Outdoor Skills Club at Schiff Natural Lands Trust 2018!

Students in grades 6 to 10 are invited to join a Outdoor Skills Club at Schiff Natural Lands Trust in Mendham, NJ. It’ll be held one weekday a month at 6:30pm to 8pm.  Registrations information for each available posted program is on the Schiff calendar.

Learn the art of bushcraft and outdoor living skills in this friendly class and social gathering. All sessions encourage hands-on participation and many include make and take projects. Each meeting has a different focus; Advance registration is required.

Topics include:

About the Instructor: David Alexander is a naturalist, educator and author. He has been practicing and teaching bushcraft, wilderness and nature survival skills to groups and individuals for many years. This includes NJ Fish & Wildlife workshops, boy and girl scouts, schools, camps, clubs and private instruction.


Making an Altoids Tin Survival Kit: The Altoids tin makes for an excellent light weight, compact kit that can hold enough critical essentials to help should an emergency arise. From the Native Americans to the Pioneers those venturing out have always carried essentials to help better their individual situation. Together we’ll begin our own kits with materials provided and discuss and demonstrate uses.

Reading the Forest Landscape: Animal Tracking: Do you have sharp eyes, the ability to notice small details and uncover and discover the mysteries found in nature. Through hands-on inquiry games we’ll explore furs, feathers, tracks, scat and other miscellaneous biofacts found in the wild and discuss what they inform us about the landscape. Each participant will make and take a clay animal track.

Cordage & Candle Making with Natural Plant Fibers: Try this primitive skill. You’ll learn to identify plants that can be spun into cordage and practice the form and technique of reverse wrap. You’ll leave with a length of cordage, some ideas for use, and some extra materials for practice.

Bow Drill Friction Fire From The Landscape:  Try this primitive skill. You’ll learn to select proper wood, how to carve a set and the form and technique that will prepare you for success. You will leave with materials for your own kit.

Bow Drill Friction Fire Coal Photo

Wild Edible Spring Plants: Take a walk along the trails to identify and discuss the wide variety of forest groceries available for harvest around our local landscape. As we walk, we’ll discuss proper identification, seasonal harvest, growing environment and methods of preparation. Collected samples will be made into a plant identification and usage journal.

Creating Fire with Natural and Manmade Tinder: Take a walk along the trails to identify the best natural resources available for fire starting. We’ll collect natural materials like barks, seeds, dry leaves and grass and compare it with modern materials like petroleum jelly coated cotton balls and drier lint and see what works best with fire starting methods of magnifying glass, flint and steel and ferro rod.

Identifying Wild Mushrooms: You can eat any mushroom once but not every mushroom twice. This session we’ll learn what it takes to have 100% confidence in the safety of a wild harvest and go out in search of fungus in the forest. Participants leave with a spore print study kit to help with proper identification.

Making Bark Collection Containers & Berry Harvesting: We’ll discuss and demonstrate harvesting bark for containers but craft our own with cardboard.  Once complete we’ll go out for a walk in search of wineberries and rasberries and see if we can manage to get some past our mouth and into the container.

Campfire Cookery & Bannock: Discuss the art of cooking over flames and coals, with pot hooks, on a hot rock or on a spit. After we gather materials and begin a fire we’ll bake a small, flat loaf of bread known as bannock using simple ingredients. When complete it’ll be gently pulled apart, smothered in local honey or jam and shared with the group. We can wash it down with some wild mint tea.

Making Charcoal Art on the Campfire: This session we ‘ll gather sticks of different wood varieties and turn them into charcoal pencils in a container placed on the fire.   The sticks char without completely combusting due to the lack of oxygen and make an excellent artists charcoal. Each participant will get to make some free choice art and take some charcoal pencils home.

Paracord Bracelets and Important Camping Knots: Cordage can be critical to survival and its uses are many including shelter building, fire friction, fishing, footwear, bow strings and much more. Let’s make a bracelet and explore the value of some basic knots.

Sewing Burlap Medicine Bags: Learn to create a medicine bag or accoutrement pouch carried or worn for the purpose of holding items of importance. The ability to sew will come natural in this fun make and take craft. (Or Sew a Canvas Gear Bag)


Bushcraft 101: Together we’ll examine the contents of my pack and demonstrate how a tarp, cooking pot, paracord, saw and a fixed blade knife can help one feel more a part of nature than a traveler moving through.

Fishing the Pond: Find a long stick and tie on some fishing line and a hook. Let’s find out what fish live in the pond and discuss methods of catch and release.  Safety, etiquette, equipment and casting will also be covered. Line, hooks, bobbers and weight will be provided. Bait will be collected or artificial.

Fire Building: Understanding how and when to setup different fire lays. Selecting proper fuel, the triangle of fire, keeping a fire burning through the night, coal extenders and wood selection.

Flint & Steel and Charcloth: Learn to make charcloth and use flint and steel (or quartz) to spark the charcloth and blow it with a tinder bundle into a flame.

Basic Bushcraft Knots and Tarp Shelters: With a little know how you can put up a sturdy tarp shelter and get out of the rain and wind with confidence.

Making Natural Candles: With a reverse wrap twist on some dogbane or milkweed cordage, a bit of deer tallow and a seashell we can make a bright candle.

Walking Sticks: Find a stick appropriate for your height and add some design elements to make it your own. Feathers, beads and string will be provided.

Clay Coil Pots: After discussing how the native Lenape people made their clay pots we’ll go ahead and make our own with a modern air-dry clay using a coil method.

Native Plant Walk Journaling: Let’s explore the trails for plants valued by the native Lenape people.  The leaves and seed we collect will be taped down on a big sheet of paper and labeled to make our own educational displays.

Topographic Maps:  Understanding map symbols, reading the landscape, orienteering to stay found.

Making Animal Totems: A totem is a sacred spirit being which guides, helps or protects an individual. Using clay we’ll design our own to provide us inspiration and motivation in the future ahead.

Geocaching: We’ll search out local geocaches within the park using our gps receivers or cell phones.

Sharp Kids: We’ll learn proper knife skills to improve safety, maintenance and carving techniques. (feather sticks and tent pegs)



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