TO BUILD A FIRE: Mr. Harding’s Survival Day

IMG_5865_rodriguezcOn January 21, middle school cadets hiked into the back campus woods for a fire lighting and tracking lesson with Language Arts instructor Mr. Mike Harding. Surrounded by the cold and snowy woods, cadets were taught the elements of survival – how to build a shelter and how to start a campfire without matches.

IMG_5665We have just finished reading Jack London’s ‘To Build a Fire’ in seventh and eighth grade. The sixth grade is currently reading another survival story ‘Hatchet’ by Gary Paulsen. The winter snow and cold gave us the perfect opportunity to venture out and practice these skills and show the cadets how difficult it is to survive without the right equipment and knowledge. On completion, we discussed how lessons learned by fire lighting, such as preparedness, adaptability and determination, are also useful in a cadet’s journey through life. MR. MIKE HARDING

IMG_5966Cadets first gathered tinder and firewood to build lean-to shelters and fire pyramids. Students then practiced using a variety of fire-starting tools to create sparks. Eighth graders Thomas Huckins and Cesar Rodriguez, among others, were successful in starting fires with toilet paper and dryer lint.

Harding’s tips for students: Size up the situation. Undue haste makes waste. Remember that it is a hostile environment. Vanquish fear. Improvise. Value Living. Act like the locals. Learn new skills.


At the Survival Day, I learned to never give up and always try your best no matter the situation. NICOLAS GONZALEZ ’21

On Survival Day we went out and learned a few basics of survival as well as how to build a fire. Sadly I was unable to make a fire. My favorite part of that day was working together. MICHAEL NAUGHTON ’20

I was able to make a fire. I learned that making a fire takes patience. DEREK NGUYEN ’20

I learned that everything is easier said than done. Don’t come into something acting like you already know it. I was able to start the fire but it soon took a sharp turn when somebody smothered the flames with too many sticks. My favorite part was getting to enjoy back campus while learning something new. JORDAN HORNICK ’20

IMG_5722_perales_BESTMr. Harding has a Masters in Creative Writing from Canterbury Christ Church University and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English and American Literature from the University of Kent. He is nationally certified to teach English, Media and Drama in the UK. Prior to becoming a teacher, Harding served for 22 years in the British Royal Marines. Harding is MMA’s Director of Curriculum Development, teaches middle school students and coaches rugby.