Tuesday, February 4

My Side of the Mountain + Wilderness Survival

In "My Side of the Mountain," Sam runs away to the wilderness to escape his family.  He is tested and discovers strength and self-confidence.  Today, the Boy Scouts teach survival skills in their Wilderness Survival badge.  A century ago, we all knew these things, but now they must be learned on purpose…
  • Positive attitude:  You can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, and 3 minutes without air…but only 3 seconds without a clear mind.  Panic leads to bad decisions, and while fear is a natural reaction to emergencies, being able to relax and make a smart judgment will be the most essential skill of all.
  • Water:   Remember that whole three thing?  Focus on water.  Find it, purify it, drink it, and store it for later.  Water naturally runs downhill, so that is where you will find it.  You can often follow animal tracks right to a water source as they need water just as much as you do to survive, and they will know of any available water sources.
  • Fire:  Fires not only can be used for warmth, to cook food and boil water, but they can also be used as a signaling device.  Losing body heat can kill you just as quickly as lack of water.  The most important part of building a fire is the location.  The fire needs to be located in a place where the wind will not blow directly on it.  You will need tinder, such as dry grass or small twigs, to spark life into the fire.  You’ll also need kindling (pencil-sized pieces of wood) to build the flames.  Finally, you’ll need larger logs to maintain fuel for the fire.    See - How to Build a Fire
  • First aid: Knowing how to both avoid and treat common health problems such as blisters, insect stings, hypothermia and dehydration, as well as larger issues such as broken bones and snake bites, is a critical wilderness survival skill.  You can download the Red Cross "Wilderness and Remote First Aid" reference guide for free.
  • Shelter:  Whether from cold, rain, wind or heat, you must be able to protect yourself from the elements.  You should build your shelter with just enough room to lie down.  Your body heat will help keep your shelter warm, so the smaller the space the warmer it will be.  Usually it’s worth at least taking 30 minutes to make a thick layer of leaves into a bed so you don’t lose insane amounts of body heat from direct contact with the ground before considering a fire.
  • Food:  Survival is hard work!  Keeping your energy up is important, as you will be burning a lot more calories than you are used to burning.  Contrary to popular belief, plants are not your best avenue in a survival situation.  If you do not know exactly what you are doing you can actually end up poisoning yourself.  A few food sources that are a safe bet are insects, worms, and furry mammals.   See - Wilderness Survival - Finding Food and Water
  • My Side of the Mountain - Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude-and danger-of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.
  • Complete Trilogy
Make / Do
  • Go outside for ten minutes each day this week, and observe what's going on around you.  Take notes and make drawings of your surroundings.
  • Learn how to start a fire, build a shelter, catch a fish, identify useful plants, and much more with the Pocket Guide to the Outdoors projects.
  • Investigate the Wilderness Survival Information page, and learn one new skill today!
You may also enjoy: Call it Courage Unit Study

 lost art of reading nature's signsVocabulary
  • barometer
  • deadfall
  • flint
  • hemlock
  • marksmanship
  • primitive
  • sanguine
  • scant
  • snare
  • thunderhead
  • tuber
  • whittle
  • How would Sam’s story change if the setting were different? What might have happened if he had run to the desert, or to a tropical climate?
  • Were you disappointed that Sam’s family comes to live with him? How would you have ended the book? 
If you enjoy survival stories, check out...

See other book studies here!


  1. Keeping the kids engaged with the broadbase curriculum.

    1. I get that. It's why we use unit studies and try to keep a running dialogue...and talk about how sometimes in life you just gotta suck it up and learn things you may not care about. :)

  2. Making sure my child is ready for college or whatever she chooses to do in life.

    1. Yes. It's a difficult place to be when you want to be momma and make sure it all works out all right, but cognitively you know you have to let them make their own futures....I totally get it!

  3. dealing with the math!


    1. Oy vey. It's ALWAYS the math!! Here, too.

  4. Fully preparing my children for college & the rest of their lives.

    1. Yes. It's a difficult place to be when you want to be momma and make sure it all works out all right, but cognitively you know you have to let them make their own futures....I totally get it!

  5. I would like to have The Tree Book for Kids and Grownups.

  6. Being able to hold their interest.