Earth Steward Apprenticeship: nature connection and rites of passage for teenagers

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Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.

Walt Whitman

Earth Steward Apprenticeship: nature connection and rites of passage for teenagers

The Earth Steward Apprenticeship is a year-long course for young people aged between 13-17. It is designed to inspire awe, wonder and respect for nature through practical, sensory and playful outdoor activities. The programme enables participants to develop deeper connections with themselves, each other and the natural world. It helps them become more deeply engaged with their relationship to all things. We encourage them to feel the excitement of discovery, as they develop a sense of belonging through knowing their place on the earth.

Interested in taking part?

If you’re interested in taking part in future ESA courses please contact us and we can send you application forms or answer any questions.
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Why the programme exists

A recent report produced by the National Trust clearly demonstrates how spending quality time in outdoor natural environments has a beneficial impact on children, in terms of meeting some of their key developmental needs. These needs are not satisfactorily met for the majority of children currently growing up in Britain today and this is having adverse effects on their health and wellbeing. We are seeing compromised physical and mental health, increased behavioural and social disorders, which ultimately contribute to weakened communities and local economies.

Bow making

Bow making

The Earth Steward Apprenticeship programme was designed to address these issues. It creates a space where rich experiences in nature can be processed and integrated in safe but exciting ways. The programme enables participants to:

  • develop a variety of skills to help them thrive in the natural environment
  • discover their role as integrated members of and care givers to the natural world
  • gain a greater depth of appreciation and understanding for nature
  • become more self-reliant and able to adapt to an ever-changing world
  • develop strategies for taking sustainable practices into adult life.

A better future for our children


Decorating the clay oven

Decorating the clay oven

With raised awareness of our environment and our relationship to ourselves and others we can, in small steps, bring active hope and regeneration to our communities.



Age and cost

Skinning a rabbit

Skinning a rabbit

  • Age group: 13-17 years.
  • Cost: £1200 Early Birds: £999 when booked by Dec 1st 2017.
  • Concessions: Some concessions for low income/single parent available, please write and give circumstances, your application will be considered.

Please see our ESA Financial Agreement (link below) for full information.

Year Course Structure

  • Four weekend camps (Saturday 9.15am to Sunday 3pm).
  • One five day deepening connection camp.
  • One five day survival quest.
  • Celebration and awards ceremony.
  • Dates for 2018:
    March weekend: 17-18,
    Apr weekend: 21-22,
    May 5 days: 28th – 1st June,
    July weekend: 7-8,
    Sep long weekend: 7-9,
    October quest week: 20-24.

Essential equipment

Sleeping bag, bivvy bag, rollmat, themal clothing, survival tin, knife, water bottle, strong outdoor clothing, waterproofs, strong boots/footwear, warm hat, notebook, pen, knife, fork, spoon, cup, personal bivvy/tarp and cord.



Year One: Building Relationships

The balance game

The balance game

  • The Principles of Earth Skills

    • Shelter – Establish survival camps making various forms of shelter.
    • Fire – Engage in a variety of methods of fire making and learn basic fire skills.
    • Water – Water preservation, sourcing and storing.
    • Food – The art of the hunter-gatherer: foraging, archery skills, food preparation, cooking on open fires.
  • Core routines

    • Sit Spot.
    • Fox walking.
    • Bird language.
    • Tree lore.
    • Storytelling.
    • Art of thanksgiving/gratitude.
    • Journaling.
  • Understanding the ecological web of life

  • Nature awareness: games, methods and techniques

  • Ancient technologies

  • Art of wild-crafting

    Cordage, baskets, bowls, flint knapping, wood crafts, etc.

  • Introduction to the Sweat Lodge

    Building the Lodge, Sweat Lodge Ceremony.

  • Survival Quest

    End of year camp to test the skills that have been learnt.

Year Two: The Art of Living with the Earth



  • The Art of Living with the Earth

    Building on the Earth Skills learned in Year One: Plant, Tree and animal identification, knowledge and uses, phenomenology.

  • The Art of the Hunter-gatherer

    Deepening the experience by building on teachings from Year One: trapping, tracking, bow work, and wild foods.

  • Introduction to Biodynamic Principles and Methods

  • Introduction to forest gardens – improving biodiversity

  • Working with the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) in a sustainable way

    • Clay/earth ovens
    • Solar stills
    • Water systems and rain catchments
    • Ecological Indicators
    • Deepening craft plant and tree knowledge
    • Hide tanning
    • Bark work
    • Wild edibles
    • Advanced flint knapping
  • Survival Quest

    End of year camp to test the skills that have been learnt.

Year Three: Deepening the Journey

Games in the woods

Games in the woods

  • Development of inner tracking and reflective questioning to complement the physical journey

  • Deepening sensory awareness

    How to become more aware of what we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and sense.

  • Earth Caretaking – Thriving rather than surviving

    Understanding the elements and the inter-connectedness of all things.

  • Personal Quest

    Exploration of the guidance given when we spend time alone in nature, joys of self-discovery, and the power of personal vision for our lives.

  • Introduction to the Art of Mentoring

    How to empower others in a nurturing way to help them realise their full potential.

  • Survival Quest

    End of year camp to test the skills that have been learnt.

Inspiration and thanks

No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.

David Attenborough

The Earth Steward Apprenticeship was born out of our experience and relationship with the earth. We would like to acknowledge Tom Brown Junior, Jon Young and Thomas Schor-Konn for bringing the bundle of teachings which has inspired ESA to the UK. Thanks also to Grandfather Stalking Wolf for sharing his vision and passion for the earth with us all. Lastly thanks to all our brothers and sisters in the natural world, the relationships that support us in all ways, that underpin our daily lives, and give us the opportunity to become all we can possibly be.

Interested in taking part?

If you’re interested in taking part in future ESA courses please contact us and we will send you application forms or answer any questions.