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Cassidy Homan, left, and Rachel Gebhardt put into practice first aid skills taught by paramedic Todd Evans during a WREN class at Enterprise’s Marr Pond. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
Wallowa Resources Exploration of Nature class teaches team building, outdoor survival and leadership
An Indian summer day was the backdrop and Marr Pond the classroom for Wallowa Resources Exploration of Nature class in Enterprise Friday.
Fifth- through eighth-grade students learned first aid and wilderness survival skills in one of the most requested WREN courses.
Amy Busch, youth education coordinator for Wallowa Resources said, “WREN’s curriculum is designed to be fun. We teach life skills tied to the curriculum and let the students and parents request their favorite topics.”
The kids learned basic skills that could help save their lives and their companions if hurt in the woods with the aid of Paramedic Todd Evans and instructors Dave and Bobby Duncan.
“If I see you on fire, the first thing I’m going to do is go get some marshmallows,” said Evans, making the point that when one comes upon an emergency, the first thing to do is stop and think.
Duncan, who has taught WREN for many years, backed Evans up with the acronym, “STOP,” which stands for stop, think, observe and plan.
Both Evans and Duncan told the students that if someone is in trouble the worst thing they could do is rush in and get hurt themselves.
After a situation is assessed, Evans told them, “Start the breathing, stop the bleeding, treat for shock.
“You need to protect yourself and scan the scene for safety, then call for help using a phone or smoke signals,” Evans said.
Evans used an exercise to illustrate breathing by having each kid blow up a balloon attached to a straw.
An asthma attack can be brought on by exercise, bug bites, dust, or cold air, Evans said. He told the kids if they venture out with an asthmatic to be sure they have an inhaler. As he explained that asthma is something they should watch for with hiking companions, several of the balloons popped.
Keeping the attention of a couple dozen pre-teens is no easy task, but dress them up in clothes suitable for outside, go on a couple hour hike, play a game of capture the flag, and they come back for more.
Teagan Miller of Wallowa said her older sister did the WREN program, so she signed up as well. “I met some people from Joseph who are really nice so I get to see them.”
Wallowa fifth-grader Mason Ferré said his sisters were enrolled in WREN last year and this year he and sister Riley are taking the course together. Brother and sister Rachel and Andy Gebhardt are enrolled as well as Foster Hobbs, all returning WREN students.
Rural kids often have leeway in being allowed to explore the fields, woods and trails around their homes, but if there is an injury, Evans said they must be aware of their surroundings.
“When you call for help, be as descriptive as you can of your location to tell Dispatch,” Evans said.
The kids started their day with an overview of an ambulance, then moved outside to try chest compressions on child-size dummies and splinting techniques. Having a first aid kit on a hike or while hunting is preferable, but Evans showed the students how to make splints out of torn shirts and sticks. A belt, shirt, backpack straps, shoelaces and sticks all make for good bandages and splint makings, as well, he said.
Evans showed them how to check their own pulse by using a finger on a wrist, at the throat or at the bicep, a preferred spot on small children, he said. With a watch, he told the kids to count their heartbeats for six seconds, then multiply that number by 10 to get their heart rate.
“Short cuts are important in emergency medicine,” Evans said.
After checking for a pulse and breathing, stopping the bleeding, when necessary, is next on the list. Evans showed the kids how to check for circulation before and after bandaging a wound. “If the skin is warm, it’s a sign of good circulation. If the skin is cold, they don’t have good blood flow,” he said.
Reassuring the patient or having a good “bedside manner” was also stressed by Dave Duncan, as an important part of first aid. If in a group, leaving someone with the patient while another goes for help was advised.
After lunch, the kids spent a couple hours coming up with their own wilderness accident scenarios including gun shots, grizzly bear attacks, and broken limbs.
Wallowa Resources has offered WREN classes as one of its many outdoor options for kids since 2005, Busch said.
Other courses instruct skills such as building bows and arrows and war clubs, Busch said. “They are really great problem-solving skills involving engineering and design. They are given only so many tools and have to harvest some of the materials. We give them little tips but didn’t tell them how to do it.”
Wallowa Resources developed WREN to meet the needs of families that were looking for things for their upper elementary/middle school age kids to do on Fridays in a county with four-day school weeks, Busch said.
“The curriculum is designed to be fun by teaching life skills like building shelters and lighting one-match fires,” she said.
They often divide into tribes to promote team building and leadership skills — the main goals of the program. Each spring the WREN kids go for an overnight camping trip, Busch said. Several of the kids continue with programs geared for the high school kids including backpacking trips into the Wallowas.
The program has had continuing support from the Gray Family Foundation and this year it received funds from the National Environmental Education Foundation through a competitive grant process. “Only 20 programs were funded by them this year,” Busch said.
The Oregon Community Foundation and Herbert A. Templeton Foundation are also funders and Wallowa Resources’ annual Barn Dance raised money from local donors for scholarships to offset the $120 per term tuition.
Busch said, “WREN supports research that says outdoor education makes kids emotionally and socially adept and they do better on IQ tests.”
Busch said she encourages community members to serve as guest speakers who love sharing natural and cultural history. “I love having other experts help out.”
To learn more, visit www.wallowaresources.org.