Saturday, November 18, 2017

Wilderness survival, archery, blacksmithing, kayak building, fishing, or animal tracking! Students come to Trackers to learn skills forgotten or ignored in modern life. They feel compelled to engage with the primal physical world, not a digital representation of it.

These hands-on skills bring mental puzzles. You carve wood that doesn’t have perfect grain. You make a fire in wet conditions. Crafting leads to craftiness—a capacity for thoughtful strategy to navigate a complex world. Even more important is that the deer is not a coded object in an online game. As you track the doe, she forces you to understand that she too has a passion to live, breathe, and survive.

This all leads to the “invisible skill” of Trackers—our version of Outdoor Leadership. We teach a means of community stewardship that has existed since humans first walked the planet. At Trackers, the best leaders are actual “trackers”—individuals who deftly listen to the land they care for and the people they serve.

This ability is not gained just by following a textbook or teacher. Each student needs challenges that only the diversity of nature and forest craft can bring about. I know excellent leaders who are accomplished at negotiating the human world, but it is a rare leader whose personal intelligence also extends into the more-than-human world. Such individuals are guided by a radical awareness and profound empathy.

At Trackers, this version of Outdoor Leadership makes our courses and community greater than the sum of the skills we teach. Yet it is often invisible, threaded through the ongoing experiences of our students and families.

After much internal conversation at Trackers, we realize we need to do even more to nurture this “invisible skill” in our future leaders, the younger members of our community. Over the next year, the majority of our teen mentoring programs will feature a greater emphasis on Outdoor Leadership training.

Central to many upcoming courses is a dialogue with our Apprentices that addresses these deeper qualities of Outdoor Leadership. This includes our Rangers, Wilders, Mariners, Artisans, and Archery apprenticeships, along with our Homeschool Outdoor and After School programs for middle and high school age students.

Our goal is to foster the next generation of teachers and leaders for Trackers and beyond. We seek to grow a community through awareness, empathy, and strategies for equity. We hope to show our Teen Apprentices how tracking the deer leads us all to greater care for our shared village and the Earth on which we live.

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth, Founder

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We wanted to update Portland, Oregon parents regarding details about the upcoming eclipse.

Of course, we do anticipate several species of aliens from various exoplanets to invade. And that is the day time traveling Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us Skynet is set to go online… not to mention all the Mega-Werewolves.

But beyond those things, we expect the day to go generally well. First off, the health and safety of our campers is our priority. And while we may not be experts of satire (see above), we are professionals at working with kids for over 10 summers during all kinds of natural events and weather. When times call for it, we adapt.

Our site schedule is optimized to travel away from the path of totality. Our coordinators always monitor the traffic report and subspace channels throughout the day. Site Supervisors communicate regularly with Coordinators and Away Teams to seek out alternate routes to and from our sites. Parents can help us by planning extra time for their commute in the morning and flexibility for return times of our buses in the afternoon. Remember when packing, a towel is about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Camper can carry.

Finally, and most awesomely, Trackers is prepared to supply free eclipse glasses for all our campers and staff so they safely observe this once (or twice) in a lifetime event. We carefully researched which glasses we purchased to be certain they are ISO and CE certified—the certification recommended by NASA. Plus, they are approved by Galactic Empress Xiaton, who plans on invading the earth with her fleet of Space Battlestars during the height of the eclipse. But don’t worry, we have faith the Planet Express team will save us.

All this, and campers will be able to bring the glasses home as a keepsake.

Our goal is to prepare kids to thrive with nature in all types of weather and natural events. We learn important outdoor skills by being prepared. Meanwhile, our Zombie Survival Camp will ply their new skills to defeat the coming hordes of Mega-Werewolves.

And it could be cloudy, because… Oregon.

Sincerely,
Chris Codino (and all the Trackers staff)
Administrative Director

Glory to Skynet as our Future Robot Overlord!

 

Disclaimer: This blog is from a mom who happens to know her individual kids very well. It does not necessarily reflect exactly how we teach at Trackers Camps.


