Since I can recollect, my dream was to one day live and teach in the outdoors. In 2003, I formed a public non-profit called Nature Awareness and Wilderness Sports Programs (NAWS) and my dream was born. In the years since, my wife Molly and our friend Eirik joined in and we added a program called Coyote Trails School of Nature. Here we teach kids, teens, families and adults the benefits and wisdom gained through environmental education, tracking and wilderness skills. These skills run much deeper than just cool things to do in the woods. We found through our years of extensive wilderness travel that in the solitude of nature one gains deep personal insights and a renewed sense of peace. This program exists so that kids of all ages may experience their own inner peace and touch that true connection with the natural world.
In 2012, we added an 11 acre Nature Center situated on the banks of Bear Creek in Southern Oregon. To date, Coyote Trails School of Nature has provided outdoor nature education to over 23,000 children of all ages ranging from Southern and Central Oregon to Kansas, Ohio and beyond. Our educational mission is to connect under-served children and adults to the outdoors and thereby empower them to explore and care for the environment. Some of these children live in the city and have no opportunity to experience the healing effects of the natural world. They are classic examples of the Nature Deficit Disorder coined by Richard Louv in his book "Last Child In The Woods". We believe urban youth, once reconnected with the natural world around them, experience a connection with themselves and they become better caretakers of the Earth. Coyote Trails instructors have completed and maintain extensive training; cumulatively we hold more than 105 years of experience in outdoor education for adults & children. Coyote Trails instructors incorporate the newest developments in outdoor education coming out of the "National Forum on Children and Nature". We walk on the edge of a progressive model that creates new structures that allow for learning about nature in a more engaging & "natural" way.
Coyote Trails' programs use multiple disciplines to explore the environment: tracking, art, writing, natural history, and scientific inquiry. Activities involve students using the available environment for unstructured play, exploration & tracking, building projects using natural materials, and time for quiet reflection.
Coyote Trails implements the following practices within the structure of our programs:
1) addressing multiple intelligences and learning styles—we teach with hands-on materials (props, specimens, track casts, tools, maps, and graphs, e.g., fish and bug nets, live traps, binoculars, preserved specimens, field guides, etc.) and provide quiet listening times for observation and reflection to ensure that students can process the curriculum using their own individual learning strengths;
2) using a strong inquiry approach to lessons in the field and classroom;
3) writing across the curriculum—students write for multiple purposes—to share with others, to keep accurate records, for critical thinking, and to explore and process their own feelings and impressions;
4) keeping our supplemental/enrichment programs tied to Common Core Standards and the curriculum goals of National Educators;
5) using organized instruction that prepares students with front-loaded vocabulary and uses a combination of guided and independent practice of skills with tools and equipment in the field;
6) using formative evaluations to adjust programming as we deliver them over the seasons.
We wish to thank all of our partners and donors, and most importantly those who seek to question - our students.
All our best,
Joe and Molly Kreuzman - (and Takoda the Dog 2009)