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Making a Campfire

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 1999

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Making a CampfireThis manual describes the rules of choosing a campfire site, the technique for starting the bonfire and preparation of fuel in field conditions. The manual describes different types of bonfires used for different purposes. The activity is arranged in a form of a game with elements of competition.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


This activity begins a series of studies devoted to the organization of students’ research in winter. However, as with lessons from other seasons, the series begins not with research itself, but with practical activities. In this case the activities are aimed at fire- making skills and camp construction in field conditions. It is possible that the skills students acquire in the course of the given lesson will prove useful in following activities, i.e. when organizing ecological field studies in the course of a camping trip and expedition that lasts several days.

The general plan of the activity

Because the lesson is not specifically oriented to scientific research, we recommend it as a single day activity in the form of a game with elements of competition.

During the first stage of the activity, the teacher explains and demonstrates the guidelines for choosing a temporary site for a fire, the technique of setting the fire, methods of preparing fuel and various types of fires.

The second stage of the activity is the competition to start the fire. For this purpose, it is best to take students to the forest where there is fuel and it is possible to make a camp fire at the end of the day and to seat together after the competition.

At the field site we recommend that the group be divided into pairs. Each pair is given five matches and the task to start the fire as quickly as possible. Each group must choose a site for their fire, collect fuel and start the fire so that it will not die out. It must be done quickly and with use of the least number of matches. If a group uses all their matches the teacher may gives them another five, and so on until the fire starts.

After the competition all fires must be safely extinguished.

In this field activity a class report is appropriate. The report may include the results of the competition (amount of time and number of matches for each group of students), 2-3 pictures of students during the most important or funny episodes of the day and pictures of different types of fires made by students.

What is a bonfire?

Hence, the present manual is not a manual according to its purpose, but it relates some rules of organization for camping and expedition life. Unlike all the other manuals for the educational activities of the given series it has been completely adopted from master campers and enthusiastic hikers (G.Ya. Ryzhavsky, 1995). The author is an experienced traveler, a master of sports in this field and a man of humor. We consider this text, which he has written about fires, to almost completely satisfy our ideas of the fire building aspects of hiking trips or field research, so we inserted it into the given manual almost without changes.

If you announced a contest of the best camping emblem, undoubtedly, a fire would be that emblem. In one recording, where "all campers' wisdom" is collected, it is explained that “ . . . a bonfire is a contrivance designed for campers' warming, cooking and drying of wet clothes.” Even a staunch pragmatist would not feel any interest in hiking after having read such a definition. It is possible to cook, get warm and dry wet clothes at home! Therefore, a bonfire is more than just a flame. It is the center of a camp (bivouac). The bonfire is kitchen, dining room and sitting room. It means dry clothes and hot water, protection from horseflies and other bloodsuckers; it is a place of communication, and it is heat and comfort.

Moreover, the bonfire is an accumulator of cheerfulness, energy and activities. No trips or hiking tours in forested areas are without a fire. The bonfire is a reliable friend of the camper. One is to treat it skillfully and with respect. If it is treated carelessly, it can become a cruel thief. Fires can be dangerous! So, a fire is an emblem and a symbol. And a symbol should be held in high respect!

Site for the bonfire

What does any bonfire begin with? It begins with a site. If the camping site is narrow and uncomfortable then the bonfire site is given the best place in the camp as the beloved but fretful child.

The bonfire should be placed not high and not low, not far away and not close. It should light up all the tents if possible and its smoke should disperse mosquitoes throughout the whole camping site, and the fire itself should produce enough heat for all the members of the group plus three cauldrons or buckets. However, it can be dangerous if sparks from the fire do not have enough time to “die out in the air” and reach a tent. It is not good if the smoke chokes not only mosquitoes but humans as well.

The code of rules on how to choose a proper site for the bonfire is serious science, but it is an art to put them into practice! It is advisable to select a site for the bonfire at an open place that is protected from the wind and is close to water. Wind can set fire to...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write a request to the authors (in a free form).

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple “Eye” Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of Birds’ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on Leaves’ Asymmetry

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