Before developing and refining these mentoring models and techniques, Jon Young was trained as a boy by Tom Brown Jr., renowned outdoorsman, tracker, teacher, and author of 16 books, including The Tracker. For ten years, starting at the age of 7, Tom Brown was himself mentored in the skills of tracking, wilderness survival, and nature awareness by Stalking Wolf (Grandfather), an Apache elder, shaman, and scout. Afterwards Tom spent ten years living in the wilderness with no manufactured tools, perfecting these skills and teachings. In 1978 Brown opened the Tracker School, now the largest of its kind.
Forest Floor utilizes a distinctive and highly effective educational approach called Nature-Connection Mentoring, which uses children's inherent enthusiasm for the natural world as a context to actively engage them in the learning process. Children are guided by the mentor towards the empowering experience of curiosity-driven discovery instead of simply being inundated with information. This in turn sets the stage for them to be led by their own innate curiosity (and the gentle nudging of the mentor) to discover the natural world for themselves.
Using the subtle Art of Questioning children are brought to the edge of their knowledge and awareness, then enticed by a further mystery to grow beyond that edge. With the help of what we call Universal Child Passions, we create a learning environment that is motivated by the natural inclinations of the children themselves. Combining a modern understanding of brain patterning and habit creation with these other more ancient methods of mentoring, the children find themselves immersed in an “invisible school” with the forest as their ”classroom”. The goal of such mentoring is nothing short of helping each individual reach their full potential.
Forest Floor Wilderness Programs was founded in 2011 with the goal of providing the Asheville area with nature-connection mentoring programs designed to re-connect youth and adults with the natural world, while also serving as a hub around which nature-based community can form.
Our core curriculum is informed and shaped using the 8 Shields Cultural-Mentoring model. Based on the patterns and cycles of the natural world, this model accounts for the innate rhythms of individuals and their environment, providing a seemingly effortless but remarkably effective trajectory for learning.
Through games, stories and exploration children will learn:
As a young man, Jon Young worked off and on for many years at the Tracker School as an instructor, special guest and children’s program development specialist. Additionally, from 1984 to 1994, Jon was mentored as a naturalist, tracker, cultural specialist and mentor by the African Akamba elder M. Norman Powell (Ingwe). Ingwe supported Jon as the honored elder and co-founder of Jon’s newly founded Wilderness Awareness School (1983, Monmouth County, NJ).
Curriculum, Mentoring, and Our Story
The roots of our programs and the heart of our curriculum is what we call “Deep Nature Connection”, which utilizes the methods of Coyote Mentoring, the design elements of the “8 Shields” model, and the concepts of “Culture Repair”, as they have been developed and taught by Jon Young, founder of the Wilderness Awareness School and co-author of Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.
Inspired and encouraged by these two mentors, Jon went on to pioneer the blending of Native mentoring and cultural techniques from around the world with a broad array of modern tools for connecting with nature and developing refined and holistic tracking skills. The synthesis of all this has become what is now known as the “8 Shields Cultural Mentoring Model”. This model has now influenced well over 150 eco-community and nature education programs and schools in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is also used in his consulting for organizations, government agencies and communities worldwide.
Forest Floor Wilderness Programs is proud to be informed and inspired by this rich heritage and compelling lineage. Due to the combination of high-quality instructors, proven mentoring techniques, and the utilization of curricular and cultural models based on the cycles of nature, response from the Asheville community has been overwhelmingly positive. From meager beginnings, with only 2 instructors/mentors and 8 children joining us once a week, Forest Floor has grown quickly in the years since it began. Spreading primarily by word-of-mouth, we now serve well over 80 families on a regular basis, offering weekly programs for home-school families, bi-weekly programs for teens & public school children, week-long summer overnight & day camps, and classes for adults.
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