A few words about the Maine Primitive Skills School…….


I have been working with the Maine Primitive Skills School, on a personal level and with high school students, for the past 5 years.  This has been an extremely valuable experience.  In addition to the skills learned, my experience at MPSS has taught me about myself and how to better interact with and teach others.


At the end of an MPSS class I am always amazed at how much I have learned.  In addition to the notebook half filled with diagrams, notes, and reflections, I also walk away with hours of skill practice.  It is the guided experience that is so valuable in mastering the nuances of the task at hand.  Somehow most of this is done at an individual pace.  I have seen the instructors work with numerous different classes of students, from the second grade through seniors in high school.  They seem to have a knack for evaluating a group and providing exactly what the students need.  This isn’t some special power they have, it is a skill that all of us can learn.


As beneficial as the skills are, I don’t think this is the most important thing to learn at the Maine Primitive Skills School. The skills are just a conduit to learning about yourself.  What does it mean to be a whole human being?  What is the key to being a happy individual?  There is no secret ceremony and it takes a lot of work, but Mike Douglas can point you in the right direction, open the door for you, and send you on your way.  A quick scan of the news, facebook, or reality TV seems to indicate that we thrive on conflict. It is no wonder many of today’s young people know no other way.  The MPSS staff infuses tools of perspective, such as the thanksgiving address and good message, into the lessons to help the students increase their social and emotional awareness.    DSCN2565

Finally I want to discuss how MPSS works with children.  As the father of two boys I know how powerful the pull of electronics is.  Video games, videos, and texting just seem to take over.  Our schools can even encourage this under to veil of “technology”.  The truth is that technology will be important to the future lives of today’s youth, but there has to be a balance.  I have been a teacher for 17 years and it seems as if outdoor education is becoming a thing of the past. Even in their free time, kids are less likely to go outside and play.  Fortunately there is hope.  The MPSS staff has worked with my high school classes as well as several classes from our local elementary schools.  This is amazing to watch.  As students begin the outdoor activity, they get pulled in.  Dormant senses are reengaged as the group becomes energized.  Even the few students that are often unenthused or distracted find something to get excited about.   The teachers that have not seen this before are often amazed.  Parents have asked me what we did because their son or daughter has come home excited about what they did and learned in the woods.  I wish we could implement this level of excitement into all of our classes.  It is a great mechanism for learning, and the MPSS staff does it well.




Allan Garvin

Science Teacher

Green Mountain Union High School

Chester, VT