Summer Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship

Wolf Journey Book 8 Cover Artwork by Joanna Colbert of GaianTarot.comThe Conservation College Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship has been our hallmark program since 1999, with six positions available in this, our 20th Summer 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.

2019 Dates for this full-time summer residential training program include June 15 – August 31 plus complimentary work-trade extension through September if desired. You can also arrive as early as June 7th to begin studying, while helping with farm conservation work or remodeling in exchange for room and board before trainings begin the following week. Tuition is the same no matter your start date June 7-15. Start at our home base in Puyallup, Washington, and spend much of the summer at Lake Sammamish with periodic travel into the Cascade Mountains, Sagebrush Canyonlands, and to the Salish Sea. We have 6 positions available, so apply asap for the best acceptance opportunity.

Your first 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:

FAQ – Tuition, Work-Trade & Employment Opportunities

This is a 100% work-trade program if you complete the summer. The official cost is $3,625 equivalent to the first 5 weeks of the program at a discounted $725/wk rate for early-summer Training Weeks, after which you will be refunded $600/wk for assisting and co-teaching youth and family camps. We will put your up-front $3,600 tuition contribution in a designated savings account, out of which you will receive reimbursement on Saturdays between July 27 – Aug 31. There are absolutely no other 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. Again, you don’t have to spend an additional dime after arrival except for 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.

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2016 Intern-Apprentice Sarah Inskeep at her study site on the barn roof where she always watched the sunset and kept an eye on the burgeoning wildlife in restored wetlands.

You’ll need backcountry gear like good waterproof hiking boots, large backpack, camping stove, tent, etc. so check out our Summer Expeditions Packing List and request access to the Backcountry Leadership Training gear list which is all you’ll need during the summer, plus a simple laptop (chromebook is fine) for recording your progress.

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. We have 6 positions available, so apply asap for the best acceptance opportunity.

FAQ – Qualifications & Comparison to the Earth Skills Training Intensive

In comparison to the Earth Skills Training Intensive, the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship: 1) diverges during the second half of the summer into teaching outdoor skills, rather than just studying/practicing them; 2) offers the chance to specialize in one of four areas of expertise listed in the next section below; 3) has greater expectations for personal behavior such as development of excellent staff communication skills, being a role model for students including on accessible social media, not smoking or drinking all summer, etc.; and 4) 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 for the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship or the Earth Skills Training Intensive.

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 (backcountry leadership, teaching and mentoring all ages, wilderness survival, ethnobotany and herbal medicine, wildlife tracking, traditional technologies and crafts, ancient scouting skills, etc.) you can also organize your schedule to specialize in a subset of these skills, including:

WJECCArtCoverOutdoor 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. Click here for more information on this focus area which also features opportunity for Outdoor Leadership and Nature Guide Certifications upon accreditation.

WJECCArtBook4Traditional 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. Click here for more information on this focus area which also features Traditional Technologies and Survival Instructor Certifications upon accreditation.

WJECCArtBook2Herbal 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. Click here for more information on this focus area which also features Ethnobotany and Herbalist Instructor Certifications upon accreditation.

WJECCArtBook3Wildlife 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. Click here for more information on this focus area which features Wildlife Tracking Instructor Certification upon accreditation.

FAQ – Summer Schedule

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Close-up of apprentices and mentors during the 2016 Backcountry Leadership Training.

June 2019 Calendar

Optional June 7 early arrival to get settled in and help with Orting Farmers Market. Evening campfire with other apprentices and staff.

Optional June 8 Meeker Creek Restoration Work Party, jump start on Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course independent study field exercises, and evening campfire with other apprentices and staff.

Optional June 9 complimentary participation in the Sustainable Home & Gardens – Living on an Acre workshop which is a great orientation to the conservation philosophy of Blue Skye Farm, home base of Wolf Camp and the Conservation College.

Optional June 10-14 mentoring through Wolf Journey field exercises, with room and board also provided in exchange for 2 hours/day of work trade getting ready for summer camps and helping farm interns, a chance to gain sustainable agricultural training.

