Parent Handbook

How to Prepare

Balances due by Wednesday before the first day of camp.

Preparing your Child for Camp – In this document you’ll find:

  • A checklist for preparing for camp
  • Minimum behavioral requirements for participating in camp, such as staying with the group
  • Practicing morning separation from caregivers for younger campers or campers with anxiety


In this document you’ll find:

  • Camp hours
  • Camp locations
  • Instructors for drive-through drop-off & pick-up
  • Policies for early or late pickup or late drop-off

Attendance line:

To notify us of an absence or alternate drop-off/pick-up time need, call or text: ‪(541) 937-5799‬

Student Policies & Procedures

The policies and procedures below are the same ones that we introduce students to during camp. You can support your child’s success at camp by reviewing these rules with them so that they know what to expect and can ask questions with someone they are familiar with. 

Childhood allergies are unfortunately very common these days. The most common and dangerous allergy we encounter is to peanuts. For this reason, and to ensure a safe and positive experience for everyone we are asking that no one bring food containing peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oils, etc. to any day camps. This is in addition to our usual policy of kids not sharing food. We appreciate your understanding and sensitivity to the needs of all our campers. Please do not send your child to day camps with any peanut-containing foods in his or her lunch or snacks. If you are having a difficult time coming up with alternatives to the good ol’ PB&J please refer to this list of ideas.

If the child comes with a peanut product, we will ask them to keep it contained and save it for after camp. If the child does not have sufficient food for camp, we will contact the parent to provide additional food.

To ensure all campers are eating what their parents authorized as safe for their bodies, we do no sharing food at camp even for students who carpool, and we prefer that even siblings have separately packed lunches so that other students don’t feel slighted.

We do consume wild edible plants at camp. Let us know if your child has any allergies, whether food, latex, pollen, or other. We will notify day camp parents before activities involving purchased food such as when we ferment carrots or make ice cream.

For your child to carve during an authorized carving activity, they must be Knife Safety Certified by you and one of our instructors, even if they carve all the time at other programs or at home. If your child is already knife safety certified though Whole Earth, please makes sure they have their Learning Pathways passport for verification. To earn their certification, they will need to recite the 5 Knife Safety Rules and sharpen 10 points on sticks or pencils with their knife at home. We will go over this process with students and their families the day before any carving activities. Please notify the instructor that there is a knife in the backpack. We will also provide knives for certified students with permission to carve if/when we do a carving activity.

See more at

At no time will we allow swimming. If all safety precautions of our Wading Policy are met and followed and a Wading Certified instructor is present, and wading is allowed at a given day and time based with environmental conditions taken into account, students may wade up to the level of their knees, and not above.

Students must wear footwear while wading. We will notify students and their families of the potential to wade the day before so that they can pack appropriate footwear. If they are not wearing quick-dry footwear, they will need a separate pair of shoes for hiking to avoid blisters, or extra pairs of socks to change into once their socks are saturated.

We will teach students specific boundaries for any activity with inherent risk. Here are some examples, in case you want to review them with your child at home:

Climbing: Students may only climb trees approved by an instructor. Students may not have their feet higher in the tree than the level at which they can reach when their feet are on the ground. Instructors may not assist students in getting into trees. They must climb up on their own. Of course, assisting students out of trees is always acceptable.

Sticks: If a stick is the length of a child’s forearm, they can hold it as they please as long as they are not reckless with it (swinging wildly, hitting plants). If a stick is more than that but less than the height of their body (like a walking stick) then the student may carry it on her own, but held upright in front of them or used only as a walking stick. If a stick is taller than the student then she must ask for assistance from another student or instructor, or the student can hold one end and drag the other on the ground if they are able to watch the other end while moving (typically only older students can do this). When team-carrying sticks there should be one person on each end of the stick to prevent swinging the ends around and hitting another student. Students should only break sticks with an approved method such as fulcrum or hip bracing, not by stomping on sticks. 

Barefoot time: If a student needs to remove their shoes they should notify an instructor and remain seated. There may also be designated barefoot time and activities where instructors and students will inspect the ground within clear boundaries before removing footwear and moving about. 

Archery: We will ensure students are clear that foam archery and target archery are different activities, with significantly different needs for safety. Foam archery activities awaken students senses, build their confidence in moving through natural environments with agility, and help them practice archery in a low-pressure way. We use special foam arrows that are custom-made for this activity and inspected before every use. All participants must wear eye protection when playing foam arrow games. Participants must aim below the chest and fire from a distance. Target archery may only be practiced in established shooting ranges made for the purpose. This activity is very tightly controlled by the instructors and practiced in short segments so that students can retain focus on the safety protocols.

