The Conservation College Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship has been our hallmark program since 1999, with three positions currently available in this, our 20th Anniversary of the program. Learn to teach hands-on skills of the Neighborhood Naturalist, Traditional Herbalist, Wildlife Tracker, Wilderness Survival Scout, Ancient Artisan, Sustainable Citizen and Environmental Educator, with options to develop one or more of these topics into an area of specialty.
Kim & Chris Chisholm will guide you through this experience alongside veteran faculty and staff as you gain wilderness skills in a fast-paced, outdoor setting. In one summer, you’ll become a professional outdoor educator with skills of backcountry leadership, risk management, and adventure program development – on top of all the in-depth earth skills we teach. Our goal is to ensure that by the end of the summer, you will have the most professional, practical, intellectual as well as hands-on outdoor educational training available, with a specialized skill-set necessary to work anywhere in the field of outdoor education.
2020 Dates for this full-time summer residential training program include June 19 – Sept 4 plus complimentary work-trade extension through September if desired. Start at our home base in Puyallup, Washington, and spend much of the summer at Lake Sammamish with periodic travel to the Cascade Mountains and Salish Sea. Apply asap before space fills.
Pilot Year 2000 Apprentice Nikki van Schyndel is a contestant on this year’s Alone Season 6.
FAQ – Tuition, Work-Trade & Employment Opportunities
This program is designed to be a 100% work-trade experience, although most participants are hired onto payroll before the end of the summer. There are no expenditures you will need to make throughout the summer. Food, facilities, gear, books, transportation between courses, etc. is complimentary in exchange for all the help you will be providing Wolf Camp such as organizing, packing and periodic kitchen duties while studying earth skills education each week. You take care of your own personal variables such as health care and insurance if you aren’t already covered, smart phone and personal vehicle expenses if have you one or both of those, and weekend entertainment if you so choose. You’ll also have free access to books and field guides in the Conservation College library, as well as complimentary guidance through Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course field exercises as time allows.
You will need backcountry gear like good waterproof hiking boots, large backpack, tent, etc. so check out our Summer Expeditions Packing List which is all you’ll need during the summer, plus a simple laptop (chromebook is fine, for instance) to record your progress and prepare for camps.
This program is a true apprenticeship since it is designed to train new staff as earth skills educators. The amount of training, work-trade, plus teaching and organizational responsibilities you do varies depending on your availability, ability and readiness. To get a sense for these variables, we recommend you talk with apprenticeship graduates about their experience. Just email us with a request to get in touch with graduates of your choice.
Just Posted! Nikki’s New TedX Talk:
FAQ – Qualifications & Personal Expectations
The Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship shifts from an early-summer emphasis on studying/practicing outdoor skills, to a later-summer emphasis on teaching the skills. Expectations for personal behavior include development of excellent staff communication skills, being a role model for students including on accessible social media, not smoking or drinking all summer, etc.. The program requires previous experience, education, or training in outdoor skills or in fields of teaching, medicine, sustainability, or camp counseling, for instance.
That said, there are successful apprentices who came with no formal experience, but who had simply spent so much time outdoors in their childhood and/or young adult years, that they were often more prepared than those who primarily had academic training. If you are unsure as to whether you qualify for the apprenticeship, simply follow the application steps which include a conversation with program directors, and we will let you know whether you are eligible.
FAQ – Areas of Focus
Although the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship follows our summer schedule and covers an in-depth topic of outdoor education each week (teaching and mentoring all ages, wilderness survival, ethnobotany and herbal medicine, wildlife tracking, traditional technologies and crafts, etc.) you can also organize your schedule to specialize in a subset of these skills, including:
Outdoor Leadership & Nature Guiding is the most common focus for apprentices, offering the widest array of outdoor education and earth skills. This focus helps you build your summer schedule around skills of naturalist training, backcountry leadership, risk management, adventure program development, and the teaching of the earth skills listed above.
