Off the Clock: Webmaster Teaches Primitive Skills

Posted: October 25, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: October 25, 2010 at 8:04 am

By Aisha Jamil

Jan Macario. Photo courtesy of Jan Macario

Jan Macario wasn’t always interested in the wild. As a child, he was more involved with computers. However, when he moved out west to Salt Lake City, Utah, he gained a new passion for learning primitive skills, skills that people needed to survive in the days before modern technology existed.

Now, almost 10 years later, Macario is a devoted instructor at the annual Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills (MAPS) Gathering, which was featured in a recent Washington Post Magazine article. He teaches cordage, which is making ropes out of plant fibers, as well as a class to identify plants as edible, medicinal or poisonous.

“Plants fascinated me. Before, I would just see them as a wall of green. But now, I can easily recognize them in passing,” says Macario, webmaster and developer in the Office of Admissions. “It’s like learning another language: The more you know, the easier it is to learn more and expand on that knowledge.”

At the MAPS gathering, people of all ages and walks of life learn and share primitive skills, such as primitive cooking, arrow making, weaving and tracking, with one another.

The gathering is similar to a summer camp, and living facilities are basic.

“Every day, we all get together and have a morning meet where the instructors highlight the sessions of the day. Usually, there are three sessions per day, and everyone can sign up for their class according to what they are interested in,” Macario says.

The group was formed about 10 years ago, according to Macario. It started with a handful of people and now has more than 150 members. Macario got involved in its third year, first as an attendee and then as an instructor.

“In college, I studied archaeology and anthropology, and I thought to myself, people have survived in the wilderness for thousands and thousands of years without technology, but in this day and age, we have no clue how to do that,” Macario says.

Macario picked up tracking and wilderness expert Tom Brown’s “Field Guide to Wilderness Survival” and attended Brown’s Tracker School in New Jersey. He learned how to build fire-making tools, as well as other fundamentals of survival.

According to Macario, learning these skills gave him a sense of perspective and the ability to connect to the roots of human civilization.

“This combines your mind, body and spirit. It is not just testing your mental capacity but also your physical capacity. You will know if it is successful or not. There is just no faking it,” Macario says of his hobby.

For more information on Macario, check out his website.

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