Parent Handbook

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Welcome

Whole Earth Nature School is dedicated to mentoring kids of all ages to develop a close, personal connection to the natural world. Awareness and nature connection is one of the primary ways that we help kids grow into mature, responsible adults. We believe, and research has shown, that direct experience with nature helps kids to be more calm and focused as well as learn better throughout the rest of their lives. We also know that inspired attention is always more effective than directed attention. That’s why we fill our programs with real and exciting skills, games and activities. Kids who attend Whole Earth Nature School will come away with new skills and a new awareness of the world around them. We also know that the best mentoring relationships give kids plenty of direct attention. That’s why we always insure that there is a minimum of one professional instructor for every six kids at a program. That is an exceptional amount of personal attention in an outdoor program.

Working With Parents

It is our goal while working with your kids to compliment the mentoring and development that is provided to you as parents. We have also drafted the following policies to ensure the best relationship between Whole Earth Nature School and our students and families that support us. We are always open to feedback on any policy we have implemented and we appreciate your constructive suggestions. All decisions about changes to policies will be made by our team of Directors. We reserve the right to modify our policies at any time.

Coyote Kids! Afterschool

How to Prepare

  • Your child will be exploring in the woods and if all goes well, she or he will get dirty. Please dress your child in clothing that can get dirty and that is appropriate for the weather. (i.e. Sun hat, sunscreen, or raincoat. Layers are a good idea. Closed-toe shoes are highly encouraged. Waterproof boots are helpful during rainy seasons.)
  • Nutritious snack (no peanut products please, see allergy statement below)
  • Water in a large refillable container or two medium containers (yes, water in addition to any other beverages)
  • A backpack (your child will be asked to carry their belongings independently)
  • Their Whole Earth custom camp supplies including: Explorer’s Journal, Pencil, Learning Pathways Passport. (These items will be handed out over the first month of the program.)
  • During the pandemic, a face-covering will be required to be worn to enter camp. Please consider sending a backup face covering in case yours gets wet or muddy. If you forget yours at home, we have disposable ones available, while supplies last.

Logistics

Our staff will meet your kids at their school meeting locations listed below. Coyote Kids! programs all take place in nearby parks and natural areas adjacent to the schools. All activities will be within walking distance of the school. Instructors will be available outside the classrooms during the first few weeks of camp to help students find their way to the appropriate meeting place, until they get used to where to meet. Pick up will occur two hours after the end of school. Detailed location is listed below. There is a 15 minute grace period for pick-ups. Please see our late pick-up policy below for more details.

Adams: Meet in front of the school on the downhill (West) side, pick-up in front of the office.

Camas Ridge: Meet in the grassy area in front of the lower (West) building. Pick-up in the same location.

Centennial: Meet in the pine trees on the south end of the school. Pick-up in the same location.

Charlemagne: Meet at the picnic tables in the back of the school. Pick up will be at the ramp next to the parking lot loop.

César Chávez: Meet at the courtyard by the school garden on the South side of the school. Pick up will be on the front (North) side of the school by the bus loop.

Edgewood: Meet at the upper parking lot near the large boulders. Pick up is in the same location.

Edison: Meet in front of the school. We gather to the east of the front door. Pick up will be in the same location.

Family School/Chinese Immersion: Meet in the grassy area West of the bus loop. Pick up will be at the same location.

McCornack: Meet in the concrete area outside behind the school office. Pick up will be on the south side of 25th avenue between Chaucer and Hawkins. Click for a map

Village School: Instructors will gather students from the hallways outside their classrooms. Pick up will be at the intersection of 30th and Lincoln Streets at the back entrance to Wayne Morse Family Farm. Click for a map.

Supporting your child

Your child’s experience in Coyote Kids! can be deeper with your support… and you’ll learn alongside your child in the process! To help your child continue the learning at home, we have conversation starters that help students reflect on their experience and dirt time that gives students specific skills to practice at home.

Many people have a negative association with “homework.” What we offer is a bit different: Kids who are loving what they are learning at Coyote Kids! and don’t want to wait a whole week before they can do similarly awesome nature explorations are given a Dirt Time assignment at the end of the day. It’s called “Dirt Time” because it is learning through doing—they are often completed outside their home (their own yard is perfect) and through getting involved in connecting to the nature that lives right there! It’s optional, so there is never any stress about completing it.

If students choose to complete their optional at-home Dirt Time assignments, they can earn their own custom Coyote Kids! bandanna, or a Coyote Kids! patch to add to it if they’ve already earned it in past terms.

If they ever see another kid at school or camp who is wearing one, they know that is a kid they should connect with because the only way to receive one is to earn it!

Your child’s instructor will provide a Dirt Time Checklist for the term. You can also find it at the bottom of your Coyote Kids! newsletters.

While every group’s experience will be a little bit different, we’ve written up questions based on our weekly Learning Outcomes to help you draw out what your child is learning. The questions are designed to be a mix of review of what they learned in the program and questions that guide them into curiosity and critical thinking.

You can find a printable list of the semester’s Conversation Starters at the bottom of your Coyote Kids! newsletter.

Curriculum

Each semester of Coyote Kids! focuses on a different Learning Pathway taught through an imaginative theme. Each pathway also includes different approaches to practicing Core Routines of Nature Connection, such as Sit Spot. The four pathways/themes in Coyote Kids! are: 

  • Way of the Cougar: NinjaCats (fall of even years)
  • Way of the Raccoon: Druids of Procyon (spring of odd years)
  • Way of the Owl: Detective Whoo (fall of odd years)
  • Way of the Wolverine: Survival Island (spring of even years)

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

Policies

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.