June 15 Workshop: Paleo & Veggie Lifestyles with guest nutritionists and chefs Clay & Ragan Masterson joining Kim & Chris.

June 16: Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course Training Day

June 17: Individual Conferences, Recycling & Gear Trainings

Optional Training June 18-20: Wilderness First Aid for additional $250 if you are not currently certified. If already certified, work through Wolf Journey field exercises.

June 21 Training Options: Morning CPR-AED required if not currently certified, optional afternoon Hunter Education if initial online course completed by this date, or complimentary flintknapping instruction if not doing one or the other training today, plus optional Orting Farmer’s Market with farm interns, and evening solstice campfire with all staff.

June 22: Spring apprentice Wolf Journey presentations and study site tours.

June 23-28 Expedition: Backcountry Leadership – Wilderness Conservation, Navigation & Risk Management

June 29: Wolf Journey journaling of lessons learned on Backcountry Leadership expedition, and prepare for the following week.

July 2019 Calendar

June 30 – July 5: Teaching Nature Professionally including participation in our Family Classes & Independence Day Fun-Run.

Apprenticeship graduates Heather Carmichael and Wren Schmid at the 2016 Ancient Archers & Artisans traditional technologies training.
Apprenticeship graduates Heather Carmichael and Wren Schmid at the 2016 Ancient Archers & Artisans traditional technologies training.

July 6: Wolf Journey journaling of lessons learned at Teaching Nature camp, and prepare for the following week.

July 7-12: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1. Pack for the week from 1-2 and travel to course location from 2-3. Help set up camp from 3-4 and greet participants from 4-5. Dinner from 5:00-6:00 then start of then start the Wilderness Survival Training & Trek. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

July 13: Wolf Journey journaling of lessons learned at Wilderness Survival expedition, and prepare for the following week.

July 14-19: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1. Pack for the week from 1-2 and travel to course location from 2-4. Help set up camp from 5-6. Dinner from 6:00-7:00 then start the Tracking Wolf Country – Birds to Bears expedition.

July 20: Wolf Journey journaling of lessons learned at Wildlife Tracking expedition, and prepare for the following week.

July 21: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1. Prepare for the week with lead instructors from 1-5. Dinner from 5:00-6:00 then set up for the Kids Day Camps this week where you will be assisting Wilderness Survival Craft, Wildlife Search & Rescue or Wild Cooking & Herbology depending on staffing needs and your area of focus.

July 22-26: Daily potpourri from 7:00-8:00. Breakfasts and morning care from 8:00-9:00. Welcome campers from 9:00-9:30. Camps and classes from 9:30-12:00. Lunches, archery and swimming from 12:00-1:00. Camps and classes from 1:00-3:30. Morning care and prep for tomorrow from 3:30-5:00. Dinner from 5:00-6:00. Finish prepping camps and classes 6:00-8:00. Campfire music and stories from 8:00-9:00.

July 27: Wolf Journey field exercise, journaling of lessons learned at day camps, and prepare for the following week.

Crop of apprentices and youth mentors at Olympia scout camp 2016 including in diamond order from top left graduate Wren Schmid, center graduate Drew Basham, top right mentor Jackson Fellows, and bottom center graduate Jacquelyn Kellin.
Crop of apprentices and youth mentors at Olympia scout camp 2016 including from top left graduate Wren Schmid, top center graduate Drew Basham, top right mentor Jackson Fellows, and bottom center graduate Jacquelyn Kellin.

August 2019 Calendar

July 28 – Aug 2: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, prepare with lead instructors from 1-4, and greet participants from 4-5. Dinner from 5-6 then assist lead instructors at Wild Chefs & Herbal Medics overnight camp, or prep for day camps if assisting with Wilderness Survival Craft or Wildlife Search & Rescue, or Advanced Herbal Medicine depending on staffing needs and your area of focus. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

August 3: Wolf Journey field exercise, journaling of lessons learned at camps this past week, and prepare for the following week.

