FAQs

Summer camps follow different policies.

Summer Camp FAQ are available here: Summer Camp FAQ & Information


Below are Wild Earth policies for year round programs.


Programming Questions

What are your knife use & safety protocols?

As you know, at Wild Earth, children have the opportunity to explore confidence-building activities like fire-building, walking through the woods blindfolded, and working with sharp tools such as hatchets, saws and knives.  We see such activities as essential areas of healthy exploration, and we believe that they support children’s development, ability to assess risks, and sound decision making, in both the forest and in life.   

We are able to hold such activities at Wild Earth due to our great consideration and care in regard to safety and proper practices.  While there is always some inherent risk in regards to carving activities, we do our utmost to mitigate those risks by teaching and continually reinforcing these practices.  We strongly suggest that you review the safety protocols below with your child, and practice carving with them.  By further reinforcing our safety protocols at home, you are partnering with us to increase your child’s safety.  Below you will find the key rules for safer carving and a reminder of our knife use and knife safety policy. 

Please read through this message carefully, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out! 

Carving Protocol

Set Up:

1. Make sure you are in a good physical, mental, and emotional space to carve, and that your environment is calm, quiet and conducive to focused work. Someone who is distracted, tired, hungry, too hot or cold, dehydrated, frustrated, or otherwise unready to focus should not be carving. Likewise, if light is waning, if it’s very noisy, or if other environmental factors may lead to reduced focus, carving is not appropriate.
2. Ask permission to take out your knife and make sure an adult is there to help you.
3. Find a spot with plenty of space from other people; this is your ‘blood bubble’. Your extended arm holding your (sheathed) knife should not be able to reach any person around you.
4. Sit down cross legged, kneeling, or seated on a chair or log. These positions will help you make sure that your carving does not drift above your legs. Your legs (and all parts of your body) should always be behind your knife’s blade.

Carving Practices:

All the following practices help children carve without body parts being in front of or within reach of the knife blade.
1. Always carve away from yourself. Reposition your wood as needed to carve different areas. Make sure your legs are not beneath the knife blade. If this is challenging, carve to the side of your legs.
2. Always carve away from your holding hand.  Make sure your holding hand is clearly between your knife and your body, safely behind your knife’s blade.  It should never be beneath or in front of your knife blade.  This proper placement ensures that if your knife slips or your wood breaks, your hand will not be cut. (Note: While this rule is essentially the same as #1, we include it separately because this is where young carvers tend to need the most correcting.)
3. Use your carving hand for carving ONLY (ie: Don’t point with your knife, don’t itch your head with knife still in your hand, etc.)
4. Always keep your eyes on your work. If something calls your attention elsewhere, put your knife in it’s sheath.
5. Never stand up or walk with your knife unsheathed. If you need to stand up, sheath your knife and put it in a safe place.  When you return to carve check with the adult who was watching you to make sure it is ok to continue.
6. Do not saw back and forth with your knife.  Carving knives are not saws and should not be used with a sawing motion, as this can cause your blade to slip.  
7. Remove thin layers of wood only.  Do not use strong force to remove large pieces of wood, as this can cause your blade to slip.
8. When finished, look CAREFULLY as you return your (dry and clean) knife to its sheath, keeping your fingers behind the blade.  Return your knife to your backpack.  Knives should never be left on the ground or allowed to rust.

Knife Use and Knife Safety Policy

1. Before having or using knives, participants under 18 must have written permission in the form of a signed Knife Use Waiver or parents/guardian must have given consent via our online registration form.

2. Participants must be at least 7 years old to carve at Wild Earth programs.  This means that carving MAY begin as early as age 7, but not that it necessarily will.  At Wild Earth we make judgement calls about readiness for new tasks and challenges based on children’s developmental stage and not solely on their age.  Most children are ready to begin carving between ages 7 and 9.  Carving activities are always at the discretion of Wild Earth staff.

3. Children at programs which include 7 & 8 year olds will carve using knives provided by Wild Earth instructors ONLY (if they carve), and will not be permitted to attend the program with their own knives. This is because children often have their first experiences carving at these programs, and we support safety by limiting the availability of knives.  Carving at these programs will take place at a 1-2 instructor to participant ratio.

4. Children attending programs which begin at age 9 or older are welcomed to bring their own non-folding or locking-blade knives and store them in their backpacks, NOT on their person.  Carving activities at these programs will take place at a 1-4 instructor to participant ratio.  Program managers and seasoned program coordinators may adjust this ratio to accommodate very experienced carvers ONLY when those carvers are under their direct supervision, and they deem it safe to do so.