Hazard Mitigation in Nature School

Many normal activities in life carry inherent risks such as crossing a busy street or playing sports. Spending time in nature is no different. And just like with the hazards involved in crossing the street, taking a few appropriate steps can mitigate most of the serious dangers. One of the primary lessons that kids learn at nature camp is how to deal with hazards by better understanding them and how to take risks in an appropriate way. Here are a few common hazards of time in nature and how we can help kids mitigate them.

See our COVID-19 Response page.

We take heat and dehydration seriously. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Ensure your child is comfortable drinking plain water for hydration.
  • Pack enough water bottles to contain at least 4 cups of water or 1 liter (in addition to any lunch beverages). We have places to refill water. For older students, we may ask you to double that on days where we are hiking beyond access to water.
  • Have your child drink water before coming to camp and after getting home from camp. 
  • Show your child the benefits of “testing” their thirst by having a small sip, instead of just thinking about whether they are thirsty or not. This gets them past the resistance to pulling out their water bottle and often we find we are thirstier than we thought.
  • Pack a portable shade such as a thin longsleeve outer layer or an umbrella.

Poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is a common native plant of western North America. This plant is present at most of our program sites (except Big Bear Camp). Contact with the plant can cause an itchy rash due to an oil the plant produces called urushiol. It’s characteristic three-leaflet pattern is easily recognized by many hikers. However, Poison-oak takes on many appearances depending on the time of year and where it is growing. Our first protection against poison oak is to learn to know what it looks like in our area at this time of year. That helps us to avoid contact with the plant. We also highly recommend wearing long pants and closed toe shoes to reduce exposure. If exposure to poison-oak occurs there are a few things that you can do to reduce the chance of developing a rash. The most important thing is to scrub all exposed skin well with cool water and lots of soap as soon as possible after exposure. Wash all clothes that may have been exposed separately to avoid cross contamination.

There are several varieties of stinging insects that we are likely to encounter while walking in the woods. The ones that we encounter most commonly are “yellow jackets” (Vespula spp.). The yellow jackets like to nest in cavities underground during the summer and fall where an unsuspecting explorer might accidentally step on their nest without knowing it. Yellow jackets will defend their nests aggressively if they feel threatened and they are capable of stinging multiple times. We take several precautions during the yellow jacket season to reduce the risk of being stung. First, when travelling off of established trails instructors always go in front in order to watch out for ground nests that might be hard to spot. Second, we teach students to react calmly when yellow jackets are present (such as during lunch time). When we don’t antagonize these insects they mostly leave us alone. In addition to these precautions, all staff are trained on the assessment of severe allergic reaction and anaphylaxis. Each group carries Epi-pen devices to treat severe allergic reactions and has someone trained in how to use the device. Severe allergic reactions to stings are actually quite rare and in most cases when a child is stung we invite them to apply a medicinal plant to the sting to help receive the pain and swelling.
Finally, we sometimes encounter ticks while travelling in the woods. These parasitic arachnids like to hang out on tall grasses and grab on to hikers as we pass by. They will often crawl around on a person for a long time before biting and our best protection against tick bites is regular tick checks. We encourage campers to check themselves twice a day during springtime when ticks are most prevalent. Typically it works well to check for ticks while in the bathroom as they prefer to be in warm, moist areas of the body, under clothing. If a tick does bite, it can be removed by pinching it gently at the head with a pair of tweezers and pulling straight out.


The most common large mammals in our area that may pose a risk to humans are black bears (Ursus americanus) and cougars (Felis concolor). These animals are native to our area and range commonly throughout the valley and foothills. However, bears and cougars are very shy of people and will try at all times to avoid the sights, sounds, and smells they associate with humans. Being with large (and often noisy) groups of kids makes it unlikely that we will ever encounter one of these animals during camp. However, as an additional precaution we make students aware of how to react if they do see a bear or cougar. There are differences in each but generally it is advisable to stay together as a group. Don’t turn your back on the animal and back away slowly. In some cases it is appropriate to make noise to scare off the animal. Nevertheless, in most cases the only indication we ever get of the presence of large mammals in our area is the signs and tracks they leave behind.

Customer Policies

Let us know if your child has any allergies (food, pollen, latex, etc.) during the registration process, and include the severity of sensitivity as well as the symptoms that result when exposed.

