The Friluftsliv Program; A Yearlong Bushcraft, Outdoor Living Skills And Ecological Studies Immersion

“Coming Home To The Forest”

  • Course Info
  • · Dates:September 2021 to July 2022
  • . Ages:17+
  • · Max. Size: 10
  • · Tuition: $3300


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

Learn Where You Live, On A Schedule That Works For You

Registration is open for 2022. Register now to reserve your spot

There are professional training programs where you can travel to and immerse yourself in the long-term experience of living, teaching, and guiding outdoors, and we’ve been running long-term immersion programs like that for the better part of the last decade. 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 nine weeks out of their lives. So let us introduce to you the Friluftrsliv Program. 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.

These skills can be learned anywhere, but benefit greatly from an opportunity for a culminating experience in a location that feels remote, and challenges your comfort level by allowing you to live with the skillset every day. 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 natural 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.

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.

For example, This minidocumentary walks through the 2020-2021 Friluftsliv Forest Program students’ experience as they prepare for, and participate in their “halfway point” culminating exercise. Students on the FFP take part in a winter overnight, with only a fire and shelter they’ve built to stay warm. This experience shows the students how far they’ve come over the last six months, and lets them know where there’s room for improvement over the next half of the program before our final two-week trip in the North Maine woods. The open fire exercise is one that brings a sense of growth. It’s exhausting, not only from spending the day putting up firewood but from spending the night catching bits of sleep here and there between keeping the fire fed. The morning that brings the end of the exercise, no matter how many nights it’s gone for, is always greeted with tired smiles and a sense of accomplishment. It’s a powerful experience to be out in temperatures below freezing, with minimal gear, and have the knowledge and skill to manage it. Experiences like this are what this long-term immersion program is all about.

 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. After running ten+ Long term immersion semesters at Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, I’ve found that the more people get to play with the projects and skills they learn, the more likely they remember them, so each weekend of this course will be framed around learning new techniques and systems while getting the chance to have a little fun with something we’ve practiced earlier in the year. That way things stay fresh, but the assistance required to start the road to mastery of other skills is still there to support the learning process.

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

For more information, or to get your questions about the program answered please use the contact form below

Travel Information and Directions: Our campus is located just outside of Brattleboro Vermont in a little town called Guilford. After you register you will receive local driving directions to our site.

Arrival and Departure:   Plan to arrive on sunday afternoon, between 4 and 6. We’ll have dinner, a group introduction and a tour of the grounds starting at 6. The course is over on Friday at 4 PM.

Accommodations:   Bring a tent, tarp, or another shelter. It will be your home for the week. For summer programs please consider bringing a bug net if you don’t have noseeum netting on your tent. We’re located just outside of Brattleboro, and there are plenty of hotels and air BnB style lodging available if needed.

Meals:   Information on food and meals at the field school is located at About The Field School: Food.

Cancellation and Refund Policies:   Please visit our School Policies page for information on all of our policies.

What is included with the tuition:   Included in the tuition are all camping fees, group food, instruction, and group gear.

What is not included with the tuition:   Not included with the tuition are personal gear, items from town and any food or meals other than the group bulk foods provided.

Course Insurance:   Adventure travel and wilderness education are not inexpensive, and anything can happen when we’re in the bush. We recommend that all participants have medical insurance. We also recommend you protect your investment with travel insurance for trips and tuition insurance for courses.

Tobacco:   Smoking is not permitted in or near any buildings. All cigarette butts are to be placed into the metal can provided.

Vehicles and Parking:  We’re located on a private dirt down a gravel road. During the winter and spring the road can be impassable for 2-wheel drive vehicles.

Telephone: We don’t have a phone or electricity in our teaching area. If you need to be in constant phone contact please consider bringing a cell phone, and if you need to charge a phone (or other electronic devices), please look into getting a charger or bringing extra batteries.

Other: Please don’t bring any pets or illegal drugs.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

We reserve the right to include or omit any of the course topics listed due to class interest, availability of materials, inclement weather, or other factors that make them impractical or unsafe.