bushcraft school

We just finished the spring 2019 semester, and it’s good to be back home for a spell before we jump into the summer programming at Jack Mountain and School Of The Forest. The semester was a challenging one for students. Spring in northern Maine is a tough time to be on the land. It’s cold [...]

  At it’s simplest “Active learning” is learning by doing. On our semesters, student’s make their own canoe paddles, and that’s their first big woodcarving project. They have a basic set of tools and simple instructions on how to shape a paddle from a pine board. A lot of student’s struggle at first with what [...]

When folks think of living a self-reliant outdoor lifestyle, usually what’s envisioned is picturesque tent sites and all the things that go along with camping. However, that’s not the whole picture. A large part of living a sustainable lifestyle in the modern world is maintaining systems that provide renewable resources without damaging the land we live on. So [...]

I’ve been taking time out of each day this winter to snowshoe on some of the local trails. It’s good exercise and keeps the cabin fever at bay. It’s also where I’ve been doing most of my thinking about course curriculums for the upcoming year. Being out in the woods by yourself on a crisp [...]

The School Of The Forest now offers an email newsletter where you can stay abreast of everything going on with the Jack Mountain youth and teen program. You can sign up at the link below. Sign Up For SOTF Newsletter Here I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with you all, and keeping you in [...]

First Person Ecology In The Winter Months

Well, everyone, it seems like winter’s finally here. The last three days I’ve woken up, made a quick thermos of coffee and thrown on my snowshoes for a morning hike. During those hikes, I was reminded of the stark differences in the ecosystem from season to season. We’ve talked before on the podcast about how [...]

Learning Bushcraft Skills As A Family

While I wrote up the course description for School Of The Forest’s Family Bushcraft Week, I couldn’t help but think of the families in the neighborhood I grew up in, and our yearly “backyard campout”. Once every summer, all the fathers, and their kids would pitch tents in the small common ground behind our homes [...]

The Webs We Weave

  Nature studies are a vital part of our “first person ecology” curriculum at Jack Mountain and School Of The Forest, and after a conversation about methodology of study with my colleague Ben Spencer I wanted to write a bit about why its such a vital part of the curriculum. It’s easy to read a lot of facts [...]

Culminating Events

Jack Mountain’s semester programs are tough. They demand a lot of students, and that’s by design. When anyone allows themselves to get outside their comfort zone, it allows for growth. Which makes our last two weeks really important to the learning experience. In week seven, students are given some options for “Final Projects”. These range [...]

Youth Vs. Adult Learning Styles

Hello again from the Fall ’17 JMBS semester. This week was supposed to be spent on the trail, but due to inclement weather, we’ve pushed it back. So I figured I’d share an observation I’ve had over the “course” of the -heh- course. I spent the spring and most of the summer running youth programs, and [...]

Hey everyone, Christopher Russell from Jack Mountain and School of the forest here, This summer I got to help out with Jack Mountain’s summer woodsman course at our field school in Maine. Two fathers took part in this course with their sons, and it was really great to watch them learning together, as well as [...]

Six Weeks In

May-29-2016 Hey everyone. We’ve got about three weeks left in the course, so I sat down with Tim Smith again to chat about it so far, but mostly because he offered me coffee. There will be a podcast of our discussion in the future, but for now, I’d like to just compile my own thoughts [...]

Three Weeks Into The 2016 Spring Semester

During my semester at Jack Mountain, I kept a blog on my personal site, Primitiveaddictions.com, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be reposting those pieces here on the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School blog. My hope is that anyone considering taking a course will get some insight into the day to day workings of a semester [...]

After lots of discussion and staring at maps, we’ve decided on the route for this summer’s 4-week Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester. We’ll be running the Allagash from Chamberlain bridge to Allagash Village. Then we’ll rest and resupply at the field school for 2 days before hiking with minimal gear in Baxter state park for four [...]

This weekend we’re running our Winter Survival Weekend Course at the folk school in New Hampshire. It’s a short course designed to teach the fundamentals of living in the winter woods. We’ve been running it for more than a decade, and I think that it has provided a basic skill set to a lot of [...]

It’s easy to make something that looks like a bucksaw frame, but it’s much more difficult to make one that will cut a lot of wood without coming apart. It’s easy to make something that looks like a snowshoe, but much more difficult to make one that will allow you to walk on it all [...]

