Learning Story – Resilience and Challenge

What Happened? 

This was our coldest day yet this session (around -23 plus a s ignificant north wind). At this temperature, and especially with many participants who are new to Bushkids, it is a challenge learning to take good care of ourselves, while sharing the chores and responsibilities at our site, and exploring the fun activities and opportunities that the Land offers at this time of year!

We reminded everyone that a main focus of the day would be “taking good care of ourselves”, and did a knowledge-building circle about ways we can stay warm while we are outside, including check-ins with ourselves about whether we need to add or remove clothing layers, or may need to eat, hydrate, or pee—which all affect our core body temperatures. We are all improving at taking care of ourselves, but some still struggled with keeping hands or toes warm. It can be tricky! One thing we are learning is that warm hands and feet require a warm core, even if we don’t notice our core getting cold. Beyond the techniques we use throughout the day to warm up, it is important to take boot liners out of boots to dry them out overnight before our Tuesday sessions, and to wear (or bring) lots of different warm clothing layers (wool or synthetic, not cotton).

We went as a group to check the ice thickness on the lake (Kam Lake), and watched from shore while Wendy cut at least 3 to 4 inches into the ice with an axe, in several different spots. Once we determined the ice was safe to walk on, we used the hand-powered auger to drill three holes in the ice (that were 9-10”); many Bushkids were very eager to practise using the auger and to try ice fishing! We also had lots of fun sliding and rolling down the hill; the new dusting of snow allowed us to attempt a quinzhee and even try to bury our friends in snow!

Several Bushkids spent quite a bit of time chopping wood – either challenging themselves to learn for the first time, or honing their skills. It was amazing how much wood we chopped with some dedicated focus and effort!

Others learned cooking skills, helping to prepare bannock and caribou sausage, cutting it up with an ulu (traditional Inuit knife) brought by one of our Bushkids, and serving it proudly to everyone in the group.

Why is all of this meaningful? 

Learning to take good care of ourselves and each other, even on challenging cold days, takes resilience. We absolutely do not want anyone to feel that they should ignore their bodies or “tough it out” in order to be a “real” bush-person. The goal is to enhance our self-awareness and gain tools to manage and regulate ourselves, so we can be comfortable, confident and have fun out on the Land! This takes some patience as we try out different strategies until we find what works best for each of us.

We also become more resilient by working together and taking care of our community. Examples during this session included chopping lots of wood to keep our fires going, and cooking yummy food for everyone to share.

Skills associated with resilience – both at the individual and community levels – are woven throughout the core competencies of the NWT curriculum’s “Being and Becoming an NWT Capable Person.”—included at the bottom of this learning story. We highlighted some of the competencies for you.  

What does this mean for next time?

We will continue to practise and deepen our resiliency skills, as the weather gets even colder, and as we challenge ourselves to learn further skills that help us to thrive out on the Land and support our community—such as making fires from scratch, cleaning animals and fish, cooking over fires, chopping wood and making kindling, and building shelters. The more comfortable and confident we are in our resiliency, the more we can connect to the Land and to each other, and the more fun we can have!