Nature and Wilderness Pedagogy #1

In the following year I will write about my experience of my training to become a nature- and wilderness pedagogue. Sometimes the focus will be on reflection, sometimes the focus will be on activities we do.




Why Nature and Wilderness Pedagogy?

For a long time I wanted to take a course to become a herb pedagogue but I found it wasn’t comprehensive enough. Also, the high costs and later living abroad kept me from doing it.


Last year, when I came back to Germany and stranded in bleak Kiel, I had two thoughts that were decisive for my decision to become a Nature and Wilderness Pedagogue:

  1. (Re-) connect with (mostly unaffected) nature
  2. Eventually do (also professionally) what I am interested in most – no matter what cost or time effort


What is Wilderness Pedagogy?

 „The main focus of wild education is to reopen access to nature. An overarching goal is the promotion of mindfulness towards life, an understanding of the complex relationships in the ecological systems and the development of a bond between man and nature, but also between man and man.” (source: Wikipedia)


I googled for companies and decided to take the training at “Wildniswandern”.

In the coming year there will be six blocks (3-4 days each) and we will learn about topics like


“Making fire without matches, natural shelter; find, assess and filter water; natural hazards; perception exercises and creep up games; introduction to the philosophy of nature; lifestyles of birds; the five call types of birds; determining, collecting and preparing edible wild plants; orientation without map and compass; trees as mentors; coyote teaching and the art of asking; stages of creative learning; ecological perception; the life of mammals in the snow; read tracks; hunting ethics … “(source: Wildniswandern)


More information (only in German):


Thoughts before the first wilderness weekend…

What will I have to deal with? What kind of people will be there? What do they expect from me? Do I have to have some basic knowledge?


Will it be like at the workshop with the Mudgirls?

No shower? No electricity? Freezing cold at night?


There’s (almost) nothing worse than freezing at night and not being able to sleep because of the cold. So I was prepared, brought two extra blankets and my hot water bottle (which really kept me warm while others complained about the cold).

But my worries were unreasonable. We had electricity, warm water and even a kitchen with a fridge and a stove!


Identifying knowledge gaps

When gathering material for starting a fire I recognized how little I know about plants. What kind of bark, blossom, brushwood is good for starting a fire? How does a spruce, lark or yew look like? I should know that because yew is toxic. I also recognized that my knife is not very good for woodcarving.


When building a leaves hut we had to build the entrance towards East. Where is East? Where did the sun rise this morning, where did the sun set yesterday?


Ápropos leaves hut…we should do what? Build a LEAVES HUT alone (it took us almost two hours with eight people to build one), SLEEP THREE NIGHTS ALONE IN IT and write about our experience?


A slight feeling of panic overcame me. Me, alone in a forest that is full of wild boars, foxes and other predators. I already saw a puffing head of a wild boar in front of my inner eyes while I was lying immobile (because only then the leaves hut is built the right way) and not being able to run away…


What about ticks? They are everywhere!

And then there is my fear of darkness.


Fears I will have to deal with in the following months.


The first day after…

As I’m standing at my wardrobe I realize that I am thinking about what kind of warm clothes I need to wear. “This fabric will never keep me warm”, I’m thinking.


The first sneezes attack me. “Damn it, that’s because of our creeping up exercises at 9:30pm, at 2C°…barefoot.”

My feet froze to death. It’s been so cold.

The next few days I lie in bed with a massive sinusitis. I know that I will buy soft ballet shoes (yes, you’re reading right, SOFT BALLETT SHOES). The soft leather sole and black color are perfect for stalking.


I also know that my body has to get used to be outdoors for a long time (4 days in a row, 24 hours), no matter what temperature.


In the supermarket I glance at herbs of every kind. In the morning we used to burn herbs at the bonfire. We burnt them in two wonderful Paua-shells (I knew that kind from New Zealand). I was proud that I for once knew the name of something.

I buy sage, thyme and rosemary and hang them up in my bedroom for drying. And I hope that they spread a little bit of their scent that would remind me of the last weekend.


The need to be outside leads me to the woods in my neighborhood, it is full of walkers and joggers. No undisturbed silence but I haven’t expected anything else.


I fill my bag with treasures from the forest. Dry, crackling leaves; a grey, heavy rock in a triangle shape, partially rugged, partially smooth; a dark grey feather, I don’t know what bird it belongs to; some spiky shells, I don’t know what tree they came from, I have to look it up; dry bark decorated with some green stains.


While I’m writing these words I try to remember what is on my forest tray. Only when I don’t remember what’s on there, I have a look what my forest treasures look like.

That reminds me of the drawing exercise we did on day one. “Incredible how some things easily stick in my mind”, I wonder.


But the very next moment I realize that

everything we learned last weekend

matched exactly my learning type:

First practice then theory;

learing-by-doing; visualize;

internalize; learning by experience.


I love it because it’s so different from what and how I had to learn in school.


Learning motivation: Curiosity and knowledge gap

Although our teachers gave us assignments (train perception and awareness) we have to do until our next weekend in June, I wanted to set my own exercises driven by curiosity and a gap of knowledge.


So far I didn’t know what to focus on. What plants and animals should I know? What do I have to know about wood to carve a Bowdrill Fire Kit or a wooding spoon? What kind of wood is soft? Which one is hard? That’s why I set myself some research assignments: Learn about trees step by step (yew, alder, spruce, fir, tree of life, elder, willow tree, lark).


On our next weekend we will learn about birds and their language. I have no clue about birds. And because I don’t want to be there (again) completely unknowing, I want to do some research about this topic.


Before the first wilderness weekend I already had read a bit about the history of wilderness awareness schools in Young’s, Haas’ and McGown’s “Coyote Guide” but stories at the bonfire raised more questions:

How did Stalking Wolf share his knowledge with Tom Brown? How did “learning” take place? How can I use the medicine wheel? What other traditions and philosophies of First Nations are there?


Question over question remain after the first weekend and I feel good with that.

My hunger for learning awoke,

the warming fire inside my soul burns again

and I know for sure that I’m on the right path.



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