Last week we ran our first program of 2015; the Winter Woodsman course. In summing up the experience, it was cold. Really cold. -50F (with wind chill, -25 in still air at night) cold. While those temperatures aren’t unheard of on winter expeditions, the Winter Woodsman is an introductory course in living out in the [...]

We’ve got the overview for the spring, 2015 Wilderness Bushcraft Semester, our 30th long-term course, published.  We’re making some changes, mostly in the form of going back to the roots of the program and doing more traveling.  Some of the changes are included below, but you can read them all on the Wilderness Bushcraft Semester [...]

Our next School of the Forest is scheduled for November 15th. We’ll get started at 10am as usual but we won’t be wrapping up at 2 o’clock this time around; we’ll be sleeping in the shelters we build! Staying the night isn’t mandatory, but it will be fun! Cost will be the standard thirty dollars [...]

The beautiful weather of mid-August has arrived! My two week summer break between the end of the Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester and the beginning of the Wilderness Bushcraft Semester beginning August 24th has been filled with family time, but also a few folk school programs. Last Thursday, as part of the self reliance workshop series [...]

We’re three weeks into the spring semester. It was a challenging start, with our road being covered with several feet of snow and us unable to drive in for the first two weeks. It meant a lot of trips hauling gear in on sleds for the 3/4 of a mile to the paved road. Also, [...]

Our summer calendar for 2014 is much different than in years past due to moving the 4-week Wilderness Canoe Expedition Semester from May to July-August. Because of this move, I’ll be out on the river during the period we usually run several week-long summer programs. As a result, the summer programs have been scaled back. [...]

I’m cancelling the School Of The Forest class, scheduled for Saturday, March 15th. Even though the most recent storm didn’t drop the predicted ten inches of snow, there’s still too much of it to run an effective class. The combination of nowhere to park (because of snow), inability to get to the outhouses without snowshoes, [...]

I just returned from our 14-day Boreal Snowshoe Expedition. It was a fantastic trip with the best weather I’ve ever had when out for more than a week in the winter. Constant cold, clear skies, and one big snowstorm. Most importantly, there was no thaw, that bit of winter weather I dislike the most when [...]

In this podcast I’m joined by Robbie and Yukon to talk about our upcoming Boreal Snowshoe Expedition, their plans to continue on to Minnesota for another snowshoe expedition, trip preparations, whether we’ll have cable tv in the bush, and if so, what size tv we’ll have. During the podcast we mention the video these two [...]

DownEast Magazine cover

In the February, 2014 issue of DownEast Magazine there’s a big article on the military veterans that attended the fall, 2013 Wilderness Bushcraft Semester. The article focuses on their transition from active duty to civilian life. There’s a bunch of stuff on Jack Mountain, such as the quotation below, but the focus is squarely on [...]

Our 4-week canoe expedition this summer will be very physically challenging. I’ve got six months to train for it, and I need to accomplish two things. First, I need to get stronger. I need to add muscle to my upper body, with an emphasis on my shoulders; they’re what gets sore after a week of [...]

Beginning in 2014 we’re moving from email to a forum-based communication system for enrolled students. Email has become unreliable for us due to the volume of it that we receive, messages not being received due to filters, etc. Communication regarding future courses will take place on the forum. You’ll have to register to view anything [...]

This year we’re partnering with GALA ( a local non-profit) to offer a monthly workshop series on self-reliance. Workshops run the second Wednesday of every month and are $15. More information is our Self Reliance Workshop page. The upcoming workshops are: 1/8 – Traditional Winter Gear, Snowshoes And Snowshoeing 2/12 – Soap Making 101 3/12 [...]

There are two main ways that people cook over a fire: suspend a pot from above or prop it up from below. Of course there are other ways, but these two are by far the most common. Of these, I prefer to hang a pot from above when cooking over an open fire because it [...]

I’ve been working on putting together a new site for the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School where we can keep up with what community members are up to. We encourage our students to publish their logbooks, photos, etc., but up to this point haven’t had an easy way to keep up with one another. This is [...]

We ran our first School Of The Forest kids program this past Saturday during a bitter cold snap and with ten inches of fresh, powdery snow on the ground. The day was a mixture of bushcraft, nature lore and games, and even though we were constantly checking to make sure everyone was warm enough and [...]

