Thursday, August 6, 2020

Click to watch a short video from Tony about summer

 

Letter From Our Founders

Summer Camp Update

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. California released their official guidelines for day camps on June 2nd. We reviewed each area’s guidelines and regulations the minute they came in. 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:

Location Change: In an effort to follow Department of Health guidance, we are moving our drop off location for all of our Bay Area programs to the Camp Herms Scouts property, which we have exclusive use of for the summer. We are reaching out to the parents affected to communicate the change, as well as answer any questions you might have.

Overnight Camps Due to the health guidelines in place, we will not be able to hold the Leadership in Training program. We are working with each family to figure out the next best steps for them with us in this program.

Day Camps will continue according to Contra Costa County 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 for the entirety of the camp week. Campers will space themselves as 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.
  • We ask that campers bring masks to wear. They will be asked to wear masks in situations where social distancing is not possible and on vehicles, as well as maintain 6 feet of space between themselves and other campers whenever possible, not limited to when directed by a staff member.
  • Check-in and check-out times may be staggered. This may result in minor shifts in camp times.
  • 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.
  • To follow California 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.

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

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

Our Winter Break Programs start today! They are often my favorite camps. From Ninjas Save Christmas to Vikings & Valkyries, the holiday themes seem to bring out the kid in everyone. And I believe that is what makes Trackers unique—we remember what it's like to be a kid.

We write our camp descriptions with kids in mind or the kid inside every parent. That does not mean we act like a kid (usually). Instead, we root what we do in that "call to adventure" and the creative power of seeing a world of possibilities. We want our campers to be like those kids over 50 years ago: running down creeks, catching crawdads and coming home for dinner wet, dirty and exhausted just after sundown.

I wish that for my own children, but I can't always provide it. I have to help them with math. I have a mortgage to pay. Plus, I'm ardently following that next election. Sometimes it feels like there's an entire world working against childhood and the parents who steward it. Screens can control our focus, comfort can dull our resiliency, or classroom walls can box our hearts.

The remedy? At Trackers, we know nature as a very real friend. A wilder companion that serves as an antidote to these modern challenges. The outdoors becomes a mentor and guide to childhood, preserving that spark of adventure that helps kids grow into healthy, caring adults.

So as I visit our camps with pirates stealing Christmas and flaming archery arrows they serve as stories that make this village called Trackers a place for teachers and parents who truly remember what it is like to be a kid.

From the Trackers Family to your….
Happy Holidays!

Molly Deis
Trackers Founder & Mom
Wilders Guild

If your kid is a Tracker, there is code. It describes what it means to be a Tracker and gives guidance as we all connect to community, nature, and many generations beyond us.

Code of a Tracker

Pay Attention Most people go through life with tunnel vision. Trackers Kids learn to see the entire picture, to always look for details both small and great. We teach this through wide-angle vision, animal tracking, and sensory awareness. Students learn nothing is ever what we assume on the surface. Through tracking they learn to travel subtle trails few choose to follow.

Be Truly Helpful For the Tracker, this starts by Paying Attention. We are only TRULY helpful when we listen and empathize with others. A Tracker never assumes what they are doing is right, instead they act thoughtfully to meet to the needs of the village and nature.

Appreciation Awe is often missing from our modern day experience. A Trackers Kid seeks out a great new adventure everyday, feats of respect originating from the beauty of community and the wilder world around us.

Adapt A Trackers Kid always seeks out new answers and layers to the puzzle, to which there is never a finish. Trackers are always learning, growing, and adapting. They improve not only for themselves, but to help support others from friends and family to wildlife, from elders who come before and many generations into the future.

These lessons are shared by all of us as we care for community and adventure with nature. They are the heart of our programs, helping every kid learn what it means to be a “Tracker.”

Keep Growing,

Tony Deis
Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

From Jordana, Trackers Storyteller

Summer is nearly upon us, which means we’re all planning, preparing, and scheduling in order to squeeze the maximum amount of fun into time away from school. And while planning all the activities for kids means they are likely to have a blast, we recognize that this requires work from parents. So, we at Trackers want to reemphasize that the Trackers Village isn’t just for kids, it’s for you too. Our community of dedicated, compassionate educators are here to steward the next generation of thoughtful, connected individuals. And, we’ll do it together. How is the Trackers Village here for you?

Many Options for Engagement One weekend a month? One week in the summer? After school? You and your kids are busy, so join us whenever you can, during the summer, school breaks, and throughout the year. Flexible Pick Up and Drop Off – Trackers now has seven drop-off locations for summer programs, flexible early hours, and affordable after-care.

Resources & Connections Did your kid come home raving about a new skill? Are you now on the hunt for fishing holes in your area? Our staff is a wealth of information, tips, and tricks for helping your family get outside and expand on all our Trackers skills. From gear recommendations to trip ideas and everything in between, we’d love to connect you further to Portland’s awesome array of outdoor enthusiasts.

Community Events Throughout the year, Trackers offers community events, open to the public, to engage with Trackers skills. Adult Classes – Wilderness adventures aren’t just for kids. Trackers offers adult programs and classes including blacksmithing, wilderness survival, homesteading & folk crafts, instructor training, and so much more.