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.
If you ask to transfer to a different camp you may do so up to 15 days prior to the start of your camp. There will be a $25 fee per camp transferred. Less that 15 days before camp transfers will be subject to our cancelation policy below. All programs have a non-refundable, 25% deposit.

If you cancel, or ask to transfer to a different camp, for any reason:

  • Cancellations made at least 15 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a full refund, minus the 25% non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations/transfers made between 8 and 14 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a refund of 50% of the total camp tuition.
  • Cancellations/transfers made 7 days or less prior to the first day of camp, or after the start of a program, are not refundable.

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

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.

The safety of our students is paramount. If the parent or guardian picking up a child is visibly drunk, obviously under the influence of drugs which is impairing their safe behavior, or acting violently, we will refer to the following procedure:

  1. Ask the parent/guardian if there is anyone else available to pick up the child that day.
  2. Call all parent and emergency contact numbers provided in the student’s registration to attempt to find another person to pick up the child.
  3. If the parent/guardian insists on taking the child we will note a licence plate number and call 911.

If you are ill it is important that you stay home to rest and recover. It is important for the health of the sick child as well as the rest of our students that sick children stay home. If you were too sick to attend school you may not attend the Whole Earth Nature School Program that day. Please stay home if you are experiencing any combination of the following symptoms or conditions in the previous 24 hours:

  • Fever over 100 degrees taken under the arm (same as 101 oral)
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea (more than one incident in a day)
  • Severe cough
  • Unusual yellow color of skin or eyes
  • Head lice
  • Difficult breathing, or wheezing
  • Complaints of severe pain
  • Skin, eye lesions or rashes that are severe, weeping, or pus-filled 
  • Stiff neck and headache with one or more of the symptoms listed above.

Whole Earth Nature School encourages students to be outdoors and experience nature on their own terms. However, some extreme weather conditions make it hazardous to be outside. In general, we will follow the lead of the 4J School District with regard to “snow days”, other weather cancellations or delays, and holidays. If unanticipated extreme weather occurs while we are running a program we will retreat indoors for protection.

Weather FAQ: 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: That said, if 4J closes schools for a day, we will follow their guidance and cancel Coyote Kids, but we would let you know prior to Coyote Kids as 4J usually makes that determination by 7am the morning of.
  • Dressing for the weather: Please pack appropriate clothing for hiking in the rain and cold. For school students, you can borrow appropriate clothes from the school and return those at the end of the day. The only time I’ve had to call a parent to have them come during Coyote Kids was when a girl didn’t have appropriate shoes, her feet were already wet from recess, she was complaining of the cold, and she refused to use the rain boots the school has set aside for just those occasions.

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. Please review the guidelines in the link below before packing a knife for your Knife-Safety Certified student, and 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. Learn about our Knife Safety rules here.

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.

The foundation of the guidance and discipline policy at Whole Earth Nature School is to encourage positive behavior in the individual which will support a positive experience for everyone.

Whole Earth Nature School provides a supportive and nurturing environment where communication from each student is valued and encouraged. We create an environment where positive behavior is reinforced and where inappropriate behavior is not necessary. We remind students to use words to express what they want, what they need, and how they feel. We guide them to treat themselves and others with respect, and we facilitate verbal problem solving when students are in conflict.

We do reserve the right to remove kids from camp if their behavior endangers the physical or emotional safety of the other participants.

Please learn more about or Guidance and Discipline Policy by visiting our full Guidance and Discipline Policy page.

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, if we are currently teaching kids we may not be able to pick up immediately, 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 ContactUs@WholeEarth.org. We do our best to respond to you within one full business day.

Hazards

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 the woods and how you can help your kids deal with them safely.

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.

Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a very mild climate and we are able to participate in outdoor activities year round. You can ensure that your child has a good time outdoors by coming to camp prepared for all likely weather conditions. In warm weather we recommend loose, breathable clothing as well as the use of a sun hat and/or sunscreen. Also, bringing enough water to drink is essential to staying healthy. We recommend carrying at least 1 liter of pure water (in addition to any juice or other sugary drinks) when at camp. There will be opportunities to refill your water bottle. In cold weather it is important to dress in layers. Try to avoid cotton clothing. Good quality rain gear, including waterproof boots, is a must for staying comfortable outside in the winter. Finally, in rare cases of extreme weather we do seek shelter indoors.

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.

Coyote Kids! Immersion

How to Prepare

  • Your child will be exploring in the woods and if all goes well, she or he will get dirty. Please dress your child in clothing that can get dirty and that is appropriate for the weather. (i.e. Sun hat, sunscreen, or raincoat. Layers are a good idea. Closed-toe shoes are highly encouraged. Waterproof boots are helpful during rainy seasons.)
  • Nutritious snacks and lunch (no peanut products please, see allergy statement below)
  • Water in a large refillable container or two medium containers (yes, water in addition to any other beverages)
  • A backpack (your child will be asked to carry their belongings independently)
  • Their Whole Earth custom camp supplies including: Explorer’s Journal, Pencil, Learning Pathways Passport. (These items will be handed out over the first month of the program.)
  • During the pandemic, a face-covering will be required to be worn to enter camp. Please consider sending a backup face covering in case yours gets wet or muddy. If you forget yours at home, we have disposable ones available, while supplies last.
  • Age 9 and older only: Locking-blade pocket knife (optional, see Knife Safety policy below).