5. Teens attending programs which begin at age 13 or older are welcomed to bring their own non-folding or locking-blade knives and store them in their backpacks. They may be permitted to keep knives on their person for particular activities, and with instructor permission.  Carving activities at these programs will take place at a 1-6 instructor to participant ratio.  Program managers and seasoned program coordinators may adjust this ratio to accommodate very experienced carvers ONLY when those carvers are under their direct supervision, and they deem it safe to do so.

6. When instructors have determined that children are ready to carve, knife safety will be fully presented and taught to those children at each program before carving activities commence.  All participants must receive training before carving, and records will be kept in regards to who has received training.  Before each carving opportunity throughout the program, children will reiterate the most essential knife-safety bullet points.

7. If a participant is not able to follow safety instructions, or if their knife is not safe to use because of rust, dullness, knife-type or any other reason, a Wild Earth instructor may take their knife from them and return it to a parent or guardian at the end of the program day.  If the participant is unable to listen a second time, they may not be allowed to bring a knife to future program days.

Knife Type and Care

Type: We recommend non-folding knives with protective sheaths.  Folding knives that do not lock in the open position are considered unsafe and are NOT allowed at Wild Earth programs.  If a child’s hand cannot comfortably fit around the handle, the knife is too big.  We sell knives at Wild Earth in an effort to make appropriate knives readily available to our participants.  We have selected our knives because they are easy to grip, easy to sharpen and clean, are inexpensive, are a proper size for most children ages 7 and up, and come in fun colors which make them easy to spot if misplaced.

Care: Knives should be carried in the sheaths, within a backpack or other pack. Although instructors may carry a sheathed knife on their body, participants are not allowed to do this for safety reasons. Blades should be maintained as sharp and free of rust or nicks. Dull blades can be dangerous. Make sure knives are always returned to their sheath dry and clean. Clean your knife with warm soapy water and very carefully wipe off any dirt or grime with a dry rag, then add mineral oil.  If your knife has acquired some rust, gently remove with sandpaper, sharpen, and apply mineral oil. Knives should be completely dry (or oiled) before returning to the sheath.

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What happens in bad weather?

Snow, rain and wind are part of the experience of being in the forest. At Wild Earth we celebrate the opportunity to connect with the elements. We cherish the opportunity to use effective strategies for keeping everyone warm and safe (such as campfire hangouts, tarp villages, natural shelters and cozy cave cookouts), but in order to keep participants comfortable appropriate gear is a must.

Appropriate Footwear
Insulated and waterproof shoes as well as wool socks keep feet happy. Participants need to carry an extra pair of wool socks in their packs on a cold day.

Appropriate Layers
Please wear multiple layers in cold weather.
Wool or synthetic (polartec, capilene) fabric makes for a great base layer protects from moisture, sweat, cold rain, or melting snow.
Multiple outer layers are better than one bulky coat. Layers can be added and removed as body temperatures change.
Wool or synthetic hats and gloves are a must for cold weather.
Please avoid cotton clothing in cold and/or wet weather. Cotton loses its insulative properties when it gets wet.
Waterproof snow pants & winter coat is a must if snow is in the forecast.

Weather Cancelations

Wild Earth programs run in most weather conditions, but we may cancel due to unsafe driving conditions, extreme cold or other unsafe conditions. In the event of a weather cancellation we will attempt to schedule a make-up day whenever possible.

We are not able to provide refunds for weather cancelled program days. Our instructors design programming, gather materials, and commit themselves for the day, regardless of whether mother nature sends a big storm our way. By supporting the work we do even when nature has other plans, you are valuing the time and labor of our instructors in making our high-quality programming possible.

If you are wondering if a program may be cancelled due to weather, please call your program’s coordinator to check on the status of the program. We will email you if the program is cancelled due to inclement weather.

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Aren’t there ticks in the woods?

Ticks are a very real hazard when spending time outside in the Hudson Valley.

Wild Earth staff and participants conduct regular tick checks as a group. We check in general places: neck, arms, legs, and scalp and ask participants to check themselves in their private areas.

Participants will be asked to find a buddy to help check one another’s backs, armpits, legs (outside the bathing-suit zone), behind the ears, and scalp.

Please familiarize your child with how to thoroughly check themselves and why it’s important to do so. Children who are accustomed to tick checks are more likely to do great job checking themselves during the program.

If your child has an attached tick during a program, our instructors will remove the tick and sterilize the site of the bite. When a tick is removed from a participant, our staff is committed to notifying parents about removed ticks by the end of the program day. Our instructors will have a written record of the bite location, species (if known), and notes about the removal process itself. Whenever possible, we will save removed ticks for presentation.

In addition to our “in the field” tick checks we strongly recommend a thorough, full body check when participants get home. Minimizing the risk associated with tick bites requires effort from all of us.

Want to learn more about ticks and tick borne illnesses? Take a look at these Resources for Tick & Lyme Awareness from our Executive Director, David Brownstein.

