Monday, December 18, 2017

Editor’s Note The Evil Dr. Dice is the arch-nemesis of our Secret Agent Academy camp and Lead Counselor of our Evil Secret Agent Academy camp. Though he bears a striking resemblance to our founder, Tony Deis, he is in no way the same person or even an evil doppelgänger created by a transporter accident on the Starship Potemkin.


Greetings from The Evil Dr. Dice. As a yearly tradition in the TrackersVerse, they are contractually obligated to let me write a blog reviewing their Winter Break Camps. I laugh maniacally at the lengths Trackers will go to maintain my A-List star power. Let’s get started…

First off, Trackers Winter Break Camp is a terrible idea unto itself. Most of their programs take place out-of-doors, forcing parents to dress their kids for the cold weather. Which sounds like a lot of work. I recommend choosing something indoors, such as leaving them at the mall unattended.

Wilderness Survival Camps

Aside from the loathsome fact that outdoor skills camps show children how to survive the future apocalyptic landscape where I rule, learning “wilderness survival” also innately teaches the youths that we humans are dependent on Nature—a thoroughly horrible prospect for any parent. We can’t have kids questioning the cozy, lulling four walls of school, or wondering why we screwed up the planet’s biodiversity. Don’t complicate your modern familial domestic bliss with an anthropological discourse through the lens of evolutionary biology and ecology. Instead, get them an Xbox.

Holiday Craft Camps

Many camps provide holiday cheer through handcrafted decor, scrumptious campfire cooked foods, and even neighborhood singing and goodwill*. Unfortunately, such creative adventures detract from global corporate consumerism and consumption. And let’s face it, that’s bad for the economy. Do you want to be responsible for a new recession (even though you’re not a hedge fund manager)? Well, you will be if you let your kid hand-make that holiday wreath.

*Such unpatriotic tinkering also includes Woodworking Camp, Blacksmithing Camp, and Ceramics Camp.

Elves, Wizards & Dragons Camps

I once heard that reading Harry Potter or playing Dungeons & Dragons can make children super evil. I got really excited about this prospect, but then I learned it was only a debunked theory made-up by 1980s fundamentalist groups who were probably jealous because their fictional universe was less cool than that of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Unfortunately, role-playing camps build character (literally and figuratively). So adventures of imagination with Troll Markets and Solstice Celebrations help children practice skills of emotional resiliency, making them less compliant for my impending world domination (or the 2020 elections). Thumbs down.

Archery Camps

I have mixed emotions about this one. Teaching kids how to use projectile weapons (excuse me, hunting tools), that’s awesome! Teaching them how to use those same tools responsibly, well, that just makes them less likely to follow orders in my minion army. The same goes for Paintball Camp.

With My Freeze Ray, I Will…

Finally, every Winter Break, it’s become a yearly tradition that I make some sort of super freeze ray to ice over something important: the city, the Clinton Street Bike Boulevard, Pip’s Donuts. And every time I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their hippie-dippy instructors at the Trackers Secret Agent Academy. Consequently, I have some feelings.

So this year, after talking with my therapist, I’ve decided not to focus on an external freeze. Instead, I’m searching my soul for an intrinsic chilling of my heart. My plan? Using evil science, I shall mutate myself into a snow villain called The Evil Dr. ICE. A persona through which I can process my own grief for so many failed attempts at world domination. Plus, I’ll get cool ice ray powers.

Criminy, you got me monologuing about my plans! Just like my therapist. Anyways, forget everything I just wrote… unless you want a visit from the wooly mammoth riding minions of the Evil Dr. Ice.

Ninjas will not save you!

Sincerely,
The Evil Dr. Dice
Dictator of Small Bavarian City State
Cat Stevens Superfan

It’s that time of year again! I want to invite all our families to our annual Trackers Holiday Party. Weeks of preparation go into making this fun and fantastic gathering. There’s a cookie contest, so bring your best recipe. Local artisans are selling handmade crafts at the bazaar. All this, plus archery, face painting, and live holiday music.

Winter Break Camps

The festive celebration continues in our Winter Break Camps (December 18-29). We offer Seasonal Themes, along with our skill-building programs in Wilderness Survival, Ceramics, and even Woodworking. Plus, don’t forget about the Holiday Troll Market.