Yesterday I was part of a conversation led by a man who runs a small academic program for homeschoolers. He was talking about the modern fascination with being able to measure learning when he mentioned that problem solving is not as important as problem finding. This got me thinking. Modern education puts a high value [...]

Self-Reliace Deficit Disorder (SRDD) – A disease.  Symptoms include having the inability to provide for any basic needs with materials from immediate surroundings, needing significant infrastructure to accomplish everyday tasks, and a generalized can’t-do attitude. I made up this term last week when writing about our upcoming kids program and people started talking about it, [...]

We’re adding a new, monthly kids program starting in January.  It’s called The School Of The Forest, and is designed for kids ages 8 and older.  It will take place at the folk school in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, on Saturday per month.  The first date will be January 4th.  You can read more about it [...]

Humans are social animals. Put two of us together and we’ll talk and talk, even if there’s nothing useful to say. I believe a small part of this is human nature. We’re social animals, and verbal communication is a foundational principle of how we organize in groups. But I think the vast majority of this [...]

Our 2014 calendar is live on our site. We’ve added a few new folk school programs including the School Of The Forest, a monthly kids program, and the New Hampshire self reliance workshop series, a monthly adult program for which we’ve partnered with a local non-profit. We’ve also taken our weeklong winter bushcraft and survival [...]

Early November is a great time to be in northern New England. Everyone I’ve ever asked agrees that it’s beautiful, but to me it also means that our fall Wilderness Bushcraft Semester course is complete, the bugs are gone until spring, and I get to spend some time at home. But that doesn’t mean I’ll [...]

There is a difference between knowing something for yourself versus having read it or heard it. That difference is characterized by experience and results, not faith and information. During the early weeks of the fall Wilderness Bushcraft Semester we do a lot of work with plants. As we traverse the landscape of Aroostook County, we [...]

Over the weekend we began our 24th semester course. We’ve got a big group, a new cooking pavilion, an expanded fleet of canoes (new 20′ Old Town XL Tripper) and a fresh coat of spar varnish on the paddles. There’s been talk of purchasing a giant neon sign in order for Moose Vegas (our student [...]

Wish List For Donations

There are a few things we’re always looking for, so we’re putting together a wish list page asking people for donations. For most people these are junk, and we’d like to save them from the landfill and do something useful with them. If you’ve got them lying around and are planning a trip near Masardis, [...]

August 2013 News

Highlights: No newsletter last month due to a busy schedule including 3 straight weeks of visiting inlaws. Had a great family course, as well as some solid family time in July. We had our first student at the field school from Peru – always amazed at the reach of the internet. We’ve also added two [...]

An Axe Sheath For Safety

If you carry an axe, a sturdy sheath is a must. It protects both you and the axe. Many of the sheaths that come with new axes are flimsy and won’t hold up, so either make one or get one. Don Merchant at Pole And Paddle Canoe makes them out of thick leather. Don’t let [...]

We’ve received several calls regarding questions about food and meals on field school courses recently. Our goal is to have no surprises for people when they arrive, but there is a lot of information to digest and while we’re working to simplify it, it isn’t always the easiest to find. I’m posting this information to [...]

Learning something new demands more action than details. More often than not, excessive details and information get in the way more than they help during the initial steps. In my opinion, only the minimum amount of information that leads to a successful outcome should be provided the first time someone learns something new or completes [...]

Today we’re running the third of three wild food walks, and will be heading to a nearby wetland at the top of its drainage to harvest cattails and other wetland species. The walks have been a lot of fun, and we’re right in the thick of the foraging season. I’ve spent several afternoons with my [...]

Aroostook Headwaters

The general route for our spring canoe expedition is set.  We’ll spend the bulk of the month on the Aroostook drainage.  We’ll be doing a good deal of upriver work, both poling and lining, to visit a few of my favorite spots.   Our second trip in on the Allagash, where we’ll be poling up [...]

The Number 7

The number seven has been coming up a lot the last few days. First, I’ve had this blog for seven years. I started it in 2006. I had one before this, but it was hacked and most of the 140 posts were deleted. Second, I recently crossed the 700 posts threshold. This is post number [...]

