We 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
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?
For 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 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.
Please call our office to apply: 425-788-1301.
Course Registration Details
|Call to Register||
September to June @ 9am-3pm Fridays
Where? Our land in the foothills of the Cascades near Duvall, WA
Who? Ages 14-18 How much? $3,480
2012-2013 Calendar and Enrollment
Community School is an intensive mentoring course for homeschooled teens ages 14-18. Class size is limited to 9 students per instructor in order to ensure individual attention and mentoring.
Community School meets each Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m, from September 14, 2012 until June 1, 2013 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.
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.
Tuition & Scholarships
Annual Tuition is $3480
Non-Refundable Enrollment Fee: $870, due upon registration. Remainder payable in three payments due Sept 1, Dec. 15, and March 15.
If you require tuition assistance, we invite you to download a Scholarship
Application in PDF format, complete it and mail it in.
The non-refundable enrollment fee is required to hold the place of all registrants, regardless of scholarship status. If, within two weeks of scholarship notification, scholarship applicants decide not to commit to the course, we will refund your fee in full. (This is the only situation where the enrollment fee is refundable.)
Tuition Assistance for Community School!
Your homeschooled teen can receive valuable tuition assistance that can be applied toward costs at Community School! More details
Meet Your Instructors
Richie was born and raised in Yelm, WA. Spending his summers camping in Weyerhauser with his dad he developed a deep love for the forest. Working with youth at Camp Cispus during high school and college he realized his passion for working with kids. He has dedicated his life to reconnecting with nature, community and self. He is also deeply committed to helping both kids and adults to find their passions by sharing his with them.
Since coming to the school in 2007 he has completed the Residential Program, the Apprenticeship Program, the Tracking Intensive, and a number of other programs. He has instructed at the summer camps for 6 years, and is excited to be starting his 2nd year as year round staff.
Things that keep Richie active are going out trailing animals, learning more about bird language, making his own sour dough, deer bone broth, kombucha, yogurt, and other kitchen projects, making moccasins, spending time with friends, family, and his new beautiful wife Natalie.
Merilee is a Seattle native who graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in Psychology before following a career in pediatric mental health. In 2008 Merilee came to Wilderness Awareness School to attend the Anake Outdoor School and then apprenticed for the same program the following year through our Outdoor Leadership Program. She has since worked for our Monthly Programs and been a Core Instructor at Community School before taking on her current lead role. Merilee also loves working for our summer programs such as Idaho Wolf Tracking and the Walkabout Expedition. Favorite subjects to bring to the program are: bone work, wild crafting and primitive cooking as well as tracking and wandering. When she is not enjoying her time with the teens, Merilee is really brought alive by time spent painting and swimming, wild crafting, fishing and cooking. She lives in Seattle with her husband and Australian Blue Heeler.