We run courses of varying lengths at both School Of The Forest and Jack Mountain. While the shorter ones are always a great experience for student’s and instructors alike, it’s the long-term ones that bring the most rewarding outcomes.
While shorter courses have a lot to offer as far as new skills, and ways of living in the outdoors, those insights don’t really become “yours” as a student till you’ve lived with them for a stretch of time. Most skills are perishable and will start to atrophy if they aren’t practiced on a regular basis. In the spring 2018 semester at Jack Mountain, we had a student who’d spent a good portion of his time in the military using navigation skills in a high-intensity environment. However, even with that large leg up on our map and compass work, he still struggled. Not because he didn’t understand the process, but because it’d been so long since he’d flexed those mental muscles. However, once he’d started using them again, the process came back to him much quicker than it did for the students learning it for the first time.
What our longer courses like the Wilderness Bushcraft Semester, and the Teen Wilderness Living Semester offer isn’t just a “how to” approach to what we teach. They also allow the students to use them on a daily basis and lay down foundational mindsets they can draw on anytime they’re in the outdoors. This foundation comes from living in a low infrastructure environment for a long period of time and using what you learn in that context day after day. You can learn a lot from shorter courses, but you won’t build that base until you’ve used what you learn over and over.