Logistics

Sign-in is from 9:45 am to 10 am. The program runs from 10am to 2 pm. Pick-up is at 2 pm.
 
Parking:
  • Important – Parking at Mount Pisgah Arboretum and leaving your car unattended requires a parking pass. Since we now operate all drop-offs and pick-ups with COVID-19 safety guidelines, you may not find the need to exit your car. At each site we have designated drop-off and pick-up locations where you will bring your vehicle to a stop and wait for your child’s instructor to come to your vehicle and ask some COVID-19 health screening questions, take their temperature with a remote, non-touch, forehead thermometer, and if they pass they will then be asked to exit your vehicle wearing their face-covering and with their backpack to go join their group.
  • Directions to Mount Pisgah Arboretum can be found here.
 

Supporting your child

Your child’s experience in Coyote Kids! can be deeper with your support… and you’ll learn alongside your child in the process! To help your child continue the learning at home, we have conversation starters that help students reflect on their experience and dirt time that gives students specific skills to practice at home.

Many people have a negative association with “homework.” What we offer is a bit different: Kids who are loving what they are learning at Coyote Kids! and don’t want to wait a whole week before they can do similarly awesome nature explorations are given a Dirt Time assignment at the end of the day. It’s called “Dirt Time” because it is learning through doing—they are often completed outside their home (their own yard is perfect) and through getting involved in connecting to the nature that lives right there! It’s optional, so there is never any stress about completing it.

If students choose to complete their optional at-home Dirt Time assignments, they can earn their own custom Coyote Kids! bandanna, or a Coyote Kids! patch to add to it if they’ve already earned it in past terms.

If they ever see another kid at school or camp who is wearing one, they know that is a kid they should connect with because the only way to receive one is to earn it!

Your child’s instructor will provide a Dirt Time Checklist for the term. You can also find it at the bottom of your Coyote Kids! newsletters.

While every group’s experience will be a little bit different, we’ve written up questions based on our weekly Learning Outcomes to help you draw out what your child is learning. The questions are designed to be a mix of review of what they learned in the program and questions that guide them into curiosity and critical thinking.

You can find a printable list of the semester’s Conversation Starters at the bottom of your Coyote Kids! newsletter.

Curriculum

Each semester of Coyote Kids! focuses on a different Learning Pathway taught through an imaginative theme. Each pathway also includes different approaches to practicing Core Routines of Nature Connection, such as Sit Spot. The four pathways/themes in Coyote Kids! are: 

  • Way of the Cougar: NinjaCats (fall of even years)
  • Way of the Raccoon: Druids of Procyon (spring of odd years)
  • Way of the Owl: Detective Whoo (fall of odd years)
  • Way of the Wolverine: Survival Island (spring of even years)

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

Policies

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.

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.
If you ask to transfer to a different camp you may do so up to 15 days prior to the start of your camp. There will be a $25 fee per camp transferred. Less that 15 days before camp transfers will be subject to our cancelation policy below. All programs have a non-refundable, 25% deposit.

If you cancel, or ask to transfer to a different camp, for any reason:

  • Cancellations made at least 15 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a full refund, minus the 25% non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations/transfers made between 8 and 14 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a refund of 50% of the total camp tuition.
  • Cancellations/transfers made 7 days or less prior to the first day of camp, or after the start of a program, are not refundable.

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

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.

The safety of our students is paramount. If the parent or guardian picking up a child is visibly drunk, obviously under the influence of drugs which is impairing their safe behavior, or acting violently, we will refer to the following procedure:

  1. Ask the parent/guardian if there is anyone else available to pick up the child that day.
  2. Call all parent and emergency contact numbers provided in the student’s registration to attempt to find another person to pick up the child.
  3. If the parent/guardian insists on taking the child we will note a licence plate number and call 911.

If you are ill it is important that you stay home to rest and recover. It is important for the health of the sick child as well as the rest of our students that sick children stay home. If you were too sick to attend school you may not attend the Whole Earth Nature School Program that day. Please stay home if you are experiencing any combination of the following symptoms or conditions in the previous 24 hours:

  • Fever over 100 degrees taken under the arm (same as 101 oral)
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea (more than one incident in a day)
  • Severe cough
  • Unusual yellow color of skin or eyes
  • Head lice
  • Difficult breathing, or wheezing
  • Complaints of severe pain
  • Skin, eye lesions or rashes that are severe, weeping, or pus-filled 
  • Stiff neck and headache with one or more of the symptoms listed above.

Whole Earth Nature School encourages students to be outdoors and experience nature on their own terms. However, some extreme weather conditions make it hazardous to be outside. In general, we will follow the lead of the 4J School District with regard to “snow days”, other weather cancellations or delays, and holidays. If unanticipated extreme weather occurs while we are running a program we will retreat indoors for protection.

Weather FAQ: 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: That said, if 4J closes schools for a day, we will follow their guidance and cancel Coyote Kids, but we would let you know prior to Coyote Kids as 4J usually makes that determination by 7am the morning of.
  • Dressing for the weather: Please pack appropriate clothing for hiking in the rain and cold. For school students, you can borrow appropriate clothes from the school and return those at the end of the day. The only time I’ve had to call a parent to have them come during Coyote Kids was when a girl didn’t have appropriate shoes, her feet were already wet from recess, she was complaining of the cold, and she refused to use the rain boots the school has set aside for just those occasions.

