HARTSVILLE, S.C. — A group of Hartsville-area youths spent several days recently learning about the outdoors and the basics for becoming self-reliant and confident in everyday life, even in difficult situations.

The Woodsrunner School of Self-Reliance collaborated with Narrow Way Nature Center in Hartsville to offer two sessions of the Core Skills Survival Training Course this summer.

The Woodsrunner School course is designed as an introduction to the outdoors and basic survival techniques, according to founder and director Joshua Barnes.

Narrow Way Nature Center is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to connecting children of all abilities to nature through environmental education, animal interactions, and outdoor adventures. The center is owned and operated by Joanne Ludwick.

This was the first year for the collaborative effort between Narrow Way and Woodsrunner.

Maya Traver of Hartsville is a volunteer who worked with the Woodsrunner School at Narrow Way this year. She said she learned about the school through a magazine article and wanted to see something like it brought to the Hartsville area.

Her husband, Keith, who is a scout leader with the Boy Scouts, is also a volunteer. Their children, Katherine, 17, Ryan, 15, and Natalie, 12, served as junior instructors.

The family enjoys the outdoors and goes camping together regularly, the Travers said.

The Traver family got to know more about the school visiting some of its programs and going through one of the courses. Through that Keith Traver met Barnes.

Keith Traver said he grew up camping and experiencing the outdoors with his family.

“I camped all over the country,” he said. “Some of my best memories are of growing up camping with my family.”

He said he thought Narrow Way and Woodsrunner were “a natural fit” with Barnes bringing the knowledge and outdoor skills as instructor and camp director and Narrow Way offering an ideal location.

“I found that Josh still had a lot to teach me,” Keith Traver said.

Narrow Way Nature Center is approximately three years old. It offers a variety of programs for children including horseback riding lessons and a grief camp called Healing Hearts, plus programs for children with disabilities, among others.

Ludwick emphasized the center’s nonprofit status.

“It’s not about money, it’s about connecting children to nature,” she said.

Ludwick and Maya Traver got to know each other through home schooling their children. They have known each other for about 14 years, Maya said.

The three-day course was offered at Narrow Way in July and was so successful a second session was put together for August.

The Woodsrunner School course is designed as an introduction to the outdoors, the basics needed to live, how emergency situations come about, and how to effectively deal with them, according to the school’s website.

The Woodsrunner School of Self-Reliance is collaborating with Narrow Way Nature Center to give the local youth and their family members an opportunity to take part in a Core Skills Survival Training Course.

The survival training covers topics such as traveling safely in the wilderness, situational awareness, preparing to head into the wilderness, building and maintaining campfire, water filtration and purification and sheltering from the elements.

“We offer our students training to help them become more self-confident, independent, self-disciplined, and assured of themselves than they ever thought possible, both in the woods and on the pavement,” the Woodsrunner School’s website says.

“We prepare individuals to become self-reliant and thrive in everyday life through our courses, challenges, and assessments. We believe that having a firm knowledge base and an adept skill set, through self-sufficiency, is crucial in achieving a purposeful, confident, and practical life.”

On a recent Tuesday morning, the children were sharpening their campfire building skills and enjoying it.

Barnes, a former law enforcement officer, said he grew up in the Upstate camping, hiking and experiencing the outdoors.

“I wanted to be out in nature,” he said.

And he wanted to bring that experience to young people.

“A lot of parents today don’t do any of this kind of stuff with their kids,” Barnes said. The course and experiencing the outdoors offer a different way to teach children skills that will prove not only enjoyable but useful to them in life.

“It’s more than just learning how to camp. It’s about building a community where people care about each other.”

Ludwick agreed.

“This is how I grew up,” she said. “So many adults today don’t teach their children these kinds of things. The main thing is to connect children to nature.”

Barnes said he, too, is still learning from operating Woodsrunner School.

"Everything is trial and error,” he said. “Nobody wrote a book about how to do this type of school.”

He said he is appreciative to Ludwick for making Narrow Way available as a venue for the course.

He said that while the course may be just three days, students and instructors form lasting bonds.

“You come to this school as students, but you leave as family,” he said.

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