In an age when many traditional skills are being lost, tremendous empowerment comes from being able to do things and makes things for oneself. In our Naturalist program, students start fires without matches, using ancient methods. They identify and collect wild edible and medicinal plants. They learn to track animals, to identify trees, and to build simple woodland shelters. They learn the ancient secrets of leather craft and blacksmithing. They navigate the wilderness not only by map and compass, but also by the traditional techniques of reading the stars and the woods. Most importantly, they learn how to be at home in the wilds of nature.
The formation of identity is the primary work of the teenage years. Teenagers need to discover their own power in order to use it wisely. The rite-of-passage ritual is as necessary as food and water to this process. Cultures all over the world and throughout history have celebrated rite-of-passage experiences that help teenagers to find who they are and where they fit into their communities. High Mowing’s Naturalist program provides a rite-of-passage experience in a wilderness setting. Students learn to construct and safely use everything necessary for wilderness survival and enjoyment, from sewing their own wool coats to making their own backpack baskets woven from plant materials they have gathered themselves.
Naturalist Trimester: Rites of Passage Experience
Beginning after the orientation trips, participating students will spend the entirety of the fall trimester on a journey of self-discovery. The students will spend all day, every day, studying a variety of integrated subjects with a team of teachers and developing survival skills in anticipation of a three week long wilderness excursion. They develop a meaningful relationship to the world in which we live. They study Natural History and Field Ecology to develop an understanding of our animal neighbors and the dynamic between species on a habitat level. They also study survival skills, such as starting a fire and building shelters. They learn to navigate using the stars and trees, and to track and identify different forms of wildlife.
The trimester-long experience includes instruction and experience in ecology, botany, geography, philosophy, social responsibility, and the writing of the Transcendentalists, in addition to wilderness and craft skills. During the course of the Trimester intensive, the students make all the necessary items and learn all the skills requisite for undertaking a three-week excursion on foot deep into the wilderness. Experienced and skilled mentors guide the students on the journey steeped in challenge, managed risk, and joyous triumphs.
This trimester-long experience covers subjects such as ecology, economics, and eco-geography. The Transcendentalists are read, the origins of democracy are considered, and journaling is frequent. Plant systems, forest succession, habitat dynamics, and evolution are studied at length. Before departing on the trip, the students will learn to start a fire without matches, construct a backpack from plant matter, gather food and cook while in the wilderness, use wild medicinal plants for health and hygiene, and cultivate mindfulness.