DEEPER ROOTS immersion

This is your time…to take time


Sept. 2024 – May 2025


Charlottesville, VA area


Adults Ages 18 +

The Offering

Embark on an unforgettable nine-month journey where nature is your classroom.

The Living Earth Deeper Roots Immersion program is your time to take time to dive deep into an earth-based curriculum — from Wilderness Survival Skills, Ecology, Ethical Edible Harvesting, and Permaculture to Community-Building, Bird Language, and beyond.

Reconnect with the natural world, transform your life, build community, and find mentors during this nine-month gap year program. This experience will last a lifetime.

tree silhouette at sunset from gap year program


Program Dates: Sept. 2024 – May 2025

Program Tuition: $12,900*

Scholarships: We are accepting applications for 5 full-ride scholarships and several partial scholarships to Deeper Roots Immersion. Please check ‘yes’ in the financial assistance section to be considered.

Do you offer Financial Aid? Yes. Payment plans are also an option for those that need it.

Ages: 18 years and older

*The Living Earth School has opportunities to put your skills and knowledge to work immediately upon graduating if you desire. Work for LES the summer following your graduation and earn upwards of $6000, This is an immediate 50% return of your investment.

How do I apply? Submit your application online below. We will review applications on a rolling basis, and get back to you in 3-4 weeks with a decision. Since the application process is rolling, the program is full when it fills.

If you have any questions about the program or would like to discuss veteran benefits or international students please reach out to Anna at:

Once you are accepted into the program, an enrollment deposit of $2580 is due within 4 weeks to hold your place. Part of that deposit is a non-refundable enrollment fee of $500. If you require financial assistance, we will be in touch with you about options as part of the acceptance process.

adults making fire by friction, a wilderness survival skill

The Challenge

When making big decisions on your life path, it’s easy to feel intimidated and confused. What do I study? Where do I want to work? Who do I want to be? In a world of information overload, it’s hard to know up from down and easy to get caught in a web of meaningless activities.

If you’re craving a path of deep knowledge, authentic connection, and lasting relationships—a soul-filled journey in nature awaits you.

Your Guides

We’ve been in your shoes. College or a 9 to 5 wasn’t feeling meaningful or exciting at the time. We craved more. We have felt the pain, the apathy, the adrift feelings. Yet we discovered ways to live meaningful adult lives that allowed us to contribute back to something we deeply cared about. This transformation rarely happens by chance. It was because we sought out mentors and built a sustainable framework that was aligned with our values that we found success— and a deeply enriching way of life.

Living Earth School has a mentoring culture that aims to bring out the best in an individual. We have done this work as individuals and as program leaders for over twenty years. Our program provides the opportunity to meet nature directly—so that you can foster an intuitive and harmonious relationship with nature. The root word mentor means “to bring the light out of another.” We offer this gift of nature-connected mentoring to you.

Upon completion of Deeper Roots Immersion, we want you to know how to lead your life, to problem solve, to be willing to take risks, and to have a framework for success. We are here to support your journey forward.

The Plan

Experience. Learn. Thrive.

This intimate immersive program offers a blend of discussion-based and experiential learning, woodsmanship, handcrafting, tool use, stewardship, expeditions, team building, leadership, and wilderness-living. We will share a diverse skill-set and knowledge that fosters a harmonious relationship with nature. The mix of hard and soft skills cultivates deeper relationships that build empathy, values, passion, and a deep sense of quiet that will help inform your next steps in life.

The ClassRoom

Nature is our classroom. Nature is unbiased, a master of living in healthy relationships with others, and knows how to heal itself. Nature can help calibrate our minds and hearts to our deeply held values, build our resilience, and give us firm ground to stand on in this ever-changing life.

We will learn deeply about the natural beings that make up our local ecosystem, how to live on the earth in right-relationships, test our skills, go on crazy fun adventures, visit with elders and local experts, make things that are useful from the land, and laugh in a rich, diverse, and inclusive learning community. With nature as your classroom, you will learn what you value, what you love, and how to let that lead your life.