August 4-9: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, prepare with lead instructors from 1-4, and greet participants from 4-5. Dinner from 5-6 then assist lead instructors at Secrets of the Ancient Scout, or prep for day camps if assisting with Wilderness Survival Craft or Wild Cooking & Herbology, or Advanced Animal Tracking depending on staffing needs and your area of focus. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

August 10: Wolf Journey field exercise, journaling of lessons learned at camps this past week, and prepare for the following week.

August 11: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1. Prepare for the week with lead instructors from 1-5. Dinner from 5:00-6:00 then set up for the Kids Day Camps this week where you will be assisting Wildlife Search & Rescue or the Blue Skye Pioneer Camp, or Advanced Pioneer Artisans depending on staffing needs and your area of focus.

August 12-16Daily potpourri from 7:00-8:00. Breakfasts and morning care from 8:00-9:00. Welcome campers from 9:00-9:30. Camps and classes from 9:30-12:00. Lunches, archery and swimming from 12:00-1:00. Camps and classes from 1:00-3:30. Morning care and prep for tomorrow from 3:30-5:00. Dinner from 5:00-6:00. Finish prepping camps and classes 6:00-8:00. Campfire music and stories from 8:00-9:00.

August 17: Wolf Journey field exercise, journaling of lessons learned at camps this past week, and prepare for the following week.

August 18-23: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, prepare with lead instructors from 1-4, and greet participants from 4-5. Dinner from 5-6 then assist lead instructors at Archers, Artists & Artisans, or prep for day camps if co-teaching Wild Cooking & Herbology or Wilderness Survival Craft, or Advanced Ancient Scout depending on staffing needs and your area of focus. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

August 24: Wolf Journey field exercise, journaling of lessons learned at camps this past week, and prepare for the following week.

August 25-30: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, prepare with lead instructors from 1-4, and greet participants from 4-5. Dinner from 5-6 then assisting kitchen and logistics staff at Epic Fishing Camp, or prep for day camps if assisting with Advanced Wilderness Survival or co-teaching the Wilderness Family Camp.

August 31: Morning staff meeting and journaling of lesson learned at camps this week, afternoon cleaning and re-organizing camp gear, and evening apprenticeship graduation campfire celebration.

September: Receive $15/hour tuition reimbursement with complimentary room and board at Blue Skye Farm if helping to deconstruct old garage / chicken barn for re-build of future classroom.

FAQ – Goals, Mission, Community & Curriculum

2016 Apprentice Kyler Shumaker building rock cairn at survival training.
Former homeschool class participant and 2016 Apprentice Kyler Shumaker back in the day building a rock cairn during survival training.

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 – Trials 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

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)
• Bioregional Ecosystems (old growth temperate rainforest, glaciated alpine meadow, intertidal and estuary, river and lake, wetland and bog, desert and sagebrush steppe, mixed pine and subalpine forest)

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

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2016 Wolf Gathering 20th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration with 2016 Apprentice Sarah Inskeep; Apprentice-Turned-Instructor Hannah HP; Coordinator Kim Chisholm; and 2016 Apprentice Wren Schmid.

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.

Click here for additional FAQs.

Ready to Apply?

We have 6 positions available, so apply asap for the best acceptance opportunity.


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Refund Policy: Standard deposits ($100 for day programs, $200 for overnight programs) are not refundable unless we don’t accept your application. If you cancel in advance of the program start time for any reason, you may receive a full credit good through the following calendar year on appropriate and available programs listed on our schedule, although an additional deposit may be required to secure your spot in the future program. If a program you sign up for is canceled and not rescheduled at a time you can attend, you may receive a full refund except in case of natural (weather, geologic, etc) disasters, government shutdowns, conflicts or curfews, or other unforeseen emergencies making it impossible for staff and/or attendees to reach or use program locations, in which case all payments made will be held by us without expiration date for your future use in appropriate/available programs of your choice. No refund, nor credit, is given if a participant is asked to leave a program for inappropriateness as determined by our kids, youth and adult agreements for participation and homesickness protocol.

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

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Blue Skye Farm Rainbow Series: View from our barn looking over Meeker Creek restoration project before replanting began in Winter 2015