Most importantly, we want you to know that we are a part of your community, a part of the extended Village that is here to raise our children. Bringing your kids to Trackers is so much more than just another summer camp; it’s an investment in your children and in our community of support.

Even as we’re supposed to be more connected, our world can feel more isolated. A former surgeon general once called it a public health crises.

With our on-the-go schedules, it’s often challenging for kids to make friends. The world doesn’t always allow our children to free range together. We’re told they can’t roam parks and school offers less play and more work.

Yet children need free play to hone lifelong skills of resilience, resolving conflicts, and, most importantly, making friends. At our camps, we focus on creating an extended community of support, developing “friending skills” through shared adventures.

Everything is about connection. It needs to go beyond just learning outdoor skills. We understand that kids join Trackers—and parents send them—to discover or reconnect with friends. They also come to build a relationship with the wilderness.

We work to reclaim that connection to nature with very unique teaching methods. The modern outdoor education movement is fantastic, but when it’s only geared towards a sport or academic, we reduce ourselves to tourists of the wilderness.

Sure, our camps teach survival, fishing, archery, kayaking, and rock climbing; yet those adventures are only vehicles through which they get to know the more-than-human world. Trackers campers are always “tracking” in the forest, and this helps kids feel a part of nature, not just a visitor.

This is a core value for us: the more you track or learn about an animal, plant, or person, the more you care about them. Empathy is at the root of building community. I learned this with my own children: Robin (8 years), Annie (5 years), and Maxine (3 years).

With the right training from the Trackers Community, my three kids free range and never feel lost or alone in the forest. They know the local elk herd whose trails they easily follow, even across hard to track ground. They have personal names for individual trees, birds, or wildflowers.

This is an essential feeling of familiarity, of extended family. Our purpose is to help all children discover their own innate sense of belonging in the natural world. And with that same connected empathy, learn to create greater friendships in the human one.

All the best,
Tony Deis

Trackers Earth
Founder & Dad

An extended community is crucial to raising children. As a parent, I’ve experienced the need for support from family, neighbors, and educators. Our children grow by learning from many different mentors. Tony and I started Trackers Earth in 2004 with a common purpose:

Greater connection to community, nature, our heritage, and future.

It is our community of teachers that makes Trackers special. Many camp programs only hire instructors for summer, which limits who can teach for them. Yet, along with a fantastic seasonal staff, we work to create an educational network that employs more and more teachers throughout the year. As a result, our Village of educators brings experience and responsibility to the journey of helping to raise our children.

A Village thrives through reciprocity: getting support and giving support. Since our founding, so many parents and students have supported us, spreading the word and growing Trackers into one of the largest outdoor programs in Oregon and beyond. In turn, our teachers and I promise to work every day to fulfill that community promise towards greater connection for all generations and the future.

Thank you and see you in the forest,

Molly
Trackers Earth
Founder & Mom

I was 14 years old and reading Walden. About three-quarters of the way through the book, I said to my parents:

This high school thing isn’t working for me, I need to do something different. I’m going to explore the wilderness.

They offered no argument and zero debate. Instead, they went about helping me figure out how to make it happen. My mother and father saw that I was suffering during my Freshman year. I found prescriptive education stifling, evidenced by my (possibly pretentious) interest in 19th-century transcendentalism. The strict compartmentalization of conventional classrooms felt painful. Moreover, I was consistently bullied and struggled socially.

But in nature, there was no edict limiting what I could explore and who I could learn from. There were no fluorescent lights pushing my face into a desk. And no one to tease me when I didn’t know the latest band or wasn’t a star Sportsball player.

Eventually, I discovered Forest Craft. My goal: learn the skills that bring me closer to the Wild. My family couldn’t afford to send me to a class across the country or buy books on the subject. Yet what they lacked in financial resources they more than made up for in love and encouragement.

Because Forest Craft is both so deep and so broad, it can be a challenge to learn without teachers. There were no outdoor homeschool programs that I knew of. This was long before bushcraft videos on YouTube. All I had was my bike and a library card.

That process of self-education often proved more profound than answers from a ready-made curriculum. Eventually, I helped assemble a growing community of like-minded folks who shared an appreciation for the natural world. Some also left high school with the same vision. We made primitive shelters, surviving the elements with no modern gear. We foraged through seasons of wild foods. We tracked the local bears, getting to know them like they were part of our own village. Together we learned challenging and epic lessons from the wilderness.

Conventional education failed to provide me with healthy social connections, wilder freedom, and deeper roots. My journey may have started out inspired by Thoreau’s solitary rantings by Walden Pond, but with the support of my big Italian Family, we evolved into a village. And, at some point along the way, we started to call it Trackers. Twenty-eight years later, I feel privileged to be part of that community with our staff and the families we serve.

I know there is a better way for children to grow and learn than the prescriptive education forced upon us. My own children learn through their connection to nature and the freedom it brings. Their “home school days” are often spent wandering the forest, sometimes without an adult. They talk about plants and animals in those woods like they are old friends. And they’re surrounded by more than just teachers, they have mentors who I consider their extended family.

That’s the goal of all our year-round programs, from our Homeschool Outdoor Program to our Weekend Apprenticeships: Give every kid a connection that goes beyond school. Help them find a vision that empowers many generations beyond their own adventures in learning.
See you in the woods,

Tony
Trackers Earth, Founder