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. Please review the guidelines in the link below before packing a knife for your Knife-Safety Certified student, and 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. Learn about our Knife Safety rules here.

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.

The foundation of the guidance and discipline policy at Whole Earth Nature School is to encourage positive behavior in the individual which will support a positive experience for everyone.

Whole Earth Nature School provides a supportive and nurturing environment where communication from each student is valued and encouraged. We create an environment where positive behavior is reinforced and where inappropriate behavior is not necessary. We remind students to use words to express what they want, what they need, and how they feel. We guide them to treat themselves and others with respect, and we facilitate verbal problem solving when students are in conflict.

We do reserve the right to remove kids from camp if their behavior endangers the physical or emotional safety of the other participants.

Please learn more about or Guidance and Discipline Policy by visiting our full Guidance and Discipline Policy page.

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, if we are currently teaching kids we may not be able to pick up immediately, 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 ContactUs@WholeEarth.org. We do our best to respond to you within one full business day.

Hazards

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 the woods and how you can help your kids deal with them safely.

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.

Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a very mild climate and we are able to participate in outdoor activities year round. You can ensure that your child has a good time outdoors by coming to camp prepared for all likely weather conditions. In warm weather we recommend loose, breathable clothing as well as the use of a sun hat and/or sunscreen. Also, bringing enough water to drink is essential to staying healthy. We recommend carrying at least 1 liter of pure water (in addition to any juice or other sugary drinks) when at camp. There will be opportunities to refill your water bottle. In cold weather it is important to dress in layers. Try to avoid cotton clothing. Good quality rain gear, including waterproof boots, is a must for staying comfortable outside in the winter. Finally, in rare cases of extreme weather we do seek shelter indoors.

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.

FOREST Mentorship Program

How to Prepare

Please make sure students bring the following to every FOREST trip, as well as check your email for trip-specific needs:

  • A full belly and pre-hydrated body (a breakfast with a good amount of protein/fat helps students given our substantial activity level)
  • bagged lunch 
  • knife
    • label with your name
    • make sure it is secured both in its sheath and in a backpack
    • put in backpack if there’s any chance of it getting lost 
  • Learning Pathways passport
  • large waterbottle or two medium water bottles
  • weather appropriate clothing
  • hiking shoes
  • During the pandemic, a face-covering will be required to be worn to enter camp. Please consider sending a backup face covering in case yours gets wet or muddy. If you forget yours at home, we have disposable ones available, while supplies last.
Overnight trips additionally require:
  • sleeping gear & cloak
  • mess kits
  • change of clothes
  • more snacks
  • optional store stop money
  • headlamp/flashlight
  • trip-specific gear

Logistics

Weekly Meetings

  • Students have skill-focused mentoring with their designated instructor and 4-6 other students once a week from 6-8pm.
  • Most groups meet at Wayne Morse Family Farm picnic shelter. You will be notified otherwise.
  • Weekly Meetings will feature gear-checks the week before an overnight trip. Bring all of your gear for the trip packed and ready to go.

Monthly Trips

  • Unless noted otherwise, we meeting at the Whole Earth office to assemble into vans for trips. We bring students back to the same location for pick-up.
  • Directions to our office, 150 Shelton McMurphy: Take Lincoln north until you get to 3rd and turn right on Shelton McMurphy Blvd. Our office is in the big red Stellaria building but we meet outside the west entrance.
  • Trip details will be sent out a couple of  times a month and include all the details about upcoming trips.
 Trip Calendar
  • September 14, 2019: Parent Orientation Meeting. Hendricks Park 1-4pm.
  • September 14, 2019: Field Trip: Horse Rock Ridge (First time students only)
  • September 20-22, 2019: Field Trip: Three day overnight to the Oregon Dunes (Departs after school Friday)
  • October 12-13, 2019: Field Trip: Central Oregon Shelter Overnight
  • November 9, 2019: Community Service Project
  • December 21st, 2019 : Solstice Celebration
  • January 11, 2020: Field Trip: Student planned
  • February 8-9, 2020: Field Trip: Snowshoe overnight
  • March 14, 2020: Field Trip: Student planned
  • April 11, 2020: Field Trip: Student planned
  • May 9, 2020: Final Field Trip: Horse Rock Ridge
  • September 14, 2019: Parent Orientation Meeting. Hendricks Park 1-4pm.
  • September 20-22, 2019: Field Trip: Three day overnight to the Oregon Dunes (Departs after school Friday)
  • October 19, 2019: Field Trip: Fall Harvest
  • November 9, 2019: Community Service Project
  • December 21st, 2019 : Solstice Celebration
  • January 18, 2020: Field Trip: Wet Weather Fire Skills.
  • February 15-16, 2020: Field Trip: Snowshoe Overnight
  • March 21, 2020: Field Trip: Bird Language and Tracking
  • April 18-19, 2020: Field Trip: Coastal Shelter Overnight
  • May 9, 2020: Final Field Trip: Horse Rock Ridge

Supporting your Child

The following will be covered in our Parent Orientation in mid-September.