Traditional Technology & Survival Instruction is a focus area emphasizing navigation, fire, shelter, wild edible foods foraging, and traditional craftwork like tanning hides for leather, making bows and fishing gear for the fall harvest, working with stone to make knives and arrowheads, and practicing survival scenarios in case of emergency. Upon completion, you will know how to harvest and teach plants, animals and minerals with skills needed to honor their gifts.
Herbal Medicine & Ethnobotany Instruction is another focus you can choose as part of your apprenticeship experience. Ethnobotany means understanding the relationships between plants and humans, how plants are incorporated into our daily lives, and how humans are dependent upon plant ecosystems. As part of this program, you’ll become an herbalist who knows how to respectfully teach the harvesting and preservation of plants for their medicinal, nutritional, and utilitarian gifts.
Wildlife Conservation & Tracking Instruction is the fourth option we have available as a specialty for you to develop. Participants will realize in every area of outdoor study – herbalism, scouting, survival, traditional living – that “it all comes back to tracking.” If you can find it, you save the time required to make it. Whether you choose this apprenticeship focus for the purpose of wildlife research, sport, or teaching, you will be well on your way to becoming a highly valuable guide of our native fauna.
FAQ – Summer Schedule
Please note that your Wilderness First Aid training will nee to be updated before arrival. Check out courses with REI, Mountaineers, or wildmedcenter.com.
Weekends as well as the early-arrival option week of the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship takes place at Blue Skye Farm. This video by 2017 Summer Apprentice Logan Nelson offers a good feel for the shared camp house and mini-farm.
June 5, 2020 Sunday: Dinner Meeting & Prep Camp from 5-8 pm.
July 6-10, 2020 Day Camps at Lake Sammamish: Help teach or observe Sampler, Survival & Advanced Scout Day Camps. The goal this week would be for new staff/apprentices to go further in-depth with the skills we teach. Mon-Fri work-study hours are 8 am – 8 pm.
July 12-17, 2020 Overnight Camps near Mt. Rainier: Wild Chefs & Herbal Medics running simultaneously with the Wildlife Tracking Safari near Mt Rainier. In exchange for previous weeks’ work-trade, participate or assist a senior instructor for in depth learning of ethnobotany or wildlife tracking, or if several returning staff/apprentices attend, then they would form their own hybrid group. Sun-Fri work-study hours are 7 am – 10 pm.
July 19-24, 2020 Overnight Camps near Mt. Rainier: Wilderness Survival Side of the Mountain, plus the Advanced Primal Apocalypse Survival available for those with previous survival camp training experience. New staff/apprentices would participate or assist a lead instructor until ready to embark on one’s own in-depth wilderness survival trek, or if several returning staff/apprentices attend, then they would form their own group. Sun-Fri work-study hours are 7 am – 10 pm.
July 26, 2020 Sunday: Staff Meeting & Set Up at Lake Sammamish from 12-8 pm.
July 27-31, 2020: Day Camps at Lake Sammamish including themes of Wildlife Search & Rescue celebrating it 24th year, and Wild Cooking & Herbology celebrating its 22nd year, or Advanced Wilderness Survival Craft for campers with prerequisites. Assist lead instructors or co-teach with compensation available if previous 5 weeks successfully completed, depending readiness to lead as well as staffing needs.
Aug 2, 2020 Sunday: Staff Meeting & Set Up at Lake Sammamish from 5-8 pm.
August 3-7, 2020: Day Camps at Lake Sammamish including themes of Wildlife Search & Rescue and Wilderness Survival Craft for ages 6-11 with no prerequisite, and Advanced Herbal Medicine for ages 8-12 who have graduated from two camps with us. Assist lead instructors or co-teach with compensation available if previous 6 weeks successfully completed, depending readiness to lead as well as staffing needs.
Aug 9, 2020 Sunday: Staff Meeting & Set Up at Lake Sammamish from 5-8 pm.
August 10-14, 2020: Day Camps at Lake Sammamish including themes of Wilderness Survival Craft and Wild Cooking & Herbology for ages 6-11 with no prerequisite, and Advanced Animal Tracking for ages 8-12 who have graduated from two camps with us. Assist lead instructors or co-teach with compensation available if previous 7 weeks successfully completed, depending readiness to lead as well as staffing needs.