By Molly Deis, Trackers Founder & Mom

Remember when Calvin, from the Calvin & Hobbes comic, bellowed at his mother to watch TV, ran amok around the house, or, as Spaceman Spiff, blew something up? After which, Calvin’s mom promptly tossed him outside.

When my own kids start to lose it, I do the same thing. Minus the actual tossing.

Love or hate it, most of us have used the classic “time out” when our kids get challenging. However, being sent to your room can be a strange mix of punishment and reward: there are toys, but also four walls (like a classroom… or a prison).

On the other hand, Time-Outside is different. The blue sky doesn’t respond to tantrums. The trees are unmoved by screams. The bugs could care less about your bad mood. There is no audience. All that remains is an outlet for self-creativity in the form of sticks, grass and mud.

There are many pathways to challenging behavior. Maybe the child is bored. Maybe they’re too reliant on us parents for their perceived needs. Maybe they’re bouncing off the walls as a plea for freedom. Or maybe they just choose to be selfish that day. These are all human problems that Nature could care less about.

When you go back far enough, we all had hunter-gatherer ancestors who raised their kids in a world not defined by four walls. Instead, a child’s playroom stretched to the horizon, filled with rivers, meadows, and forest. Children are supposed to start out as selfish with other humans in the family. A child who vocalizes her needs is employing a survival strategy that ensures the tribe feeds and cares for her. Some researchers even suggest crying could be a natural mechanism that helps stave off the birth of additional siblings—additional competition for resources (a phenomenon I’m sure many parents will vouch for).

Parental proximity amplifies this selfish instinct. Research shows that children cry more when they know a parent is around. As vexing as this can be, it demonstrates a healthy and instinctive dependence on essential caregivers. But nature also provides a balance for this. Survival skills for the wilderness helps pull children into autonomy and competent adulthood.

In the hunter-gatherer world, no matter how hard you cry the fish won’t jump onto your hook, the deer won’t walk into your arrow, and the cattail root won’t leap out of the mud and into your basket.

Nature does not reward behavior with the same attention as a parent. While we’re genetically coded to tolerate (to some degree) the pleadings of our own offspring, the rest of nature have no such ties. Birds don’t ask, “Are you okay?” when you’re throwing a fit. Nor do they say, “You’re bad.” They might see you as a threat, watching you and alarming from the trees until you calm down.

Any child attentive to wildlife soon recognizes the importance of attuned senses, stillness, and blending in (camouflage). Thus, by sparking even the most basic interest in Nature, parents can help these “animals teachers” transform their child from human dependent to wilder diplomat.

So, even though nature doesn’t give a fig, it’s incredibly engaging. From the worst tantrum, it rarely takes more than 20 minutes for my kids to calm down once they get outside. Usually far shorter, especially if I’m not right there to be their foil.

The improvement is swift and impressive as four-year-old Annie quickly forgets she needed to watch Wild Kratts. Instead, she embarks on a creature-power-adventure with the actual squirrels in her own yard. The bonus? I have some much-needed peace and quiet to get some work done, like writing this blog! (Though I do peek my head out every so often to confirm she and her brother are still alive.)

In reading this, hopefully you don’t think I’m a callous mother, abandoning her children’s emotional plights to a world of spiders, moles and squirrels. My goal is freedom for my children. Freedom from the stuff in their room. Freedom from me telling them what is right or wrong. Mostly importantly, freedom to discover their own resilience.

Time-Outside works so well, sometimes I give myself one. When I realize I’m not handling parenting as well as I should, I head outdoors to keep the goats company and watch the barn swallows feed their own begging chicks. However, time out in nature shouldn’t be limited to parenting challenges. There are countless reasons to head into the unspoiled, rural or urban wilderness. Go watch the stars. Garden in the dirt. Play in the sprinkler!

