Program Structure

Our course program is sequential.  Each course in a “Curriculum Strand” is designed to build upon a foundation of skills in the previous course in that strand.

Curriculum Strands at Maine Primitive Skills School are as follows:

Wilderness Survival Skills – Self Reliance – Awareness & Tracking – Scout skills – Herbalism – Health and Healing – Mentoring and Community Building – Sustainability –

Curriculum Strands

Our educational program has been developing for over twenty-five years. Our courses are thematic in content and overlapping in nature. Repetition in subject matter between courses is kept low (less than 10%). Each course is sequential in nature and designed as a cumulative “part of the whole” in the way of learning experiences. The result is that any combination of courses furthers the study, understanding, and depth of knowledge in each individual course with regard to content and context. This is a much different approach than assembling a collection of random skills and activities and calling it a course. More than being able to complete a bushcraft skill, you understand the context and proper application of each skill toward common results. These results are called “Benchmarks”. Benchmarks are used to develop knowledge, attitude, awareness, and physical skills into a cohesive program of studies.

 Rock tools to bow drill cordage to water containers must be learned before we can bring water to a boil.
Rock tools to bow drill cordage to water containers must be learned before we can bring water to a boil.

Our curriculum strands include:

  • Wilderness Survival Skills – Basic to Advanced Shelter Building, Water Gathering, Fire Making, and Sustenance Procurement.  Instructor level training is the focus in each  weekend and five day course.  Sequentially, the weekend courses begin with Backpackers Survival and move through the Earth Living Weekend Series.  The five day courses go in to greater depth and are far more experiential.  They are recommended for instructors, trainers, and outdoor professionals.  They begin with the “Outdoor Essentials” five day and End in the “Earth Living Intensive” series of courses.
  • Lisa Coray training before her appearance on "Naked and Afraid"
    Lisa Coray training before her appearance on “Naked and Afraid”
  • Self Reliance – Providing for the needs of self and others in our modern context with safety, simplicity, and effectiveness. This series begins with day workshops in a wide variety of skill sets couched in the other strands but useful to folks seeking a more independent lifestyle.  They include Wild Food Foraging, Blacksmithing, “Spirit of the Hunt”, and our Guerrilla Herbalism courses.  Because each person or family has such variety of needs, these courses are not sequential in nature.
  • Awareness & Tracking– Understanding how energy moves through systems throughout our ecology, modern as well as natural. Understanding the concept of “baseline” through tracking, animal and bird behavior, and larger ecological influences. Learning to interpret disturbances within the context of “baseline” to extract important information and gain deeper understanding of the environment being worked with. This strand includes aidless as well as modern navigation, Wildlife Tracking as well as Search and Rescue Tracking studies.  Native Awareness is presented as a sequence in the weekend as well as the five day versions.  Many folks continue from the native awareness series to the more esoteric Philosophy courses found in the Health and Healing curriculum strand.
  • Scout skills – Warrior ethics and skill sets are developed through mobile survival, adaptability, physical training, movement, self defense, invisibility, and service to others. It is recommended that a five day survival course or awareness course be taken before the Scout courses.
  • Dan Vitalis and Arthur Haines with digging stick during a foraging course.
    Dan Vitalis and Arthur Haines with digging stick during a foraging course.
  • Herbalism – The practice of wild crafting food, medicine, and useful tools in a responsible manner that promotes the health and diversity of the landscape; Aiding in the recovery of self, others, and the landscape through such practices.  These courses are sequential through the seasons.  We place each course on the calendar according to what is available and important regarding year round sustainable harvest of important plants, trees, shrubs, vines, and lianas.
  • Health and Healing– Reclaiming and maintaining our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health through regenerative experiences in the out of doors.  Accessing and utilizing cultural technologies found on every continent to recover a healthy sense of self and clarify ones own goals, processes, and objectives using these tools.  The movement course are designed to aid in recovery of damaged knees and backs as well as how to move through the landscape to get close enough to take a deer with a bow and arrows that you have crafted.  The sequence for these courses begins at your comfort level and works your edge depending upon your starting point.  Ungrounded right hemisphere folks tend to start with the philosophy and gravitate toward the “hard skills” while tactile learners and left brain dominant folks begin with movement and herbalism, moving toward the more intuitive edge of each discipline.
Future & present herbalists learn responsible foraging and preparation backyard plants for food and medicine.
Future & present herbalists learn responsible foraging and preparation backyard plants for food and medicine.
  • Mentoring and Community Building– Using forming edge educational and social research, hunter-gatherer methodologies and outdoor experiences to unlock exponential growth in skills development, knowledge base, understanding, context, application, and the development of mutually beneficial relationships to increase self reliance and nature centered resilient communities.  The premise of the school is to train skilled practitioners and leaders in their outdoor profession/practice.
  • All of our skills are shared with the expectation that you will be sharing them professionally.
    All of our skills are shared with the expectation that you will be sharing them professionally.
  • Sustainability- Conservation is one of many important tools.  As the only tool it promotes a condition of sustained shortage regarding wild places, healthy eco-systems, and productive and dynamic relationships with the landscape.  Rather than treating the outdoors as a museum piece, we recognize the inherent connection between the health of our soils, flora, fauna, and community our ecology supports.  While there is no such thing as “No Impact” with regard to our daily interaction with our environment, there is “pro-impact” strategies that have been used for countless generations to promote healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with the landscape and each of its elements.
  • Using Roadkill to Learn Hide Tanning and Butchering
    Using Roadkill to Learn Hide Tanning and Butchering

