Wood Chopping With a Purpose

Alzar School | 19.08.20
Spring 2020 students chopping wood.

Over the course of this past weekend, Semester XVII students learned a variety of skills and strategies for supporting an enjoyable lifestyle during their time here at Alzar School. They donned neoprene suits and boots, helmets and personal-floatation-devices (PFDs) for an exploratory float along Alzar School’s very own “lazy river” (also known as, the North Fork Payette River, which marks the western boundary of campus). They identified aspects of their lives here that are likely to contribute to heightened physical, emotional and social stress, then discussed resources for maintaining a balanced sense of overall well-being.

Students learned the ins and outs of our campus laundry facilities (so, families, you might consider leaning on your beloved student to complete this chore at home from now on). They pet a plethora of campus pooches, named surrounding stone summits, learned of Indigenous groups that have historically immersed in this valley, and perused the perimeter path.

Of all these wonderfully useful and engaging activities, there seems to always be a stand-out crowd favorite: chopping wood.  

Perfecting wood chopping form.

Here at Alzar School, school buildings are heated almost exclusively by primitive means: wood stoves in students’ yurts and fireplaces in the Confluence Building. The fuel for said fires is harvested from our very own forest ecosystem and prepared on campus; in fact, our facilities staff fell trees and saw rounds, while students split wood using axes and kindling splitters. This practice serves a number of Alzar School’s six foundations, including: Cultural Exchange, because it is a common practice here in Valley County to warm one’s home using fire wood; Service Learning, since students contribute to the health and wellness of their community by providing warmth; and Environmental Stewardship, as they consider fire wise forestry practices. Additionally, students learn tactical skills, build character, and practice communication skills in the context of risk management and prevention. 

When asked about the wood chopping station, students who answered did so positively. One student rated the activity “1,000 out of ten!”, while others remarked that it felt “really stress relieving” and seemed like “a great way to let out some energy”. A few students anticipated visiting the wood yard often, as a means of self-care, to get exercise and release tension. In fact, there are a number of anecdotally and scientifically supported benefits to wood chopping, beyond providing a cozy indoor space during the chilly Idaho winter:

  • Increases blood flow to the brain 

    Stacking wood and stocking up for cooler nights and days to come.
  • Releases endorphins
  • Strengthens core muscles, in an extended range of motion 
  • Builds muscles for balance and improved posture
  • Burns up to 300-500 calories per hour
  • Occurs in an open air environment, in nature! 
  • Provides personal satisfaction by completing an essential task
  • Improves circulation and oxygen transport, cardiovascular strength
  • Provides a varied & functional strength workout
  • Improves hand-eye coordination
  • Incorporates communication skills & hazard mitigation 

So, next time you find yourself experiencing pent up energy or stress – find an axe, some personal protective equipment (safety glasses, leather gloves, sturdy closed-toe shoes, plus an instructional video or two), a chopping block and fire vessel to try out Alzar School’s therapy of choice: wood chopping with a purpose.