Childhood allergies are unfortunately very common these days. The most common and dangerous allergy we encounter is to peanuts. For this reason, and to ensure a safe and positive experience for everyone we are asking that no one bring food containing peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oils, etc. to any day camps. This is in addition to our usual policy of kids not sharing food. We appreciate your understanding and sensitivity to the needs of all our campers. Please do not send your child to day camps with any peanut-containing foods in his or her lunch or snacks. If you are having a difficult time coming up with alternatives to the good ol’ PB&J please refer to this list of ideas.

Due to the open wilderness setting and hazards inherent to that setting and the skills we teach, we do require that campers are able and willing to follow our rules and policies during camp.

Whole Earth Nature School sets students up for success by providing mentors and an environment that ensure their needs are met (including hydration, movement, and expression of feelings) and the needs of the community are clear. We believe that every child aims to be a positive member of their community and train extensively in tools to support children where they are at. We’ve found that many children come with notes about challenging behavior but have relatively few challenges in our camp environment. 

When a child does have inappropriate behavior at camp, we first work with the child to ensure their needs are met and to help them understand the boundaries clearly. If they still have challenges acting within appropriate boundaries, for behavior, we work with them and their parents/guardians to determine what tools might support the child. The next step after that is to bring in a Program Leader to observe the child and come up with an action plan to relay to the family.

For some campers, our program might not be the best fit at this time. We reserve the right to remove a child from camp if their behavior endangers the physical or emotional safety of themselves or other campers. Some campers may be able to attend camp only with 1 on 1 support. We will let you know if that need is determined and you can decide if you have someone you can send or if you would like to withdraw your child.

Here is our formal Guidance and Discipline Policy.

If you need to contact us during the program, please call our main school phone number: 541-937-KIDS (5437). We always do our best to answer the phone. However, we may be busy with other customers, so do leave a message with all pertinent information including the best number to reach you.

If you have questions about anything relating to the program you may also email us at We do our best to respond to you within one full business day.

We are dedicated to welcoming all students, regardless of race, culture, religion, sex, gender, or national origin. If your student needs extra support to feel welcome and supported at camp please contact us using the information at the bottom of this page so that we can work with you to find the best solutions. For example, we’d like to hear from non-cisgendered students about their needs prior to camp so that we can assure camp is a welcoming and inclusive place for all. Because of the wide variety of terrain at each site, students with physical limitations should contact us prior to registration so that we can make sure this camp will be able to serve your needs.

See our Health Screening tool. 

Note that while much of the document is focused on screening for COVID-19, Appendix D lists other symptoms that we exclude for or require masking for.

See page 12 of this document for when your child can return.

A part of what we value, and incorporate into our teaching, is resilience. We want our students to learn that, if properly prepared, almost any weather is a great time to be outside. Experiencing a huge rainfall can bring a joyous sense of connection, and we can also use it to connect to the rest of the animal kingdom by asking where the deer and other animals go when it rains.

  • Do you ever go inside? Heavy rain isn’t an issue if properly dressed. We do seek shelter if it there is lightning, and if it persists we may cancel.
  • Weather Closures or Program Modifications: See our Extreme Weather policy.
  • Dressing for the weather: Please pack appropriate clothing for hiking any weather that is possible in the current season, even if it is not forecasted. If financial resources are a concern, contact us for support. Talk to your child about the importance of dressing for utility when adventuring outdoors (e.g. wearing rainboots even if they are ugly)

We understand that sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances which could cause you to be late. We allow 15 minutes after the end of the camp for you to pick up your child without penalty. From 16-25 minutes late, we charge a flat fee of $5. For every additional minute after this, we charge $1 per minute. We do this in order to make every effort to support and compensate our instructors for the time they invest. We need our team leaders to be able to go home, rest, and return refreshed to care for your children the next day.

Whole Earth Nature School has implemented the following cancellation policy based on the time, resources and staffing that goes into planning a camp. We cannot recover these expenses if you cancel. Cancellations made on short notice can also prevent others from attending.

For every camp/program, we have a non-refundable 12% deposit, required to complete registration. If you cancel, or ask to transfer to a different camp, for any reason the following applies:

  • Cancellations made 15 days or more before the camp/program start date will be fully refunded, minus the 12% non-refundable deposit. 
    • Transfers made 15 days or more before the camp/program start date will be fully refunded minus a $25 transfer fee.
  • Cancellations made 8-14 days prior to the first day of the camp/program will receive a refund of 50% of the total camp/program tuition.
    • Transfers made 8-14 days prior to the camp/program start date incur a $25 transfer fee as well as a withholding of the 12% non-refundable deposit for the camp/program being transferred from.
  • Cancellations made 7 days or less prior to, or after the start of, the first day of the camp/program are not refundable.
    • Programs that begin in 7 days or less are not eligible for transfers, however we can help you transfer your registration/billing information to any camps you wish to add after your cancellation. 

