Bounders' Fire Mastery: Igniting Passions and Transformative Achievements in Middle School

Bounders' Fire Mastery: Igniting Passions and Transformative Achievements in Middle School
Amy Dempster


Within the Bounders Woods on the Middle School campus, there exists a yurt housing a special plaque. This plaque, crafted from a tree stump, bears the names of Nathaniel Ross ‘19 and his younger brother, Calem Ross. Both siblings, with Nathaniel as an alumnus and Calem as a current 8th grader, have achieved the esteemed title of Fire Master.

The Fire Mastery program, initiated by former Bounders educator Scott Fairley, stands as one of four apprenticeships offered at Carroll School. Alongside the Knot, Naturalist, and Expedition Masteries, Fire Mastery serves as a path for students seeking to delve deeper into a specific area of interest beyond the regular Bounders curriculum. "We strive to guide each Bounders student ('gec') on their individual journey and expose them to various possibilities based on their passions," explained instructor Will Close '11. "The Fire Mastery program, for instance, teaches alternative methods of fire ignition."

Calem Ross, the 8th grader, shared, "From the moment I arrived at Middle School, I knew I wanted to pursue the Fire Mastery apprenticeship. It comprises thirty-six progressively challenging skills divided into three levels of achievement: Ember, Fire Apprentice, and Fire Master."

He continued, "The most demanding skill was the final one—creating a friction fire using a bow drill, employing materials found in the Bounders Woods. To construct the bow, you drill two holes into a flexible stick and fasten a rope between them. Next, you carve a pointed spindle from a small piece of wood, with one end rounded. The spindle fits into a hand-carved wooden block with a notch that traps the generated dust, creating heat when the spindle is rotated using the bow. It required numerous attempts and dedicated practice to produce a spark. Achieving the final level was truly gratifying!"

"In Bounders, we encourage students to take risks, confront challenges, and discover their capabilities," shared Will Close. "When you reach a point where you accomplish what you set out to do, it can be a transformative experience."



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