By Lena Wilson
Many potent life lessons come through interaction with young people in our lives. By making an effort to pay closer attention and ask questions we’re reminded, though we didn’t know we had forgotten, how to play and act in the moment. Though the children certainly don’t intend to influence thought or create change, by observing their growth one can be transformed, just as poor soil can be aided to become a rich humus. This experience of becoming more like a child feels like remembering and seems to be as vast a reservoir for exploration as life itself.
How can we set up the learning stage so that we can learn from our children? How can we give them room and nourishment to grow? An active example of experience-based nature education in our area is the Human Nature School in Traverse City, Michigan. The Human Nature School was founded by Matt Miller and Kriya Townsend, who modeled their school and programs after their two years of experience at the Wilderness Awareness School (WAS) in Washington State. Jon Young, the founder of WAS, began his nature programming on the East Coast but moved to Washington, where nature connection programming was flourishing. Matt and Kriya have been running programs in Michigan for almost three years. The school has an office in Building 50 in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Many of their programs are held in the parkland surrounding the Village.
The heart of the Human Nature School is the home-school youth program that runs year round. The kids in the youth program are ages 6 to 13, and a pre-K group meets for ages 4 and 5. During each class, the group shares in a circle: stories, gratitude, dance moves, take-home challenges, etc. They practice making one-match fires, learning about bow drill fire technique, animal tracking, shelter making, and working with knives. Days are often spent focusing on learning about the flora and fauna of our area. The kids and instructors really enjoy playing games that focus on awareness, tactics, and animal forms. They journal, sing songs, and get dirty. All around, days at the Human Nature School are jam packed with fun. On most class days the students have a chance to explore nature on their own, something that is, surprisingly, a rare thing for many of them. What a pleasure it is to see the eyes of youth shine.
The Human Nature School is funded by donations, student tuition, and small occasional fundraisers like a Barn Dance and a concert by Joe Reilly. Student tuition is only $5 an hour, with sibling discounts and need-based scholarships covering up to 100% of a student’s tuition. The school is greatly supported by its enthusiastic community. It’s a new school—a shiny new, lime green sprout.
I’ve been volunteering with the school since September 2011 and have come to love this community and the kids. As a gift for the school I’ve drawn designs for three nature T-shirts and created a fundraiser campaign to print the shirts for the students and school inventory. The success of this project also supports me, Lena Wilson, as a young artist. My artwork will be seen and appreciated by many people if printed on shirts, and this will serve as a great portfolio project. After the shirts are paid for, 8% of the goal amount is budgeted to pay myself for the designs and the many hours I’ve put into promotion and the project webpage. All the income generated from future shirt sales will go directly to the school.
May 16 is the last day of the fundraising drive to fund the shirts on Kickstarter. Please consider checking out my personal website, www.lenamaude.com, where you can find information on the Human Nature School T-shirt fundraiser, or go directly to the campaign’s webpage at http://kck.st/Z004Ap. Call (231) 740-3469 or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or if you wish to contribute and do not want to use the internet. Ψ