Wednesday, November 14, 2012

growing up wild - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

(As you can see from the Logo above, the title does not have capitals. This is why I did not capitalize it in the title of my review. :)

Growing up Wild is DVD/CD series that was produced by a missionary family in Papua, New Guinea, in Indonesia, chronicling the missionary life of the four Wild brothers (and their parents) in their life among the natives of that area.
  The Wild family created these DVDs over a three year period, and made them available in 2011. The purpose of the DVD series was to introduce boys and girls to work going on in the mission field. From the website:
 "Our hope is that "Growing up Wild" will educate and challenge your children, and be used by the Lord to play a part in raising up the next generation of missionaries!"

In October, Growing up Wild kindly sent select members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew copies of their Growing up Wild DVDs, Volume 1 and Volume 4. Each DVD pack contains a three-chapter DVD, as well as a CD that has an Activity Guide.  From the website, again:
"Growing Up Wild" was developed to compliment a Home school or Sunday school curricula. It can be used by elementary age students (ages 5-12) but is entertaining and educational for all ages.

Just so you know, my son (who turns 13 in just weeks) loved these DVDs!  If you are familiar with my product reviews, you know he seldom loves the products we review. The DVDs were well made, well done. (Yes, the redundancy was intentional, for effect.) I am going to break down some contents to give some highlights, and maybe tickle your curiosity, so that maybe you also will want to get these DVDs.

Growing up Wild DVDs are available for $18.99 each; or the entire five-volume set can be purchased at the Growing up Wild Website Store for $80.99.  Each DVD contains three episodes, and each episode runs approximately 15 minutes long.

Volume 1 contains: Home Sweet Hut, Supply Trip, and Sun and Water.

Home Sweet Hut - The Wild family home was toured so that children who know little about missionary work in jungle environments can see not only how the missionaries are living, but also the contrast between their lifestyle and that of the natives. The Wild "hut" is not as primitive as you might expect, although it is not made to the same standards as even a 1950's house in America. It does have some features that kids will find interesting to learn about. And a feature that my son just loved was a "Lego Loft"!
Activity Guide: The Activity Guide contained activity ideas for Science/Botany, Culture/Worldview, comparing/relating Wild life with our life, and a suggestion to make a model Wano house. The Science project is an extended, year-long project, so we're not done with it. The Culture activity involved drawing stories out of older folks in the children's life, so that one will also be ongoing. The Compare/Relate activity introduces a Venn Diagram to compare Wild brothers living with JD's living, and the Create activity was just up JD's alley.
Supply Trip: Once again, we were spellbound as the Wild's told what they go through to periodically stock up on their supplies. (I thought I was doing so well when I got my regular shopping trips down to once a week! Hah! That's not such an accomplishment...)
Activity Guide: I love the way the Activity Guide draws the attention back to the one who supplies all our needs. Activities direct the children to be missions focused, and also suggest a field trip to a local airstrip, which we have right by us, so that was doable, although the wording suggested a private airstrip and ours is a public one, it is small and suitable. There is also a list of mission aviation websites for the children to visit, with parental supervision. And then there is a section to help the children grasp what a monumental task it is for the Wilds to know what they need to acquire when they purchase their supplies. I let my son think about the task without doing all the suggested sections, because I could tell he was aware it must be a huge task, and our current pre-Algebra is enough math for him without him having to think about how many ounces or pounds of oats we might use in three months, etc.

Sun and Water: It was very interesting learning how the Wilds needs are met for water and electricity. Frankly, with the conditions they are living under I am already downright amazed that they created this video series... The water system they use was quite interesting. I was glad to learn that they filter the stream water that they drink and cook with.  I was not too surprised by their electric source (because of a previous mission trip my husband went on), but you might be. They seem to have electricity to meet their needs, but they have learned that you can live using way less electricity than the average American uses each day...
Activity Guide: Again our attention is artfully turned to our creator, the supplier of all our needs.  A video suggestion is made, as well as field trip ideas. There are suggestions for different science activities. The one we tried didn't work out very well (solar oven), but there was too much interference of trees and clouds that day.

Volume 4 contains: Adventures in Culture;  Tribal Calling; and Amazing World Around Us.

