“Natural play strengthens children’s self-confidence and arouses their senses—their awareness of the world and all that moves in it, seen and unseen.” – Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Welcome to Nature Immersion! Nature Immersion is a weekly outdoor program for children ages 5 to 11 that runs from September 7th to June 7th. Each Friday, children spend the day at a natural greenspace in the Portland area. The day is filled with engagement in the natural world and social interaction between peers and skilled mentors of nature and ancestral skills. Because the program is on a “school day” (Friday), it is mostly a homeschool supplemental program.
Nature Immersion Details
What We Do
Our educational philosophy can be distilled into five words:
Play together in nature regularly.
We create an “invisible” curriculum using the Waldorf Educational philosophy in combination with Jon Young’s 8 Shields model for nature connection. We focus on engagement with the natural world through handwork, journaling, and mostly play.
Through self-directed play, children engage with the natural world on their own terms. This is important for them to have an authentic connection to nature; true connection comes from within oneself and not imposed from a teacher. Our skilled mentors keep children safe, cooperative, and create opportunities that appear spontaneous and random to students. We determine how to meet the children where they are and engage them in activities without overtly directing them.
The 8 Shields model of coyote mentoring is inspired by hunter-gatherer cultures from around the world, where humans live immersed in nature, and have a deep connection to their place without anything that looks like a school or formal education. In these cultures people are knowledgeable about their place, skilled in the activities of daily life, and deeply connected to one another. Prior to industrialization, this is how most humans were educated. We believe this method to be necessary for holistic human learning. This should be a part of every child’s development.
In the modern world, children and parents alike have been taught to conflate “learning” solely with didactic education of a teacher “teaching.” This means that unless a student is being talked to, given an obvious lesson, they will not perceive their own activities (or those orchestrated by skilled mentors) as “learning.” In this model, it’s common for a child to say or think, “I didn’t learn anything.” This is why coyote mentoring is also known as “invisible education.”
Initially children who are unfamiliar with this model, or who have been part of programs that are full of structure and busy work, may find themselves feeling bored. From our perspective, when a child says “I’m bored” what they are really saying is “Please entertain me.” Studies show that children need to be bored in order for their own creativity to blossom. Put another way, if children are constantly entertained (by television, video games, parents, babysitters, school teachers, soccer coaches, etc.) they never have time for their own mind and creativity to develop. Boredom is not something we “fix,” but rather something we foster. We trust that children will be able to move through their boredom and experience the joy of finding their muse.
We do have more obvious directed play, such as icebreakers, and structured time for things like stories, lunch, specific skill activities (such as knife work, knot tying, etc.). The day is more about flow than structure. Times change and the activities ebb and flow with the energy and direction of the group.
Our program meets most Fridays, 9:30 am to 3:00 pm, from September 7 through June 7. Meeting on a regular basis is the main point of the program. Our summer camps are a fantastic introduction to being in nature. This program takes the same inspiration of the camp experience and makes it a regular event. Nature Immersion is a long-term mentoring program, meant to regularly get children experiencing the elements, other-than-human animals, and plants, and to experiment in these wild spaces.
Where We Meet
We meet at the Children’s Arboretum in Portland, OR, with a few field trips to different locations throughout the year. Drop off & pick up is at the Children’s Arboretum or the selected field trip location. We grow our roots in the same location throughout the year. This way, children and families get to experience the transformation of an ecosystem through the seasons. This also allows us the opportunity to spend time stewarding this greenspace, and seeing the positive impacts that tending the wild can have. During the coldest, wintery months (Jan/Feb), we may take shelter inside and do more indoor nature-based activities like crafting with nature materials that we collect in the fall for part of the day or most of the day (depending on the severity of the weather).
Who We Are
Johnny Spathas has worked with Rewild Portland for many years in various capacities from instructor at our Day of Rewilding program to the head of the kitchen at Echoes in Time. Originally from the Portland area, Johnny grew up camping and spending lots of time in nature. He is an amazing teacher and a skilled outdoorsman. He has been a substitute for Nature Immersion and this is his first year as a full-time Nature Immersion instructor.
Chloe Hight grew up along the Columbia River in Hood River, Oregon and spent her childhood hiking, camping, and playing between a lush rainforest and an arid desert. After graduating with a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, Chloë returned to Oregon and began working as a teaching artist and environmental educator in K-8 schools, after school programs, summer camps and Rewild Portland’s Echoes in Time gathering. Chloë practices and teaches a number of skills including, sewing, weaving, basketry, plant dyeing, natural fiber processing, paper making, and much more. This is Chloë’s first year as an instructor for Rewild’s Nature Immersion Program and she is excited to deepen her connection to the Rewild community continue to explore avenues of place-based learning and skills sharing.
Ivy Stovall delights in the abundance, patterns, and chaos of the natural world and of humanity. So it makes sense that three years into a Biology degree, she flipped majors and earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Humanities at the University of West Florida. Her broad education prepared her perfectly for her work in outdoor education, which she began as a 4H camp naturalist, teaching outdoor skills and elementary and middle school science curriculum in the field. Since then she has taught high and low ropes challenge courses, ESL at all grade levels, and developed a North Portland homeschool co-op and independent art, adventure, and theater camps for kids in her community. These days she lives and works at The MudHut Kulturhaus, her St. Johns urban permaculture homestead, where she shares her enthusiasm for outdoor living and hosts camps, workshops, skillshares, music and theater, women’s groups, and community celebrations and ritual. She likes to always be harvesting and keeps her hands busy making herbal medicines, homebrews and fermentations, botanical inks, dyes and pigments, wild foods, basketry, and natural building. Always a student and always a teacher, Ivy enjoys contributing to and learning from the passionate people of the Rewild Portland community. Many Rewild kids have learned fire and knife skills around The MudHut fire pit and know Ivy as the Echoes in Time kids’ camp coordinator. Ivy loves the creativity, curiosity, and wildness of young people and is dedicated to the work of building healthy intergenerational communities connected to and through the natural world.
Social Guidelines and Policies
Rewild Portland believes that blanket policies regarding behavior for children of different ages and backgrounds results in lost learning experiences. Instead we use developmentally appropriate guidelines and processes based on the needs of both the group as a whole and individuals in order to maintain social cohesion and safety. Every potential family should download and read our guidelines before enrolling in the program. Download it here.
Tuition: $2,000 for the year all at once or spread out over 10 auto-payments of $200 a month. Families who join during the year receive pro-rated tuition based on the number of days remaining in a program year.
1) Monthly automatic payments of $200 for 10 months (Sept-June).*
2) Pay $2,000 in full upfront.*
*Cancellation & Refund Policy: No refund within 60 Days of programming due to cancellation. This gives us adequate time to fill the open space.
How to Join Us Outdoors
Check for availability of space throughout the year. Sometimes spaces open up, allowing us to accept more students.
Join our Waitlist
Check out other homeschooling programs around the country here.