Living Earth Adult Foundations (LEAF)

Nine Empowering Weekends in Community and Nature

One weekend per month Sept 2024 – May 2025

If the program is marked as FULL, please still register for the waiting list (no cost). We WILL be offering spots to folks on the waiting list, so please register.

2024-2025 will be the 10th anniversary of LEAF!

Celebrate with $200 off tuition until June 29th with code EARLYBIRD200

Relationship
Resourcefulness
Re-Wilding and Re-Inspiring

In this world of technology and choice, we find ourselves busier than ever. Many of us feel alienated from the core of life, moving faster than feels healthy, wondering if we are connected to what is truly important.

Yet it has not always been this way. Even in this modern world there is a surefire way to return to ourselves with clarity and strength: nature connection.

Living Earth Adult Foundations—LEAF—is an invitation to remember the most vibrant parts of yourself. For one weekend a month, you have a chance to disconnect from phones and to-do lists, and reconnect to the peace of staring into a fire, the rejuvenation of sleeping under the stars, the inspiration of learning the plants you can eat on the landscape, the joy of laughing and learning with a community of like-minded people.
Our mission is to bring nature connection into your life in a powerful way. We explore skills that build competence and confidence, expand awareness, and create a thriving community of passionate students of life and the natural world.

Graduates say that LEAF has made them more resilient in the face of life’s struggles and sorrows. They say it gave them the courage to make big life changes. They say they laughed more than they expected, and felt quickly comfortable with the group. They say it helped them feel more at home in their own backyards and more comfortable exploring wild places. Nature connection practices can empower us to feel more grounded and potent in our lives, or as Ryan Eliason says “to become an unstoppable force for good.”

LEAF’s Core Curriculum Elements:

Routines of Connection. Learn the art of natural movement, how to use all your senses to listen deeper, and connect with the seasonal rhythms of the land. You will explore core practices that help you develop a deep relationship with place that will bear fruit in other aspects of your life.

Wildlife Track and Sign. The forest is teeming with life! You will learn to read animals’ stories on the landscape through tracks, trails, scratches, feeding signs, feathers, bones, kill sites, and trails. Tracking opens up the animal world like nothing else.

Wildcrafting/Plants in Human Life. The “wall of green” is actually made up of hundreds of our plant allies. You will learn identification, ethical harvesting, crafting with natural materials, medicine making, and how to transform greens, fruits, nuts, and bark into edible feasts. Crafting useful things with materials from the land is a deeply satisfying creative act.

woman sits next to a shelter she built using sticks and leaves

Tending the Earth. We seek to be in dynamic reciprocity with the earth, recognizing that we are one strand in a complex, beautiful ecology. Humans, in balance, are caretakers of the earth. We will learn to wield our skills and ability to help the earth heal and return to health and vitality.

Survival Skills. Cultivate your creativity and resourcefulness as we practice fire by friction, shelter building, water filtration, stone tools, and primitive cooking. These ancient skills bring a sense of satisfaction, competence, and belonging.

Inner Tracking and Community. At the heart of healthy community is peacemaking, both within ourselves and in relation to others. We embrace skills of authenticity, reflection, and conscious living. We sing, we share stories, and we co-create culture.

Bird Language. You will learn individual bird identification as well as patterns of vocalizations that allow you to determine if nature is in baseline or if there is something creating a disturbance. The birds mirror our awareness of the landscape, giving us a pulse of the web of life.

Who is LEAF?

Since starting the program in 2015, we have had every age decade represented from 20’s to 60’s, as well as various races, religions and orientations. “City-folk” with little to no camping experience have come together with seasoned wilderness therapy instructors and everyone in between. Parents, single people, grandparents, couples…educators, engineers, stay-at-home-parents, health practitioners and military personnel have come. Our collective curiosity about the natural world and our openness to connection has woven sweet threads of community each year.

Core instructors Hub Knott and Erin (Soupy) Campbell guide students with humor, experience and “the beginner’s mind,” the belief that we are all perpetual students. One student reflected, “I was challenged, yet held…Hub and Soupy met me where I was at.” (See our staff bio page for more on Hub and Soupy.)

Here’s how the course works:

Each weekend contains routines like sharing gratitude, making fire, going to our “sit spot” to quietly observe, singing songs, and sharing meals. The weekends generally have a central theme such as tracking, edible plants or bird language, yet we revisit skills and weave together seemingly unrelated elements. Within this structure, we sink into core practices that builds one’s connection to nature and community. Our teaching styles vary, with lots of storytelling, sensory activities that activate less-used parts of our brains, active-bodied games, and many questions. We believe “the learning is in the doing,” which makes for experiential, embodied weekends.

