Kettunen Center family fun

TUSTIN—Some families spend time together by going out to dinner. Others go bowling or see a movie.

One group of families bonded Saturday learning how to survive in the wilderness.

Children, parents and grandparents participated in survival and many other outdoor activities at the Winter Family Fun Day hosted by the Kettunen Center.

"It's such a unique opportunity to spend time outside with your family," said Laurie Flock of Hesperia. She and her husband Shawn brought their three children, Cali, 13, Preston, 11 and Orrin, 8, to the camp after hearing about the event in a newsletter. During the wilderness survival session the family learned from assistant program director Kama Ross the best thing to do when you're lost in the winter.

"Have a positive attitude and stay calm," Ross said.

After implementing the S.T.O.P. principle - Sit, Think, Observe, Plan- the next thing to do is build a fire, Ross said.

She demonstrated how to make a fire and let families build their own using birch bark and sticks found in the wilderness.

Teamwork and a few broken matches later, the Flock family had a bright, burning fire to warm their cold hands. Wilderness survival assured, the youngest Flock had another idea.

"Do we have any marshmallows?" Orrin asked.

The groups concluded the survival experience by kicking snow on their fire to leave no trace of their activity and preserve a pristine landscape.

Some families also participated in "The Great Backyard Bird Count," a bird count study by Cornell University in New York to determine the location of birds in North America. The study enlists the help of bird watchers across the continent to count and identify the birds they see Feb.17-20 and submit their findings online at www.birdcount.org.

"We hope some of these families who have bird feeders at home and will do this at home too," said program coordinator Laura Jacobson.

Elsewhere at the Kettunen Center families learned about geocaching, a treasure-hunting sport

growing in popularity.

Using handheld Global Positioning Service devices, teams searched for a hidden cache-a container filled with items left by other geocachers. The hunters found "The Best-Kept Secret," a cache with bracelets, a coin, a pin and other trinkets, and left a note for those who find it next.

Families also enjoyed activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, crafts, and winter wildlife tracking.

The camp, 160 acres filled with forest and woodland wetlands, hosts family fun days four times a year with hands-on learning experiences and activities relevant to the season. In the fall, activities include hiking, canoeing and making apple cider, while the spring, families will learn about maple syrup, wildflowers and go on a mushroom hunt.

"Our main mission is to encourage families to enjoy the outdoors," said Andrea Grix, education program coordinator.

Kettunen Center family fun days are funded by grants from the Mecosta Osceola United Way and the Osceola County Community Foundation.

The next family fun day will be Sat. April 14 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event costs $7 per person and families can register by calling the Kettunen Center at (231) 829-3421.