Coyote Mentoring Techniques:

  • Encourage sit spot or hiding games
  • Give bs chores/errands to do outside
  • Take some bike rides or walks 
  • Go to your own sit spot and share stories
  • Active listening, good questions
  • Moving beyond naming; Play dumb
  • Engage in things that are actually interesting – be curious
  • Encourage journaling – on phone/blog?
  • Set up an area to bring stuff in from the outside and study it, like dining table centerpiece

Learning Resource Recommendations

  • PFAF.org
  • California Herpetology
  • Cornell Lab Ornithology
  • iBird or Merlin Birds
  • iTracks 
  • Oregon Wildflowers
  • Scott Kloos, Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants
  • Pojar, Plants of the Pacific Northwest
  • Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature
  • Moskowitz, Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest – Moskowitz
  • Trees to Know in Oregon
  • Reader’s Digest Guide to North American Wildlife
  • Ian Sheldon, Animal Tracks of Washington and Oregon
  • Ingwe, The Tracker, Way of the Scout
  • Birds of the Willamette Valley
  • Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds
  • 12 simple Step of Nature Connection
  • Various Audubon guides for insects
  • John Kallas, Edible Wild Plants: Foraging the Pacific Northwest

Backcountry Considerations

  • Transportation
    • Students will be transported in vans.
    • Gear will be in vans or in a trailer towed by an instructor’s car.
    • Terance will be driving the majority of the trips. He has a CDL with passenger van and school bus endorsements.
  • First Aid
    • Instructors will be certified in Wilderness First-Aid for FOREST.
    • All of our instructors are Epi-pen and allergy certified in addition to the standard CPR/AED first aid certification.
  • Evacuation Plans
    • If we have to  come back early, we will have students call their families from the van.
    • We carry printed evacuation guidelines.
    • All of our locations are short hike-out distances (less than three miles). 

Policies

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.

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.
If you ask to transfer to a different camp you may do so up to 15 days prior to the start of your camp. There will be a $25 fee per camp transferred. Less that 15 days before camp transfers will be subject to our cancelation policy below. All programs have a non-refundable, 25% deposit.

If you cancel, or ask to transfer to a different camp, for any reason:

  • Cancellations made at least 15 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a full refund, minus the 25% non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations/transfers made between 8 and 14 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a refund of 50% of the total camp tuition.
  • Cancellations/transfers made 7 days or less prior to the first day of camp, or after the start of a program, are not refundable.

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

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.

The safety of our students is paramount. If the parent or guardian picking up a child is visibly drunk, obviously under the influence of drugs which is impairing their safe behavior, or acting violently, we will refer to the following procedure:

  1. Ask the parent/guardian if there is anyone else available to pick up the child that day.
  2. Call all parent and emergency contact numbers provided in the student’s registration to attempt to find another person to pick up the child.
  3. If the parent/guardian insists on taking the child we will note a licence plate number and call 911.

If you are ill it is important that you stay home to rest and recover. It is important for the health of the sick child as well as the rest of our students that sick children stay home. If you were too sick to attend school you may not attend the Whole Earth Nature School Program that day. Please stay home if you are experiencing any combination of the following symptoms or conditions in the previous 24 hours:

  • Fever over 100 degrees taken under the arm (same as 101 oral)
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea (more than one incident in a day)
  • Severe cough
  • Unusual yellow color of skin or eyes
  • Head lice
  • Difficult breathing, or wheezing
  • Complaints of severe pain
  • Skin, eye lesions or rashes that are severe, weeping, or pus-filled 
  • Stiff neck and headache with one or more of the symptoms listed above.

Whole Earth Nature School encourages students to be outdoors and experience nature on their own terms. However, some extreme weather conditions make it hazardous to be outside. In general, we will follow the lead of the 4J School District with regard to “snow days”, other weather cancellations or delays, and holidays. If unanticipated extreme weather occurs while we are running a program we will retreat indoors for protection.

Weather FAQ: 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: That said, if 4J closes schools for a day, we will follow their guidance and cancel Coyote Kids, but we would let you know prior to Coyote Kids as 4J usually makes that determination by 7am the morning of.
  • Dressing for the weather: Please pack appropriate clothing for hiking in the rain and cold. For school students, you can borrow appropriate clothes from the school and return those at the end of the day. The only time I’ve had to call a parent to have them come during Coyote Kids was when a girl didn’t have appropriate shoes, her feet were already wet from recess, she was complaining of the cold, and she refused to use the rain boots the school has set aside for just those occasions.

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. Please review the guidelines in the link below before packing a knife for your Knife-Safety Certified student, and 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. Learn about our Knife Safety rules here.

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.

The foundation of the guidance and discipline policy at Whole Earth Nature School is to encourage positive behavior in the individual which will support a positive experience for everyone.

Whole Earth Nature School provides a supportive and nurturing environment where communication from each student is valued and encouraged. We create an environment where positive behavior is reinforced and where inappropriate behavior is not necessary. We remind students to use words to express what they want, what they need, and how they feel. We guide them to treat themselves and others with respect, and we facilitate verbal problem solving when students are in conflict.

We do reserve the right to remove kids from camp if their behavior endangers the physical or emotional safety of the other participants.

Please learn more about or Guidance and Discipline Policy by visiting our full Guidance and Discipline Policy page.

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, if we are currently teaching kids we may not be able to pick up immediately, 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 ContactUs@WholeEarth.org. We do our best to respond to you within one full business day.

