Monday, June 1, 2020

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Dear Parents and Campers,

We’re here to announce that Summer Camp is happening! These past few months have affected us in more ways than we ever could have imagined. Kids have been indoors for months, and are longing for summer camps where they can connect with friends, play in the open air, and have new adventures.

Under normal circumstances, going to camp requires significant preparation — both from our staff and families. In this new world, it takes even more time to consider the many precautions for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. All of us here at Trackers Earth have spent these past few months working around the clock to anticipate what safe summer camp will look like this year. As our state releases new guidelines, this thoughtful analysis has proven to be valuable. We are grateful for your continued patience and understanding with our process.

What’s Next?

Re-opening timelines vary by state, region, and county. Oregon released their official guidelines for day camps on Friday (May 15). We review each area’s guidelines and regulations the minute they come in. During this time, we’ve kept our full-time staff on board so that we can quickly shift and evolve our plan. We’re continually brainstorming as a team, meeting with health authorities and camp organizations, and doing all we can to prepare. One thing is for sure: we will adapt and continue to create safe ways to provide engaging, educational — and fun! —  camp experiences, no matter what.

While we continue to adapt our programs, here’s what we know so far:

Overnight Camps We are anticipating possible new guidance for Oregon overnight camps and we will let you know more about them as soon as we can.

Day Camps will continue according to Oregon Health Authority guidelines:

  • We plan to have small, stable groups of the same kids for our day camps – working under essential state guidelines.
  • Each group will remain together throughout the day and the camp week. Campers will space themselves much as possible, which is much easier outside!
  •  We will provide hand sanitizer and hand washing stations, working to make sure each camper and staff uses them often throughout the day.
  • We ask parents to take their child’s temperature every morning. If your child has any symptoms of being sick, please stay home for the safety of everyone. Trackers will credit you for that time. We are also planning an efficient and in-depth daily health check for staff and students at drop-off each day
  • Check-in and check-out times may be staggered. This may result in minor shifts in camp times. To follow Oregon Health Authority guidelines to maintain stable groups for our campers, we do not plan on currently offering after camp.
  • At this time, our buses will be limited to a stable cohort to ensure social distancing. That means Trackers will use more vehicles and also adjust which programs and the number of days we transport for. The positive result, less time on buses and more time for activities.
  • To spread out check-in, we may add more pick-up and drop-off locations near our primary drop-off areas – especially for SE Portland. We will notify you of updated locations as we secure them.

What Else Are We Exploring? 

We are considering neighborhood camps that start at 9 AM and end at 2:30 PM. In Neighborhood Summer Camp, kids would be led by teachers on safe adventures using walking friendly paths and areas. We are also exploring family and friends’ camps and even Camp Shares where a Trackers Teacher comes to your home for camp with a group of siblings and kids you choose. Finally, we have a goal of offering a limited scholarship tuition and programs for children of essential workers in need of financial assistance.

Trackers Spark also offers online classes for those continuing to stay home. These are interactive, small group webinars with a familiar guide and tons of activities. This is a chance for kids to connect with other kids in classes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Join Captain Nick in recovering the lost idol. Quest with the Realms of Cascadia, where you create your character to adventure as an elf, wizard or more. There’s even online classes for adults.

Connection & Community

Trackers is about community and personal connection. This is not a time for one-size-fits-all thinking. It is a time for personal action and responsibility. We will work with each of you to make sure your kids have the best possible camp experience this summer. During the next several weeks, our teams will reach out personally to parents signed up for camp. This is our quest to better understand your particular needs, and answer any questions you might have.

Please, if you have urgent specific needs for your children and circumstances (ie., essential workers, specific health concerns, etc.) feel free to contact us as well. Personal connection is part of our core values, and we will do our best to find personal solutions for those who need them. Again, we appreciate your patience and understanding through this process.

PLEASE SEE OUR Q&A HERE

Connecting kids to nature in inspiring ways is central to our mission. We are an organization that exists to support kids and parents and provide real and awesome camp experiences. Everyone at Trackers remembers what it’s like to be a kid. We look forward to helping your kids learn and build lasting memories – while giving parents a break, too.