When the weather is warm, children should stay outside as much as possible during daylight hours—maybe beyond. Set up a blanket for picnic lunches. Hang a hammock. Suggest they build a stick fort if they crave the “indoors”. The more you keep them outside, the less you’ll see that selfish front kids put up for us as parents. The more you’re outside with them, the happier everyone will be.

So if you do come to my house this summer, please take the driveway slowly. Beware the feral children roaming amok with a certain stuffed tiger named after a comic sitting in their currently empty room.

Like many of you, Tony and I are working parents. And sometimes we work from home. While watching the kids. While taking care of the goats. While not getting enough work done. While our kids holler, “M-o-o-m! D-a-a-d!”

Not only is it distracting, but it also means that if you get a call from me you are likely to hear a lively discussion about “whose stick it is” in the background. For the record, it was originally Robin’s stick (6 years). But he put it down. So it became Annie’s stick (4 years). Meanwhile Maxi (1 year) makes off like a bandit with said stick while her two siblings argue.

This is parenthood. I can job-clean-nurse while wearing my child ankle weights. I know that 5 minutes of alone time in the bathroom isn’t guaranteed. Though sometimes I ask, why do Tony and I seem to have a gravitational mass that pulls in our children? Why do they require us to entertain them?

And I have to remind myself, this need not be a constant state. A simple change of venue can do the trick. Go outside! In the house, we parents are often the most interesting object available. The kids ricochet off the walls and into our near-Earth orbit. But outside, children can manage escape velocity.

Of course, there is the “parent addiction” (read: won’t leave you alone) that can afflict all children (at least before their teenage years). Once outdoors, kids may not be ready to see that the walls have vanished. While they work it out, we can get back to work: Sitting on the grass with our laptops, puttering in the garden, or watching the juncos flit through the trees.

And while ignoring little ones indoors is rarely possible, once in nature they invariably wander off to find rocks, mud puddles, bugs, grass, shovels, weeds to eat, dinosaur bones, knives, clouds, and squirrels. Or they may choose to help with your garden puttering.

As with any parenting advice, this is easier blogged than done. Yet sending our kids outside need not stem from our frustration; it can come from our empathy. A life spent indoors doesn’t set children up for success in exploring beyond the limited perspective of their parents (that’s us with our limitedness). Nature provides a far grander and more diverse landscape.

So next time we seek that sense of calm, but our kids aren’t letting us have it, let’s try stepping outside with them (or send them out on their own—that’s how I wrote this blog*). There we shall find a world with fewer boxed-in boundaries, less parental gravity. And enough sticks to for everyone!

See you outside,
Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

*Picture the mom from Calvin and Hobbes.

Other blogs you might like:  5 Ways to Nature  –  Kids Need Silence  –  Let’s Get Dangerous

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We believe there’s no other camp like Trackers Camp. Our expert educators and our the wild lands we teach play a truly special role in connecting kids to the wilderness.  As a unique program, many of our infrastructure needs are more specialized than other camps. While we believe our tuition matches (or is often lower) than other camps that offer similar outdoor programming, I want to illuminate some important aspects related to our budget. We believe access to education is an important matter and it is our responsibility to be transparent about the mechanisms behind our price structure.

  1. Our very low staff to student ratio is essential for mentoring. For example, we typically have 1 teacher to 7 students in our camps. Plus, a larger proportion of our staff work with us beyond the summer season. Most outdoor education industry jobs are seasonal and lack benefits or job security. 27 of our educators are employed with us year-round and full-time with benefits (as of 2017). Many others are supported part-time as we work towards one of our primary missions of always creating more full-time employment. To our knowledge, we provide more full-time, year-round education jobs than any other camp in the region. Our goal has always been to improve the quality of outdoor education by enhancing the professional teacher’s ability to make a livelihood within it.
  1. We support Fair Wage Camps. Better wages improve both our programs and the field. We work hard to set our pay scale above camp standards. We compete with other camp programs who, due to a loophole in Oregon law, often pay substandard/sub-minimum wages (something Trackers Earth does not do). When registering for any camp, we advocate researching what they pay their staff; then deciding if this is a wage you would be comfortable with—many pay fair camp wages, some do not. Finally, at Trackers Earth we recognize we can always do far more and better to provide for our teachers. We actively seek to increase their quality of livelihood with us every year. One of our biggest challenges remains balancing tuition cost (both for ourselves and within the entire field) with the passionate desire to pay our staff better wages to support their hard work within this vocation.
  1. We focus on preservation and stewardship of natural land for programming. One related expense is transporting students to these places (school buses are not cheap). More importantly, in many public parks, you cannot make a campfire, build a shelter, harvest wild plants, do many wilderness crafts, or even climb a tree. This is understandable for the preservation of these heavily used public resources. It also requires us to acquire and preserve crucial wild spaces specifically to provide these truly hands-on wilderness learning opportunities for all of our students. This also conserves these unique and beautiful lands from development. We consider our relationship with the lands we care for as a gift: One we can share with the greater community.