Additional tick information is available at: wildearth.org/ticks

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What gear do I need?

When your child is well prepared, the whole group benefits.

Appropriate Footwear
In warm weather sturdy shoes are important. Flip flops and Crocks are unacceptable.

In cold weather insulated and waterproof shoes as well as wool socks will keep feet happy. Participants need to carry an extra pair of wool socks in their packs on a cold day.

Appropriate Layers
Please wear multiple layers in cold weather.
Wool or synthetic (polartec, capilene) fabric makes for a great base layer protects from moisture, sweat, cold rain, or melting snow.
Multiple outer layers are better than one bulky coat. Layers can be added and removed as body temperatures change.
Wool or synthetic hats and gloves are a must for cold weather.
Please avoid cotton clothing in cold and/or wet weather. Cotton loses its insulative properties when it gets wet.
Waterproof snow pants & winter coat is a must if snow is in the forecast.

You don’t need to spend much on gear for this program.

If you’re going to buy new things focus on non-cotton socks, long-underwear or a sleeping pad.  Sleeping bags can be layered to avoid the need for a really warm one (see sleeping bag note below.)  Salvation army has great, inexpensive warm clothing.  Use plastic plates, forks and spoons from babyhood for mess kits.  If you’re in need of gear it’s likely that another family can lend something to you.  Let us know what you’re missing. Email hello@wildearth.org and we’ll help if we can.

Please be sure to reach out for support if you need assistance with acquiring gear.

If in doubt, ask us!  We have, on rare occasions, needed to call parents to ask for deliveries of items on the gear list because we really need each child to be warm and comfortable to have a safe and fun group experience.

If the weather forecast calls for rain: do not send your child with cotton clothing.

When cotton gets even a little wet, it sticks to the body and holds no air – meaning it provides ZERO insulation.  Please send synthetic materials or wool. We cannot over-emphasize the importance of this.

Children inevitably misplace gear and don’t always recognize that it’s theirs when we find it.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that your child comes home with everything you sent.

1) Label Everything with your child’s first name and last initial (especially water bottles, backpacks, lunch containers and coats).
2) Leave extra valuable items at home (like electronic devices or great-grandpa’s knife)/

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Registration Questions

How do I request financial aid?

Wild Earth works hard to make sure our programs are accessible to all. As our financial aid funds are limited, we try to ensure that funds are available to as many people as possible. We ask families to do the following:

1) Consider if there are family members or friends who might help provide a scholarship to your family for this program.

2) Determine how much of the total program fee you will be able to commit to pay over the course of the program. We are happy to set up a monthly payment plan that helps spread the program fees.

Once you contact us with the answers to these questions, we will do our best to offer you assistance that will allow you to register. Click here to submit a request for financial aid.

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Are payment plans available?

Yes, payment plans are available!

A majority of our programs are setup to offer a pre-set payment plan while you are registering. For instance, our fall programs allow you to pay your $150 non-refundable deposit with your registration and to automatically be billed Sept 1, Oct 1 and Nov 1 for your remaining balance.

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Are sibling discounts available?

A second member (and additional members) of the same household registering for the same or another program will receive a 10% discount off the regular program fee.

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What is the cancellation policy?

Wild Earth cancellation policies are based on our investment in staff, program planning, as well as equipment purchases before your program. We cannot recover our expenses if you cancel. Short-notice cancellations often prevent others from attending.

Canceling registration in any program will forfeit the deposit for that program and cannot be applied to another balance due.

If you must cancel please provide at least 30 days notice. Cancellations 30 days or more before the first day a program begins will receive a full refund less the non-refundable deposit.

Cancellations from 7 days to 30 days prior to a program receive 50% program credit (non-transferable and valid for one year), 50% balance forfeited.

Cancellations less than 7 days prior to a program will receive no credit and no refund.

Once a program begins you are responsible for paying your remaining balance regardless of changes to your enrollment.

Our instructors design programming, gather materials, and commit themselves based on enrollment. By following through on your financial commitment you are supporting the work we do and valuing the time and labor of our staff in making our high-quality programming possible.

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What about cancellation due to weather?

Wild Earth programs run in most weather conditions, but we may cancel due to unsafe driving conditions, extreme cold or other unsafe conditions. In the event of a weather cancellation we will attempt to schedule a make-up day whenever possible.

We are not able to provide refunds for weather cancelled program days. Our instructors design programming, gather materials, and commit themselves for the day, regardless of whether mother nature sends a big storm our way. By supporting the work we do even when nature has other plans, you are valuing the time and labor of our instructors in making our high-quality programming possible.

If you are wondering if a program may be cancelled due to weather, please call your program’s coordinator to check on the status of the program. We will email you if the program is cancelled due to inclement weather.

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