Survival: AST’s teach survival techniques to North Star Elementary Students


A field trip for the children at North Star Elementary School doubled as a simulated survival scenario, complete with Coast Guard instruction.

Over the course of three days and two nights, fifth-graders from the school slept in spacious cabins at Camp Woody on Woody Island, in Kodiak, Alaska, where the boys and girls were taught the basic skills for how to survive in a remote, rainy location with minimal resources. The classes were divided between boys and girls. Each group went through a series of stations set up in the remote woods, where Coast Guard rescue swimmers from Air Station Kodiak taught the children the Seven Steps To Survival: Recognition, Inventory, Shelter, Signals, Water, Food, and Play. The intent was to give the children the basic skills needed to survive should they ever find themselves in a real-life survival situation.

“Many of the skills that are introduced to our students are important because of the location we live in,” said Chris Polum, a teacher at North Star Elementary School. “These range from survival skills to fly fishing, which have many benefits for most people who stay on the island. This is a culminating event for our fifth graders as they move from North Star to the Middle School and it allows them to use their previous learning in a new and exciting environment.”

Petty Officers 1st Class Micah Franklin, Alex Major, Chris Ensley, and Andrew Stover, aviation survival technicians at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, kept the children actively engaged while teaching them about starting fires with vaseline and cotton balls in a densely-wet forest, proper use of signaling devices, how to construct shelters out of forest logs and underbrush, and how to have fun while doing so.


With eager faces, the children were excited to put their hands and minds to use by working together as teams to build the shelters and fires. Because of Camp Woody’s remoteness, the only way to get there is by boat and there are no cars on the island. The children were able to get a full outdoor experience that they may not otherwise encounter.

Polum said the students had been taught outdoor education before, but this was their first time going to Camp Woody. He and his colleague Jordan Warner, also a teacher at North Star Elementary, spent the three-day camping stint on the island with the children, ensuring they soaked up the outdoors while having fun learning skills they will carry through life and possibly use while living on the remote island of Kodiak in the last frontier.

“The Coast Guard’s presence and involvement at Camp Woody is a unique learning opportunity for the children, and it’s an experience we look forward to every year,” said Major. “It’s an awesome opportunity for the fifth graders to learn critical survival skills while getting out and experiencing the Alaskan outdoors.”