Woman Versus Wild

What happens when a woman spends a weekend in the woods learning learning wilderness survival and bushcraft during a snowy Maine winter? Deirdre Fulton spent a weekend with us, and you can read her account of it in this article from the Portland Phoenix.  Read it here. I wasn’t learning how to outlast the zombie [...]

On Wednesday, February 27th we’re running a short course on winter bushcraft for kids (ages 6-12) and parents in Wolfeboro, NH.  The tuition is $25 per family, which can include 2 adults and multiple kids. I’m planning on running the program from 1:30-4:00 pm. We’ll be focusing on lighting fires, snowshoe use and making bindings, [...]

Over the past few months I’ve seen numerous blogs offering tips and tricks on bushcraft and survival. But tips and tricks will never take the place of practiced fundamentals; learning the correct technique, then doing it until it is second nature. The seemingly inexhaustible human desire for shortcuts keeps the search alive, but don’t be [...]

Sourdough Expedition Cake

During the bitter cold of our winter snowshoe expedition this year, several members of our group were eating over 5000 calories a day in order to keep their internal furnaces stoked. It got me thinking about making an expedition cake that was calorie-dense and nutrient-rich that I could make in advance of winter trips to [...]

The deep snows of mid-February are covering the landscape (and the canoe trailer), and for the past few days the wind has been howling down the lake with enough force to sculpt the snow and make it feel very cold. With no more winter trips planned for this year, my thoughts are turning to spring [...]

As of February 14th, our 2013-2014 yearlong bushcraft immersion program and the fall wilderness bushcraft semester are both full.  Although it grows a bit every year, this is the earliest we’ve ever filled; more than 6-months in advance!  We will still accept applications for the waiting list in case their are cancellations.  If you’re thinking [...]

Trip Journal 1/30/13 Tentbound. Squapan Lake, Aroostook County, Maine. After the cold of our first 8 days in the woods, we enjoyed a beautiful walk hauling laden toboggans down the western arm of Squapan Lake. The sleds chattered behind us with minimal effort, a huge difference from hauling them up the hill from the field [...]

Frozen NH Lake After A Thaw

We’re back in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. After three winters in Texas, my family and I have returned to the Lakes Region of NH. We’ll continue to run our full slate of field school programs in northern Maine. But I’m planning some new programs for New Hampshire and am excited about all the opportunities they’ll bring.  [...]

This past weekend we wrapped up our 21st long-term immersion program. When we started in August I had big plans about blogging every day, but the realities of field school life intervened and I only posted twice during the course. There were lots of great moments, from the weasel who lived under my tent and [...]

There’s a grace that comes with experience when form follows function. Simplicity is the goal. The more experienced one becomes, the less work is needed to complete a specific task. This is accomplished by eliminating the unnecessary. When using an axe to procure raw materials for basic needs from the forest, the more skilled and [...]

I woke up before dawn and watched the sun rise over Squapan ridge this morning. We’ve had a bunch of hot and humid weather, but a cold front came through yesterday afternoon and the overnight temperature was in the low 40’s. This morning the sky is clear and there a hint of autumn in the [...]

Yesterday we started our 21st bushcraft semester course, our 11th since relocating our immersion programs to the field school in Masardis, Maine. It’s significant because now we’ve run more of them here than at our old base in New Hampshire. It’s also the first semester course where we’ve been able to accept the GI Bill [...]

After meeting a bunch of the folks who frequent the Bushcraft USA forum at Woodsmoke, I decided to become a supporter and vendor there. As a result, now we’ve got our own sub-forum. It’s a good place to discuss anything bushcraft. You can get there by clicking here.

Summer’s Over

Our summer ended today and although it was a great one, I’m wondering where it went? With attending the first Woodsmoke rendezvous, running the first Family Bushcraft course (and having 20 people attend!), running our usual summer courses, and doing a bit of television work, it was full to the gills. The past week I’ve [...]

Jack Mountain Bushcraft Journal episode 39, the 14th in a 15 part video series shot on our May, 2012 bushcraft canoe expedition course in the North Maine Woods. In this episode, injury! One of the members of the crew gets a puncture wound in their shin. This episode finishes with a visit from Dr. Nick [...]