Hazards

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 the woods and how you can help your kids deal with them safely.

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.

Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a very mild climate and we are able to participate in outdoor activities year round. You can ensure that your child has a good time outdoors by coming to camp prepared for all likely weather conditions. In warm weather we recommend loose, breathable clothing as well as the use of a sun hat and/or sunscreen. Also, bringing enough water to drink is essential to staying healthy. We recommend carrying at least 1 liter of pure water (in addition to any juice or other sugary drinks) when at camp. There will be opportunities to refill your water bottle. In cold weather it is important to dress in layers. Try to avoid cotton clothing. Good quality rain gear, including waterproof boots, is a must for staying comfortable outside in the winter. Finally, in rare cases of extreme weather we do seek shelter indoors.

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.

Day Camps

How to Prepare

  • Your child will be exploring in the woods and if all goes well, she or he will get dirty. Please dress your child in clothing that can get dirty and that is appropriate for the weather. (i.e. Sun hat, sunscreen, or raincoat. Layers are a good idea. Closed-toe shoes are highly encouraged. Waterproof boots are helpful during rainy seasons.)
  • Nutritious snacks and lunch (no peanut products please, see allergy statement below)
  • Water in a large refillable container or two medium containers (yes, water in addition to any other beverages)
  • A backpack (your child will be asked to carry their belongings independently)
  • During the pandemic, a face-covering will be required to be worn to enter camp. Please consider sending a backup face covering in case yours gets wet or muddy. If you forget yours at home, we have disposable ones available, while supplies last.
  • Age 9 and older only: Locking-blade pocket knife (optional, see Knife Safety policy below).

Logistics

  • Check-in begins at 9:00am at the camp location for all programs except FOREST Understory, which is 9:30am.
  • Saturday Nature Camp and FOREST Understory pickup is between 3:30 and 3:45 for all students.
  • Summer camp pick up is between 1:00 and 1:15 for 3-6 year old camps; between 3:30 and 3:45 for 6-16 year old camps.
  • During Winter Break and Spring Break camps pick up is between 3:30 and 3:45 for all students.
  • Please read policy below about late pick-ups.
  • Due to COVID-19 restrictions we are unable to offer before-care or aftercare at any program while the pandemic is in effect.
  • Important – Parking at Mount Pisgah Arboretum and leaving your car unattended requires a parking pass. Since we now operate all drop-offs and pick-ups with COVID-19 safety guidelines, you may not find the need to exit your car. At each site we have designated drop-off and pick-up locations where you will bring your vehicle to a stop and wait for your child’s instructor to come to your vehicle and ask some COVID-19 health screening questions, take their temperature with a remote, non-touch, forehead thermometer, and if they pass they will then be asked to exit your vehicle wearing their face-covering and with their backpack to go join their group.
  • Directions to all of our locations are provided in your email and here.

Curriculum

Each of our camps focuses on one or more Learning Pathways, sometimes taught through an imaginative theme. Each pathway also includes different approaches to practicing Core Routines of Nature Connection, such as Sit Spot.

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

Hazards

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 the woods and how you can help your kids deal with them safely.

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.

Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a very mild climate and we are able to participate in outdoor activities year round. You can ensure that your child has a good time outdoors by coming to camp prepared for all likely weather conditions. In warm weather we recommend loose, breathable clothing as well as the use of a sun hat and/or sunscreen. Also, bringing enough water to drink is essential to staying healthy. We recommend carrying at least 1 liter of pure water (in addition to any juice or other sugary drinks) when at camp. There will be opportunities to refill your water bottle. In cold weather it is important to dress in layers. Try to avoid cotton clothing. Good quality rain gear, including waterproof boots, is a must for staying comfortable outside in the winter. Finally, in rare cases of extreme weather we do seek shelter indoors.

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.

Policies

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.

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.
If you ask to transfer to a different camp you may do so up to 15 days prior to the start of your camp. There will be a $25 fee per camp transferred. Less that 15 days before camp transfers will be subject to our cancelation policy below. All programs have a non-refundable, 25% deposit.

If you cancel, or ask to transfer to a different camp, for any reason:

  • Cancellations made at least 15 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a full refund, minus the 25% non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations/transfers made between 8 and 14 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a refund of 50% of the total camp tuition.
  • Cancellations/transfers made 7 days or less prior to the first day of camp, or after the start of a program, are not refundable.

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

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.

The safety of our students is paramount. If the parent or guardian picking up a child is visibly drunk, obviously under the influence of drugs which is impairing their safe behavior, or acting violently, we will refer to the following procedure:

  1. Ask the parent/guardian if there is anyone else available to pick up the child that day.
  2. Call all parent and emergency contact numbers provided in the student’s registration to attempt to find another person to pick up the child.
  3. If the parent/guardian insists on taking the child we will note a licence plate number and call 911.

If you are ill it is important that you stay home to rest and recover. It is important for the health of the sick child as well as the rest of our students that sick children stay home. If you were too sick to attend school you may not attend the Whole Earth Nature School Program that day. Please stay home if you are experiencing any combination of the following symptoms or conditions in the previous 24 hours:

  • Fever over 100 degrees taken under the arm (same as 101 oral)
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea (more than one incident in a day)
  • Severe cough
  • Unusual yellow color of skin or eyes
  • Head lice
  • Difficult breathing, or wheezing
  • Complaints of severe pain
  • Skin, eye lesions or rashes that are severe, weeping, or pus-filled 
  • Stiff neck and headache with one or more of the symptoms listed above.

