You are moving silently along the trail when you hear a bird give an alarm. It wasn’t alarming at you, of course. You have camouflaged your body, movement, and mind. Up ahead, you see an owl camouflaged against a tree! You add it to the map you’ve been making so you can share this discovery with your friends.
These are the skills of a NinjaCat.
The NinjaCats curriculum certifies students in the Level 1 of the Way of the Cougar Learning Pathway through a carefully scaffolded curriculum that includes lots of play, skill-building, exploration, and imagination. (We also provide guidance to students working on Level 2).
Our Learning Pathways curriculum are based on coyote mentoring techniques, in which learning opportunities are embedded in play (just as it is for most young mammals!) Behind the scenes we teach students how to be present, observe quietly, use intuition, and mentor others. From the student perspective, a fun storyline guides them in learning to master the five elements:
Fire: careful control of your energy/movement.
Earth: becoming one with your surrounding.
Water: navigation and mapping.
Wind: expanding your sensory awareness.
Shadow: communication and intuition.
Once the students master the five elements, their sensei will lead them on missions that model how the diverse skills they have learned can be utilized together. Role-playing the use of these skills maximizes the student’s ability to integrate the skills into their regular life.
Our Naturalist Studies program gives students opportunities to dive deeper into exploring aspects of the natural world. Students will build their knowledge through hands-on discovery.
Key features of our program include:
- Direct engagement with nature for profound first-hand observations that build literacy and compassion.
- Seasonal lesson plans that help students understand what is happening in the natural world throughout the year.
- Research-based science education that helps students “think like a scientist” and transform observations into explanations.
- Learning through discussions where students practice expressing, comparing, and challenging their ideas.
- Genuine affirmation of students’ perspectives and lived experiences as relevant to the material, based on the BEETLES framework.
- Transdisciplinary activities that help students develop and integrate Howard Gardner’s eight “Intelligences.”
- Long-term projects that help students build discipline and respect for their own efforts.
- Journaling as a tool for making and preserving observations and tracking the student’s experience. *Students in the 1st-3rd age group do not have to be able to write to participate.
All of our programs follow natural learning processes, and Wildkin Village takes that to the next level by focusing on how students learn rather than what they learn. This program has a lot in common with a Reggio Emilia educational approach in that the instructor sets up a learning environment and community and the students drive the learning.
The outdoors is the ideal place for this experiential learning because it is ripe with opportunities for exploration, discovery, and play. Students can move, build, express themselves, and observe using their five senses.
Instructors support students by sharing interesting books, stories, and activities as well as helping students have the resources to pursue their interests. Each student will choose a Wildkin community role that provides them with quests/missions for growing in how they work others. Instructors also help students set personal goals and find the resources and discipline to meet those goals.
Through hands-on real-world challenges, collaboration with a learning community beyond their own age, and integration of diverse learning styles, Wildkin Village respects each child’s curiosity and passion. In turn, the child grows and matures in their relationship to their self, their community, and the earth.