Jack Mountain Bushcraft Journal episode 34, the 9th in a 15 part video series shot on our May, 2012 bushcraft canoe expedition course in the North Maine Woods. Join us in the canoe as we travel down a quickwater section of the river, then visit with Big Fish as he talks about his hammock camping [...]

There’s a legendary story about the band Van Halen and their tour rider with concert venues from the 1970’s and 80’s that has to do with brown M&M’s (the candy). Buried deep within the contract was a clause that they demanded to have M&M’s backstage, but that someone had to go through and pick out [...]

Following up on yesterday’s post, I’m currently reading a book called Discussion Based Online Teaching To Enhance Student Learning by Tisha Bender.  This year we’re adding a distance learning component to our immersion programs, and I’m educating myself as to how to do it effectively.  More on this later.  Bender relays a story on page 38 [...]

I first met Mors Kochanski in 1995 at his place in Alberta. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve learned much from his sage advice. Recently at Woodsmoke we were chatting when someone complained about being kept up late the night before. Mors responded with several great lines I’ll never forget. I’m paraphrasing, [...]

Wilderness survival; what is it and how do you go about preparing for it? We’ve been teaching survival for 20 years and in that time have learned a few things about it. This is our standard survival lecture, broken down into what you need to know, what you need to do and what you need [...]

These two quotations from “The Art Of Outdoor Living” jumped out at me because what they say about experiential education and a realistic assessment of skill through a practical exam apply directly to our new Journeyman Bushcraft Instructor & Wilderness Guide Certification Program. Scroll to the bottom for full bibliographic information. “The training and preparation [...]

One of the new aspects we’re building into our Journeyman Certification Course are skill and craft benchmarks. It’s great to learn how to make new things. But, to attain even a basic skill level with them, they have to be completed a number of times. For example, on some of our courses students learn how [...]

It takes time to learn. For some things, this can be measured in minutes. For others, it’s measured in decades. When we become enamoured with something, we often want to shorten the learning time so we can get to the point where we’re respected for knowing it, where we’re the celebrated “expert”. So the temptation [...]

A lot of what we do in our bushcraft courses doesn’t look like formal education. The old-school image of a standing instructor lecturing to seated students taking notes is a rarity. We have no love affair with seat time, nor with the lecture format. You’re more likely to see a small group of people engaged [...]

If you eat a great meal at a restaurant, is the type of spatula the cook used responsible for the taste of the food? If you see a beautiful house, how important is the type of hammer the builder used to the final structure? If someone has a beautiful website, do you ask them what [...]

We stopped using sandpaper for smoothing wood on field courses years ago. Sandpaper is sand, or grit, glued to a piece of paper in a thin layer. It doesn’t last very long, which precludes it from being taken on long trips. A simple alternative is to take a piece of fabric (denim or cotton duct [...]

You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis. – William Zinsser, from “On Writing”, p.49. Is there anything you could switch writing [...]

When you’re learning a new skill, it should be as simple as possible, broken down into its necessary elements and with as many details as possible stripped away. The focus should be on the minimum input needed for success. This is why many how-to books aimed at beginners fail; too much detail. On our bushcraft [...]

Taking a course does not make you an expert. You become an expert by investing enough time, energy and sweat to really learn something in depth.  How much time?  Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, popularized the 10,000 hour rule; “The idea that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill.”  [...]

I  have learned more about fungi from Paul Stamets‘s book Mycelium Running (Amazon.com link)  than any other resource.  While other books on mushrooms are often great field guides for identifying individual species, Stamets’s book has helped me to understand the ecology and relationships of mushrooms.  I still have a long way to go, but I [...]

“Craft teaches our dependence upon the natural material world directly and practically – not as an abstraction.” –  Zabe MacEachern, from her article Crafting as a practice of Relating to the Natural World in the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), Vol 5, No 1 – 2000. Crafting is often seen as a way to [...]

My experience running 16 bushcraft and wilderness semester courses has taught me the value of taking a time-out from modern life and living more simply. I’ve seen the positive effect the experience has had on course participants. I know the effects it has had on me. Some of these include: Separating needs from wants. Living [...]

The Windpouncer jacket is the premiere wind and rain layering system jacket I’ve ever encountered.  Three layers of ultra-thin imagi-foam stand between you and the elements ensuring you stay warm and dry, and your hands are sure to be warm in two large slash pockets lined with their proprietary “cold-be-gone” spun polyester… OK, this is [...]

