The Crescent

Survival Techniques

March 1, 2017

“I teach because important lessons are learned when you’re wet and cold at 3 a.m. on the second day without food,” said survival techniques instructor Carl Anderson.

Survival Techniques is anything but a traditional class – the course equips students with the necessary skills to survive should they ever get lost in the wilderness.

The class is a mix of lecture, hands-on activities, and narrative, and centers on survival basics such as performing first aid, finding shelter, food, and water, and fire building. However, Anderson notes that “the most valuable tool you have is your mind, so we talk about improvising, problem analysis, and mental framing.”

The culmination of the class is a weekend survival trip where students apply all their knowledge and skills to surviving on their own for 48 hours in
the wilderness.

“When I introduce the weekend trip to my students I like to say that I wish I could take them up to Mt. Hood and drop them off a mile apart. If they are still here in two days, they pass the class,” said Anderson. Risk liability (among other issues) makes that impossible, but the outing is similar, if a bit safer.

“What we do instead is travel into a private wilderness area and set up semi-individual survival situations,” said Anderson. “Each student may bring seven items along with all the clothing they wish to wear; no food, no electronics, and no homework is allowed.”

The students arrive at the private wilderness with about two hours of daylight left, which forces them to immediately answer vital questions such as where to camp, what kind of shelter can be built, and where can food and water be located.

“The weather is always the one unchecked element of the experience. In past years, it has run the gamut between 65 and sunny, to downpours, wind, and even some snow,” said Anderson.

This class has a history and tradition dating back more than 40 years. Anderson took the class as an undergraduate in 1993 from Gary Fawver, who had been teaching the class since the mid 1970’s.

“He thought it would be a popular and practical course for college students,” said Anderson. “It turns out he was right, we have averaged 18-20 students per session for the past thirty years.”

Debriefing after the survival experience is the most exciting part of the class for Anderson.

“We lead such distracted lives that to be alone for 11 hours in the pitch dark with nowhere to go, provides a chance to  pause. Many students have written about how God has shown up during this time.”

Survival skills themselves are key to student success, but Anderson also hopes each student that takes the course will develop a more accurate mental picture of what survival is really like: “It is both not as scary as they may envision and not as easy as they may believe.”

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