In the winter of 2000, the Wilderness Awareness School (WAS), founded by Jon Young in Duvall, WA, began offering its monthly programs at Camp Sealth on Vashon Island for a small group of children. With hundreds of acres of pristine woodlands and shoreline to explore, these children quickly came to recognize the value of learning from nature and the transformative effect that Coyote Mentoring was having on their lives—they were joyful, peaceful and deeply caring about the natural world and it’s many communities of living things.
During the next three years, WAS continued to offer programs for children on Vashon. Several parents were so invested in this approach to nature connection that they began to volunteer, train with WAS and apprentice during the weekly program. It soon became clear however, that it was not sustainable for staff to make the long commute from Duvall year after year, and so WAS stopped offering programs on Vashon in June 2007. This catalyzed the Vashon families who had been a part of this growing movement since it’s inception. After many meetings and heartfelt discussions, a core group of families rose to the challenge of rooting this important work on Vashon, and the Vashon Wilderness Program was born.
We hired staff from WAS to direct and instruct, along with our first Vashon resident who was trained in Coyote Mentoring. In that first year we also partnered with the Vashon Learning Community, a local non-profit organization dedicated to supporting interest-led learning experiences for people of all ages, and gained access to the requisite liability insurance to maintain our long-term relationship with the land at Camp Sealth. Two years later, we officially transitioned to our own 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
In 2009, we hired our first on-island Director, and in 2012 we hired our Executive Director. The majority of our staff are now Vashon-based, helping to fulfill an important goal of our organization: to create sustainability in perpetuity.
Since our inception, we have connected over 1000 youth with nature through our weekly and monthly programs, and offer family and adult programming, as well as seasonal celebrations throughout the year which have brought over 1100 people of all ages together to honor our connections with each other and the Earth.
The Vashon Wilderness Program was born from a legacy of deep nature connection teachings created by Jon Young and the Wilderness Awareness School. Our approach to nature connection has been touted as “…good medicine for nature deficit disorder” by award winning author Richard Louv. Join us!