Can you train people for white water canoeing without them spending time in white water?  Is training without a realistic setting viable? I spent six years trying to get people ready for white water canoe poling and paddling by having them complete exercises on smooth water.  But when we got to the actual white water, [...]

I’ve been researching the role of crafting on the learning process recently.  There is a mountain of how-to information on crafting, but most of it on how-to-do things; the questions of why and what are the impacts are aren’t as common.  Since crafting is one of the seven core elements of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft [...]

It takes a minimum of 100 miles to learn how to paddle a canoe It takes a minimum of 80 miles to learn how to pole a canoe It takes a minimum of 100 friction fires to learn how to consistently make a friction fire It takes a minimum of 50 percussion fires to learn [...]

Assessment exists for the student, not for the instructor. At their worst, assessment systems put students in a competition with their peers.  At their best, they provide a way for students to gauge their progress and to see how far they’ve come, give them an honest accounting of where their skills fit into the bigger [...]

Teaching bushcraft these days is as much about helping people to eliminate the extraneous as it is showing them something new. Put another way, it’s as much carving as it is building. Much of what passes for common knowledge in bushcraft and outdoor living is fantasy, created and fed by poorly conceived books, movies and [...]

“Toddlers ask many questions, and so do school children – until about grade three.  By that time many of them have learned an unfortunate fact, that in school, it can be more important for self-protection to hide one’s ignorance about a subject than to learn more about it, regardless of one’s curiosity.”    – Jan Hunt [...]

We’ve had some great discussions about how the brain works in the learning process as part of our ongoing online course on becoming an instructor.  One aspect that we’ve only touched on briefly is the role of exercise in the learning process.  To simplify a complex subject into a soundbite, exercise is good for your [...]

Nutshimit is a word and concept from the Innu.  Previously known by the name given to them by the French, Montagnais, they inhabit a huge, sparsely populated region of Quebec and Labrador. For many Innu, life in the village is marked by idleness and a sense of loss and alienation, in strong contrast to being [...]

I’ve been thinking for several years about putting together an expedition-style course for young men where we’d spend three or four weeks in the north woods canoeing and living outdoors.  It would be a similar, although less rigorous, curriculum that we use in our college semester programs, with a focus on academic subjects such as [...]

TV survival shows are about hardships and risk. With background music to set the mood, the feeling of jeopardy hangs heavily over the host as s/he negotiates within an inch of his/her life. The danger makes it sexy. In the real world, bushcraft is much more about heritage and tradition rather than risk. The old [...]

Thinking about taking a semester off from college and spending it in the wilderness? If so, compare the different approaches of our program versus the large, corporate wilderness education companies. If you’re looking for modern, high-tech outdoor education with programs on backpacking and mountaineering, then check them out. But if you’re interested in building a [...]

As part of the online course we’re running titled “Becoming A Bushcraft Instructor”, we’re currently reading the book “Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind” by Guy Claxton. We’ve been enjoying many thoughtful discussions on teaching and learning and how they apply to bushcraft and the outdoors. This gem of a passage is from near the end of [...]

I was discussing bushcraft on Saturday and trying to explain it to someone whose life experience has been all in urban areas. In discussing life at our field school, I explained that it was just like life anywhere else, except without the infrastructure. I thought about this for a while after the conversation ended, and [...]

Our first online course, titled “Becoming A Bushcraft Instructor,”, has been a great experience thus far. We’ve had some thoughtful discussions about our first book, Hare Brain Tortoise Mind, which examines how the brain processes information. I’ve been learning a lot from the discussion. As a sample, below is a post from Russ Venditto on [...]

I’ve never looked the part. Most people never do. We’re TBH (trained by hollywood) that people who do certain things should look a certain way. After all, that’s how they look in the movies. But it’s a big lie. My high school soccer coach was adamant about people not using their appearance to stand out. [...]

Our educational system has become increasingly abstract over the last hundred years.  Instead of instruction in sensory development and hands-on skills, we focus almost exclusively on the intellectual and the abstract.  Much of this is the result of the influence of Jean Piaget and his stage theory of cognitive development from the 1920’s.  He viewed [...]