Philosophy

Drawing on the approaches in modern educational research and the educational paradigm of hunter-gatherer nomadic people through out recorded history, we’ve developed over twelve years worth of field courses, the following themes can be found in each of our overlapping curriculum strands and thus, set the tone for our day programs, weekend courses, five day experiences, and the apprenticeship.

Drawing on the approaches in modern educational research and the educational paradigm of hunter-gatherer nomadic people through out recorded history, we’ve developed over twelve years worth of field courses, the following themes can be found in each of our overlapping curriculum strands and thus, set the tone for our day programs, weekend courses, five day experiences, and the apprenticeship.

Quality education includes a thorough presentation, demonstration, hands on instructions and direct experience.
Quality education includes a thorough presentation, demonstration, hands on instructions and direct experience.
  1. Personal Skill Development – Hands on experience with guidance from experienced instructors is critical.  We learn best by doing. Too much emphasis in modern education is placed on audio-visual stimuli toward the theoretical and abstract.  Being far too sedentary and “mental”, this approach does not facilitate the full development of the person who would otherwise be engaged in meaningful activity.  We we favor a more experiential, hands-on approach that emphasizes being an active participant in the natural world with meaningful as well as measurable outcomes. Every course in each of the Curriculum Strands supports necessary skills for the professional outdoors person.

 

  1. Sustainable Practice -Students should expect that they will apply the course content learned at Maine Primitive Skills School toward daily living as well as expeditions through remote north woods regions as professional guides.  The direct experience of what you’re learning is made more vital by the need to accomplish specific tasks to live comfortably.   You will learn by living in the outdoors for extended periods of time.  Suffering is not a standard, it is sub-standard. The focus begins with effective survival, and quickly moves toward living with efficiency, ease, and the productivity that come with extensive experience.

 

  1. Apex Skill Sets – Tactile involvement in making the situation better for all involved is essential. Using your hands to build useful items from materials gathered on the landscape not only builds self reliance, it develops a deeper connection to your surroundings. Our species needs tools to live.  Pottery, Bow Making, Snow shoe making and building effective shelters from materials gathered from the landscape increases nature literacy and makes you self-reliant.
Before making an effective sapling bow with rock tools, a methodical approach to taking a deer with a self bow from a stave will teach you about the wood, the tools, and the tolerances to responsibly take a deer.
Before making an effective sapling bow with rock tools, a methodical approach to taking a deer with a self bow from a stave will teach you about the wood, the tools, and the tolerances to responsibly take a deer.
  1. Nature Awareness and Education – We understand and practice field meteorology, the different disciplines of tracking, botany and plant physiology through herbalism, fire making, foraging bushcraft, and the rest of the primitive skills field of study as a means of bringing individual skill sets, as well as personal and professional development to the next level.