Whole Earth Nature School encourages students to be outdoors and experience nature on their own terms. However, some extreme weather conditions make it hazardous to be outside. In general, we will follow the lead of the 4J School District with regard to “snow days”, other weather cancellations or delays, and holidays. If unanticipated extreme weather occurs while we are running a program we will retreat indoors for protection.

Weather FAQ: 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: That said, if 4J closes schools for a day, we will follow their guidance and cancel Coyote Kids, but we would let you know prior to Coyote Kids as 4J usually makes that determination by 7am the morning of.
  • Dressing for the weather: Please pack appropriate clothing for hiking in the rain and cold. For school students, you can borrow appropriate clothes from the school and return those at the end of the day. The only time I’ve had to call a parent to have them come during Coyote Kids was when a girl didn’t have appropriate shoes, her feet were already wet from recess, she was complaining of the cold, and she refused to use the rain boots the school has set aside for just those occasions.

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. Please review the guidelines in the link below before packing a knife for your Knife-Safety Certified student, and 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. Learn about our Knife Safety rules here.

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.

The foundation of the guidance and discipline policy at Whole Earth Nature School is to encourage positive behavior in the individual which will support a positive experience for everyone.

Whole Earth Nature School provides a supportive and nurturing environment where communication from each student is valued and encouraged. We create an environment where positive behavior is reinforced and where inappropriate behavior is not necessary. We remind students to use words to express what they want, what they need, and how they feel. We guide them to treat themselves and others with respect, and we facilitate verbal problem solving when students are in conflict.

We do reserve the right to remove kids from camp if their behavior endangers the physical or emotional safety of the other participants.

Please learn more about or Guidance and Discipline Policy by visiting our full Guidance and Discipline Policy page.

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, if we are currently teaching kids we may not be able to pick up immediately, 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 ContactUs@WholeEarth.org. We do our best to respond to you within one full business day.

Camp Little Bear

For the most part, Camp Little Bear runs just like any other summer day camp. However, Camp Little Bear also includes a one-night overnight on Thursday. We will be having a community potluck on that Thursday evening. Please come to our Thursday Potluck promptly by 6pm with a dish to share and plates/cups/utensils for your family. We will meet you at the drop-off/pick-up location and walk you out to the picnic location which is also next to a large fire pit (where, at the end of the potluck, we’ll say goodbye to you as the kids transition into our nighttime routine around the fire).

In addition to their usual day-camp items, they should also bring:

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Extra blankets if needed
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow
  • Sleeping clothes to stay warm during their night in the shelter they build
  • Stuffed Animal if needed
  • Toiletries (children will be encouraged to brush their teeth)
  • Personal Medications (to be given to acting camp medical director)

Reminder: Camp Little Bear ends at Noon on Friday.

 

Overnight Camps

How to Prepare

Click here for a printable packing list for all overnight camps

Please pack:

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Water Bottle (2 needed, but one will be given to you on camp arrival)
  • Toiletries (showers and bathrooms will be available)
  • Sunscreen
  • Personal Medications (to be given to camp medical director)
  • Day pack
  • Personal Snacks
  • Fixed blade knife (3-5 inch blade). (See About Knives)
  • Flashlight
  • And finally, clothing that can get dirty (earth tones preferred):
  • Long pants
  • Shorts
  • Swimsuit (please come wearing it under your clothes as we will have a water activity the day you arrive)
  • Hat
  • T-shirts
  • Socks (at least 1 pair wool)
  • Underwear
  • Warm jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Sunglasses
  • 2 pairs of shoes (one should be sandals or water shoes)
  • Bandana
  • Towel

Please leave at home:

  • Non-locking knives (i.e. Swiss army knives)
  • Electronics (iPod, DS, cell phone etc.) A dedicated camera is OK
  • Non-biodegradable soap or strong-scented cosmetics
  • Wristwatches
  • Lighters/Matches

Logistics

Sign in begins at 2pm on Sunday. Note that the driveway gate will be locked until 2pm. Please drive no faster than 20 mph on the gravel road to preserve the health and wellness of our human and natural neighbors. We will be wading in the creek as one of our first activities. Please come dressed in water shoes or sandals and wearing a swim suit or clothing that can get wet. 

Camp will end at 4pm Friday followed by a Camp Showcase. Your campers will be showing off some of the skills and activities they have been doing during the week. The Camp Showcase might go as late as 5pm. Even if you cannot attend the showcase, please pick up your child no later than 5pm on Friday. After 5pm our usual late pick up policy applies.

Program Locations:

A note about camp

Our overnight camp programs, are an opportunity for teens to connect deeply with their natural environment, develop team skills, and begin to become self-sufficient adults. Participants in this camp will be expected to make and keep a set of group agreements for the week regarding behavior toward each other and our environment. We encourage campers to bring whatever is necessary to stay safe and comfortable but please leave at home anything that will distract from your interaction with your peers and natural environment. We also recognize that when teens get together in a new environment, hormones are likely to run high. We will take necessary measures to keep campers safe and appropriate, such as separating sleeping quarters and having same-gender instructors available in all groups but we also expect campers to maintain our trust by making good choices for themselves. In case of an emergency: Cell service is limited at the camp. If you have a true emergency and you need to get a hold of us call 541-937-5437. We may not be able to answer right away, however we will be checking the phone for messages twice a day.

