Nature Academy

Annual Nature Programs for Ages 12-19

These people have learned not from books, but in the fields, in the wood, on the river bank. Their teachers have been the birds themselves, when they sang to them, the sun when it left a glow of crimson behind it at setting, the very trees, and wild herbs.
— Anton Chekhov

At Nature Academy, we don’t learn about nature, we learn from and with nature.  We immerse ourselves, recognize complex patterns and systems, and merge with a familiar rhythm and flow.  We have a full-bodied experience of the elements and achieve a greater sense of well-being.

Nature Academy Info:

Days:               Mon - Fri or Tue/ Thu/Fri

Date:               Sep 5, 2017 - Jun 13, 2018 

Time:              9 a.m. - 3 p.m. (3:30 on M/F)

Tuition*:      $8,750 (5-Days)or $5,900  (3-Days)

Mentors:      Grant Chase, Laura Creps, Elliott Johnson,  Lindsey Mitchell, Susan Pendergast

Location:    Laguna Lake Park

Ages:            12 - 19 (other ages with mentor approval)

*Annual enrollment is required.  Monthly payment plans are available.

Includes Autumn 4-day camping trip and Winter week-long backpacking adventures.




Nature Academy was born out of the natural adolescent longing of our founding teens to spend more time challenging perceived limits with friends. Today’s Nature Academy teens spend their weekdays both learning through direct experiences in the wild and exploring related academics in classroom settings.

To grow our program for teens, we looked once again to earth-based cultures of the world, where whole communities raise up their young ones together. Our experienced naturalist and academic mentors bring together  Coyote (Nature) Mentoring practices; the 8 Shields Cultural Mentoring Model developed by author, naturalist, and anthropologist Jon Young; tracking and scout skills taught by master tracker Tom Brown, Jr.; the compelling work of author  Richard Louv; their unique gifts; and more when planning an inspiring week of interconnected learning experiences for teens.



A week in the life of a Nature Academy student…

At the heart of Nature Connection Education is time spent on the land having extended and consistent interactions with the natural world. We consider nature to be our primary instructor. Experienced naturalist mentors facilitate our encounters with the elements, plants and mammals, birds and insects, mountains, meadows, and seasides. It’s full bodied, direct experience learning.

Wandering day…Timeless Wandering is a Core Routine of Nature Connection, along with Sit Spot, Bird Language, Animal Forms and Tracking, Mapping, Storytelling, Sensory Awareness Games, Survival Living, Journaling, Sharing Gratitude, Using Field Guides, and more. We caravan from Laguna Lake Park in SLO in our trusty vans, Creeper and Nuthatch, to practice these Core Routines on treks in wilderness settings throughout SLO County. Deep nature connection takes people toward an authentic relationship with self, all life forms, and the land.

Kamana, Gardening, and Hard Skills day…Our programs are emergent, new learning opportunities spring out of past experiences and our growing level of mastery together. This year, those who feel ready are studying Kamana 1.  This structured self study program for learning the language of nature was written by one of the heroes of the nature connection movement and master mentor for nature connection programs worldwide, Jon Young. 
On this day, we also focus attention on “Hard Skills,“ which our mentors define as processes that use natural materials to create products that support life.  Examples are:

Making fire by friction with a hand or bow drill
Crafting fire kits
Cooking over a fire/primitive stoves
Growing Food
Seeding for future crafting
Wild harvesting
Making medicines/teas
Preserving Food

Making cordage
Making tools
Knife skills
Carving and burning
Camo clothing . natural dyes
Making and using bows and arrows
Hunting and Fishing and Trapping

Shelter building
Building with cob
Soap making
Basket Weaving
Forming and firing pottery
Making instruments
Knitting and Sewing
Making Shoes

As we master these ancestral arts and indigenous skills, we exercise strength, confidence, resourcefulness, and creativity.

Practical Arts Day, guided by master artisansWe are always expanding our learning community to include those who have mastered a craft and are willing to pass forward their knowledge and skill to the next generation. This year we are working with food growing; primitive cooking techniques ( using open fires, grills, rocket stoves, pit fires, camp stoves); Raku, kiln, and pit-fired  pottery; natural plant dying; carving; and more. We travel to various studios and outdoor locations for these sessions where beauty and utility meet.

Learning Practical Arts brings us into a more grounded knowing of what it takes to support a healthful daily life. We become more mindful and  innovative.    

Merging the Inner and Outer Landscapes…Two days each week we come together in our classroom space in Morro Bay to integrate what we engaged with on the land. We read books, short stories and poetry about nature, heroic quests, and survival. We write journal entries, essays, reflections, interpretations, short stories, poems, and blog posts. We paint and craft to illustrate what we are learning. We delve into current events and take on social justice issues. We expand our understanding through the study of historical and multicultural perspectives. Mathematics takes on new meaning as we look for geometric patterns in nature and engage in purposeful problem solving. And more…

5-Day Nature Academy Students:

Outside Now is a partner program with Global Village School in Ojai, CA for Middle and High School. As our school of record, GVS provides the opportunity for Nature Academy students to earn a HS diploma, if they choose. We work together to develop course content that relates to our experiences in Nature. Some students combine Cuesta Community College classes and individual apprenticeships with Nature Academy studies to meet graduation requirements.

3-Day Nature Academy Students:

Some Nature Academy students attend only our three outdoor days ( Wander Day, Kamana/Hard Skills Day, and Practical Arts) and pursue more traditional academic study via local Charter Schools such as Trivium, Family Partnerships, and Inspire. Outside Now is an Inspire Homeschool Charter vendor.

Please click below to download the application. Once completed, please scan and email the completed application to