Dressing Kids for Winter

Winter brings new challenges—especially dressing kids for the weather. Sometimes I send my kids to Trackers programs with the wrong jacket and it ends up pouring rain that day—luckily Trackers Teachers are patient with me. Like all parents, I walk a fine line between encouraging my kids to dress themselves, and knowing that such independence needs a little curation by mom. So at Trackers we made a video about Dressing for Winter Success. I even watched it with Robin (6 years), Annie (4 years), and Maxine (2 years) to discuss how they can choose the right outdoor gear for the winter weather. They like the sparkle magic sound effects the best. Watch the video…

Summer Camps – Super Early Discount

We’re already getting ready for next summer. 2018's Summer Camps are posted and ready to register with the Super Early Discount (save 15% off). And remember, you can pre-order a Golden Ticket to Trackers to give as a holiday gift.

Please stop by our Holiday Party and say hello. Robin, Annie, Maxine, and I will be there to connect and celebrate with staff, families, and everyone in the community.
 

Sincerely,
Molly Deis

Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

Dress your kids for success to have fun this winter! Keeping kids comfortable outdoors in all weather helps them appreciate nature and stay active. We put together a handy video and infographic on how to layer to stay warm and dry in cold weather.

Watch the Video

In this video, the Trackers Gear Fairy teaches parents and kids about essential winter clothing.

Read the Infographic

Use this infographic to double check all your layers!

Wilderness survival, archery, blacksmithing, kayak building, fishing, or animal tracking! Students come to Trackers to learn skills forgotten or ignored in modern life. They feel compelled to engage with the primal physical world, not a digital representation of it.

These hands-on skills bring mental puzzles. You carve wood that doesn’t have perfect grain. You make a fire in wet conditions. Crafting leads to craftiness—a capacity for thoughtful strategy to navigate a complex world. Even more important is that the deer is not a coded object in an online game. As you track the doe, she forces you to understand that she too has a passion to live, breathe, and survive.

This all leads to the “invisible skill” of Trackers—our version of Outdoor Leadership. We teach a means of community stewardship that has existed since humans first walked the planet. At Trackers, the best leaders are actual “trackers”—individuals who deftly listen to the land they care for and the people they serve.

This ability is not gained just by following a textbook or teacher. Each student needs challenges that only the diversity of nature and forest craft can bring about. I know excellent leaders who are accomplished at negotiating the human world, but it is a rare leader whose personal intelligence also extends into the more-than-human world. Such individuals are guided by a radical awareness and profound empathy.

At Trackers, this version of Outdoor Leadership makes our courses and community greater than the sum of the skills we teach. Yet it is often invisible, threaded through the ongoing experiences of our students and families.

After much internal conversation at Trackers, we realize we need to do even more to nurture this “invisible skill” in our future leaders, the younger members of our community. Over the next year, the majority of our teen mentoring programs will feature a greater emphasis on Outdoor Leadership training.

Central to many upcoming courses is a dialogue with our Apprentices that addresses these deeper qualities of Outdoor Leadership. This includes our Rangers, Wilders, Mariners, Artisans, and Archery apprenticeships, along with our Homeschool Outdoor and After School programs for middle and high school age students.

Our goal is to foster the next generation of teachers and leaders for Trackers and beyond. We seek to grow a community through awareness, empathy, and strategies for equity. We hope to show our Teen Apprentices how tracking the deer leads us all to greater care for our shared village and the Earth on which we live.

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth, Founder

2865

We wanted to update Portland, Oregon parents regarding details about the upcoming eclipse.

Of course, we do anticipate several species of aliens from various exoplanets to invade. And that is the day time traveling Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us Skynet is set to go online… not to mention all the Mega-Werewolves.

But beyond those things, we expect the day to go generally well. First off, the health and safety of our campers is our priority. And while we may not be experts of satire (see above), we are professionals at working with kids for over 10 summers during all kinds of natural events and weather. When times call for it, we adapt.

Our site schedule is optimized to travel away from the path of totality. Our coordinators always monitor the traffic report and subspace channels throughout the day. Site Supervisors communicate regularly with Coordinators and Away Teams to seek out alternate routes to and from our sites. Parents can help us by planning extra time for their commute in the morning and flexibility for return times of our buses in the afternoon. Remember when packing, a towel is about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Camper can carry.

Finally, and most awesomely, Trackers is prepared to supply free eclipse glasses for all our campers and staff so they safely observe this once (or twice) in a lifetime event. We carefully researched which glasses we purchased to be certain they are ISO and CE certified—the certification recommended by NASA. Plus, they are approved by Galactic Empress Xiaton, who plans on invading the earth with her fleet of Space Battlestars during the height of the eclipse. But don’t worry, we have faith the Planet Express team will save us.

All this, and campers will be able to bring the glasses home as a keepsake.

Our goal is to prepare kids to thrive with nature in all types of weather and natural events. We learn important outdoor skills by being prepared. Meanwhile, our Zombie Survival Camp will ply their new skills to defeat the coming hordes of Mega-Werewolves.

