The 2015 Kids Camp is in the books and here we are in 2016 already planning for next August. What a great year we had. Fouty-four kids and their parents came out for a full day of survival and bushcraft training- all for free. It is the highpoint of what has been both a difficult and productive year for us.
Driving away from the site I was thankful for another successful year that could not have been done without supporters such as Cabela’s, Sportsmans’ Warehouse, Scooters Youth Hunting Camp, Abundant Life Baptist Church, Boise Army-Navy Store, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Power Engineers, and our commited volunteers and individual supporters. It took committed parents to spend the day with their kiddos watching them learn how to survive in the woods if they get lost.
Several parents praised us on our “expertise” in survival and I found myself correcting this by stating, “Our expertise is really in passing on information where we are learners who have worked towards mastering various parts of the discipline.”
“Expert.” This is a label I quickly shun. I know of maybe a handful of people I would place that label on, and I’m not one of them. Something I think we do better than anybody though is teaching the skills we have mastered in a way that almost anybody can comprehend and begin to apply. If we are experts, its in teaching, and not just kids, anybody.
Part of this is helping others understand where they fall short on mastering a skill or technique. I want to focus this post specifically on providing feedback in the learning aspect and since we just had a weekend of kids learning and hopefully parents. In fact I hold a special session for the parents on coaching and providing guidance to their kiddos. One of the things that has helped my team in teaching is “our” feedback model. This is really a model I was taught as a young instructor in Texas by a mentor I am just going to call “Q”. Those who knew this fine Master Sergeant know exactly why I’m keeping his identity a secret.
While this is not the complete teaching model, its actually the second step of the coaching process after the learner (your kiddo) has made several attempts and is either successful or needs some additional work. If you use this method, don’t expect to be an expert with it (it took me 30 years of coaching and teaching).
Here is the model and I will provide a few examples at the end. It is a 7-step model and works when your kiddo is successful or not. You will see me outline the model and then provide an example of how we use it in the survival training environment and then perhaps leverage it in your own life. It not only works in the field, but also at home and work. So here goes…
What is it you want to coach them on. Give them some idea of why you are providing the feedback. “Hey let’s talk about the way you set up your shelter”. “Can I help you with some tips on starting the cotton ball on fire”
What you specifically notice.
“I noticed the guy-lines on the shelter seem to be a little loose.” You’re turning your wrist up when you are moving the striker down the ferro rod.”
Your kiddo needs to understand specifically what the impact is of doing something incorrect.
“When the guy-lines are loose, it will cause the shelter to flap and won’t keep you covered. It will also cause the ground stakes to beak away from the dirt.” When you turn your wrist up on the ferro rod, you don’t get as many sparks.”
Here you have to let them talk, vent, come up with ideas, etc. Let them speak. You just might find out what the barriers are for them.
With adults I will try to get suggestions from them. With kids and teens I will make the suggestions for them
“Let me show you how to tie a timber-hitch, that way you can tighten the rope on your shelter if it comes loose again.” “Keep your wrist pointed down and grind the ferro rod all the way to the tinder.”
This is where you gain street-cred, well in this case bush-cred. If they get it right, then praise them with what they did well. If the device is broken, in the wrong position, doesn’t fit the kiddo, etc you need to support them with repairs, replacement, practice, etc.
“Your right, the line keeps stretching out of shape, lets get some better para-cord. “ “Hey, there you go, you’re getting really good sparks now!”
In the simplest form it is getting done what needs to be done to be successful and making sure they can repeat the process when they really need to in an emergency.
“Hey those lines work really well. Let me see you tie that timber hitch again.” “Great job on getting that cottonball lit, let’s do it again to make sure we got it.”
Hopefully this gives you a glimpse into our world of helping a participant master outdoor skills.
An interesting note on our Kids’ Survival Camp is that we REQUIRE parents to stay on site so they can not only share in the little victories of their kiddo, but also know where they need to work. In addition, we are often times total strangers teaching your kids to “play dangerously” for a change. You should stick around to see what they are doing. A good friend reminded me late last week when we saw several parents trying to opt out of spending the day with their kids at our camp, “They (the kiddos) want your presence not your presents.” I think the same can be said for co-workers, spouses, employees, etc.