To families who need tuition assistance, we have always offered robust scholarships and payment plans related to financial aid. Continuing that commitment to our families we provide more scholarships funds every year—including this coming year.

Hopefully, all this provides further insight into the depth and scope of our program.

Sincerely,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Parent

Our Rovers programs are for our youngest campers: Age 4 – Grade K. They adventure out to the forest to learn outdoor skills with our expert educators. Find Rovers camps…

Camps in All Locations

New for 2017 This year, programs for younger campers are available in all our Summer Day Camp locations. Now you can choose camps for Age 4 – Grade K at:

SE Portland     NE Portland     W Portland

Real Outdoor Adventure

We recognize that our youngest campers crave the adventures and challenges only Trackers can offer. In all our camps for preschool and kindergarten age children, we teach real outdoor skills!

Camps include: Story Adventures, where kids explore a fantastical world of imagination. Forest Camp, where they learn wilderness survival, wild plants, and more.

Expert Leadership

kelsey-150For the 3rd year in a row, Kelsey returns as our Rovers Coordinator. Kelsey has been with Trackers over 6 years. She has supervised our after school, apprenticeships, overnight camp programs, and more. She has a Masters Degree in Outdoor Education and teaching credential. Her extensive educational background and experience with Trackers Earth makes Rovers one of the Best Camps in the Known Universe.

See you outdoors,
Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

Now ends March 8, 2017

Quite a few parents called, concerned they missed the early Summer Camp discount. This happens every year. So what made this time unique? Many felt distracted and caught up with current events. We empathize and want to do something about this. We’re extending the 10% discount through March 8.

We believe Forest Skills foster compassion, self-accountability, and long-term thinking. Values we need in today’s world.

Compassion Through tracking animals, kids discover empathy. They understand how the mouse needs shelter to survive. They also feel that the coyote is hungry, and must feed her pups.

Self-Accountability Wilderness survival teaches kids to own their choices. Nature does not build a fire for you, but the wilderness does provide us with the resources to do so. As they learn to Pay Attention to nature, children cultivate awareness, knowledge, and resiliency.

Long-Term Thinking Through proper harvesting of wild plants, kids learn to think beyond the short-sightedness found in many of our present-day “leaders”. Harvesting willow for baskets can create more abundance in the years that follow. It can also help create better habitat for wildlife, and more resources for generations beyond our lifetime. Thus true long-term thinking also means caring for the community of both the human and more-than-human world.

Of course, extending our discount won’t necessarily save the world (at least by itself). Yet it is one fun opportunity we can put out there among all the news. One message just to let you know, at Trackers Earth we are dedicated to helping parents create an awesome planet for our kids. One of compassion, self-accountability, and a common vision that cares for our future generations.

Sincerely,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

Register for Portland Summer Camps

Register for Bay Area Summer Camps


News Trackers Earth (Portland)

News Trackers Earth (Bay Area)

  • New day camp locations at the Berkeley Marina (West Berkeley) and Rudgear Park (Walnut Creek) are available. Both sites feature outdoor nature play during pick-up and drop-off.
  • We offer Adventure Travel Expeditions. Locations include the California Coast and Point Reyes National Seashore.
  • Grade 5-12 Our Residential Overnight Camps now bring our Trackers Kids from California and Oregon together! Discover Camp Trackers on the western slopes of Mt. Hood and it’s evergreen forest in beautiful Sandy, Oregon. Pre-registered Airport Transfer service available for all students.

