In the mid 1980s, Woodend Primary School in central Victoria developed a program where Grade 4 students travelled to a ‘farm school’ for a semester. For those 6 months, the students were immersed in a rural curriculum where the day saw them tending to their plot within the vegetable garden, caring for the farm animals and maintaining the property. It was quite progressive and an immediate hit with the community.
It was here, at the tender age of 8, that I learned how to build a bush shelter with a couple of my friends. Initially we used photographs of Aboriginal Humpies to work out what had once been used in the area. Then, through process of trial and error, we set about creating the best shelter possible without the use of nails or rope, or any other modern binding agent. Once constructed, we spent our lunch breaks inside.
Feeling nostalgic for grade 4, build a cubby house from sticks made it on to my Bucket List when I first developed this very site. Until now, that challenge has quietly remained on my list – until now. Yes! Over the weekend, my kids finally had the chance to build a Bush Shelter using only sticks, bark and leaves and they totally rocked it! Know how?
The success of a bush shelter will depend on your ability to source sturdy materials. You need sticks – lots of them. Your initial three are the most important and require a fork at the end of each. The first step is to lock two together for the entrance, they should be the same size size – no lopsided door frames for us. The third stick needs to be a lot longer. It will be the back bone which you lock into place. Done?
Now add the ribs. You basically grab as many sticks as you can and lean them down the back bone like ribs. Make them as close as possible to stop the breeze. When you think you have enough, add bark and large leaves to cover the ribs. In no time you will have your survival shelter ready to sleep in. Remember, the longer the initial three sticks, the larger the shelter.
Our Survival Shelters were built at the Australian Botanical Gardens at Mount Annan aye the Jurassic Garden event during Science Week. The gardens offer school holiday workshops where kids can build their own shelters.