If your situation has changed, we hope that you can still support Trackers by accepting a future camp credit that will be good through 2022. If a credit does not work for you, please contact us, and we will do our best to help your individual needs.

We thank you for your trust in Trackers and look forward to speaking with each of you soon. Please stay healthy and safe, and we can’t wait to see you at camp!

See you in the forest,
Molly & Tony Deis

Trackers Earth
Founders & Parents

Springtime and dandelions go hand in hand. Especially where we live in the foothills of the western Cascades in Oregon. Dandelions are among our first spring flowers. We’ve had lots of fun making these videos as a family and are excited to share the final recipe with you.

Dandelion Donut Recipe

Also called dandelion fritters this recipe calls for dandelion flower heads.

*makes about 20 donuts *

Pick about 20 dandelion flower heads, careful to avoid the stem and remove as much of the bitter green underside, or bracts, as you can.Ready 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a pan on medium-low heat. To make the batter. We used:

1 cup whole wheat flour (any flour will do)
1 tsp sugar (or equivalent sweetener)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk (+ a little extra as needed. Any kind of milk will do)

Stir until the batter is not lumpy, but smooth. Add additional milk as needed to achieve desired texture. Coat entire dandelion flower with batter and drop into the hot oil. Be careful around the hot oil & pan. Fry until golden brown, flipping over as needed. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Eat & Enjoy!

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From Molly, Trackers Founder & Mom

We all are getting quite a bit of special family time these days. Moms (and all parents) now do work, school, and play! The “new norm” of leisure includes 10 minutes of uninterrupted: shower, cooking, sleep, thought, or the online multi-user dungeon (MUD) that I play.

I’m experiencing an interesting side-effect with my patience level. The daily affirmations said under my breath seem to be helping. Along with lowering my standards.😉I find myself getting less frustrated about things. Tony cooked me breakfast this morning. Good for him.

Counting to 10 goes both ways. To buffer my reactions to my kids or for getting them to do a thing. This week the girls cut sleeves off their dresses to make them more “summer-ready” in the hot weather. My sweet-toothed child has been hoarding cups of sugar around the house. The youngest hides whenever it’s time for chores.

It’s all part of being a parent. From one mom to other parents, Happy Parent’s Day. I hope we’re hanging in and I’m looking to the light beyond this—as long the kids get outside the house. Take the day to enjoy a little “new norm” and play with your wonderful and sometimes aggravating loved ones.😸

See You In The Virtual Forest,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

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By Molly Deis, Founder & Mom

Surprise! I’ve been working from home… along with more than half the world. You know who else has been working from home? My three kids. Non-stop. Unrelenting… Help me!

The Sharpie graffiti on the fireplace was interesting, but not cohesive with the brand. Marketing has been unable to take it down (Tony scrubbed for hours). During their monthly review, I let them know watching Phineas & Ferb was not a relevant performance metric. I’ve worked to teach my kids better self-management, empowering them to take ownership of their work. But it’s unprofessional to share an office and still be in your pajamas by noon, playing the Harry Potter soundtrack without coworker consent, or yelling for breakfast when they could email. Plus, all attempts to use the cat as a stapler must stop! Just because I’m their manager (er… parent), I should not need to schedule meetings and organize work priorities for them.

It is an HR nightmare with no concept of personal boundaries. One sits right next me to belch the alphabet while I’m on a spreadsheet. Another raids the office refrigerator, using an entire stick of butter marked with my name—just for one bowl of popcorn. I’ve been in a staff Zoom meeting when someone crawls into my lap to snuggle. Maxine has been with us four years, she should have read the policy manual. No matter how often I file a complaint, Human Resources is ineffective with my kids. I reported it to our COO and she said, “I have a teenager, get over it.”

You can often fix performance issues by outsourcing to the Grandparent’s office. But there is currently a freeze on internships. At this time, recruiting for new children is not an option as in-person interviews are a must. On rare occasion, I regret offering room and board as part of the benefits package. Yet, in all honesty, this goes beyond overseeing their academic experience, it is an opportunity to guide them in real world adulting.

