OJT at the Teaching Nature – Professional Training for Outdoor Educators

Day Camp WSS 1

My OJT Experience by Ben Kleiber

Teachers training week at Wolf Camp and the Conservation College is full of preparing for classes and rapid-fire teaching full of information. It can be stressful at times but ends up being the most valuable week of the summer.

Working with all ages for a week gives an entirely different sense of  how to teach and interact with kids than almost any other experience. Being with the kids for upwards of six hours a day and teaching them entirely new skills also allows all the Wolf Camp instructors to improve their teaching skills dramatically as well as learn how to prepare and organize classes for multiple age groups.

In this blog, there will be accounts of each day and how they were organized:

Sunday evening, our trainer Patrick Wiley started out the week with a quick overview of the origins of outdoor education. After that he laid the groundwork for the week and started to instruct us on how to prep for a teaching a class at Wolf Camp. Monday morning we delved deeper into the world of prepping right before going to see Patrick teach the first workshop of the week.


Monday was an example day for the instructors in training. The day started out with Patrick, one of the most experienced instructors, leading a class on awareness and animal encounters. All of the instructors in training participated as students in this class so that they could pick up on good teaching practices.

In the afternoon, graduating apprentice Braden Ploger taught a class on navigation focusing on how to use a map and compass as well as covering lost proofing skills and natural navigation. There were some good learning moments throughout the class and over all it was a success. For the instructors and especially the youth mentors it was a good first contact with teaching, and set them up for Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, returning apprentice Hannah taught back yard birding and bird language. She went over bird identification, bird scanning and how to use a bird field guide. She continued to bird language: why birds sing and what they say so that we can have a better understanding of the forest with their help. To finish of the class she went over bird habitat and how we can form our back yards to support birds. The class went extremely well and everyone came away knowing basics to the language of the birds and bird identification amplifying their experience of the forest and even their own back yards.

In the afternoon, new apprentice Heather taught tracking. She started with an overview of awareness skills and a quick game of fox, hair, bear. Continued into the 5 arts of tracking and animal forms to pick up on track patterns. Next was an overview of different animal families and some identification practice. The class rounded out with some in the field tracking experience. Heather learned the importance of gathering people around the tracks so that people can really take in what you are saying.


Wednesday started with veteran instructor Andrew teaching a class on wilderness emergency survival. He went over lost proofing a lot so that people will never need to use any of the survival skills. He continued into the 10 essentials and then headed out to do a survival scenario. Once out in the woods he taught them to build a 20 min emergency shelter. After the shelter they went over water options in survival situations. To rap up Andrew told some stories of times that he had used these skills.

In the afternoon, new apprentice Thomas taught traditional fire making. He started out with the basics of what a fire needs. He continued into the different types of fires and when you would want to use them. He took them on a walk to get a feel for the materials in the woods and also the importance of fire safety. They then went back and Thomas did a bow-drill demo before launching into everyone trying it for themselves. To rap up the class they did a fire challenge with what they could find in 15 minutes. It was a new and great learning experience for Thomas with it being his first ever teaching experience.

Thursday morning, youth mentor-in-training Abby taught a class on wild edible plants and bugs. After a quick story from Rosemary Gladstar’s book she went in to how you use the field guides for plants. Before putting things into practice she went over the importance of honorable harvesting. Once the basics were covered they headed out into the woods for a chance to find some edible plants. To round out the class she went over the top 10 edible plants for a survival situation and then made an herbal tea and everyone got to try some meal worms.

10639616_10153169136263065_4674486657337049266_nIn the afternoon, they transitioned into wild medicines taught by youth mentor-in-training Ella. She started out with a personal story about how she proved that stinging nettles helped to cure her allergies. Again they went over honorable harvesting because you need it as a baseline for any harvesting class. Before they could move on she had to go over herbal oils, salve, tinctures, poultice, decoctions, and infusions. They then headed out to do a medicinal plant walk where they harvested some stinging netal, plantain and jewel weed. After their walk she instructed the group on how to make natural cordage with materials such as raffia, stinging netal, and ceder. She also taught them some basket weaving with cattails. She raped up the class by telling everyone how to make their own herbal gardens. Her biggest take away from the class was that she needed to avoid jumping between topics to improve the flow of the class.

By Friday all the instructors in training had finished their classes. In the morning Andrew taught hide tanning which he has a decade of experience doing so it went great. He went through each step of the hide tanning process on different hides in different stages of being tanned. Everyone came away from the class with a basic understanding of the hide tanning process. In the afternoon Nicco went more in depth with land navigation and also gave an introduction to geocaching


10620568_10153169138868065_2522099604955549141_nBen Kleiber attends the University of Washington. When he wasn’t at Wolf Camp, you could find him drumming for the high school marching band or working as a Ski Instructor at Mt. Baker. He also played soccer and wrestled for Ferndale High. Ben immensely enjoys outdoor adventures such as rock climbing, snowboarding, and back-country ski trips. He began his career as a Wolf Camper when he was 9 years old, and has been coming back to teach as much as he can. His specialty is survival and scouting, but he enjoys everything about the outdoors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *