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Survival is a theme the kids and I are diving into this year in our homeschooling. Many of our read alouds, projects, and special learning activities fall under that topic. This fall, a cooperative plane crash escape activity was their first hands-on survival task.
To survive a pretend plane crash and then use the resources they found on-board and around the crash site to complete five key survival tasks. They had a four-hour time limit.
Survival isn’t a new concept around here. But, this was our first focused look at it.
Prior to leaving the kids in the woods for four hours, I wanted to make sure they had the skills needed to survive.
In the past, they’ve built shelters, prepared fire pits, and foraged for wild foods. The older kids know how to safely use pocket knives, hatchets, and other tools.
I started this unit by reading aloud (aff. link) Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. The kids learned about the plane crash the main character survived, and how he overcame struggles (including mental ones) to survive on his own in the Canadian wilderness.
I also started reading aloud (aff. link) My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. This book has tons of information on building traps, identifying plants, and just general outdoor knowledge.
Preparation for the Big Day
A couple of days before the planned plane crash activity, I spent some time preparing.
I took four backpacks (one for each participant), and put the following supplies in each of them:
- A multi-purpose pocket knife from Cabelas
- Some strips of beef jerky and a granola bar for rations
- An empty water bottle
The following items were divided between the sacks, so each child had some supplies. The point of this was for them to have to pool their supplies to survive together. Teamwork is a major goal of our homeschool this year as well!
- Duct tape
- A hatchet
- A tarp
- A towel (covering the hatchet blade)
- First aid kit
- Magnifying glass
- Water purifying set
Each child also had a piece of a walkie talkie (there were three batteries plus the back).
The main part of the walkie talkie was in a fifth backpack. This bag was key to the whole “escape” part of the day.
This bag was locked with a four-digit combination lock. The kids had to complete the challenges to earn the digits. Then they needed to solve a final puzzle to get the right order.
Once they completed everything, they could repair the plane radio (walkie-talkie) and radio for help.
The hardest part of figuring this out for me was deciding how to get the kids the code they needed. They were on their own down there, and I didn’t trust myself to not help them if I sat as an observer.
Since we have a decent cell signal in the plane crash area, I decided to have my oldest text me with photographic proof of completion. It worked, but I will have to think of a less-tech way to do this in the future!
The day didn’t quite go as planned, since one of the kids woke up throwing up. I took the contents of that child’s backpack and distributed them among the other three.
Then we loaded up the plane (we walked…:D) down to the field by the creek. Here is where we crashed. The pilot (me) died on the scene and didn’t survive. This was inspired by Hatchet.
The kids grabbed the four backpacks and took off to huddle together. They read the directions I had given them, and took inventory of each backpack’s contents.
Here are the directions they had.
Introduction to the Cooperative Plane Crash Escape Activity
Congratulations! Your plane has crashed, and YOU and your team survived.
The pilot suffered immediate death upon impact, and you are now on your own. Before the plane bursts in to flames, you are each able to salvage one bag from on board.
The contents of these bags, along with the special bag, plus whatever you find at your crash site are ALL you have to survive.
The special bag is essential, but it is locked. It contains the emergency communication device you need to radio for help.
The search party will only be active for four hours. If you cannot unlock the radio before then and call for help, your entire party is presumed dead.
Set your watches and prepare to survive.
You must work together or you will not survive. Do not waste any precious time fighting or arguing.
Here are some initial tasks for you to do:
- Take stock of all your possessions. Search each pocket of every bag and make note of what you have.
- Each bag contains one part for the communication device. Do not lose these, or let them get wet. Without ALL the pieces, the radio will not work even if you successfully complete the puzzles and unlock the bag.
- The lock is a four-digit combination lock. Your goal is to complete tasks to earn the digits you need. Then you must complete one final task to learn the order of the digits.
- Read the directions carefully. Your lives may depend on it.
- Enjoy the wilderness, but be cautious. You never know what kind of animals or weather conditions you’ll encounter.
- Use what you have. YOU CAN DO THIS!
Build a Shelter
Rain is in the forecast, and you need a place to call home while you wait for the rescuers.
To complete the task, you must build a shelter that meets ALL of the following requirements:
- Is large enough for you ALL to rest in without being on top of each other
- Has at least a partial waterproof compartment for storing the pieces to the radio and other essentials.
- Keeps out at least some of the dangers you may encounter in the woods.
- Will stay up by itself for the duration of the challenge.
When you complete the task, take a picture of the front of the shelter. Then take a picture of each of the other sides. Use the selfie mode to take a picture of all of you inside.
Then text the pictures to Mom. She will give you your reward.
Fire…It Can Be Deadly or Be Your Friend…
When you’re on your own in the wilderness, fire can be deadly or it can be your friend. Remember how important it was to Brian Robeson in Hatchet.
Because of the current burn ban, you cannot actually start a fire during today’s challenge. However, you must:
- Create a safe place to burn a fire
- Collect enough burnable items to keep the pretend fire going for the duration of the challenge
- Set up the fire how you would if you were igniting it
- Find/create a tinder nest
- Explain how you would light the fire using the items in your possession or what you find in nature
Text Mom a picture of the safe fire area, complete with your fire-starting supplies. Also send a picture of your stack of burnables.
She will send you your reward.
They decided to go with a basic dug out rock lined fire pit. They put the fire together “log-cabin” style, and here it is, ready for lighting:
This task takes time to do properly. Give yourself enough time to finish.
To successfully complete this task, you must purify water from the creek using the purifying set found in one of the bags. You must:
- Follow all directions on the package. This includes wait times.
- Purify enough water to fill all four empty bottles (assume each bottle is roughly a 1/2 quart)
- If desired, add the drink flavoring to help improve the taste of the water (each of you has a packet in your bag)
- Each take a drink of the safe water
- Remember that water is essential to survival. Without it, you die.
Once this task is complete, text a picture of all the full water bottles to Mom. Also text a picture of someone taking a drink. Remember you must all drink a bit.
Mom will send you your reward.
Here’s one of the pics – the water is definitely still colored by the iodine. By the time they made it home, it was a more natural color.
You each have some emergency rations in your bag. But, these won’t sustain you for long. To truly survive, you must be able to obtain more food.
For the purpose of this challenge, you will not actually need to catch or trap the food. But, you must prove that you’ve thought it through and build the components necessary to implement your plan.
To complete the challenge, you must:
- Make a list of ten things near the crash site you could safely eat
- Work together to make two weapons or traps you could use to hunt small game or fish
- Have each team member be able to explain how both items work
When you’re finished, text a picture of both items to Mom. Also send her your list of ten edibles.
She will send you your reward.
Here’s part of one of the traps they designed:
And here’s Jayme testing out the design of the portable fish trap.
The FINAL Challenge
You are almost done and the rescuers are getting closer. Now, you must find a way to signal them.
To learn the order of the digits in the combination, you must create a signal of some kind.
Use your imagination and knowledge of wilderness survival to decide what kind of signal would be best.
While smoke signals can work, you don’t want to burn down the forest. So with the burn ban in effect, you cannot use a smoke signal for this activity.
Think of a different way.
Text Mom a picture of your plan/creation.
She will send you your reward.
So Much Fun
The kids had so much fun working together in the woods. They stayed on task and worked together to complete each task.
It was neat to see the final projects in person after they were rescued. 😀
And we learned how fun escape style activities are, so now I’m planning another one! This one won’t rely on a cell phone for distributing rewards. It’ll be more actual escape room style where they have to solve puzzles and use the clues to figure out the code.
What sort of activities do you integrate into your homeschool to build cooperation? I’d love for you to share in the comments.