I know my real job to help our kids become collaborators for the future of our family and the wider community we serve. With patience and a little bit more hands-on and heart-felt management, I have seen gradual performance improvements such as: washing dishes, feeding the donkeys, and mocking up graphic designs on whiteboards instead of the masonry. Maybe one day, in their career as professional humans, they can be promoted to greater responsibility. And even, we can only hope, understand the cat is not a stapler.

See You On The Virtual Office,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom


P.S. Kid Assist Needs?
Get Trackers Spark!
Check out Trackers Connect our new $5 Spark channel featuring short camps with movement, play and social connection. We also still offer growing favorites such as the Adventures of Captain Nick, School of Magic, the fantastical Realms of Cascadia, academics in the Backyard Classroom and much more!

From Molly, Trackers Founder & Mom

Like most families, at the Trackers Homestead we take it one week at a time. Our team is still hard at work creating online classes (below for cool news) and preparing for summer.

It’s ironic, we’re used to homeschooling, but we’ve taken it easy the past couple weeks. Tony and I even got the kids outside to make ↓ this video

Video Whittle Kids – Woodcarving

Click on thumbnail to watch it! My kids, Robin (9 years) and Maxine (4 years), teach the safety basics for whittling with knives. I highly recommend watching it with your kids. These two are cute and informative, but my opinion may be skewed.

If you liked it, check out our upcoming online classes that teach woodcarving to parents and kids. Let’s get to the big news! Trackers Online is now…

Trackers Spark!

Our online camps and classes have grown. So we’re giving them a new home and a new name. Trackers Spark lights the fire. It has “channels” that feature your favorite Trackers Guides, skills and fun.

Join Captain Nick on his globetrotting adventures. Next week, in Captain Nick: Sky Pirates, Nick and kids take to the air to stop the Captain Zeppelin’s flying bandits. Plus, in Captain Nick: Kingdom of Cats, the Contessa turns our adventurers into feline friends. It’s up to “Catnip” Nick and kids to prevent an aPAWcolypse!

Wilders Home is bringing back Home Ec. Kids join Cowboy Sam to cook Dandelion Donuts. Or take part in a fun food show style cook off with found kitchen ingredients.

Finally, Wizards Academy is taking new students. Practice wand craft, search for mythic beasts, and help the school of magic fight the Realm of the Dark Arts.

Trackers Spark is where you now find our live, small group interactive webinars. Rovers for young kids. Rangers with outdoor skills. Earth Ninjas with martial arts every morning. Scroll below for every Spark channel…

Kids can learn new skills or adventure through a fantastical Realm. With Trackers Spark, Trackers Earth is doing what we do best. We inspire kids everywhere, every week, to find connection and community!

See You On The Spark,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

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From Molly Deis, Founder

I wanted to say thank you to our families for the overwhelming support for Trackers Online. The number of students doubled in just one week. Our number of classes did the same! It’s been wonderful to hear how kids are having fun connecting with teachers and friends in our online camps. There are a few things that are new for next week.

Full-Time Forest School
(now online)

Along with contributing to our part-time Backyard Classroom, our full-time Forest School is open to new students for the remainder of the term and for Fall 2020. What makes our Forest School work fantastically in the forest is also extremely valuable in our online interactive classroom. We maintain powerfully low ratios for every class (1:12 for our oldest grade, lower for younger). It’s a way for our students learning at home to get personalized instruction in academics and connection to nature (now in their own backyard). If you want to learn more about Forest School’s strength in small class sizes for both online and outdoor learning, respond to this email and I’ll personally get back to you.

Online Camps – Week Pass

For kids who want a consistent adventure every day, we now offer a Week Pass where you can sign up for one channel all week. If you want Captain Nick for five days, you can do that! If your kid needs a movement workout every morning, that’s there as well.

NEW Camps!

We have new online camps for next week. Enroll in the Wizards Academy to study Herbology and Mythic Beasts. Quest the Realms of Elves & Dragons for epic adventures. Learn to Fish in your living room. Cook dandelion donuts with Cowboy Sam. Or get young kids moving in Rovers Recess!