Featured Summer Camps for Saving the World

 

camo-285Wilderness Survival Camps

Nevertheless, we teach young women to persist… with bows and arrows, campfire and wild plants, stealth and wilderness survival. BTW, we also teach young men to be thoughtful through these same skills.

Learn more >>

 


foam-arrow-285Secret Agent Camps

Sign up for Secret Agent Camp and your kids can help to stop an evil megalomaniac from taking over the country and destroying the world.

Learn more >>

 


rovers-285Rovers Forest Camp

Age 4 – Grade K Walls? Where we’re going, we don’t need walls. Outdoor skills for our younger campers: wilderness survival, wild plants & more. Age 4 – Grade K now in all SE, NE & W locations.

Learn more >>

NE Portland Location

We’re excited to announce our new NE Portland camp location at Rose City Park Elementary (2334 NE 57th Avenue). As part of our ongoing relationship with Portland Public Schools, we are using this site while Grant High School is under construction.

Rose City Park Elementary has excellent parking and provides walkability options for families in Northeast Portland neighborhoods. Drop-off and pick-up is behind the school at the playground, providing the opportunity to utilize its nature play area for even more outdoor activity.

Our SE Portland site is still at our main headquarters near 99E and our W Portland site is still at West Sylvan.

Overnight Expeditions

Our overnight programs now offer multiple new locations through our mobile camps! New to Summer 2017, choose from six different expeditions through fantastic wilderness areas. Themes include building a 20-foot hand-crafted boat while fishing on the Oregon Coast, a two week Cascade Survival Expedition, and a trip around the San Juan Islands.

Or you can join the Tracking Through Time Traveling Roadshow, an adventure spanning seven states in the American West while learning about paleontology, archaeology, and natural history. Unlike any other, this is a journey where we track wolves and antelope, rediscover ancient cliff dwellings, and follow the trails of 190 million year old fossilized dinosaur footprints. Oh, and this camp takes place during a full solar eclipse which campers will experience while in the Casper Mountains.

Not ready to hit the road? We also still offer local residential camps at Camp Trackers Overnight Site in Sandy, Oregon.

 

Happy New Year!

Our work moves in seasonal cycles. We recently finished up our Winter Break Camps (you can check out the photos here). Here are some events the Trackers Family is looking forward to in the coming year.

In 2017 the first Kindergarten Class of the Trackers Forest School will graduate and this September will feature both Grade K and 1. We are also adding something truly unique—an Outdoor Middle School (Grades 6-7). We follow an interdisciplinary approach and combine real-world skills with academic excellence. This is an exciting new direction in education for ourselves and our community.

But never fear: Our award-winning Summer Camps will return for their 12th year! Along with old favorites, we have crafted new themes for older campers such as pottery, rock climbing, and mobile overnights.

The summer program that has our educators most excited? The Tracking Through Time Traveling Roadshow: Solar Eclipse Edition. Campers traverse seven states in the American West, tracking wolves and antelope, checking out ancient cliff dwellings, and following 190 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur footprints. In Casper Mountain, Wyoming they will witness a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event—total eclipse of the Sun!

Finally, building upon our Guide to Knives & Woodcarving, Trackers Books will launch new field guides for kids that include archery, animal tracking, navigation, and fishing. All part of our ultimate mission to empower children and their families to make forest craft an integral part of their lives.

It’s been a busy year and this is only a short summary of what’s to come. I look forward to seeing you all at camp, school, homeschool, and other programs. I am grateful and excited to be on this journey with our incredible staff, students, and all the families we serve.

Thank you,
Molly Deis
Trackers Founder & Mom
Wilders Guild