There’s a difference between outdoor leadership and management.  Management is when you ensure people carry out predetermined tasks leading to a defined outcome.  Managers aren’t looking for innovation.  They’re there to ensure things get done according to a preexisting plan.  When we’re cooking a group dinner over a campfire in a remote location, we often [...]

We’ve been fielding a lot of questions about our yearlong program lately.  Several people over the weekend wanted to know if students live on-site for the entire year.  The answer is no, they don’t.  The program is organized around three intensives: the fall semester, the winter program, and the spring expedition.  For graduates, there is [...]

I was recently interviewed by Iain Haywood at ooh.com.  You can read the piece here.  In addition to some nice photos of Ernie Davis and David Bosum, I’m quoted on educational philosophy: “At its best, teaching should be invisible; a person who learns from a mediocre instructor will realize how talented their instructor is. The [...]

I had the opportunity to do some reading and enjoy some spirited discussions on our recent trip to northern Quebec. One of the topics that kept coming up was the lack of decent terminology in english for the simple, outdoor lifestyle based on skill, simple tools and a relationship with the land and it’s resources. [...]

Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote that “adventure is a sign of incompetence.”  But if it isn’t for adventure, why do people do the things they do?  I’m with Stefansson on adventure.  It implies that you’re not prepared for what you face, which, in the case of living a life outdoors, should never be the case.  [...]

The number of primitive skills and survival schools has swelled in the last few years, and while all schools are not created equal there are many opportunities to learn wilderness skills these days.  It’s important to be clear about what we do because it’s different than what’s available elsewhere.  Yes, we teach skills.  We’re among [...]

We went out on a family tracking walk yesterday.  The snow was perfect and there were all sorts of tracks for my son to investigate.  It’s fun being outside with him and seeing the landscape through his eyes.  One of the neat things we can learn from children is the idea of vu-ja-de.  It’s the [...]

I saw an ad for a college today and in the photo they had as their centerpiece was a student in a lecture hall looking toward the front and acting interested. That’s a negative for me. I remember sitting through a bunch of lectures, some great, some not, but what I took away from the [...]

I’ve taken a wide variety of wilderness medical courses around the northeast. In 2000, I took a winter medicine and rescue course at the AMC center in Pinkham Notch at the base of Mount Washington. It was a two-day course, and on many nights they have slide show presentations for the people staying there. The [...]

Last summer I guided a trip to northern Quebec where we spent a week with Cree guides David Bosum and Lawrence Capissit. They were born in the bush and have spent their lives living off of the country there. One day one of guys on the trip was asking David some questions about winter trips. [...]

“Having done is worth more than having read, having watched, or knowing how.” I was thinking about experiential learning yesterday when the line above came to me. I think it will be our slogan for 2008. We live in the era where information is everywhere. But we should never confuse familiarity with understanding or experience. [...]

I had a professor in graduate school who said that we decide how the world works by the time we’re two and a half years old, and we spend the rest of our lives justifying and defending that idea. It’s a concept that keeps coming up and makes me think about what I believe and [...]

I spend a lot of time thinking about the teaching process in preparation for our courses. Years of doing so have led me to believe that there are many things that can be learned, but not directly taught. An example of this took place the other night when some of the participants in our winter [...]

A guy called me yesterday with questions about our Summer Survival Weekend Course. We spoke for several minutes about what the course covers, what he could expect, and other related topics. Then said he had a question about religion. He asked if we incorporated spiritual teachings or Native American ceremonies in the course. I immediately [...]

Last week I went on a solo canoe/fishing trip to Allagash Lake and Allagash stream. I put in on Allagash Stream above the lake, where it’s narrow and winding. There wasn’t a lot of water so I poled the entire way to the deadwater above the lake. As I was coming around a corner I [...]

Becoming competent at lighting fires with a hand drill or bow drill takes time, sweat and blisters. But it can be done. There’s a difference between trying to get a coal and trying to master the techniques. Decide what your goals are before you proceed. If you want to get a coal, then drill until [...]

If you work as a guide or teach wilderness survival for any length of time, someone, or more often lots of people, are going to ask your opinion of those individuals who have elevated themselves to celebrity status in this type of work. I duck these questions and avoid these types of conversations, if only [...]

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