By Travis Neumeyer, new Hand/COO of Trackers Earth
I’ve been sending my kids to Trackers since they were old enough to go. I’ve had to participate vicariously through them for the last four years. Somewhere along the line, Tony (the founder of Trackers) and I started talking. We talked about staffing, parents, and kids. Dune, Firefly and Lord of the Rings. Building a better summer camp, one that both transcends and includes the foundations of camping. A better model for the industry, a way to save the world.
My daughter returns from Trackers telling me about the boys she snuck up on and defeated in battle. When we go for a walk in Forest Park (my front yard), my son eats miner’s lettuce and oxalis. They both boast about their stick throwing and archery skills. When I go to the Scout Pit for a Final Friday, they are immediately at home, practicing their bow-drill, firing arrows in the archery range or spinning yarn. Running around and being kids, all while learning, practicing and playing games.
Now I get to go to Trackers too. We are coming home.
I grew up in the woods, half-feral perhaps. I am intimately familiar with a certain landscape and every summer I go back. This is what I want my children to have, I want all children to have. The self-confidence that comes from knowing how to find their way home from wherever they are, because they know the general direction your home is in and when they get close, their personal landmarks guide them home. From knowing the plants in their landscape, like friends, which ones taste good, which ones are bad for them, and which ones might not taste good but could help them survive.
Part of what makes Trackers special is that we harness the power of play and games in learning. In more traditional societies, children ‘played’ with bows, knives, and young livestock, learning and practicing how to be useful. Having fun, while paying attention. The bows they used were appropriately sized. The knives appropriately sharpened. I send my kids to Trackers for the skills they learn, but also the way they learn it.
I believe a teacher’s role is to create a space where learners learn. Too often we take that away from the learner by telling them what to do, how to do it and why. In our very attempt to teach, we rob them of their own learning. One way to create that space is to insure the natural consequences are understood and kept in a very narrow, safe but powerfully instructive zone.
In know from my personal experience and my experience as a parent that knife safety is internalized when you know you can cut yourself with the knife. This is the same zone of flow that happens just outside of our comfort zone, where we learn best – where we are fully engaged and aren’t quite overwhelmed. Trackers does that incredibly well. The safety policies built into Trackers curriculum insure that powerful educational moments are created, and our children develop skills faster, remember what they learn better and have more fun because of how Trackers staff treat them and the world around them.
Trackers Instructors model the skills they teach, provide constructive feedback in a direct, efficient way, and most of all let our sons and daughters try, fail, learn and try again. We will make sure that your children, and mine, don’t come home with cuts that will leave scars, or spend time in the emergency room instead of having fun. We will also make sure they truly learn something useful.
Trackers is the program I have wished I was running for the last 10 years. I wouldn’t be ready for Trackers if I hadn’t had those experiences, I am grateful for them and the people I’ve gotten to work with, but in the back of my mind I’ve always thought, “we could be better,” “we could have more fun,” “we could save the world.” Trackers is constantly working to be better, have more fun, and to save the world. Each family that participates in Trackers is part of our village. A village where play teaches important skills, skills that are the healthy part of humanity’s resilience. A village where no one will ever need to go hungry or be bored because they know how to flow with the gardens, the wilds and the hedgerows.
Make it so.