Outdoor Adventure Ed Class Gets “Tin Cloth” Lesson

Lee Good, making tin cloth for a distance learning video lesson
Lee Good, making tin cloth for a distance learning video lesson

Lee Good, science teacher and gentleman farmer, loves a hands-on, practical project. The projects are more fun with students in the room, but COVID-19 didn’t stop Mr. Good from cooking up a lesson for himself and students to try at home. The project: making your own “tin” cloth.

Tin cloth is essentially waxed canvas fabric. Sometimes tin cloth has an oiled finish for an extra layer of protection, but it is predominantly a waxed canvas fabric.

“I wear this to work in my fields, walk through brier patches, ride my motorcycle,” Good explains. “It’s durable, waterproof, protective and lasts me a year, even when I wear it hard.” The Filson Company has been selling tin cloth since 1879.

The project is a practical one for Good, who raises beef cattle, poultry and vegetables on his acreage a few miles from Eastern Mennonite School campus, in addition to teaching science full time. The timing of his outdoor adventure education class and the need to re-coat his pants was serendipitous.

The semester-long elective class is made up of mostly juniors and seniors, the vast majority who are staying “very engaged” in this time of distance learning, says Good. “I ask them to put in an hour block outside on the days we have class,” he says. They do an activity from the list of outdoor challenges he provides — or one they identify on their own — and then write about it.

Activities include:

– walking or hiking in nature and paying attention to what you see, hear, small and touch
– cooking wild foods using recipes provided by Good
– bird watching and listening to their songs
– mountain biking

The tin cloth recipe is simple, explains Good, while tinkering away in his lab. “Just melt together the wax and linseed oil, ‘paint’ it on the cotton cloth, and then bake it to soak in. I hang it in my furnace room.”

Wet spring days are a perfect time to put the tin cloth pant covers to use, and a lesson the students will remember along with all their COVID-19 out-of-the-classroom learning.

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