Our Curriculum

KidsI expected to learn about a unique nature education model and ended up taking away so much more! …I learned about bringing a student to their edge and guiding them towards a better understanding of nature, themselves and where they fit into the world.
-Stephanie Etley

Wilderness Awareness School has developed a unique curricular model for education and organization over the past 20 years which we call “The Six Shields of Awareness.”

Awakening a deep understanding and relationship with the natural worldWe are also very excited to have published Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature: for Kids of All Ages and their Mentors. This 400-page guide distills into print twenty-five years of oral tradition and active practice in connecting kids with nature. (More about Coyote’s Guide)

Wilderness Awareness School’s curriculum allows students to experience a powerful set of nature skills that awaken a deep understanding and relationship with the natural world.

Our instructors guide students in field studies ranging from wildlife tracking techniques to medicinal plant preparations to wilderness survival crafts. Students come away with a strong foundation of knowledge and the ability to apply these outdoor skills in their personal and professional lives.

Our core curriculum consists of six fields of study that are interconnected with elements of each running throughout all of our courses:

The Skills of the Naturalist

Naturalist Skills Get to know the flora, fauna, and ecology of the Pacific Northwest. In this component of our programs students develop a rich understanding of plants, trees, mammals, and birds, as well as the identification, taxonomy, and natural history of North American species, coming away with the background necessary to succeed as a well-rounded naturalist.

The Science of Tracking: Interpreting Patterns of Life

The Science of TrackingUnravel the mysteries of tracks and sign left behind by wildlife. This part of our curriculum is designed to give students a holistic grounding in the art and science of animal tracking. Emphasis is placed on the development of accurate track and sign identification and interpretation skills, as well as applications of tracking in biological research.

Working with Native Plants: Ethnobotany and Stewardship

Working with plants - photo by Filip TkaczykGather and prepare wild plants to use for food, medicine, and tools. This aspect of our curriculum is a hands-on study of the diverse uses of native plants and trees. Students learn field identification, edible/medicinal preparations, and plant technologies. Some courses also covers modern and indigenous principles of forest stewardship, permaculture, and restoration.

Natural Mentoring: Nature-based Models of Education

MentoringLearn Wilderness Awareness School’s unique educational model and mentoring techniques. This part of our curriculum teaches students the principles of our nature-based approach to education and community development. Students come away with the knowledge and experience necessary for being an effective instructor, leader, and mentor for youth and adults.

Wilderness Survival: The Technologies of the Hunter-Gatherer

Wilderness SurvivalPractice skills that can save your life. This component of our curriculum engages students in the practice of indigenous wilderness living skills, including the key elements needed to survive in the outdoors unaided by modern tools. Students learn to build shelters from natural materials, locate and purify water, create fire from friction, and master wilderness crafts.

Nature Observation: Bird Language and Sensory Awareness

Bird LanguageDevelop the awareness of a wild animal. This aspect of our curriculum focuses on nature awareness skills. Students practice activities that build greater sensory acuity, train the body to move gracefully and silently in the forest, and cultivate the ability to interpret predator disturbance patterns displayed in bird behaviors and vocalizations.

As students study all six of these areas of knowledge in concert, they develop a truly holistic sense of place within the natural world, as well as a greater understanding of their role in their community, and a clearer awareness of their own passions and vision for their lives.