Hazards

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 the woods and how you can help your kids deal with them safely.

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.

Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a very mild climate and we are able to participate in outdoor activities year round. You can ensure that your child has a good time outdoors by coming to camp prepared for all likely weather conditions. In warm weather we recommend loose, breathable clothing as well as the use of a sun hat and/or sunscreen. Also, bringing enough water to drink is essential to staying healthy. We recommend carrying at least 1 liter of pure water (in addition to any juice or other sugary drinks) when at camp. There will be opportunities to refill your water bottle. In cold weather it is important to dress in layers. Try to avoid cotton clothing. Good quality rain gear, including waterproof boots, is a must for staying comfortable outside in the winter. Finally, in rare cases of extreme weather we do seek shelter indoors.

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.

Policies

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.

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.
If you ask to transfer to a different camp you may do so up to 15 days prior to the start of your camp. There will be a $25 fee per camp transferred. Less that 15 days before camp transfers will be subject to our cancelation policy below. All programs have a non-refundable, 25% deposit.

If you cancel, or ask to transfer to a different camp, for any reason:

  • Cancellations made at least 15 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a full refund, minus the 25% non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations/transfers made between 8 and 14 days prior to the first day of camp will receive a refund of 50% of the total camp tuition.
  • Cancellations/transfers made 7 days or less prior to the first day of camp, or after the start of a program, are not refundable.

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

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.

The safety of our students is paramount. If the parent or guardian picking up a child is visibly drunk, obviously under the influence of drugs which is impairing their safe behavior, or acting violently, we will refer to the following procedure:

  1. Ask the parent/guardian if there is anyone else available to pick up the child that day.
  2. Call all parent and emergency contact numbers provided in the student’s registration to attempt to find another person to pick up the child.
  3. If the parent/guardian insists on taking the child we will note a licence plate number and call 911.

If you are ill it is important that you stay home to rest and recover. It is important for the health of the sick child as well as the rest of our students that sick children stay home. If you were too sick to attend school you may not attend the Whole Earth Nature School Program that day. Please stay home if you are experiencing any combination of the following symptoms or conditions in the previous 24 hours:

  • Fever over 100 degrees taken under the arm (same as 101 oral)
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea (more than one incident in a day)
  • Severe cough
  • Unusual yellow color of skin or eyes
  • Head lice
  • Difficult breathing, or wheezing
  • Complaints of severe pain
  • Skin, eye lesions or rashes that are severe, weeping, or pus-filled 
  • Stiff neck and headache with one or more of the symptoms listed above.

Whole Earth Nature School encourages students to be outdoors and experience nature on their own terms. However, some extreme weather conditions make it hazardous to be outside. In general, we will follow the lead of the 4J School District with regard to “snow days”, other weather cancellations or delays, and holidays. If unanticipated extreme weather occurs while we are running a program we will retreat indoors for protection.

Weather FAQ: 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: That said, if 4J closes schools for a day, we will follow their guidance and cancel Coyote Kids, but we would let you know prior to Coyote Kids as 4J usually makes that determination by 7am the morning of.
  • Dressing for the weather: Please pack appropriate clothing for hiking in the rain and cold. For school students, you can borrow appropriate clothes from the school and return those at the end of the day. The only time I’ve had to call a parent to have them come during Coyote Kids was when a girl didn’t have appropriate shoes, her feet were already wet from recess, she was complaining of the cold, and she refused to use the rain boots the school has set aside for just those occasions.

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. Please review the guidelines in the link below before packing a knife for your Knife-Safety Certified student, and 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. Learn about our Knife Safety rules here.

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.

The foundation of the guidance and discipline policy at Whole Earth Nature School is to encourage positive behavior in the individual which will support a positive experience for everyone.

Whole Earth Nature School provides a supportive and nurturing environment where communication from each student is valued and encouraged. We create an environment where positive behavior is reinforced and where inappropriate behavior is not necessary. We remind students to use words to express what they want, what they need, and how they feel. We guide them to treat themselves and others with respect, and we facilitate verbal problem solving when students are in conflict.

We do reserve the right to remove kids from camp if their behavior endangers the physical or emotional safety of the other participants.

Please learn more about or Guidance and Discipline Policy by visiting our full Guidance and Discipline Policy page.

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, if we are currently teaching kids we may not be able to pick up immediately, 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 ContactUs@WholeEarth.org. We do our best to respond to you within one full business day.

Camp Little Bear

For the most part, Camp Little Bear runs just like any other summer day camp. However, Camp Little Bear also includes a one-night overnight on Thursday. We will be having a community potluck on that Thursday evening. Please come to our Thursday Potluck promptly by 6pm with a dish to share and plates/cups/utensils for your family. We will meet you at the drop-off/pick-up location and walk you out to the picnic location which is also next to a large fire pit (where we’ll say goodbye to you as the kids transition into the nighttime routine around the fire).

  • In addition to their usual day-camp items, they should also bring:

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Extra blankets if needed
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow
  • Sleeping clothes to stay warm during their night in the shelter they build
  • Stuffed Animal if needed
  • Toiletries (children will be encouraged to brush their teeth)
  • Personal Medications (to be given to acting camp medical director)

Reminder: Camp Little Bear ends at Noon on Friday.