Aug 16, 2020 Sunday: Staff Meeting & Set Up at Lake Sammamish from 5-8 pm.
August 17-21, 2020: Day Camps at Lake Sammamish including themes of Blue Skye Pioneer and Conservation Kids day camps, and Advanced Artisan for campers who have graduated from two camps with us. Assist lead instructors or co-teach with compensation available if previous 8 weeks successfully completed, depending readiness to lead as well as staffing needs.
August 23-28, 2020 Overnight Camp: Archers, Artists & Artisans. Chris and Kim would be doing all the logistics and cooking, while staff in attendance would be doing all the packing/set-up/cleaning. We would also have a senior instructor leading one group of youth campers, and one leading a group of day camp kids. Sun-Fri work-study hours are 8 am – 8 pm.
August 28-Sept 2, 2020 Overnight Camp: Secrets of the Ancient Scout. The primary goal of Secrets of the Ancient Scout is to teach participants how to blend into nature; social circles; and use their position to influence positive change in the world. We would also have a senior instructor leading one group of youth campers, and one leading a group of day camp kids. Sun-Fri work-study hours are 8 am – 8 pm.
FAQ – Goals, Mission, Community & Curriculum
The mission of the internship is to guide you to become a rock-solid outdoor leader and nature guide. Participants will build upon the successes of the past generation of outdoor adventurers and conservationists who worked hard to pass the endangered species act and saved countless acres of habitat, plants and animals where almost none remained two generations ago.
It is an apprenticeship designed for:
1) aspiring outdoor leaders and those who want to become nature guides in parks and other settings, learning to teach and lead outdoor skills while simultaneously becoming versed in them;
2) experienced naturalist, trackers, herbalists, scouts, artisans, permaculturists, hunters, fishers, biologists and ecologists who want to broaden their skill set and learn to teach their craft to students of all ages; or
3) experienced teachers who want to become versed in outdoor skills in a fast-paced educational setting.
No matter your previous experience, you will be expected to fully participate in every possible summer opportunity to push your skills to a higher level of excellence, although your own health will be the priority while developing into better and healthier leaders and guides. By the time you complete the course, you will become a key resource on the natural world for your community, probably the best expert on habitat conservation in your neighborhood, and you will know how to help people make footprints on the earth as light as possible as we create the future for humanity and all its relations.
Your goals will expand over the the summer, from learning the basics of earth skills education, to further developing your earth skills, being given teaching opportunities during the summer according to your desire and readiness. Curriculum for the program will include field exercises from the Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course – Trails of the Neighborhood Naturalist, Traditional Herbalist, Wildlife Tracker, Survival Scout, Ancient Artisan, Honorable Hunter, Sustainable Citizen and Environmental Ed.
1st Priority: Learn the best methods of teaching earth skills to all ages. The way to become the best of teachers is to observe, participate in, and take notes on all the activities our instructors present over the summer, including staying up a half hour after the kids go to sleep in order to record your experiences.
2nd Priority: Take care of yourself, while nurturing campers and supporting other staff. It is important that you come into the program as healthy and prepared as possible, for although during the training portion of the program your educational needs are the focus, during the summer camp season, the needs of the children at camp will be the focus, so you will have to learn to remain healthy amongst constant camp activity. This is the trick to a successful teaching career.
3rd Priority: Develop a working knowledge of all earth skill categories. Apprenticeship graduates always relate how at the end of the summer, they were amazed at how this “just happened”. The opportunity to assist lead instructors and take on instructional leadership yourself during the summer is a great way to fully embody your own earth skills, because sometimes you can learn best only that which you teach.