Our new WildLIVE! Rangers Adventures feature a Rangers Guide live and solo adventuring in our private wilderness park. Kids help create the camp as their Guide demonstrates skills such as fire or finds real animal tracks to follow. Finally, young campers (ages 4-6) can join me for FarmLIVE! Meet the Animals to greet donkeys, goats, chickens and more.

I so greatly appreciate our Trackers Community. This is a time where we come together to support one another and find our human and natural connection. Watch our Facebook and Instagram pages for details and have a sunny weekend.

By Molly Deis, Founder

Spring is upon us and it is the perfect time to get outside for plant ID and harvesting seasonal greens. One of my favorite things to do when plants start unfurling leaves and blossoms bloom is to go on wild wanders with my kids for forest browsing. Some of our favorites are…

Dandelion Some see this as a weed, I see this as the base for my salads. We also pick the flowers, dip them in pancake batter sweetened with honey and fry them up for what my kids call Dandelion Donuts.

Stinging Nettle Yes it stings when it’s fresh, but after steaming, boiling or frying, you have a plant with more flavor than spinach. We use bread crumbs, eggs, garlic and chopped nettle to make Nettle Patties we fry on the stovetop or bake in the oven.

Oregon Oxalis This plant is a tasty trailside nibble. It’s got a tart taste to it, a little bit like a green apple. My kids eat it fresh while playing in the woods.

Remember, when harvesting any wild plant its important to get a good field guide to properly identify the species as some plants have toxic lookalikes. Here are a few guides we like to help learn proper identification skills:

See You In The Forest,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

All Locations for Parents

By Molly Deis, Founder

We’ve come a long way since our first eclectic location directly across from Oaks Bottom Park. I often have conversations with many parents who don’t realize there’s a Trackers in their neighborhood. They get really excited when I tell them. So I wanted to review all our pick-up and drop-off options for Portland Area and beyond!


SE Portland

4617 SE Milwaukie Ave Portland, OR
This is Trackers Central, where you will find the most camp offerings. It also includes our nearby Annex.

Portland Waldorf School

2300 SE Harrison St Milwaukie, OR
We’re excited to offer camps at PWS to all families of the Milwaukie and beyond. Pro-tip to parents, parking is great here!

NE Portland

2727 NE 54th Ave. Portland, OR
Based out of St. Rose of Lima school, our NE Portland camps are in their 6th year with one of our fullest camp offerings.

N Portland

4822 N Vancouver Ave Portland, OR
New this year! And just off Williams Avenue, this site is a convenient option for many families in North Portland.

Cedar Hills

330 SW Murray Blvd Beaverton, OR
Right near the Nike Campus and only 1 minute from the Sunset Hwy, our new Cedar Hills site has proven very popular.

W Portland

5656 SW Humphrey Blvd Portland, OR
Close to our original W Portland site, this is more convenient for parents near both Schools Ferry Rd and the Sunset Hwy.

Happy Valley

16581 SE Hagen Rd Happy Valley, OR
Located at Pendarvis Farm, not too far from New Seasons in Happy Valley and site of the famous Pickathon festival.

Vancouver

10606 NE 14th St Vancouver, WA
You can find us at the Cascadia Montessori School. This is our 2nd year in this welcoming community.

Sandy

41515 SE Thomas Rd Sandy, OR
Day Camps are now available to families in Sandy. Now I drop my own kids off with a much shorter commute!

Overnight – Camp Roslyn

Thomas Rd Sandy, OR
Our new overnight site includes a newly remodeled historic school with a full-fledged dining hall.

Overnight Basecamp

Marmot Rd, Sandy, OR
Camp Trackers, our original residential site, is now our Basecamp for adventures in climbing, kayaking and more.

Overnight Expeditions

Adventures in the Pacific NW
Expeditions travel the Pacific Northwest. We visit the San Juan Islands, Oregon Coast and even backpack the Cascades.


I hope this review is helpful in knowing all our Portland sites. Also, don’t forget, Trackers has been in the Bay Area since 2008 and this year you can also find us in Denver and the Seattle area.

See You In The Forest,

Molly Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

By Tony Deis, Founder

Tracking is the original education. The Tracker learns from seeing their entire environment. Yes, the study of Tracking includes secondary resources such as books and other media. Yet at its foundation is an insatiable curiosity developed through routines of observation, and by mapping the most subtle details we see in the world around us.

