The Friluftsliv Forest Program

“Coming Home To The Forest”

SOTF’S Friluftsliv Forest Program

Local knowledge, Trail Tested Experience


Course Info
· Dates:9-26-20 To 7-24-21
. Ages:17+
· Max. Size: 10
· Tuition: $3300



Year Long Part-Time Immersion Program Centered Around Local Outdoor Living Skills

Learn Where You Live, On A Schedule That Works For You, From The Ivy League Of Outdoor Schools


There are professional training programs where you can travel to and immerse yourself in the long-term experience of living, teaching, and guiding outdoors. We’ve been running long term immersion programs at Jack Mountain for the last twenty years. One of the things we’ve learned is that not everyone can carve out nine straight weeks for a course like that. Having students come and live on our property for an extended period of time allows for really in-depth knowledge but we want everyone to be able to achieve these goals locally as well. we want to give future students the opportunity to do that even if they can’t take 9 weeks out of their lives. So let us introduce to you the friluftsliv project. Friluftsliv is a concept that means open-air life. The idea behind it is that you don’t need to go to a remote place to experience the natural world you can do it in your own backyard by actively participating in the natural world. It doesn’t require high adrenaline activities or top of the line gear. The only things required are spending time in the natural world, and a desire to learn about the ecosystem you’re participating in.

Making coffee and disinfecting water on the trail.


These skills can be learned anywhere, but benefit greatly from an opportunity for a culminating experience in a wild place. The Jack Mountain field school in Aroostook county and the nearby waterways of northern Maine are perfect for this.

When you successfully complete this program, you will have a solid foundation of the nature knowledge and skills of the place you live, as well as the practical foundation needed to continue to learn and travel through remote places on your own.


Weekends take place at the School Of The Forest Campus in Guilford Vt, and the final two weeks take place at the JMB field school in Masardis, ME, and on a remote river. The Course is designed for those in central New England who want to dramatically expand their skill and experience living, guiding, and teaching outdoors. We’ll use and pass on our tested methods from twenty years of long term programming, and wilderness guiding. 

What is “Friluftsliv”?

Friluftsliv is a simple thing to explain, but a complex concept to understand. It’s an idea that being out in nature is something that should be part of people’s day to day lives, not just an event, or vacation. We’ll talk a lot about these ideas during the course, but if you want to learn more we recorded a podcast about the topic that you can listen to here

Our Educational Philosophy

Knowledge is power, but knowledge is constructed, not received. It is built incrementally, over time. If teaching were simply telling, then anyone who excelled in a field would be an effective teacher of it. But this transmission model of teaching isn’t effective for most learners. Standing in front of someone and telling them what they need to know isn’t facilitating learning. Especially when you consider the differences between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles.

We subscribe to the learning model of teaching, where the role of the teacher is to create situations where learning takes place. Students build upon their knowledge daily, and by the end of the experience they’ve accumulated a storehouse of information and experiences. But the instructor must also make it relevant. It’s easy to scoff at friction fire since matches and lighters are so readily available. But remove them from the equation and it’s instantly relevant, and the desire to learn the subtleties of the hand drill takes on renewed importance.

Our students are actively learning, immersing themselves in the curriculum by necessity. An example of this is how we teach shelter building. You can learn something about a shelter by making one. You can learn more about it by sleeping in it. But to truly know that specific shelter, you need to spend four consecutive nights in it. In this way you’re forced to deal with the consequences of shoddy construction or not paying attention to details. Maybe the first night is rough, but it teaches you what you need to do before the second night in order to shore it up and get some sleep. The second night is spent learning some of the subtleties that would make it more comfortable. The third night is fine-tuning it to your specifications, and the fourth night is enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you were to build the same shelter again, you could eliminate the learning curve because you’d know what to do from the outset. That’s experiential education.

Experiential education is the process of actively engaging students in an authentic experience that will have benefits and consequences. Students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge themselves instead of hearing or reading about the experiences of others. Students also reflect on their experiences, thus developing new skills, new attitudes, and new theories or ways of thinking.” (Kraft & Sakofs, 1988)

In addition to passing on traditional skills, we focus on using them to foster critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, curiosity, and concern with ethical issues.

 Intended Learning Outcomes

  • 1.  Demonstrate skill proficiency and extensive experience in a wide variety of bushcraft and primitive skills, including fire, shelter, outdoor cooking, observational weather forecasting, carving, basketry, cordage and natural bindings, navigation, and the use of the axe, saw, and knife.
    2.  Demonstrate knowledge and skill in traditional canoe skills, including paddling, poling, safely running whitewater, portaging, and other related skills.
    3.  Make and use a variety of pieces of traditional gear
    4.  Have a working knowledge of basic, intermediate, and advanced wilderness survival.
    5.  Assemble and maintain a tool kit with which they can make a variety of different crafts.
    6.  Navigate by map and compass, and also by using barehand methods.
    7.  Build a strong foundation of nature knowledge about the weather, plants, the stars and constellations, mammals and their tracks, fish, etc.
    8.  Have a working knowledge of 50 edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful wild plants.
    9.  Document daily progress with individual skills in their logbook.

