyote Tracks, about doing a program in Ohio, he agreed.
"The main reason I'm doing this is that I wish it existed when I was a kid," Kreuzman said. "It's for people interested in personal growth."
He said the program has had "miraculous results." Just last year, a student who spend a couple days learning how to cook over an open fire and how to track animals in the woods faced her own problem, an eating disorder, and organized a trip for others like herself.
"A lot of kids lack a balance. This provides that balance," Kreuzman said. "It's almost like a rite of passage. It helps you find your sense of place in this world."
Children today are growing up differently than they did even a few years ago, he said.
"They're no longer going out and getting muddy in the back yard, building forts."
Willmore agreed. She said the Adventure Club's weekend provided students with a different type of education, free from cell phones and video games.
She said she often tells her students about things she sees when walking through the woods -- fawns nursing or weasels rooting through rabbits nests.
"We're losing touch with our own culture and history," Willmore said. "Adventure Club is a way for us to get back in touch with our own natural history."
Willmore started the Adventure Club three years ago as something that all middle school kids could participate in -- something that didn't involve any kind of prerequisite skills.
The club, which meets once a month, with a focus on the environment and nature. Coyote Tracks West is also known as Coyote Trails School of Nature.