Our Vision

Our goal is to carry forward an old vision, one of reconnecting people to the land. We share skills that inspire humility, self confidence and personal growth through hands-on experience, and which foster a contented & meaningful life-way that is shared between all place-based cultures. Our vision is to have a world for the next generations with, in the words of Tom Brown Jr., a ‘medicine person on every street corner’.

We hope to share earthskills passed down with loving discernment by all of our ancestors, skills which have a round-about way of creating community leaders and, what Lakota elder Gilbert Walking Bull may have called whole human-beings; people who serve as an example for our little ones who look with wide eyes to find deeply connected role models and mentors.

It is our belief that by training nature literate and self-reliant people, we can proactively develop mutually beneficial relationships with and between humans, soils, water, plants, animals and fungi for the purpose of developing healthy individuals, communities and landscapes for many generations to come.

MPSS Mission Statement

The Mission of the Maine Primitive Skills School is to provide professional outdoor instruction to novices and professionals alike. Our mission is carried forward from seven generations of lineage to the next generations of stewards and caretakers of the Earth.

Educational Strategies

We share skills in many topics underneath the umbrella of ‘outdoor skills’, such as Wilderness Survival, Tracking, Awareness, Fieldcraft (bushcraft), Mentoring, and other ancient skills specifically for the context of our modern world. As stated in our mission, we aim to promote self-reliance, community resiliency, and nature literacy through a deep connection with the landscape. The staff and community at MPSS are committed to best practices in both modern and ancestral educational models to facilitate growth; our overall strategy draws from the “Invisible School” or “8 Directions Model“.

Using strategies from the 8 Shields Institute, as well as MPSS founder Mike Douglas’ 30+ years of experience in mentoring and environmental education settings, we draw on a broad set of tools in our programs, including:

  • We prioritize learning that is clearly felt and experienced, so whether you’re troubleshooting a bow drill kit or playing a stalking game, we are able to give the right amount input and support to allow students to learn directly from the landscape.

  • Storytelling and journalling solidify the lessons you’ve learned, and they are as simple as sharing your personal experience and/or reflections with someone (or a notebook!) who is eager to listen. Without the chance to tell your story or journal, insights gained can quickly fade.

  • Gratitude creates a resilience and happiness in many aspect of people’s lives; when we prioritize it in a learning environment, we can allow everybody to feel understood so that students and staff both gain a better understanding of students’ “edges”.

  • The Art of Questioning is similar to coyote mentoring in it’s simplicity; a mentor who is teaching in this style needs to distill what exactly their goal is for a student (more often than not, it isn’t about getting the right answer). How can you ask questions that allow the student to find the tools they need to achieve this?

  • Coyote Mentoring is a methodical and understated teaching system that we use as frequently as possible. As opposed to long lectures and didactics, this style calls on a mentor to constantly ask “how can I best inspire powerful curiosity and liveliness with this person?”. This is a core element of 8 Shields based mentoring programs around the world.

  • Challenge by choice, the option for people to test their skill in a fun and relatively safe environment, is a highlight to many of our courses which can allow students to see where they may want to improve, but without any unwanted judgement.

  • From bird activity maps to detailed debris hut diagrams, we frequently make use of the familiar lecture and note-taking format that most students expect from an educational setting. Combined in short duration with coyote mentoring or the art of questioning, it is especially helpful for ensuring students have some references for practicing skills on their own!

Our educational strategies also take inspiration from the five dominant theories of learning in modern psychology, which includes:

  • We share skills through explanation and demonstration (Cognitivism)
  • Guide students through the skill via hands on practice (Behaviorism)
  • After the skill is aptly demonstrated at the emergent level, we bring the students to an off site location and have them share how they would apply their new skill (Constructivism)
  • Next, the students apply their skill as a needed element in a sequence of skill development (Experimentalism)
  • Once the student has integrated the skill into their routine we then encourage the student to share the skill with others (Social and Contextual Learning).
In addressing individual learning styles, we identify individual strengths and challenge areas with a focus on encouraging growth in a safe and effective manner. One of the many tools we rely on is Gardners Multiple Intelligences Theory. By including elements of each “Intelligence” into our programs, we experience a high degree of challenge as well as success in the skills that we share.

Staff & Instructors

Michael Douglas

Founder & Programs Director

Michael Douglas is a Registered Maine Guide.  His passion for nature, awareness, tracking, primitive skills, and philosophy has taken him around the globe in search of teachers and opportunities to learn new skills; this passion has also earned him a unique reputation in the scouting community and among professional educators. He is a former student of Paul Rezendes, Tom Brown Jr., Jon Young, and many others. After pursuing survival skills as a U.S Marine, he started his own Survival School in 1989 at the University of Maine.  In 1993 he was the recipient of the Marion Rich Waterman Mayer Award from the University of Maine College of Education.  Since then he has been a consultant for Discovery Channel’s “Dual Survivor” and was featured on National Geographics’ “Doomsday Preppers”, where he received the highest “Survivability Score” of the shows first season.