 

  1. Mentoring and Community Building  – These disciplines engage the student in the productive interaction with the rest of humanity in the out of doors.  Camp hygiene, conflict resolution, and providing understandable and deliverable outcomes are some of the elements that could make or break an experience. Learn management and leadership skills crucial to the outdoor educator or professional guide ,as well as effective instructional strategies.
Sharing Skills with Dave Canterbury at the Pathfinder Gathering is a great way to foster growth between communities.
Sharing Skills with Dave Canterbury at the Pathfinder Gathering is a great way to foster growth between communities.
  1. Benchmarks Based In Experience – Without modern infrastructure life is different. Living a simple, efficient life with minimal supports presents predictable challenges. Personal and community hygiene practices hold greater importance. Composting all that rots in order to grow food is something that is put in to practice. You will learn and implement viable strategies for manifesting bounty as a result of your interactions with the natural world. Your benchmarks for success will include the fire you build to boil the water you needed to make the tannin wash for the hand sanitizing tub that you crafted from the pine bark you gathered.  Each benchmark is a measure of success toward a greater understanding of the needs of your being, the beings around you, and the long and short term needs of the landscape that supports you.

 

  1. Reclaiming and Maintaining Your Sacred Fire – Learn to identify your “edge” regarding specific needs, wants, and boundaries. It’s important to know exactly what you need to function well. How much sleep or water you need to operate at full capacity?  How much of a bed do you need to make in order to sleep well? Know yourself and what you need to do to keep alert, healthy, and well. The only way to learn it is to live it intentionally
  2. Seasonal and Multi Generational “Caretaker Attitude”– This takes the term, “leave it better than you found it” to the extreme.  We practice permaculture concepts in our gardens and in our wooded areas because they are one in the same.  A hunter-gatherer is a gardener. We cultivate and harvest roots, shoots, leaves, tubers, berries, fruits, nuts, meat, and soils. We balance populations, increase diversity, and are invested in the health of the landscape we participate in, from the soils to the apex predators.

 

“All living things have a desire to be appreciated and needed”

 

Peace Maker Principles

We come to these skills through long lineages of dedicated teachers from our collective ancestry.  We share skills with powerful tools at our disposal. Used recklessly, or in ignorance these tools can destroy and imprison as profoundly as they can free and heal.  In the interest of healing grief and finding answers in the context of the modern world we honor those who have gone before.   We don’t proclaim any tribal affiliations accept to be the best human beings we can and work authentically to leave bounty in our wake.  This holds true for ourselves, our families, and our communities, to include the Earth and the soil we work.  We recognize that some folks don’t even have that, and so we are grateful to be able to share these things.  We believe grief can be worked through, and that it is an individuals choice and a communities responsibility to tend to these things toward the best outcomes possible.

Master Maine Guide and Bushcraft Mentor Ray Rietze shares Survival Skills with apprentices and instructors.
Master Maine Guide and Bushcraft Mentor Ray Rietze shares Survival Skills with apprentices and instructors.

Place of Peace: Before sharing anything important, we must be in a state of calm thoughtfulness. Anger, worry, and grief must be cleansed or removed from within before sharing skills with students. This can be done through ceremony, meditation, and grief technologies. During a class it may be necessary to step away from a situation to be able to re-center and re-acquire a quiet mind.

Good Message: We must recognize that the skills we teach are a physical representation of the collective consciousness of our ancestors. Our words and actions must be sacred and healing. Our presence should nurture and encourage community, safety, and passion. We are the role models upon which students will re-pattern themselves. We are spiritual warriors and healers of the heart.

Unity: Everything is connected. We respect the smallest blade of grass as we do the most revered elders because we realize that everything is a thread in the ever-changing fabric of life. To put this concept to work we must have Unity of Mind- meaning that we lock arms in agreement, ever striving for the strength of mutual understanding.