“You smell like campfire” is something we often hear after a day at FNS. And more often than not, it seems to be said in longing, nostalgic way. Usually it’s followed by “I love that smell” and when we are really lucky, complete strangers will dive into fond memories of childhood or a specific moment – maybe a camping trip in Algonquin, a moonlit Yukon night, or some other magical place in time.
(Take a minute to think back to a particularly important campfire you once had… what are your feelings associated with this?)
Of course, we love the smell of campfire, too – it’s part of the job description. We have many fond memories over the past 4 years (already!) at FNS, and really want to take a minute to unpack just how important fires are to our program. They are so much more than just a way to keep warm (though that’s important, too!) or a hard skill to be taught.
Our students learn quickly how to build fires. They use magnesium and steel, which can be tricky but when they are successful, a spark ignites (womp, womp) in them… their confidence grows and they feel empowered. It creates real responsibility as they become keepers of the fire.
Further, fire is about coming together. It’s where we start and debrief our days, get creative and appreciate our friends. It’s where teamwork shines, through making the fire itself, playing games, and cooking meals. It’s how our community gets stronger, as we tell stories, sing songs, reflect and take breaks to just be together. It’s a safe space to talk about what’s on our minds. It’s also part of our human evolutionary history, what we call recapitulative play.
Every campfire we have is important. Just as the smokes lingers with us long after the fire has been extinguished, so too does the campfire and all of its significance leave imprints on us.