Our semester course originally grew out of the desire to move past a skills-only paradigm to include the experience of living a simple outdoor life. After ten years and 12 semester courses, I think we’ve been successful at introducing a new idea of outdoor education to the world that isn’t limited to just hard or soft skills. But while it’s been easy to say what it isn’t, it has occasionally been challenging to say what it is. Until now.
Drawing on the philosophies of bushcraft we’ve developed over a decade of field courses, the traditions of Maine Guides that go back generations, the Cree concept of miyupimaatisiium (translated as “being alive well”) and the Scandinavian idea of friluftsliv (translated as “open air life”), the following seven elements comprise the components of our semester and yearlong programs.
1. Skill – Learn by doing from some of the most experienced in the business. Our 21-point curriculum focuses on the skills you need for a life outdoors. Rounded out with electives such as hunting, fishing and trapping, it gives complete instruction for the professional outdoors person.
2. Journey – Travel through the north woods, experiencing directly what you’re learning. Travel with, and learn alongside experienced professional guides. Other schools focus on wilderness skills. We live in the bush for extended lengths of time where the focus isn’t just skills, but living the life. Become a professional outdoor leader while learning lessons that cannot be experienced anywhere except by traveling in the bush and living them.
3. Craft – Build useful items from materials gathered on the landscape. Man needs tools to live. Making these necessary items from materials gathered from the landscape bonds you to the land and makes you self-sufficient.
4. Nature – Immerse yourself in the natural rhythms and learn the language of the world around you. Study the weather, edible/medicinal plants, fungi, mammals and their tracks, birds, fish, mollusks, insects, amphibians, reptiles, rocks, minerals, soil, water, ice, celestial bodies and ecology.
5. Culture – Experience the culture of the north woods of Maine and the traditions and history of the people who live there. Bushcraft and wilderness skills do not exist independent of culture and they’re not simply how-to. They’re part of a culture that includes a strong sense of community and a connection to the land. Experience that culture by living it.
6. Sustainability – Organic farming, homesteading, composting, and wise use of materials. Learn the techniques of living a simple life with minimal inputs. Grow food, care for soil and the land, compost everything, and leave the landscape healthier for having been there for those who will come after. It moves us away from the selfish idea of the individual at the center of the universe and puts us into a community of earth, air, water, and life.
7. Self – You learn a lot about yourself when the distractions of the modern world are removed. One of the benefits of a life outdoors is that it is not a life in front of the television. You’re actively doing things, not just watching others do them, and the result is that you become confident and capable, while at the same time getting to know yourself on a much deeper level.