The course is located in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. We are up against the Blue Ridge mountains, near Shenandoah National Park, with mountain hollows, streams, and more. Located along the eastern flyway for migrating birds, we have some of the highest plant diversity in the country and our local rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to our basecamp, we will travel regularly to regional hotspots around the mid-Atlantic for various learning experiences. We will go on expeditions to the coastal plains, high country, and paddle down rivers. Nature is our classroom, and we are in an amazing spot to dive in deep, learn, and explore.

gap year students study black bear skeleton

The Flow

Your days will vary—from being at base camp to exploring special places in the region. This may look like making fire without matches in the dead of winter, tracking a bobcat on a mountain as it hunts for dinner, restoring a patch of damaged land from past abuses, or learning how to tend your own inner fire so that you shine bright. It can also include going into wild places for several days at a time with your group to adventure, pick blueberries, or paddle a wild river. The adventure awaits!

There will be hands-on projects, journal time, engaging in group activities and missions, listening to stories, deep dives into core areas, and moments where you get to bring your skills together to give them a test drive.

Each student will design a project with the support of their advisor surrounding a subject that they are deeply passionate about. Final projects will be presented to the group. Some examples of these projects are bow making, local wild medicinals, ethnobotany, advanced fire making, and so much more.

The Takeaway

This is an immersive Year that will last a lifetime.

After nine immersive and soul-nourishing months, you will gain earth skills, leadership skills, emotional growth, and leave with a stronger sense of Self—an integral mind, body, and heart connection. This solid foundation will help you to take your next steps in life—steps toward a fulfilling life journey and purpose where you can thrive and live harmoniously with your community and the earth.

Deeper Roots Curriculum

Meet Your Instructors:

photo of Paul Cipriani, one of the gap year instructors

Paul Cipriani

Paul has been studying primitive technologies for over 15 years. Apprenticing at schools such as Wilderness Awareness School and The Tracker School, Paul has also studied how to mentor others in these ancient skills. Knowing this is his life’s work, he has nature mentored children on the high seas upon tall ships, in the deserts of Utah with troubled youth, at various summer camps across the country, as well as at his own school in Florida. When not leading youth around the woods, Paul loves to fish, hunt and rockhound. Leatherworking and blacksmithing are also hobbies of his.

Want to learn more about how Paul got to where he is today? Watch this short video introduction.

Living Earth School co-founder Hub Knott sits on a rock by the water

Hub Knott (LES Founder)

Hub has been on a deep nature connection journey for over 25 years. He didn’t grow up in a world that felt connected to nature. He knew something was missing. In his late teens he started exploring the woods near his childhood home in Baltimore, and then expanded to some of the most beautiful wild places in North America. He yearned for the taste of the wild, the real, the mountain peaks and the rich valleys.

He has traveled to other continents and studied with many leaders and mentors to answer the question: what consistently connects people to nature, and their purpose? It is these findings that put him on the leading edge of the nature connection movement. Hub knows from experience how this nature connection journey can transform ones life, leading to more heart-centered relationships and purpose. He has mentored and taught thousands of people to connect in a deeper, more meaningful way with not only the natural world, but with themselves in balance with community.

Hub is great at bringing humor, curiosity and a light-hearted approach to loving this earth and empowering people to embrace their opportunity. Hub lives along the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wonderful wife Kate and daughters Violet and Phoebe. He loves pursuing his outdoor passions of gardening, tending the wild, wandering the mountains behind his home, trail running, paddling rivers, and saying “yes” to adventure.

Other LES staff and friends of LES will provide supporting roles and visit to guest instruct some pieces of the curriculum. We are fortunate to be in an area of many experts that can share their breadth of knowledge to enrich this learning experience.

Our Students:

Deeper Roots Immersion program is created for people who want to deepen their connection to nature, value learning in a vibrant community, and who want to sink their hands and minds into activities that develop an understanding of our living earth. It is for those who want to go beyond just dabbling and crave a truly immersive experience in nature, with community, to grow and thrive. This is the perfect opportunity to start your career in the outdoor industry as an instructor, educator, naturalist, or guide.

