Forest School | 8 Shields

White Pine Wilderness Academy’s expression of the 8 Shields inspires and organizes all of our youth programming into our Forest School. Our Unifying Curriculum is based on the Sacred Order of Shelter, Fire, Water and Food. Our Core routines include carving, archery, fire building, tracking, storytelling, naturalist skills, scouting and adventure. The guilds that appear within each Shield are not limited to that time of year, just explored in more depth.

Our Parent Handbook can be viewed here Youth Programs Parent Manual 2020-2021.

A Day at White Pine

Each day at White Pine is different depending on the weather, changes in natural cycles, and opportunities presented by teachable moments.
All classes have a maximum student to lead instructor ratio of 10:1. Firekeepers and volunteers frequently reduce this ratio to 5:1 or less.

However, the basic structure for the day follows this relatively consistent schedule:

  • Drop-off, greeting, & free play
  • Opening Circle with Gratitude, Songs, Stories, and perhaps a game or two
  • Focus time for projects in the Unit’s Guilds
  • Group Lunch
  • A field excursion to the Wapahani River’s riparian corridor, Butler campus, or the Central Canal
  • Closing Circle to debrief the day & look forward to the next White Pine day

A Year at White Pine


The Southwest is that hot and dry time between summer and autumn. This is the home of the the Scouts, the invisible ones and the archetype of the trickster. Those who are strong in the Southwest can have trouble in confined learning environments needing their awareness on multiple things at once. Our focus animal is the Coyote. The Southwest Shield offers additional focus on the Guilds of Scouting, Packing and Caching. The Southwest Unit includes the second half of August and the month of September.

The West is autumn a time of harvest and celebration. Here we cultivate the qualities of community, celebration and abundance. Our focus animal is the Sandhill Crane. The West Shield offers additional focus on the Guilds of Music, Instruments, Wood Chopping, Hunting, and Cooking. The West Unit includes the month of October and the first half of November.

The Northwest is the crepuscular time when the last blue light fades into black. The winds are growing colder and a few stubborn leaves still cling to the trees. Most of us are preparing for bed, but the trackers are out again for one final sit spot before nightfall. Our focus animal is the White-tailed Deer. The Northwest Shield offers additional focus on the Guilds of Shikari (tracking), Trapping, Fibre Cordage and Knots. The Northwest Unit includes the second half of November and the month of December.


The North is associated with the cold winter and the darkness of night, here like the trees, we draw our energies inward to rest and reflect. Our focus animal is the Buffalo. The North Shield offers additional focus on the Guilds of The Inside Sit Spot, Journaling, Culture, Sewing, Shelter, Storytelling, Inner Tracking, and Hides and Tanning. The North unit includes the month of January and the first half of February. 

The Northeast is associated with that sacred time between the darkness of night and the blue light of dawn, here we nourish the qualities of empathy, awareness, inner calm, and asceticism. Our focus animal is the Owl. The Northeast Shield offers additional focus on the Guilds of Sit Spot, The Quiet Mind, and Baskets, Pots and Quivers.
The Northeast unit includes the second half of February and the month of March. 

The East is associated with the fresh energy of dawn and spring, here we cultivate the love and enthusiasm of the naturalist and the conservationist. Our focus animal is the Snapping Turtle. The East Shield offers an additional focus on the Guilds of Plants and Foraging, and Ecology and Water.
The East unit includes the month of April and first half of May. 


In the Southeast Spring is well under way and the forest is full of wildflowers and playful young animals. It seems natural to jump into the fray with exuberance, aliveness and freedom. Our focus animal is of course, the Otter. The Southeast Shield offers additional focus on the Guilds of Games, Roughhousing, Wondering and Exploring.
The Southeast unit includes the second half of May and the month of June.

In the South summer has begun and the sun is at its zenith. The trees shift their energy from the explosive growth of spring to the hardening of wood in the summer. We are invited into the qualities of strength, determination and creativity. Our focus animal is the Badger. The South Shield offers additional focus in the Guilds of Fire, Carving, Stone, Metal, Fishing, Weapons, and Adhesives and Finishes.
The South unit includes the month of July and the first half of August.

Our Culture

White Pine Wilderness Academy is a secular school with students and staff from many cultural and religious backgrounds.  There is no belief system that is required to attend, other than following the 5 Agreements that make up our ethical core. The agreements are symbolized by the 5 needles in the White Pine's  bundle:

  1. Respect Life
  2. Respect Each Other
  3. Respect Ourselves
  4. Respect The Circle
  5. Leave No Trace

That being said, the core of our curriculum is an Indigenous approach to nature connection. We teach skills, honor traditions, and tell stories from Indigenous cultures the world over. Some of these traditions we have a specific lineage to, some we do not. Each story, tradition or skill has different protocols and prohibitions depending on our degree of connection to the story.

The Shikari lineage of Trackers from the jungles of India is closely linked to our school. The stories and skills of the Shikari were passed down directly to White Pine’s founder Matt Shull from his Grandfather Ernie Shull, who spent 20 years as a Shikari in India.

The 8 Shields lineage began at The Tracker School founded by Tom Brown Jr., and was further developed by Jon Young at Wilderness Awareness School. Matt Shull and several of our staff have studied and currently study directly with these Elders. We are very pleased with White Pine’s current expression of the 8 Shields Nature Connection model.

The Peacemaker lineage from the Iroquois Confederacy came to the 8 Shields lineage through the work of Chief Jake Swamp. The story of the Peacemaker is a beautiful saga of how 5 nations came to form a peace that lasted for generations. This story also influenced the creation of our own Declaration of Independence. Because of the cultural significance of these stories, we take great care to follow all of the protocols and prohibitions that Chief Jake Swamp mentored us in.

At times we are honored to host Elders from Native American, African, Asian and European traditions. The Inner Tracking framework we have established at White Pine allows us to present culture in a way that is respectful and reverent without being religious or culturally appropriative.

Under the guidance of Elders and in the spirit of experimentation, White Pine is moving forward into relatively uncharted territory. We are contributing to a regenerative cultural model, inspired by ancient traditions and nature connection.