Oops Policy: You have 48 hours from the time of purchase to cancel your registration with no penalty. Cancellations must be requested prior to the start of the program.

*To cancel or transfer, please email us at Please let us know that you are aware of this policy to expedite your return.

You must have your ID ready at pickup every single time.

Children will only be released from a program to their parents or any person specified as an authorized pick up person in the student’s registration. We must have written or verbal authorization from a parent to release the child to anyone not listed on that child’s registration form.


Flow of the Day

Our day camps follow this flow of the day, with modifications based on theme, events, and student needs: 

  • Sign-in
  • Opening Circle (snack, introductions, agreements, Wildkin roles, review plan for the day)
  • Warm-up Activity
  • Bathroom use and waterbottle top-off
  • Morning whole-group activity to support students in the learning outcomes of the camp and experience the theme they signed up for
  • Lunch
  • Village Time, where students are given freedom to pursue their interests within a prepared environment and with 1-on-1 mentoring
  • Quiet Awareness, featuring games and activities that build toward Sit Spot skills
  • Closing: Reflections Time and closing song. May also include team-building activities and important safety reminders such as the introduction to Knife Safety or the need to bring appropriate footwear for wading. 
  • Sign-out Game: This game goes on until all students are signed out so don’t hesitate to tell your child its time to go home!

Our Instructors

Learn about our instructors here!

Many of our instructors have “Nature Names.” If you would like to know an instructors real name, you can always ask!

About what we do

From our Learning Pathways Passport: Connecting deeply with nature is not something that is learned from any one class, or any single teacher. Nature connection is a lifelong journey toward discovering how we, ourselves, truly are nature. Whole Earth Nature School has devised this passport to guide our students in their discovery of nature awareness and outdoor living skills. View this as a trail map with four Learning Pathways, and skills which build upon each other marked along the way. The farther you travel along any Pathway, the deeper you go into connecting with nature—and recognizing your own place in it. A map can show you majestic mountains and verdant valleys…it is up to you to take the journey. 

We are here to support you on whichever Learning Pathways you choose, and to help you discover what wild fun you can have along the way!

As students demonstrate new skills, a Whole Earth Nature School instructor will initial a Learning Pathways Passport to indicate the skill in which they have achieved competency. Once they have completed all of the skills necessary to achieve a level, their instructor will sign and date that section of your Record of Achievement, and they will be acknowledged with a Certificate of Achievement in that Learning Pathway.

We developed the Learning Pathways to give kids a framework for further development of outdoor skills. The skills and techniques that are taught at our beginning programs are just the tip of the iceberg of outdoor skills and nature awareness. Our intention is to launch our students on a lifetime journey of learning and exploration. The Learning Pathways provide inspiration and incentives to kids to follow their passion and develop new skills. Everything we teach fits into one or more of these Pathways. Each Pathway includes several levels of achievement that get progressively more challenging and encourage kids to learn more advanced skills. 

The Pathways

Each Learning Pathway is comprised of a set of related skills or activities. Students who have studied one Pathway are encouraged to continue their training in each of the others to gain a well-rounded skill set.

North: Way of the Cougar This Pathway encompasses the skills of the ancient scouts. Students of the Cougar develop the skills of camouflage, invisibility, stealth, navigation, and intuition to support and protect their family and community. This is the path of the peaceful warrior and includes a focus on mentoring others in nature connection.

West: Way of the Raccoon This Pathway is concerned with the skills of home and hearth. It encompasses wildcrafting, healing, gardening, food preservation, self-sufficiency, and stewardship of the land.

East: Way of the Owl This is the Pathway of the tracker and naturalist. Nothing can be learned without awareness, thus this path is focused not only on animals but also on your own physical perceptive abilities. It includes skills of tracking, animal studies, bird language, and sensory awareness. 

South: Way of the Wolverine This Pathway is focused on outdoor survival skills. Students of the Wolverine live comfortably in the wilderness by drawing on knowledge of their environment. This Pathway includes skills of shelter building, finding safe water, fire making, hunting and trapping, tool use, and first aid.

