Campers learn cold weather survival skills

November 12, 2018

Third-grader Luca Iannacchino, right, casts as camp counselor Kevin Julka and fourth-grader Kerry Lauer watch during a class on fishing in an after-school program offered by Wingra Boats.

Asked if anything particularly surprising happened during a five-week after-school camp based at Lake Wingra, fourth-grader Ari Berman’s answer was unexpected.

“One of the camp counselors jumped into the lake,” said Berman, who attends Randall Elementary School, adding that it was to show what hypothermia is like.

Stephan Reinke, who jumped into the lake wearing a swimsuit a few weeks ago when the water was 45 degrees, said he was trying to teach the participants in the Camp Wingra After School program what could happen.

“Someone might dramatically fall in the lake and you are going to have to save them,” said Reinke, who got pulled out and dried off by the campers.

The five-week session on Monday afternoons concluded Nov. 5. It was run by Wingra Boats and open to third- through fifth-graders.

Kevin Julka, camp counselor, said he knows the campers absorbed some of the more academic material because they could recite it later.

But learning survival skills was the biggest hit with the campers.

“We didn’t see the same enthusiasm for it (limnology) as getting out in the woods and building something with sticks and figuring out how to rough it,” Julka said.

Campers looked at standard methods and also were challenged to think outside the box. For example, they learned that common litter like aluminum cans can be used for fishing by fashioning a hook out of the pull tab.

The first-ever after-school camp put on by Wingra Boats also was designed to show how the outdoors can be enjoyed in a safe manner year round.

“We wanted to show them there are four really amazing seasons in Wisconsin,” Reinke said. “We don’t really have bad weather in Wisconsin, we have great clothes.”

Another camp is planned that will feature activities such as ice skating, ice fishing, winter camping and winter survival skills. It will run on Mondays from Jan. 28 to Feb. 25.

The first week of the fall session the campers learned about fishing for musky, which are prevalent in Lake Wingra.

The next week was focused on boating in the fall and much of the discussion revolved around hypothermia.

The afternoon spent on lake ecology looked at the field of limnology, looking specifically at Lake Wingra’s watershed. The campers got in boats and looked at the Big Spring on the shore of Lake Wingra in the Arboretum.

Another week the campers looked at outdoor survival skills. The campers heard about the importance of getting off cold, wet ground and built a platform, which was a frame with slats across it and was a favorite activity for some.

Peter Schilling, a fourth-grader at Shorewood Elementary School, said making the platform was a lot of hard work.

“It felt rewarding,” he said.

The campers used a fire to cook their snacks like grilled cheese, quesadillas and a stir fry.

Jackson Thomas, a fourth-grader at Randall, said he liked fishing with the hooks made out of pull tabs and small hot dogs for bait. The fishing line was not long, which simulated times when a spool of fishing line might not be accessible and improvising with a shoelace might be required.

“It takes a lot of patience and you had to be kind of creative because the lines weren’t long enough,” he said.

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