Wilderness Skills Intensive: Full-Time Summer Residential Training Program

The Conservation College Wilderness Skills Intensive has six positions available in 2019. Over the summer, you will learn 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. Our goal is to ensure that by the end of the summer you have the skills, knowledge and experience needed to thrive in any outdoor situation.

2019 Dates include June 15 – August 31 plus complimentary early summer arrival and late extension into the fall in exchange for work-trade and employment opportunities. You can arrive as early as June 8th to begin practicing skills, while also helping with farm conservation work or remodeling in exchange for room and board before trainings begin the following week. 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 takes place at Blue Skye Farm, home base of Wolf Camp and the Conservation College. This video by 2017 Summer Apprentice Logan Nelson offers a good feel for the shared camp house and neighborhood:

FAQ – Tuition, Work-Trade & Employment Opportunities

Total cost including everything – tuition, food, facilities, gear, books, transportation between courses, etc. – ranges from $4,000-$8,000 depending on previous experience, and normally leads to employment with us in the fall and next summer. The cost is equivalent to tuition for 11 Summer Training Weeks (includes three independent study mentoring weeks for Wilderness Skills Intensive participants only) at a discounted $725/wk rate for summer apprentices/interns. Discounts are also granted for past trainings and experience, thus up to 50% off the $7,975 tuition with complimentary mentoring through Wolf Journey field exercises, basic food and facilities, etc. all provided throughout the summer, with the expectation that participants are work-trading for those benefits by contributing equally to community chores on the farm and at camp.

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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.

You shouldn’t have to spend an additional dime after arrival except for personal variables such as health care and insurance, 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.

Food Shopping & Kitchen Work-Trade Opportunity: If you enjoy cooking, and/or don’t have the funds to enroll in the Wilderness Skills Training Intensive, then you can apply for one of two work-trade positions in exchange for tuition. You would gain a good introduction to earths skills education over the summer, but also be busy shopping on weekends, rising early to start breakfast Mon-Fri, cooking dinner from 3:30-5:00 Sun-Thurs, and taking turns with other staff to clean up after meals. To apply, follow the same steps as for all our summer residential training programs, including $200 application fee, but also include answers to the 8 financial aid questions found on our Max Davis Scholarships application page. If selected, you will have no additional costs throughout the summer, except $200 for Wilderness First Aid training if not already certified.

To get a sense for the summer, 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. We will provide an exact price quote after reviewing your application listing your past outdoor, academic and work experiences.

FAQ – Qualifications & Comparison to the Outdoor Teaching Apprenticeship

In comparison to the Outdoor Teaching Apprenticeship, the Wilderness Skills Training Intensive: 1) diverges during the second half of the summer from the apprentices who will focus on teaching the outdoor skills, while you would continue focusing on practicing skills with fellow adults; 2) is a complete overview of earth skills, whereas teaching apprentices may not get a chance to learn some skills  you experience later in the summer, such as certain artisanry skills or subsistence fishing, for instance; 3) has fewer expectations on personal behavior such as smoking and drinking which is fine outside of camp hours if legal and safe, not getting drunk or noticeably high, etc.; and 4) requires no previous experience, education, or training, whereas acceptance into the apprenticeship program has greater qualification requirements.

That said, if you are interested in the teaching apprenticeship instead, there are some who were accepted 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 others with academic training. If you are unsure as to whether you qualify for the apprenticeship or just want to do the Wilderness Skills Intensive, simply follow the application steps which include a conversation with program directors, and we will let you know whether you are eligible for one or both.

FAQ – Summer Schedule

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Close-up of apprentices and youth mentors during the 2016 Backcountry Leadership training including from left-to-right Frida Cruz, Elissa Pemberton, Wren Schmid, Lee Forrest, Sarah Inskeep, Marie Ranney, Jacob Gerstman, Director Chris Chisholm, Thomas Fellows.

June 2019 Calendar

Optional June 8 early arrival to get settled in and help with Orting Farmers Market. Evening campfire with other apprentices and staff.

Optional June 9 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 if you are not currently certified. If already certified, continue on 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. Evening Solstice Campfire.

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 field exercise and 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 field exercise and 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 field exercise and 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 field exercise and journaling of lessons learned at Wildlife Tracking expedition, and prepare for the following week.

July 21: Transition to Lake Sammamish, help set up camp, participate in staff meeting, and find new Wolf Journey study site.

July 22-26: Visit study site or make breakfast from 7:00-8:00. Breakfast from 8:00-9:00. Meet with Wolf Journey mentor from 9:00-9:30. Practice skills or assist instructors at wilderness survival, ethnobotany, or wildlife tracking day camps from 9:30-3:30. Wolf Journey field exercise journaling or make dinner from 3:30-5:00. Dinner from 5:00-6:00. Visit study site or practice skills from 6:00-8:00. Campfire music and sharing study site stories from 8:00-9:00.

July 27: Day Off

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, Wolf Journey field exercise and journaling from 1-4, greet new participants or prep dinner from 4-5, dinner from 5-6 then start Wild Cooking & Herbal Medicine course. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

August 3: Wolf Journey field exercise and journaling of lessons learned at Wild Cooking & Herbal Medicine expedition, and prepare for the following week.

August 4-9: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, Wolf Journey field exercise and journaling from 1-4, greet new participants or prep dinner from 4-5, dinner from 5-6 then start Scout Philosophy & Mentoring course. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

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

August 11: Day Off

August 12-16Visit study site or make breakfast from 7:00-8:00. Breakfast from 8:00-9:00. Meet with Wolf Journey mentor from 9:00-9:30. Practice skills or assist instructors at wilderness survival, ethnobotany, or wildlife tracking day camps from 9:30-3:30. Wolf Journey field exercise journaling or make dinner from 3:30-5:00. Dinner from 5:00-6:00. Visit study site or practice skills from 6:00-8:00. Campfire music or sharing study site stories from 8:00-9:00.

August 17: Day Off

August 18-23: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, Wolf Journey field exercise and journaling from 1-4, greet new participants or prep dinner from 4-5, dinner from 5-6 then start Traditional Tech: Craftwork of the Ancient Artisan course. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

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

August 25-30: Sunday Lunch Meeting 12-1, Wolf Journey field exercise and journaling from 1-4, greet new participants or prep dinner from 4-5, dinner from 5-6 then start Subsistence Fishing Camp. Attend week-in-review meeting on Friday evening.

August 31: Morning meeting and journaling of lesson learned at Fishing Camp, 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 & Community

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

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 wilderness skills practitioners. 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.

1st Priority: Develop a working knowledge of all wilderness skill categories.

2nd Priority: Take care of yourself, while nurturing fellow students 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 take center stage, so you will have to be self-motivated when your program mentor is off-site, and remain healthy amongst constant camp activity.

3rd Priority: Learn to share earth skills with others. One of the best ways to become skilled is to observe, participate in, and take notes on all the activities our instructors present over the summer. 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.

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)
• 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)
• 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.

Most of our staff came on board via our summer residential programs, while others enrolled to receive training in order to found their own schools or gain experience for employment elsewhere.

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 practitioner, ready share your skills 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. We will provide an exact price quote after reviewing your application including past outdoor, academic and work experiences.

Or 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. You can also like our facebook page to keep in better touch, and once you’ve attended a program, please review us on our Better Business Bureau, Yelp & Google pages.

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