He has also coached reality television participants on Naked and Afraid and has been a mentor to college students, professors, professional educators, Eagle Scouts, and television personalities. His apprenticeship program is internationally known, offering participants from all over the world immersion in Tracking, Survival, Awareness, Bow Making, Wild Edibles, Medicinal Plants, Hunting, Trapping, and much more.  August 2023 marked this school’s 34th year of sharing skills with people globally. Mike credits his patient wife Karen and his children, Ryan, Dakota, and Emily, with their love and support in helping him realize his lifelong dream – teaching outdoor skills to all levels from beginners to masters of the craft.

Owen Doll

Residential Instructor

From the age of eight years old and onward, Owen was mentored in an Eight Shields summer camp program at the Piedmont Wildlife Center in North Carolina. His passion for leatherworking, basket making, friction fire and plant studies compelled him to become both a student and instructor of each craft. His journey of sharing these skills began at fourteen years old.

As a teenager, Owen chose to be home/un-schooled in order to focus on primitive skills and outdoor education, spending two years living in primitive shelters during that time. He studied with Natalie Bogwalker at Wild Abundance, apprenticed with herbalist Will Endres in Hillsborough NC, and attended a variety of earthskills gatherings across the Southeast. He attended his first seasonal Wilderness Immersion here at MPSS in July of 2020, eventually completing all four of our seasonal apprenticeship sessions. Owen presents with over ten years of earthskills experience and possess a high degree of focus and attention to detail.  This will be his 5th winter living in a primitive shelter, and third winter doing so in Maine. He is currently drawn to primitive shelter building, hide tanning, pottery, bicycle touring, and continuing his pursuit of year round foraging.

Lou Falank

Foundations of Survival Class Instructor & Custom Off-Site Programs

Lou Falank is a professional outdoor educator and Registered Maine Guide. He is a certified volunteer instructor for Maine’s hunter, bow hunter, and ATV safety courses and is an examiner for the Junior Maine Guide Program. He spent 6 seasons with the Maine Conservation School in Bryant Pond planning and facilitating diverse outdoor programs for children, adults, and educators alike. Lou has been providing instructional support for the BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman) workshops here in Maine for over eight years, and his primitive skills programs have been a popular attraction each time.

Lou enjoys bringing folks in depth with each of the skills presented at his workshops through the years as the Founder and Head Instructor at Mountain Bear Programs. He has been with MPSS for more than a decade and has also run after-school programs teaching wildlife lessons, nature observation, and survival skills for students K-5. Lou currently resides in Farmingdale Maine, supporting his family with his homestead, Sunshine Acres Homestead, along with his wife Carolyn. He currently runs our Foundations of Survival courses.

Ray Reitze

Master Maine Guide, Guest Instructor, & Elder

Ray is a Master Maine Guide known for his spiritually based teachings. For over forty years Ray has helped folks of all experience levels sharpen their ability to see the world and to hone outdoor skills that help guide one through life. Ray teaches snow shoe making, winter skills, and many other skills that will get you through the bush in comfort and for long periods of time. Through meditation, observation, discussion and Ray’s humorous stories we come to understand the source of our troubles and why people act as they do. This understanding and awareness helps us to strip away judgment and fear so we may follow our hearts with confidence and peace. Often folks will leave an experience with Ray having gained a new found stillness of mind, appreciation for the earth, and clarity of purpose. He is a founding member of the school, and his guiding service, Earthways Guide Service, continues to run with the help of Patrick Dole.

Mike DiMauro

Guided Experiences and Mentoring with Foxwalk Adventures

Mike is a Registered Maine Guide, and a Co-Founder of Foxwalk Adventures. He spent his early years exploring his old homestead and surrounding woodland. For a large part of his childhood he could be found flipping over rocks to find insects, digging for arrowheads, building forts, and collecting reptiles, amphibians, and fish to bring home as pets. After graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Accounting, he followed his heart and childhood passions up to the Maine Primitive Skills School. We have since have not be able to get rid of him. He started with us as a student in the summer of 2009, showing up for a workshop every month, and heading into the woods to camp for weeks at a time to practice the skills.

After a humble summer of getting eaten by bugs, struggling to get a fire going, and staying warm, Mike became our first residential apprentice in 2010. He has since been on many staff survival trips and played an integral part here at MPSS as a Senior Instructor, while continuing to develop his skills as a mentor and a wildman. Previously, he has directed homeschooling programs and summer camps, trained staff, and instructed workshops at the Maine Primitive Gathering and Common Ground Fair. Mike spent extended periods of time living on the school property in various primitive structures; A year in a tipi, months in grass huts, and wintering in a yurt has taught him much about what it means to live a simple life in the wilderness. His personal passions are focused on answering lifelong questions like, How can we work towards community vibrancy and food security using mostly wild food? What options do we have to apply the wisdom of our ancestors to our modern world? How can bird language and animal tracking be used to connect people to empathy and awareness? How can we increase the learning curve of eager students who want to learn primitive shelter, water, fire, and food, while still giving them the dirt time needed to experience the lessons fully?

