Dear KES Family:
There is a glorious scene in Tom Hanks’ film Castaway when, after having crashed and stranded on a desert island, he is able to get a fire started. He jumps up, arms raised, and shouts, “I have made fire!” His triumphant shout demonstrates the relief and power he felt. The fire represents life and warmth and light in the darkness. “Making fire” is empowering. It feels good.
I saw that same joy this week when watching our students learning how to make fire using flint and steel. It is a survival skill taught in cadets by one of our Science teachers, Eric Kershaw. In a safe clearing in the School woods, he showed students how to gather tinder, birch bark, dry twigs and larger sticks. He showed them how to start with the smallest of fuel at the bottom and how to feed a flame from the top with larger sticks once the fire started. He showed them the balance of air, fuel and heat that are necessary to keep a flame going and growing. Hearing him and Alex Arki (Class of 2019) discuss the physical principles of radiant heat versus convection, how heat rises and creates its own internal current, was a perfect example of practical learning.
When a spark flies off the flint and steel and creates a small flame, there is an instant ‘Tom Hanks’ moment of elation. Losing the flame is almost sad. Not being able to create one in the first place is unbearably frustrating. Few things are worse than striking and striking and seeing the sparks fly but nevertheless producing nothing. There is technique involved, of course, but somehow the students who were able to master it seemed endowed with a magical ability.