Process, Not Product

Something students hear a lot around the field school is that it’s the process that’s important, not the product. We’re process-driven. It’s nice to have a good-looking bow at the end of the process, but we’re more invested in people being able to replicate the process after the course.  (Read about the process of learning bowmaking).

This is true for all of the intended learning outcomes mentioned above. Not only will you leave with an understanding of the things we’ve studied, but you’ll also have a system to continue those studies for the rest of your life.

Jack Mountain founder Tim Smith spent 2 years studying how people learn and best practices for teaching in graduate school, resulting in a Master’s degree in education. For the ensuing 18 years he’s operated his own educational laboratory (this school).  Along the way we have discovered a lot of things that work, as well as a lot that don’t. We’re always adapting, innovating and trying to do it better.

Learning empowers people. In a single word, our educational philosophy and mantra is CAN. Read the expanded version on our educational philosophy page.

7 Elements Of School Of The Forest And Jack Mountain Programs

Skill – Journey – Craft – Nature – Culture – Sustainability – Self

Drawing on the philosophies of bushcraft we’ve developed over 21-years of field courses, the traditions of Maine Guides that go back generations, the Cree concept of miyupimaatisiium (translated as “being alive well”) and the Scandinavian idea of friluftsliv (translated as “open air life”), the following seven elements comprise the components of our semester and yearlong programs.

1. Skill – Learn by doing. Too much of modern education is theoretical, abstract and sedentary, where the head is engaged but the hands are not. We depart from that norm with a tangible, hands-on approach that emphasizes being an active participant in the natural world and in life. Our 21-point curriculum focuses on necessary skills for the professional outdoors person.

2. Journey – Travel through remote parts of the north woods alongside professional guides, directly experiencing what you’re learning. Live in the bush for extended lengths of time where the focus isn’t simply how-to, but living with efficiency and grace that come with extensive experience.

3. Craft – Explore the world with your hands. Build useful items from materials gathered on the landscape. Man needs tools to live. Making these necessary items from materials gathered from the landscape bonds you to the land and makes you self-reliant.

4. Nature – Learn the language of the world around you. Study the weather, edible/medicinal plants, fungi, mammals and their tracks, birds, fish, mollusks, insects, amphibians, reptiles, rocks, minerals, soil, water, ice, celestial bodies and ecology.

5. Culture – Culture is the human element, or soft skills, which make or break an expedition. Learn management and leadership skills crucial to the professional guide and outdoor leader, as well as how to instruct effectively.

6. Sustainability – Life is different with minimal infrastructure. Learn the techniques of living a simple, low-tech life with minimal inputs by living them every day. Compost everything that will rot, grow food, reuse and repurpose resources, care for the land and leave it healthier for future generations.

7. Self – Learn your specific needs and boundaries. In a world of generalizations, it’s important to know exactly what you need to function well. How much sleep do you need to function? How much water? How much of a bed do you need to make in order to sleep well? This is about intimately knowing yourself and what you need to do to keep your body alive and well. The only way to learn it is to live it.

Field Weekend Curriculum Example

Each weekend will build on the work the students have done at home, as well as the experience they gained the previous week. For example, the first weekend of the course might look something like this

    September 26-27

  • Intro to Fire (One Match Fire, Bowdrill Kits, Fire Lays)
  • Outdoor Cooking 101
  • Axe Use 101
  • Pot Hook Carving

And with that as groundwork, the next weekend will have more complex or challenging skills, but students will have the muscle memory, or experience to thrive at them.

Getting Ready For The Course

1.Join Our Online Network

There is significant work to be completed by students between field sessions on our online learning platform, Join early to get a feel for the site, and meet other students already taking our programs. You can also learn more about this program on our blog and podcasts. 

2. Take A Look At The Gear List

We try to keep our gear list as minimal as possible, but there are a few necessities like tools and tents that you’ll need to pick up. You can look at that list here

Our Sites
· JMB Field School – Long-Term Immersion: Semester & Expedition Programs
· JMB Trips – Classic Wilderness Guiding By Canoe & Snowshoe
· JMB Folk School – Short Courses, Crafts & Lodge-Based Programs
· School Of The Forest – Teen & Youth Programs
· JM Outfitters – Gear From The World’s Smallest Outfitter

Our Blog
Our media hub, home to our articles, videos, podcast, photos and updates, going back to 2006.
· JMB Blog

Our Email List
Join our email list; it’s the best way to keep up with what we’re up to. We promise to never fill your inbox with junk and we never share or sell your information. We value your time and privacy. We won’t abuse either of them. More Info.

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