Nate Bears

Rocket Stove Engineer & Bow Making Instructor

Nate is a Registered Maine Guide who grew up in northern Maine. From a young age he would spend his time hunting, fishing, skiing, and generally finding any excuse he could to be in the outdoors. After earning a Bachelors of Science in Marine Engineering from the Maine Maritime Academy, he spent years traveling the world working on cruise ships, specializing in water purification. His love for the natural world brought him back from the sea to complete an apprenticeship at the Maine Primitive Skills School. Nathan is passionate about sharing skills, especially bow making and foraging. He also enjoys shelter building and bee keeping, when he isn’t traveling the the oceans of the world, that is!

Colby Smith

Guest Instructor & Co-Founder at the Way Of The Earth School

Put simply, Colby is a sailor who enjoys living in the forest! He has well over a decade of year-round outdoor living experience, spanning from Maine to Hawaii. After years honing his craft at Maine Primitive Skills School he has now started his own school, teaching and sharing skills with his wife Hannah at Way of the Earth School in Blue Hill, Maine. Colby has overwintered in four primitive shelter types here in Maine and continues to live close to the Earth. You may find him turning dead creatures into furry clothes or creating native plant polycultures and gardens. He has completed several extended solo survival trips in different parts of the world. Colby has a Bachelors of Science in Adventure Therapy from Unity College in Maine and graduated Valedictorian of his class; More importantly, he is deeply committed to working in service to the earth by helping navigate a way back to resilience and health.

Hannah Sol Rhea

Guest Instructor & Co-Founder at the Way of The Earth School

Hannah has been a part of our community for many years, and she has a strong connection with the plants and animals that co-inhabit our natural landscape. Studying wild edible and medicinal plants was the first niche that brought her into the world of primitive skills and permaculture. She spent two years at Hawk Circle as wilderness skills apprentice and instructor, teaching programs for adults and children alike. She is an experienced hide tanner, and makes various buckskin and fur products. She is experienced in fiber arts such as hide tanning (smoke and bark tan), weaving with various natural fibers, needle felting, and wet felting; each of these skills being embodied as a deep gratitude for the animals she uses through utilizing as much as possible.

Her love for herbal lore and animals collided, birthing a search for knowledge on natural animal care. After using natural remedies and practices with the animals at Hawk Circle, she traveled to Eastern Europe collecting knowledge from the people of Greece and Romania. She traveled with a donkey on the island of Crete in Greece, and travelled across the Northeastern US using donkeys and her permaculture training to caretake the land and develop a more intimate relationship with the natural world. As a gifted artist and craftsman, she has inspired the staff and community to work their own edge with regard to felting, fiber arts, animal processing and hide tanning, and nomadic trip planning. Hannah and her partner Colby moved to Blue Hill, ME in 2017 to begin Way of the Earth School and have been creating beautiful natural buildings and permaculture gardens as they begin running their own programs.

Arthur Haines - Delta Institute

Arthur Haines

Staff Botanist & Founder at the Delta Institute

Arthur is the “Bruce Lee” of Botany. He wrote the most recent account of every plant in New England, Flora Novae Angliae, published by Yale University Press. He runs several courses from his own campus at The Delta Institute, where the New England Wild Flower Society many other organizations hold courses. Arthur has also written extensively about wildcrafting, foraging, and nutrition in his book, Ancestral Plants, which was written in collaboration with the Maine Primitive Skills School and is the first of a three-part series.

Brian Manning

Mukluk Sewing Course Instructor

At an early age, attracted by the lure of the woods, Brian became an avid hunter and outdoorsman. This soon led to a curiosity for learning about primitive cultures, skills and travel methods. He discovered a love for raising Alaskan Malamutes to be run as a cohesive, disciplined, working dog team, and has traveled to Alaska to learn from Iditarod winner Jeff King.

The first self-taught primitive skill he focused on was lithic reduction (the art of flintknapping), which further led to the study and use of the atlatl, a weapon which pre-dates the bow and arrow. He now competes on the world level and is one of the few competitors who has scored a 90 or above in competition. He was employed as a Dive Master and has explored inner space off the coasts of the Florida Keys, Cozumel Mexico, Curacaos, Maine and numerous rivers on the East coast of the US. He has also had the pleasure of tracking Grey Wolves, and Grizzly Bears with James Halfpenny and Jim Bruchac in Yellowstone National Park.

​ Always looking to expand his knowledge, he has attended several schools and classes ranging from primitive fire and tracking to modern survival skills. His mentors have been James Bruchac of Ndakinna Wilderness School, Michael Head of Wilderness Ways School, Dr. James Halfpenny of A Naturalist’s World, Michael Douglas of Maine Primitive Skills School, and David Canterbury of the Pathfinder School. While studying at the Pathfinder School, Brian worked to attain the position of Master Instructor and was involved in developing and refining the school’s curriculum. Most recently, he had the opportunity to learn from the Grandfather of Bushcraft, Mors Kochanski of Karamat Wilderness Ways.

Always striving to better himself and give back to the outdoor community, Brian has furthered his studies and pursued the qualifications for becoming a New York State Licensed Guide. His vision is not only to take people out to enjoy the outdoors, but to also teach them the practical survival skills needed to make them more self-reliant by using the timeless skills of our forefathers and primitive cultures or the modern equivalent in this age of technology. You can find him at Snow Walker Outdoors.