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Universal Curriculum

Baking Bread on a fire

At Earthwork Programs, our goal is to provide a safe, fun, learning environment where participants develop a deep understanding of the natural world and relationship to community, family and self.

  • Mammal studies in tracking
  • Plant identification and uses
  • Wilderness living skills
  • Bird language and awareness training
  • Community building
  • Naturalist skills
  • Earth philosophy
  • Forest ecology and relationships

Our philosophy is to help develop the whole person. This includes emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually…key elements in living positive and sustainable lifestyles in harmony with others and the natural world.

A powerful tool that we use is called “mentoring.” This is the relationship that our ancestors have had with each other in the land and with their traditional practice. It helps create community.

Animal tracking, survival and awareness of naturalist skills also have been practiced for thousands of years by native cultures around the globe.

Our participants actively engage in making and using many survival tools for gathering materials in an honoring and respectful way. We augment these skills with storytelling, games and crafts. As their skills grow, our students begin to see their relationship to the animals and plants around them, and they begin to develop a deep sense of place and a connection to the land.

While there are specific topics covered at different points during the year, our curriculum is designed to allow students explore what interests them most but still revolve around our group studies. We also encourage students to explore beyond specific topics and learn from their own experiences, and hopefully inspire others to learn from them.

Our experiential, hands-on approach to nature studies is multifaceted. Literature, writing, mapping, storytelling, music, movement, singing and many other disciplines are incorporated in an interdisciplinary method of exploring the natural world and community.

Our approach is also multisensory. We take young people to the natural world in a way that inspires the development of their observational skills. Using the five senses to know and understand surroundings is an important element of each day that we spend exploring our local environments.

What are the curricular components of our Programs?

Wilderness Living Skills: Over the course of the Program, participants receive a broad introduction to the ancient technologies necessary for subsistence in the wild. The jam-packed year will cover a vast array of skills including making tools, cordage, baskets and shelters, gathering and preparing foods, and fire safety. At the end of the year, participants will have learned a set of skills that will make them feel safe and confident wherever they travel.

Animal Tracking: This skill is the ultimate extension of both awareness and survival. Animals survive in the wild, and a lot that they do can teach us how to live, not just in the outdoors but also how to conduct ourselves in the modern world. When tracking is approached in a traditional way, it also begins to develop the power of empathy in students…the ability to see through the eyes of others.

Awareness: These skills expand the five senses and encourage students to immerse themselves in the woods with all its incredible sights and sounds. These techniques can help to navigate without mapping and also to find food, water and other necessary means of survival and outdoor comfort.  Stories of native lore are interspersed throughout the year to reinforce and deepen a student’s survival and awareness skills.

Sense of Place: This “secret spot” is a place close to home that students pick themselves. The spot is visited quietly, ideally each day for at least 15 minutes. While there, students do various exercises that are covered in the curriculum. When they return from this area, they record the activity or anything they felt that important while they were at their spot. Over the course of the year, students will connect deeply with this very special place and will get a chance to see how nature transforms and renews itself through the four seasons right in front of their own eyes.

Journaling: Journals are an essential part of our studies. Our approach to journaling combines the land of a serious academic examination and an artistic exploration of the subject. The process of journaling in this manner is a great aid in learning to identify plants, trees, birds and animals and their tracks. This is a tool to develop a “minds eye” method of creating visual images turn reflection.

Independent Study: We provide a framework for lots of independent study which can augment studies in science, art, writing and literature. By the end of the Program, the studies will develop a student’s abilities as a well-rounded naturalist and will inspire young people to pursue even more in-depth studies. This independent work revolves around two focal points: regularly visiting a secret spot and journaling about certain trees, plants, animals, and birds. Students are also encouraged to practice their new skills independently (with a parent’s supervision, of course!).

Calendar Year: We run our programs throughout the year…Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Our curriculum covered is seasonal according to the Natural laws and cycles of nature.   For the development of wilderness living skills, it is necessary that we follow the rhythms of the Earth by harvesting materials and creating our earthen wares in the proper season.

Learn more about what to bring to our Programs at our Frequently Asked Questions page.