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Homeschool Nature Program for Teens – Community School

Community SchoolWe have a lot of fun in nature, a refreshing change from regular life where you can just let go of whatever else is going on and just relax and have a good time…. and be aware and connected with the earth, I feel comfortable there.-Rutah, age 14

Our Mission

The Mission of the Wilderness Awareness Community School is to create an educational environment that helps homeschooled teenagers engage their natural intelligence and awakens their innate abilities to perceive and connect with the world around them.

Our students immerse themselves in intensive, experiential studies of nature from both scientific and indigenous perspectives. In this effort, our students are instructed and supported by a large, diverse community of mentors from all ages and walks of life.

Why Study Nature?

Wild Within Teen AdventuresFor millions of years, humans have lived in direct contact with the natural world, and our senses developed to attend to its rhythms and sounds.

It is only in the last couple of hundred years that we have insulated ourselves from nature with things like buildings and cars and pavement. One unfortunate result of this separation is that our senses atrophy from lack of use. With no reason to pay attention to birds, we don’t even see them as they fly by. We don’t hear the deer or raccoon as they sneak away through the bushes. And we slowly grow deaf to our own intuition and instincts which guide and connect us to the world.

Our goal at Wilderness Awareness Community School, our teen wilderness course for homeschoolers, is to reawaken this deep awareness of nature in our students.

What happens when young people expand their awareness of the world around them and pay attention to their inner voice, their intuition, and their heart is truly remarkable.

These students gain an understanding of the natural flow of things that puts them in better balance with themselves and the world around them. As their confidence grows, they find themselves firmly on the path towards developing into physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually centered people.

Teaching through Mentoring

Staff at the Wilderness Awareness Community School consider themselves Mentors rather than Teachers. Thus their role shies away from lecturing students about facts they should know, and instead emphasizes helping students to find their interests and gain the skills to question, investigate and explore the world around them.

The art of mentoring is a delicate dance, and every student presents unique gifts and challenges to our staff. As a result, close personal attention is crucial for successful mentoring.

The school is also supported by a larger community made up of amateur and professional naturalists, artists, crafts people, teachers, elders, and young people.

These people volunteer time to teach classes and mentor our students. In this way, the entire community of people, plants and animals serve as the real teachers of our students.

In the past, we have had herbalists work with us to harvest and prepare medicinal plants, crafts people teach us to prepare fleece and make felt blankets, and carvers teach us some of the traditional carving and basketry techniques of the Northwest Coast Native Peoples.

Our Curriculum

Our approach to studying nature combines modern scientific understanding with the more first-hand connections that ancient cultures had with the natural world. Over the course of a year, our teen wilderness course focuses on many topics, including:

  • Wilderness Living Skills
  • Mammals and Tracking
  • Birds and their Languages
  • Plants and their Uses
  • Aidless Navigation
  • Native Cultures
  • Trees and Survival
  • Ecology and Community

At Wilderness Awareness Community School, we explore these topics using a powerful, comprehensive curriculum. We begin our inquiries experientially, taking students into the natural world where they can see, smell, hear, and feel the subject matter.

To this experiential understanding we add a cognitive component as our students research the current topic through books, field guides, videos, lectures and other resources.

Students may become skilled naturalists and master trackers by the end of their time with Wilderness Awareness School (our curriculum is designed for it!), yet ultimately our goal as a school is something far simpler, yet much more elusive.

What we aim to create are not naturalists or trackers, but centered, healthy, self-motivated young adults, able to think critically for themselves, with the confidence and inspiration to dream a vivid vision of their own future, and the skills and enthusiasm to pursue that vision.

What Our Students are Saying…

Read what our Alumni have to say about their experience at Community School.

To Apply


Course Registration Details

Register Now When? September to June @ 9am-3pm Fridays
Where? Our land in the foothills of the Cascades near Duvall, WA
Who? Ages 14-18 How much? $3,670

2015-16 Calendar and Enrollment

Community School is an intensive mentoring course for homeschooled teens ages 14-18.

Community School meets each Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m, starting September 18, 2015  at our outdoor classroom in Duvall, WA.

As part of the year, students experience three week-long overnight expeditions that allow for field learning in diverse ecosystems throughout the West, as well as offering opportunities for personal growth and leadership development.

Tuition & Scholarships

Quarterly Payments** $3,670.00
Non-Refundable Registration Fee of $917.50 due upon registration.
3 Payments of $917.50 (August 15, November 15, February 15)
Must enroll in automatic payments
**$100.00 discount if paid in full by September 1st.

Monthly Payments    $3,770.00
Non-Refundable Registration Fee of $917.50 due upon registration.
10 Payments of $285.25 (August 15 -May 15)
Must enroll in automatic payments

Enrollment is open to current students on April 1. Enrollment is open to new students on April 15.

If you require tuition assistance, we invite you to apply online for a scholarship. For more information, go here.

Our Educational Philosophy

At the core of our approach to educating young people is our concept of "Passion-based learning." This is the idea that every one of us has special gifts to bring to the world, things that spark our passions in life.

Our school's fundamental goal is to awaken this spirit in our students, and to help them identify and pursue their gifts. We believe that the most effective learning happens when young people are pursuing what they love, and so truly desire to learn.

Equally important is our philosophy that the most effective learning happens when students figure things out "on their own."

In their efforts to do this, they are individually guided by mentors who strive to create experiences and opportunities for students to discover their own answers.

We call this method Coyote Mentoring, a technique that encourages creative thinking rather than providing answers, and results in much deeper learning. It also stimulates the growth of problem-solving skills, and stretches the students into greater self-sufficiency in their living and learning.

Meet Your Instructors

Matt McKinney


Matt McKinney has been working with Wilderness Awareness as mentor and student since arriving in Washington in 2009. His heartfelt passion for regenerating vitality in culture extends into all areas of his life. Matt is a student of Chinese internal arts, music and storytelling, and wilderness survival and connection practices. He has a natural gift for facilitating rites of passage and community circles. It is Matt’s greatest commitment to be a mentor for others and to help guide and facilitate experiences that point towards health and connection. He has spent time working at various outdoor schools in the Western Washington areas developing his craft as a facilitator. He enjoys building, gardening, tracking and wandering in the wild lands, writing poems, working with plants, making joyous rhythms and song, practicing martial arts, and engaging with the elements in his local area.

Kim Shelton


Kim grew up as a Military ‘brat’ in both North Yorkshire England and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Minnesota where her family is from, travelling back and forth seasonally. As a child she regularly travelled from England through many European countries, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  Despite experiencing such diversity, her true love has always been the grounded timelessness spent in the natural world; wandering the Yorkshire Moors or fishing in a canoe to the loon calls on a vast lake.

After moving back to the states she finally found her roots here in Washington with the cedars and moss as an Anake Outdoor School Student.  After graduating in 2011 she served as an Apprentice with the Youth programs, where she discovered her passion for mentoring teens.

Kim has graduated the Survival Mastery Intensive, the Wildlife Tracking Intensive with a Level III CyberTracker certification, and has completed a 21 day no supplies survival challenge in Costa Rica – filmed and aired asNaked & Afraid on the Discovery Channel. She recently took a year to write her grandfathers life story, one of her highest accomplishments.  Her loves include basketry, getting very close to wild animals, hide tanning, tracking wolves, story telling, and inspiring others to also find their passions.