Tracking is a gateway to a lifetime of adventure. Education should be an adventure, and real adventure is always an education. Learning Tracking is a course of study framed through service with 3 Connections:

Family & Community
Nature & the More-Than-Human-World
Many Generations Beyond Our Lifetime

The most relevant skill to the Tracker is the art of tracking. It teaches more than how to trail and follow animals, it’s about how we see and map the world—identifying patterns through layers and details both small and grand.The education of a Tracker offers teachings in our 4 Guilds:

Rangers The study of Forest Craft, Animal Tracking & Nature Awareness.
Wilders The study of Wildcrafting, Plants, and Wilder Gardens (Horticulture).
Mariners The study of Fishing, Boating, and Ecology (with Economics).
Artisans The study of Handcraft, Storytelling, and Sociology.

The skills of each Guild are learned by going outdoors into Nature, and by applying the core awareness of a Tracker along with hands-on skills of foraging and Forest Craft in nature.

Training in the skills of our Guilds teaches the routine of always mapping what you learn, and, to a greater extent, how you learn. Ultimately, Tracking is how all humans, all our ancestors, first learned about the world. It’s a way of learning and seeing that can benefit both the children of today and many generations beyond our lifetime.

Keep On Tracking,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

At Trackers, the entire point of a day in the woods is not for our teachers to teach, but for nature to lead the way. It’s a chance to learn, as uncontained by the human world as it can be. Too often, that is not the case in the day-to-day world our kids live in.

I don’t have a problem with video games, except that I’m really bad at them. I was the kid that went over to my friend’s house, promptly died on my first turn, and watched them play for the next 2 hours… until I died again. I’m fascinated by their innovative storytelling and technical scope. I also understand many games are altruistic and educational. Nevertheless, when my 9-year-old son goes to a friend’s house and plays video games, I sometimes troll him when he returns.

Dad: Why don’t we play video games at our house?
Robin: (sighs) Because they are other human’s ideas.
Dad: Bingo! I give you 1000 power up points.

We continue the debate about how his brain is growing and patterning, and what things could influence the person he will become. I stress that I don’t mind occasional exposure, just nothing structured in a way that can lead to addiction. Please note, I find it useful for every 9 year old to be well versed in behaviorist theory and evolutionary biology, just to make such conversations practical.

My primary concern is less about the medium of games, and more about where kids spend the majority of their time learning (which they do every second). Robin and I don’t stop at his obligatory family coda (which both annoys and amuses him). We discuss how games are designed to reward a particular course of behavior, for better or worse. Eventually, he brings up the point that TV does similar things (we like our Gravity Falls) and even books are “other peoples’ ideas”. Though, of course, he recognizes none of those possess the same fully-reactive experience of video games.

But nature is a very different teacher than human-produced media. And it builds a very different kind of empathy. When you play a video game, you have to understand human thought. When you track a red fox, you’re required to address an intelligence far more foreign and less domestic. The video game programmer wants you to eventually complete their puzzle. The fox, with the entire forest and seasons that hide it, is not so generous. Social media reinforces us to always be seen—it’s how we collect our “likes” denoting approval. Meanwhile, the Pacific Wren, a small brown bird, will aggressively scold you, alarming for the rest of the forest to run away, if your presence is even mildly obtrusive to their day-to-day foraging of spiders in the sword ferns.

The best rewards in the forest, in nature, come when you are seen less—not more. The lesson learned is never narrowed to one person’s programming objective, philosophy or set of ideas. That does not mean a Tracker is unsocial or avoids learning from their human community. On the contrary, they are often far more open to new ways of thinking because most of the trails they follow are naturally open-ended and mind-blowingly subtle.

This is what I mean by kids learning with nature, and not with teachers. We are guides who keep kids safe and help them overcome any limitations they may have in following the fox. Sure, sometimes those transitions into a more wild place still looks like a program—our camps, after all, have a schedule and curriculum—but they only have enough code to bring us to the freedom of the other side.

Also, of note, my kids are much better at video games than me.

Keep On Tracking,
Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad