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Wilderness Instructor Apprenticeship & Forest Preschool Apprenticeship Programs

Experience all that goes into running our youth nature immersion programs while gaining competence in teaching outdoor skills.

Learn through experience and mentoring as an Apprentice, working side–by-side with seasoned Lead Instructors at our renowned Youth Programs!

Apprentices contribute to programming through role modeling, supporting staff, and helping to craft a safe, positive learning culture where youth participants connect with themselves, their community, and the natural world. As an apprenticeship, you’ll learn how to facilitate this growth and transformation through our curriculum and practices.

Apprenticeships include:

  • Weekly guidance from senior instructional staff and opportunities for guided self-study
  • Discount rate on adult workshops
  • Professional CPR and Wilderness First Aid certifications
  • Living accommodations may be available
  • Paid Summer Apprenticeships available!


  • 18 years of age or older
  • Summer: minimum commitment of 7 consecutive weeks
  • School Year: minimum commitment of one trimester (10-13 weeks, Fall/Winter/Spring)
  • Pass all required background checks
  • Commitment to program agreements and training days

Opportunities for growth

  • Spend the season in the outdoors, living and learning in connection to nature
  • Deepen teaching skills in working with youth
  • Acquire and test skills in chosen areas of curriculum
  • Learn the logistics of holding and running a program for youth
  • Explore dynamics of community, and facilitate community growth with cultural mentoring practices
  • Opportunity to gain professional references for future employment

Apprentice Expectations

  • Attend all planning, training and class sessions as per agreement
  • Participate as a collaborative member of the instructor team
  • Bring passion and enthusiasm to every day
  • Hold an intention for clear communication, both receiving and offering
  • Help with material prep, clean-up and documentation of program goals, activities and successes
  • Observe and learn, offer and inspire
  • Be an "edge watcher" observing and responding to the big picture of what is unfolding, finding campers who are on the fringes and supporting them to engage
  • Model excellent participant behavior

If you have questions or would like to speak with someone from our team before applying to be an apprentice, please call the office at 607-272-2292 ext 261.


Curriculum Topics:

  • Leading engaging outdoor games, wood crafts, and nature activities
  • Storytelling and Song-Leading
  • Activity sequencing and program planning
  • Using archetypal knowledge as a teaching tool
  • Community-building as part of the educational process
  • Conflict resolution
  • Child development and age appropriate activities
  • Risk management and hazards
  • Successfully working as part of a teaching team

Apprenticeship Program Staff

Instructional Team:

The apprenticeship allows a group of instructors with complementary skills and experience to share various aspects of both instruction and behind-the-scenes program development & administration.

Sarah Birnbaum

Program Director

Jed Jordan

Founding Director

Primitive Pursuits co-founder and senior administrator, Jed Jordan is an aspiring tracker, passionate educator, and devoted farmer. Jed lives in Danby, NY, with his wife and two youngest children. His family operates a small u-pick berry farm, Rogue Creek Farm, where he also raises honeybees and nut trees, among other homesteading activities. Jed has been an Environmental Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County since 2003 and is also an adjunct lecturer at Ithaca College, in the Environmental Studies & Sciences Dept. where he has helped develop and teach an Environmental Sentinels course for the last ten years.

Danielle Prizzi

Field Staff

Danielle Prizzi is a plant loving enthusiast, who spends much of her time studying and practicing herbal medicine, wild foraging, and farming. She lives in constant wonder, gratitude and presence with the natural world. Formally, she graduated from Ithaca College with her education being focused on integrating alternative medicine and healing, sustainable living, and plant studies to begin to understand the human-nature innate connection. Since college, she's spent her time apprenticing with herbalists, primitive skills enthusiasts, naturalists, and healers -- specifically Tammi Sweet and Kris Miller at Heartstone Herbalism school, Rosemary Gladstar, and Aviva Romm. When she isn’t out in the woods, she nestles in the deep woods of Connecticut Hill working to establish an off-the-grid homestead and a medicinal herb farm.

Wren Anjali

Program Coordinator

Wren has been enjoying their life-long passion for nature with others for many years providing deep nature connection and primitive skills offerings at schools and conferences throughout the Midwest. “I feel blessed to be able to devote myself to what I love the most: living in service to the Earth and serving in the world as a nature-connection mentor, primitive skills teacher, healing practitioner, music-maker and storyteller. Supporting experiences of transformational growth and healing in nature settings is some of my most cherished work. In my soul I carry a deep understanding of humanity’s opportunity to restore/re-story a life-fostering essential reality for these changing times. This is what I sing about, dream about, live for and pray for.”

Melissa Blake

Lead Instructor, Forest Preschool

If someone had told Melissa when she was a teen that she would get to make a living as a camp counselor, she wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s what she has gotten to do for the past 20+ years. She has taught children outdoors in California, Wyoming, Maryland, and New York and led teens and adults on wilderness expeditions all over western North America. She completed a graduate program in Environmental Education at the Teton Science Schools in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a two-year mentorship with master tracker Jon Young. In 2006 she founded a program called Growing Wild Nature Mentoring in the Catskills, and in 2013 co-founded Ithaca Forest Preschool as a program of Primitive Pursuits. She loves spending time with preschoolers in their natural habitat--nature--and watching the growth of their imaginations, curiosity, and empathy for living things. She agrees with David Sobel that we should "give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it.

Frequently Asked Questions

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