Our students tend to come primarily from the east coast of the US, though we have had students from the western US as well as Europe. Our students vary in age, experience, urban/rural, and financial means.

Your personal learning goals will be met by our broad curriculum designed to give a holistic orientation to nature, and give you the tools to go as deep as you desire. We know some students have an affinity for earth skills, others the plants. In the beginning of the program and throughout, you will be assigned to an advisor who will help oversee your learning journey. You will set goals of what you wish to learn, have regular check-ins, and an ally to help you learn what you came to learn. We also have space for an individual learning project where you can dive even deeper into a certain aspect of the curriculum. Our classes have a low student to teacher ratio so you will get the attention you need to succeed.

Some students live in the Charlottesville area and surrounding counties during the program. They either rent rooms, a house, or apartment. We have local connections and can help with finding rooms if needed. You can live in a rural setting if you desire, small town, or larger towns like Charlottesville (about 150,000 people in the surrounding area).

Charlottesville is a college town (University of Virginia), that has many hip things going on (great restaurants, music scene, used bookstore, farmers markets, and lots of creative art related things).

Is there work available in the area? Yes. Many students will have part time work to help make their participation in this course possible. The program meets usually on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Having a flexible work schedule is important as a few times a year we will have field trips out of the area.

We are working towards making college credit for those that want it. Some students work it out with their current college to receive credit for their time in DRI.

No previous training is required. Some students that come to Living Earth have attended other wilderness survival schools, taking college level classes, etc. Mostly they come with an interest to learn.

We have no prerequisites for this program. Having attended one of our programs or another outdoor school can give you a sense if the Deeper Roots Immersion is a good fit for you. We encourage you to ask us questions to get a better sense if we are a good fit.

Students have lots of options to apply for their program certificate. Nature education is helpful to a lot of fields. Some will go on to start their own nature connection schools, forest kindergarten, or… Some will choose to become eco therapists, outdoor educators, wilderness guides, work for conservation organizations, environmental lawyer, healing arts, and regenerative agriculture. Some take DRI just for their own personal enrichment, others to be awesome moms and dads that share the natural world with their children, and a host of other reasons.

The Living Earth School has opportunities to put your skills and knowledge to work immediately upon graduating if you desire. Work for LES the summer following your graduation and earn upwards of $6000, This is an immediate 50% return of your investment.

“I know the impact such a program as this had in my own life. It was an investment of time and money in myself. I can’t imagine where I would be today without making this investment in myself, and finding mentors that cared about me, and my growth. It was the turning point in my life to live a life where I am deeply content and with a framework to succeed.”

– Hub Knott, LES Founder and Mentor


A message from LES Founder, Hub Knott:

I graduated high school and in the world I lived in everyone went directly to college. I was not excited about that prospect, as I didn’t really know what I wanted. Slogging through school without a strong focus felt like torture.

I had some clear ideas of what I didn’t want: a job that lacked meaning or didn’t make the world a better place for all. I didn’t want to just bumble through life or work just to keep up with the bills. So I decided to take a pause before starting college. It was one of the greatest choices I have ever made.

I set out on a wander around the country, which was great in some ways, but wasn’t really helping, I was spinning aimlessly during this impressionable time in my life.

Eventually, my parents stepped in and offered to send me on an extended guided wilderness program. That was a game-changer. I learned how to care for myself, was exposed to new ideas, learned the skills to safely travel in very harsh conditions, and learned about leadership. It was there that I found my voice, and identified what I valued. From learning applicable skills, I gained competence and confidence. I discovered what I was passionate about, and learned how I could positively contribute to the world.

I soon made my way back to college when I was ready to make the most of the experience and investment. And I got a ton of value out of it. I attribute that wilderness immersion course as the turning point that led me to success in life and a life filled with meaningful contribution. I have not wavered on my values and passion since.

What will your life path be? What journey will you choose to embark upon?

Your time is now.
Join us for A year That will Last a lifetime.