Clan of the CROW membership is attained through the synthesis of all four Learning Pathways: Cougar, Raccoon, Owl, and Wolverine. Members of the CROW Clan have attained at least a moderate level of proficiency in all Pathways, and a high level of skill in one or more Pathways of their choosing. Active CROW Clan members continue to expand their nature intelligence.

(Update in progress. Check back soon for these details.)

Nature learning doesn’t stop when students leave our program. We encourage each student to find their own “Sit Spot” near home. The concept of a sit spot is not familiar to most modern people so please take the time to learn about this important core routine. In the simplest terms, a sit spot is a place that a person visits on a regular basis to practice nature study. Nature itself is our most important teacher and if we want to really understand the natural world the best thing to do is to visit one place on a regular basis.

The sit spot routine is one that has been practiced by people all over the world. It allows the student to experience and learn about a part of nature that isn’t able to be easily experienced when with others, and while being active in nature. A good sit spot can be anywhere from deep in the wilderness to simply your back porch or apartment balcony. Here are a few things to look for in a sit spot in order of importance. A sit spot should:

  • Be nearby and convenient (kids should be able to go there without parent supervision or transport)
  • Be outside
  • Feel safe to you so that you want to be there
  • Allow you to feel “alone” to have your own quiet space without distractions

There are a few more things that are nice to have at your sit spot but that are not critical (in other words, if you don’t have these nearby, don’t worry about it):

  • Near transition zones between different types of habitat
  • Near water
  • Near an animal trail but not right in an animal trail
  • Open enough to be able to see what is happening around you

There are a lot of great programs for kids in our area. So, with all of the great choices out there, why should you choose Whole Earth Nature School camps? 

Nature Connection  Many programs do a great job of “environmental education.” Our camps get kids into Environmental Immersion. We want them to get their hands (and faces) dirty and develop a personal relationship with the natural world that will serve them through their entire lives.

Personal Attention We have a maximum ratio of six kids for every professional instructor at camp. (Max of four kids per instructor in our 3-6 year old programs.) And, we run all camps with a minimum of two professional instructors per group. This allows us to give much more personal attention to every child, including yours.

Real Skills We teach kids real skills. Depending on their age, campers might learn how to safely identify wild edible plants and actually taste them, they might learn to make their own bow to shoot, or they might learn to safely make fire by rubbing sticks together.

Locally Based Our founders live right here in Eugene and Whole Earth Nature School is a 501(c)(3) public benefit non-profit company.

Scholarships We keep our camp tuition as low as we can while still providing aEugene Summer Camp living wage to our highly trained instructors. Even though our camp tuition is on parity with other nature camps in town, we recognize that it can be financially difficult to send kids to camp. That is why we created our scholarship program to help families in need.

Fun! We consistently hear from parents that their children had an incredible time at our nature programs. We love building relationships with children and their families, and appreciate being able to mentor them, year after year. Register your child for our nature programs and see what fun they can have!

Hands-on Attention

Our groups have an average ratio of 6 students per an instructor. Instead of a discipline policy, we study how to engage students meaningfully,  support students with trauma, and appreciate students for who they are.

Experienced Professionals

Some of our instructors have been teaching with us for over a decade; others have immense experience in other teaching environments. All have a passion for mentoring students outdoors, and weeks of training annually.

Teaching Philosophy

All of our nature camps are based on our teaching philosophy which includes:

  • Practicing gratitude
  • Tuning our senses to our surroundings in the present moment
  • Play as paramount to effective learning
  • Respect and stillness in nature
  • Community-building and helping each student shine with their gifts
  • Skills from our four Learning Pathways

We also have a Flow of the Day in all of our camp themes which is designed to accommodate students of diverse interests, intelligences, and energy levels. 


Our Story camps & Social camps also include the Wildkin™ Learning Framework woven throughout.

More about Wildkin:

Each student is provided a Wildkin role based on their unique gifts and interests. They receive a role card that gives them quests and secret missions they can complete throughout the camp. When they complete quests, they receive rewards that give them more ways to contribute. For example:

  • After the Explorer completes a quest to identify a hazard and how to be safe around it, they earn the Superpower to be at the head and tail of the line with an instructor.
  • After the Tracker sketches some specific nature observations, they gain the Gear Reward of field guides that they can use for the week.

Wildkin roles ensure that every student is engaged in co-creating their camp experience. That’s part of the reason why no two experiences at our camp are ever the same, even if they are the same theme!