Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship

Wolf Journey Book 8 Cover Artwork by Joanna Colbert of GaianTarot.comThe summer Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship has been the hallmark program of the Wolf School of Natural Science since 1999. 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.

2022 Dates for this full-time summer residential training program include June 26 – July 30 plus option to work at $15/hr-$25/hr starting July 31st to teach summer camps through August. Food and facilities are provided throughout the summer, and other benefits include guidance through Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course field exercises as soon as you are accepted into the program in advance of the summer. Your pay rate in August (and raises up to our $25-$30/hr lead instructor salary) depends on your interest in working as an assistant, co-teacher or lead camp instructor, as well as ongoing training and experience with earth skills education. Apply asap before the last space fills.

Pilot Year 2000 Apprentice Nikki van Schyndel was a contestant on the 2019 Alone Season 6, and returned on camera in future seasons to conduct exit interviews with contestants.

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. You will need up-to-date vaccinations (Covid-19, Tetanus, MMR), health insurance, and a certifications in Wilderness First Aid & CPR before arrival. WFA weekend courses that include CPR cost about $300 and fill early, so schedule one asap via REI, the Mountaineers, or our favorite training program: the Wilderness Medical Training Center. Otherwise, there are no expenditures throughout your stay, although most participants supplement our meals, garden and orchard harvests with additional groceries as well as fishing, clamming and wildcrafting trips. You will need appropriate outdoor gear like good waterproof hiking boots, 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.

Food, primitive facilities, gear, books, transportation between courses, etc. are all complimentary in exchange for the help you will be providing Wolf Camp such as organizing, packing and rotating kitchen duties while studying earth skills education each week. You take care of your own 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 have free access to books and field guides in the Wolf Camp library, as well as year-round guidance through Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course study experiences as long as you are working with us.

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.

Nikki’s 2019 TedX Talk referencing the Wolf School of Natural Science launching her onto the path of earth skills education…

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

FAQ – Summer Schedule

Please note that up-to-date health insurance, CPR certification, and vaccinations (Covid-19, Tetanus, MMR) are required for adults to participate or work in our programs. In addition, a Wilderness First Aid certification is necessary for the Earth Skills Teaching Apprenticeship before arrival. WFA weekend courses fill early so schedule one soon via REI, the Mountaineers, or our favorite training program: the Wilderness Medical Training Center.

This video by 2017 Summer Apprentice Logan Nelson offers a good feel for the shared camp house and mini-farm.


Fall, Winter & Spring Independent Study Option: Wolf Journey Book One: Trail of the Neighborhood Naturalist at your own pace.

Sat, June 25: Arrival & Camp Set-Up

Sun, June 26: Orientation & Begin Thatched Huts

June 27 – July 1: Assist instructors with the Wilderness Skills Sampler training day camp and complete Wolf Journey field exercises in the evenings.

July 2-4: Personal Days: Group Wilderness Trip or Finish Thatched Huts

July 5 Training: Policy Manual Overview & Wilderness First Aid Scenarios

July 6 Workshop: Wilderness Emergencies, Risk Management & Navigation

July 7 Workshop: Advanced Fire & Shelter Challenges

July 8 Workshop: Wild Edible Foods & Herbal Medicine Making

July 9 – Personal Weekend

The Teacher by Joanna Colbert

July 10 – Dinner & Meeting: Help instructors prep for Puyallup day camps.

July 11-15: Assist instructors with the Wild Cooking & Herbology or Wilderness Survival Craft day camp, and complete Wolf Journey field exercises in the evenings.

July 16 – Personal Day

July 17-23: Assist instructors with the Wilderness Overnight Camp, choosing the Survival/Ethnobotany or Wildlife/Conservation track.

July 24 – Lunch & Meeting: Help instructors prep and move to Lake Sammamish Day Camp location.

July 25-29: Assist instructors with Wildlife Search & Rescue or Wilderness Survival Craft day camps at Lake Sammamish.

July 30: Graduation Brunch & Organizing Ethnobotany Materials

July 31: Prep to teach day camps at Lake Sammamish.

August 1-5: Assist, co-teach, or lead a Wild Cooking & Herbology day camp group at Lake Sammamish, or help with Advanced Animal Tracking.

Aug 6: Instructor Brunch & Organizing Ethnobotany & Survival Materials

Aug 7: Prep to teach day camps at Lake Sammamish.

August 8-12: Assist, co-teach, or lead a Wilderness Survival Craft day camp group at Lake Sammamish, or help with Advanced Herbal Medicine.

Aug 13: Instructor Brunch & Organizing Wildlife & Artisan Materials

Aug 14: Prep to teach  day camps at Lake Sammamish.

August 15-19: Assist, co-teach, or lead a Wildlife Search & Rescue day camp group at Lake Sammamish, or help with Advanced Artisans I.

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

Aug 20: Instructor Brunch & Organizing Artisanry Materials

Aug 21: Prep to teach Wilderness Survival or Advanced Artisan day camps at Lake Sammamish.

August 22-26: Assist, co-teach, or lead a Wild Cooking & Herbology day camp group at Lake Sammamish, or help with Advanced Artisans II.

Aug 27: Organize Camp Materials for Winter Storage. Options to stay on site to continue Wolf Journey study experiences for room and board work-trade, as well as work for hire renovating farmhouse and barn.

FAQ – Goals, Mission, Community & Curriculum

blueskyefarmsarahrainbowroofThe 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;
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.

2016 Apprentice Kyler Shumaker building rock cairn at survival training.

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

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

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?

Click here to apply asap before the last space fills, 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.

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

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