Amazing World Around Us: JD has always loved nature study, and really enjoyed getting a glimpse into wildlife native to Papua. This episode earned points with JD, which was good because the first episode on this disk showed a killed "Bird of Paradise" which was difficult for him. It is natural for the Wano natives to eat whatever they can kill, but that doesn't make it easy for a child to understand, whose food is seldom seen before it appears wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator section. This section also highlighted arachnid life in the Wild hut, which would be a big problem for me personally. I don't like small insects to be in my home, and some of the Papua spiders are huge! I'd have trouble falling asleep knowing these critters were hiding in my rafters.
Activity Guide: Suggested activities were fun and doable. In depth arachnid study was a big hit with my boy. (I'm sure he wished he could acquire some of those Papua spiders...) Suggested trip to a local zoo is on our list. The National Zoo in Washington, DC has a nice aviary that we haven't been to in years -- I wonder if they have a Bird of Paradise?... The included chart will give our trip substance and direction.

Adventures in Culture: JD really enjoyed part of this episode, and was also unpleasantly startled by part of it. Part of this episode talked about the natural tribal conflicts that occur in Papua. Now, JD doesn't get into "warfare", specifically, but he really liked that kids there get to "play" with bows and arrows. They learn early how to make their own weapons, and the kids are "practicing", through play, behavior that is apart of the adult life (protecting their tribe; hunting). There was also video of some food preparation, and JD had difficulty trusting in the cleanliness of the food prepared under the conditions shown.  There was also an unexpected filming of Morgan and Hudson having something done that is normal among the Wano people that is not normal for us. Many might find it disturbing, but it wasn't horrible. Pre-watch this episode before showing to your kids, then you decide. The contents is well summarized, emphasizing that cultural differences are usually not "right" or "wrong", but just different. 
Activity Guide: The suggested activities help crystallize information contained in the video. The culture worksheet provides some information on the Wano not easily picked up by just watching the video, and invites the student to compare the Wano cultural areas to our own. Very thought provoking.

Tribal Calling: This chapter how missionaries have to prepare to be able to minister as missionaries to tribal people in jungle areas, such as the Wano and other tribes in the jungles of New Guinea. This content inspires not only potential future missionaries, but also inspires folks stateside to remember that missions outreach requires a support team for financing, prayer, and many other issues. To summarize, this episode directs individuals to consider how God is calling them to support missions work throughout the world.
Activity Guide: Suggested activities direct us to Bible reading, thought, and prayer. This episode was dedicated to a missionary, Paul Westlund, who passed away. One suggested activitiy directs the students to research his life. It also directs the student to write out a testimony of their salvation journey, which is always a good exercise.
Personal opinions:
I think Growing up Wild was wonderful. My son loved it, and I can't remember the last time I was able to say that about a product I reviewed. I think any learning style would find things to glean from GUW. The video approach reaches auditory and visual learners; the Activity Guide reaches hands-on learners. Some of the content would have been over the top for my girly-girl, and dead animals would have been over the top for my tender-hearted girl. So, use your own judgement: pre-watch the DVDs if you should. I didn't feel that was necessary for my son. This DVD is about missionaries, so yes, it is Christian in nature and would maybe not appeal to secular home schoolers.

  • I bring up one issue that I had a problem with in the hopes that the Growing up Wild program can benefit from having me point this out.  In Volume I, as I was reviewing the Activity Guide Section 3 (Sun and Water), I came across a note that said, "VIDEO: I recommended this movie because it caused me to praise our mighty Creator God, the One who spoke all that we see into existence." I could quote the whole paragraph, but I won't. The point is that in the Activity Guide, the name of the video is never mentioned. It is mentioned that you can watch the video online, but never mentions the title. I had to go back to the Growing up Wild DVD, Volume 1, Chapter 3, and watch it through JUST to get the title of the movie. ::sigh:: Please, Growing up Wild, go back and fix the Activity Guide not only to mention the title of the video (God of Wonders, by Eternal Productions), but if you are going to mention that it is available to watch free online, please also just give the link. Please.

This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review.

DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a Growing up Wild DVDs #1 and #4 in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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