As a steam activity with a survival theme I decided to run several Friday afternoon sessions teaching students some basic survival hacks. The sessions gave students the opportunity to experiment with both a para-cord craft and compass making. Para-cord (short for parachute cord) is a light, durable and incredibly strong rope which is very useful for any number of things in a survival situation. The students learnt how to weave a simple para-cord wrist band that is light, comfortable and convenient to wear during a camping trip or while bush walking. This wristband would provide up to 2 metres of rope, which can be further broken down to harvest internal fibers providing extra length, and smaller threads for an even wider variety of tasks. The students who participated in this activity over the weeks it ran, enjoyed the artistic side of para-cord crafting, often asking to create new wristbands in different colours and inquiring about other, more complicated designs.
After a couple of weeks concentrating on para-cord, we moved on to constructing a working compass out of a few simple items. We used needles, pieces of cork, magnets and a bowl of water. As the boys worked it was explained to them that the materials they used could be replaced by a number of different things. Paper clips, or other wire, fishing hooks and safety pins which could be adjusted using pliers or simply bending repeatedly until they snapped. The cork could be replaced with a leaf, or a piece of plastic. The needle can be magnetized using a battery, or by rubbing it repeatedly on silk, or more likely wool. The response from the boys was enthusiastic, especially for the para-cord craft, with many boys asking to have a go long after my materials had been depleted. A few students even decided to purchase para-cord themselves and continue crafting as a hobby.