We will have special guest instructors for certain weekends, and we’ll take one or two field trips in the local area.

LEAF is a popular program that fills quickly. Over the course of 9 months we become a tight-knit community. Because of LEAF’s popularity, we ask you to consider realistically if you are able to be present to each weekend and to this community. We know that life moves in unexpected ways and that you might need to miss a weekend or a day here or there. So please consider if your full presence at this program is realistic for you, and if not, graciously allow someone else to register.

Come join us in the woods. Take a breath of fresh air, sink your roots in deep, and experience the power of the Earth as Mentor. Step aside, and let the wilderness do the work.

We are passionate about spreading nature connection to whoever wants it, and we are committed to diversifying our programs. Financial aid and work trade opportunities are one way that we encourage this diversity—please see the info box below!

Details & Registration – LEAF

  • September 2024 – May 2025. One weekend a month, Saturday-Sunday.
    Dates: Sept 14-15, Oct 12-13, Nov 9-10, Dec 7-8, Jan 11-12, Feb 8-9, March 15-16, April 12-13, May 3-4
  • 9am Saturday — 3pm Sunday. **On Saturday, programming will pause for a dinner break (sometimes with a potluck meal) around 4-5 pm. After dinner we will resume evening programming. Staying on Saturday nights is highly recommended, but we understand and support that some people need to go home to check in with children or other responsibilities on Saturday nights. Sunday class generally starts back up at 9 am and ends around 3 pm.
  • Adults, 18+

    We do not require masking or distancing, and we trust individuals to do what they need for themselves to feel comfortable attending. Our basic illness policy is, “if you’re sick, stay home” out of respect for your classmates. For returning to class after testing positive for COVID we are following the recommended guidelines. Please contact Soupy at soupy@livingearthva.org with any concerns.

  • Afton, Virginia
  • $1925 regular tuition

    Please make sure to scroll to the bottom of our Financial Policies page to see our plan for if LEAF is delayed or if we cannot meet in person.

    Buddy Discount: Register with a friend and get $100 each ($200 total). To receive this discount, email the office at connect@livingearthva.org to get a custom coupon code before registering.

    Early Bird Discount: use code EARLYBIRD200 until June 29th to save $200.

    Registration closes Sept 1st.

    If the program is marked as FULL, please register for the wait list by going through the regular registration process—there is a high likelihood of us expanding the program to let more in.

  • Accommodations: Participants provide their own sleeping setup. Tent space on the land, sleep in your car, commute from home, or find lodging nearby (note that we are 20 minutes from a hotel, though there are BnBs and campgrounds in the area).

    Meals: Bring your own snacks, lunches and Sunday breakfast. On a few weekends we will do potluck dinners. Propane stoves and basic outdoor kitchen setup provided.

    Tuition Assistance: For information about partial work-trade or financial aid, please read this google doc. Then click here to apply for work trade, or click here to apply for financial aid. We will continue to accept applications until the slots are filled. Contact soupy@livingearthva.org with any other questions about work trade or financial aid.

What the Kalahari Bushmen Taught Me

Hub’s reflections after a trip to Kenya in 2011

When I went to Africa a few years back, I saw a community of the Bushman that was so deeply connected with their home landscape it was breathtaking. They had what they call “ropes of connection” to all the plants, animals, insects, soils, rocks, sky, and the Creator. They were masterfully competent with all their skills. Each person’s gifts were honored and integrated into the community. Though not financially rich, they were the happiest people I have ever been around, and deeply rich in spirit. It was infectious. They had processes that kept their community strong, and core activities that they did over and over every day that kept them vital and connected to nature and creation. Their success as a culture, for so long, was not random—it was by thoughtful and practical design.

This trip confirmed to me that the core routines we have practiced and taught at LES from our beginnings have been right on target. We have seen many people in our programs come alive with child-like curiosity, feel more love for life, develop more empathy, feel more connected, empowered, centered, and full of peace. People comment on the quiet and calm they feel in side, while on the outside, a sparkle and zest for life can be seen in their eyes.

I am grateful for all my mentors, the Bushmen included, who have cultivated these skills in me, and I am honored to pass them on through LEAF.