FAQ – Outdoor Education & Earth Skills
• Wildlife Tracking (identification, trailing, aging, interpretation)
• Birding & Bird Language (academic and song-to-alarm interpretations)
• Naturalist Sketching & Journaling (using sit spots, drawing instruction, quick journaling strategies)
• Skills of the Ancient Scout (sensory awareness, stealthy movement, camouflage, games)
• Wild Edible Foraging & Preparation (Herbs, Nuts, Roots, Flowers, Fruits, Insects)
• Primitive Cooking & Food Storage (pit cook, clay oven, ash cakes, smoking, jerkying, pemmican)
• Medicinal Herb Collection & Preservation (drawing from knowledge of area herbalists)
• Preventative Health & Herbal Spas (from daily health routines, to our special spa treatments)
• Emergency Shelter & Primitive Shelter (bivouac bed, eagles nest, lean-to, wickiup, thatch hut, etc)
• Wet Fire Maintenance & Fire by Friction (bow drill, hand drill, fire plow, flint & steel, firesteel)
• Flintknapping & PTool Making (from harvested stones, bones, wood)
• Bow & Arrow Making (survival bows, self bows, lumber bows, fletching, lashing, etc.)
• Subsistence Fishing (rivers and lakes for salmon and trout, piers for bottomfish, crab, perch, shark)
• Natural Water Purification (seeps, filters, rock boiling, and locating natural springs)
• Bowls & Cordage Making (double and triple reverse wrap using nettle, fireweed, cedar, kelp)
• Primitive Hunting (bow and arrow, rabbit stick, at-latl, ethics, strategies, butchering)
• Hide Tanning (wet and dry scraping, brain and other high-tannin methods, hair on and off
• Natural Selection Forestry (chopping, sawing, splitting and moving)
• Organic Gardening, Fruit Orcharding & Chicken Rearing
• Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Navigation & Orienteering
• Parfleching (carrying cases, drum making, sheaths and quivers with fur and tanned hide)
Environmental Educational Skills
• Best skills to introduce to each age group (3-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, 19-21, young adults, parents, elders)
• Most effective methods to use with each age group (didactic/wolf, questioning/coyote, imagining/fox, imitation/dog)
• Delivery of age appropriate stories (personal, european, african, persian, chinese, other eastern, indigenous)
• Music and the Arts (flute making, drumming, songwriting, poetry, clay sculpting, natural paints, singing and pianos/guitars on hand)
• Trip Leadership & Risk Management (assessing sites, planning activities, mitigating hazards)
• Emergency Rescue, Advanced First Aid, CPR (wilderness and water settings)
• Influences of Nature on Spirituality (buddhist, christian, hindi, indigenous, jewish, muslim) including opportunities of retreats and quests, sweat lodges and fasts
• Health & Organizational Strategies (western lineal and medicine wheel use for self, lessons, projects)
• Incorporating Earth Skills & Starting New Schools (examples of non-profits, partnerships, sole ventures, and communities)
• Political Environmentalism (left and right wing strategies, legislative and artistic strategies)
Program Benefits, History & Other FAQs
Our apprenticeship program was piloted in 2000. More than half our staff came on board this way, while others enrolled to receive training in order to found their own schools or gain experience for employment elsewhere. Past apprentices say that the place they learned the most about teaching and leadership, as well as where they learned the greatest bulk of their earth skills, was while assisting the incredible instructors at Wolf Camp as they guided youth and adults through the summer.
Graduates invariably express how grateful they are in the year following their apprenticeship when they realize that they somehow “just know how to lead and teach” outdoor skills and other subjects as well. Check out our apprenticeship testimonials from novice apprentices, former campers-turned-instructors, and experienced educators who all succeeded in our summer apprenticeships and agree that the results far exceed expectations.
Benefits of this program include eligibility for employment at Wolf Camp, strong recommendations for employment elsewhere, and advice for starting your own guiding programs. Some might think that not spending any money all summer, and often starting to get paid over time is the bottom line benefit, but the real benefit is your transformation into an excellent outdoor leader, ready for employment as a nature guide wherever organizations and agencies need qualified experts.
Ready to Apply?
Email us to be put on our our list for this program in the future. We always keep your information absolutely private, and will never share it.
We’re looking forward to receiving your application, and click here for supplemental FAQs received from applicants. Also, feel free to call or email us so we can clarify any questions you have. There is so very much to gain and to give in this program, so we’re looking forward to sharing it with you. – Kim & Chris Chisholm