And it could be cloudy, because… Oregon.

Sincerely,
Chris Codino (and all the Trackers staff)
Administrative Director

Glory to Skynet as our Future Robot Overlord!

 

Disclaimer: This blog is from a mom who happens to know her individual kids very well. It does not necessarily reflect exactly how we teach at Trackers Camps.


By Molly Deis, Trackers Founder & Mom

Remember when Calvin, from the Calvin & Hobbes comic, bellowed at his mother to watch TV, ran amok around the house, or, as Spaceman Spiff, blew something up? After which, Calvin’s mom promptly tossed him outside.

When my own kids start to lose it, I do the same thing. Minus the actual tossing.

Love or hate it, most of us have used the classic “time out” when our kids get challenging. However, being sent to your room can be a strange mix of punishment and reward: there are toys, but also four walls (like a classroom… or a prison).

On the other hand, Time-Outside is different. The blue sky doesn’t respond to tantrums. The trees are unmoved by screams. The bugs could care less about your bad mood. There is no audience. All that remains is an outlet for self-creativity in the form of sticks, grass and mud.

There are many pathways to challenging behavior. Maybe the child is bored. Maybe they’re too reliant on us parents for their perceived needs. Maybe they’re bouncing off the walls as a plea for freedom. Or maybe they just choose to be selfish that day. These are all human problems that Nature could care less about.

When you go back far enough, we all had hunter-gatherer ancestors who raised their kids in a world not defined by four walls. Instead, a child’s playroom stretched to the horizon, filled with rivers, meadows, and forest. Children are supposed to start out as selfish with other humans in the family. A child who vocalizes her needs is employing a survival strategy that ensures the tribe feeds and cares for her. Some researchers even suggest crying could be a natural mechanism that helps stave off the birth of additional siblings—additional competition for resources (a phenomenon I’m sure many parents will vouch for).

Parental proximity amplifies this selfish instinct. Research shows that children cry more when they know a parent is around. As vexing as this can be, it demonstrates a healthy and instinctive dependence on essential caregivers. But nature also provides a balance for this. Survival skills for the wilderness helps pull children into autonomy and competent adulthood.

In the hunter-gatherer world, no matter how hard you cry the fish won’t jump onto your hook, the deer won’t walk into your arrow, and the cattail root won’t leap out of the mud and into your basket.

Nature does not reward behavior with the same attention as a parent. While we’re genetically coded to tolerate (to some degree) the pleadings of our own offspring, the rest of nature have no such ties. Birds don’t ask, “Are you okay?” when you’re throwing a fit. Nor do they say, “You’re bad.” They might see you as a threat, watching you and alarming from the trees until you calm down.

Any child attentive to wildlife soon recognizes the importance of attuned senses, stillness, and blending in (camouflage). Thus, by sparking even the most basic interest in Nature, parents can help these “animals teachers” transform their child from human dependent to wilder diplomat.

So, even though nature doesn’t give a fig, it’s incredibly engaging. From the worst tantrum, it rarely takes more than 20 minutes for my kids to calm down once they get outside. Usually far shorter, especially if I’m not right there to be their foil.

The improvement is swift and impressive as four-year-old Annie quickly forgets she needed to watch Wild Kratts. Instead, she embarks on a creature-power-adventure with the actual squirrels in her own yard. The bonus? I have some much-needed peace and quiet to get some work done, like writing this blog! (Though I do peek my head out every so often to confirm she and her brother are still alive.)

In reading this, hopefully you don’t think I’m a callous mother, abandoning her children’s emotional plights to a world of spiders, moles and squirrels. My goal is freedom for my children. Freedom from the stuff in their room. Freedom from me telling them what is right or wrong. Mostly importantly, freedom to discover their own resilience.

Time-Outside works so well, sometimes I give myself one. When I realize I’m not handling parenting as well as I should, I head outdoors to keep the goats company and watch the barn swallows feed their own begging chicks. However, time out in nature shouldn’t be limited to parenting challenges. There are countless reasons to head into the unspoiled, rural or urban wilderness. Go watch the stars. Garden in the dirt. Play in the sprinkler!

When the weather is warm, children should stay outside as much as possible during daylight hours—maybe beyond. Set up a blanket for picnic lunches. Hang a hammock. Suggest they build a stick fort if they crave the “indoors”. The more you keep them outside, the less you’ll see that selfish front kids put up for us as parents. The more you’re outside with them, the happier everyone will be.

So if you do come to my house this summer, please take the driveway slowly. Beware the feral children roaming amok with a certain stuffed tiger named after a comic sitting in their currently empty room.