In a tiny strip of city park somewhere in Beacon hill, pairs of adults (and one kid) huddle around Sword ferns. First they feel the fuzzy stem coming out of the dirt, then they work their way up, noticing the angle of the leaves, the patterns of colors, and finally they scrape the spores from the back of an upper leaf and taste them. This is the type of thing students are asked to do when they come to the Wilderness Awareness School to connect with nature in the Northwest. The school brings out the natural hunter-gatherer within us all by teaching "The Six Shields of Awareness". One set of knowledge, nature observation, is described as learning to "develop the awareness of a wild animal". One of the six "shields" teaches the use of edible and medicinal plants, and another, wilderness survival, has you "practice skills that can save your life"; what could be more useful?
Why it's not just for campers:
The core values of the Wilderness Awareness School are Peacemaking, Vitality, Nature Mentoring, and Community. The fourth, Community, illustrates why their system of education is so valuable and important:
"We nurture an ever-deepening awareness of the vital interdependence of nature, community, and self. With this awareness, we learn to honor and appreciate the richness that a diversity of life experiences, ideas, backgrounds, and gifts bring to the whole community. We encourage genuine relationships, work-life balance, service to community, and living in rhythm with nature."
The school, headquartered in Duvall, teaches children and adults in classes as long as a summer or as short as a day. They also have a preschool program, a homeschool program, and a home study training course. Class descriptions and more information about the school can be found on their website.