April 5, 1999
Wilderness Awareness School teacher Walker Korby (right) shows students how to read tracks in the sand.
Photo by Audrey Mintz.
by Audrey Mintz, contributing writer
ALONG THE SKYKOMISH RIVER--They wander about in the wilderness, some barefoot, looking for tracks in the sand or gathering cedar shavings from an old stump. Others are inspecting an unidentified plant while more of the group are way ahead having spotted fresh black-tailed deer tracks.
This is the typical Friday for the Wilderness Awareness Community School, a homeschooling community started two years ago to develop the natural intelligence of teens and to connect them with the world around them.
"It's passion-driven learning," says Walker Korby, one of the six heads of the Wilderness Awareness School. As the students pull out their journals and tape measures in their excitement of finding fresh tracks and figuring out the story behind them, the school's learning style becomes apparent. What was it? How long ago was it here? Where were they going? And why? An entire story unfolds as the trackers use their senses, reasoning, and research ability to solve the mystery.
The Wilderness Awareness Community School, focusing specifically on teens, is only one area of the Wilderness Awareness School. People from all over the world study with the school through week-long intensive courses, correspondence courses, and summer programs.
"Fostering an understanding of our native environments, 'becoming native' is what the school teaches," Korby explains.
The training focuses on six core areas of study: learning basic hazards, the art of tracking, starting fires without matches, building shelters, learning medicinal and edible plants, and understanding the language of the birds--the alarm system of the forest.
The Wilderness Awareness School was founded by Jon Young in 1983 in New Jersey. The school moved to Duvall in 1995.
Inspired by his childhood training with Tom Brown, Jr., Young started a high school tracking club which eventually grew so large it became the national non-profit organization it is today. Drawing from native tradition worldwide, their unique mentoring style, and their community support are all used to develop the natural interests of the student.
Anyone interested is invited to call or stop by the school. Classes and activities open to the public include the Sunday Tracking Club, the Art of Mentoring series offered every Monday evening at the Stonehouse Bookstore in Redmond, various summer camps, the Kamana Naturalist Training Program correspondence course, and week-long intensive courses. To find out more, call 788-1301 or stop by their office on the bottom floor of the Whitfield Plaza building on Main Street in downtown Duvall.