I first heard about The Secret Island by Enid Blyton while eavesdropping in the library.
I didn’t mean to – but some kids were super excited about a book that they’d read and were happily discussing it with the librarian. They all seemed so in love with it that I knew we had to check it out.
We loved it as much as those other kids did, and so we chose it for April’s book club pick.
The Secret Island was written long ago and is about a group of children who were living with extended family and were all being mistreated. They band together and run away to a small island in the middle of a lake, where the live for six months, building a shelter, earning money, and finding food. While the beginning is sad and the children rather rebellious, there are many opportunities for discussion, and the survival lessons within the book are wonderful.
That’s why we went for survival training for this club meeting. One student’s older brother is a Trail Life-er and volunteered to teach. He did an amazing job! Since someone else was teaching, we had a joint boys-and-girls meeting for this book, and while that definitely upped the ‘crazy’ factor for all of us, the kids had a great time.
After we discussed the book, our young teacher got us started with paracord. He based our meeting on ‘what if we were stranded in the wilderness with only a knife, some paracord, and a survival blanket?’
After learning about the benefits of this cording, we headed out into the woods to simulate being lost. The kids loved this activity. They quickly banded together into groups and looked for materials with which to build shelters.
Some went for a teepee-style structure, which looked pretty easy to build – but where would all these kids sleep?
Others tried to build a more traditional house, with sides and a roof, using the blanket as the roof. (Still another group went lean-to style, but I never was able to get a picture of theirs.)
Upon returning to our house, we returned our attention to paracord. Our leader taught the kids how to make paracord bracelets that they could wear to be prepared in an emergency. It took a little while for the kids to figure out how to make them, but as each one caught on, s/he taught another, well demonstrating the ‘each one teach one’ philosophy. Soon everyone was sporting a camo paracord bracelet!
While we had been doing all of this, a peach cobbler prepared by our teacher had been cooking away in a Dutch oven in the driveway. With only a small amount of time left, he broke out the ice cream and cobbler and we celebrated our new survival skills in a very delicious way.
Our young teacher had other activities planned, as well, that would have taught amazing other skills, but the kids were so enthralled with shelter building and bracelet making that time didn’t allow for any more.
Although a young teenager, our leader did a great job of planning and sharing his skills with our group of kids. Their enthusiasm always keeps me on my toes, and despite the fact that he’s not much older than some of the book clubbers themselves, he was quite professional and was able to answer all of their questions. I love when I see one of our younger ones showing responsibility and dependability, and this young man has it in spades.
Although it’s been several days since the book club event, my kids have been peppering me with questions about what they learned from their survival guide. They’re interested in heading to REI to look at survival equipment and in trying out their new skills.
The Secret Island would be a story great for arcing into an overnight campout, a camping unit, or a mission project to help kids – like the ones in the book – whose at-home conditions are less than ideal.
What sort of survival skills do your kids have?
Check out these survival products to host your own Secret Island-style event: