AK Blog

Teaching Kids to Love Winter


Teaching Kids to love the winter

Teaching kids to love the winter is not that hard. We at Ancestral knowledge have been guiding children for over ten year in winter camp outs and outdoor activities. Most kids naturally love playing outside no matter what the weather. When given the chance children learn not to fear the cold. Here are some wonderful tips that will help kids learn to love the winter weather:

1. Make it fun
If it not fun and rewarding chances are that they’re not going to be interested. Most all kids love to play on ice puddles, built snow shelters, go sledding, have snow ball fights, play with ice icicles, snowboard and ski.

2. Play with Friends
To help motivate your child it helps to invite a few friends over. They can do all types of fun outdoor activities together that they will enjoy.

3. Appropriate winter clothing
Good winter clothing allows kids to be comfortable. Along with a winter jacket and snow pants I recommend; boots, socks, gloves, and hat to keep kids warm. We encourage all our students to have extra wool socks and gloves and always carry an extra blanket to help warm kids up.

4. Celebrate the fun and excitement at the end of the day
Celebrate the cold and honor your kids for braving the winter weather. It is important to recognize winter conditions can be challenging and you can help them problem solve the challenges of winter weather.

5. Participate in outdoors clubs or outdoor winter programs
Outdoor clubs, winter hikes and wilderness youth programs with expert instructors are a great resource in helping your kids to develop a love for the winter. These outside programs teach kids fun and exciting winter activates that parent don’t often know or have the time to teach.


Posted in AK Blog | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Are you Prepared to Get Out and Play this Winter?

“Carry an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet and a couple plastic shopping bags”

We encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the outdoors during the winter time.  However everyone responds to cold temperatures differently. Keeping feet, hands, and clothing dry is very important because toes and fingers are most susceptible to damage from the cold. Whenever possible carry an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet and a couple plastic shopping bags to put over the dry socks to avoid the boots saturating the dry socks. Wet feet, hands, and clothing need to be addressed in a timely fashion because wet clothing will cause you to lose warmth. If you get wet its best to get indoors or change those layers. If that’s not possible build a fire to warm up and dry out those wet clothes.  Being prepared and dressing properly will allow for hours of winter fun and exploration!

The follow descriptions will help you dress for various cold weather conditions.

The Base Layers – The first layer of clothing closest to the skin should be a type of long underwear or base layer. They should be lightweight, comfortable and cozy. Try to avoid cotton because it holds moisture and can become heavy and cold if wet. Wool or synthetic blends of clothing are the best materials. You’ll find long underwear available at various prices and styles. One trick is to use synthetic sweat pants or tights if you don’t have a base layer available.

The Extra Insulation Layers – The insulated layer of clothing is worn over long underwear for extra warmth. Materials such as a fleece jackets or wool sweaters are great. Again avoid cotton if you can because its fibers soak up water and become heavy making you feel wet and cold. During the coldest temperatures multiple layers may be necessary.  The best thing about layering is that you can add or shed a layer depending on your comfort level.

The Outer Layer (Outer winter coats and Snow pants) – The outer layer or shell should be waterproof, providing protection from wind, rain and snow. Waterproof shells typically have minimal insulation so they can be worn over the inner layers without being too balky . You’ll find outer shells in both jackets and pants, making them ideal for a number of cold-weather activities. Your winter coat should have a hood, be wind-resistant, water-repellent and breathable. Down jackets, filled with goose feathers, are excellent for warmth but need to be protected in wet weather with a rain jacket.  Fleece-lined ski jackets are excellent also. One-piece snowsuits might be appropriate for kids who spend all day outdoors in the winter. Snowsuits are highly water-resistant and provide the maximum protection from the wet snow.

“Being prepared and dressing properly will provide hours of winter fun and exploration!”

Winter Hats, Neck warmers, and Face-masks – Half of your body heat is lost through your head. Traditional scarves, neck warmers, hats and face masks help keep your face and body warmer by stopping valuable heat loss from the head and neck. Wool, synthetic or fur are the preferred materials.

Gloves and Mittens – Cold hands can ruin a day. It best to have water-resistant mittens, which keeps hands warmer than gloves.   Gloves, however allow for more dexterity. In wet snow or rain water resistant material is important. Fleece and wool mittens become useless when wet.  Wet gloves don’t keep hands warm unless you dry them out.  Insulating your wrists aids dramatically in keeping you hands warm. Old wool socks with the toes cut out and a thumb hole added make great wrist gators.  Wearing water proof mittens with a glove liner gives you the ability to have both warmth and mobility when needed.

Socks and Boots – Instead of cotton socks opt for polyester and wool-blended socks that keep toes insulated even when damp with sweat or wet from snow. You want waterproof or resisdant boots. Make sure they are not too snug. Go up a size when buying winter boots to compensate for thick wool socks.

REI has a good reference page on layering.

Most of these items can be found at thrift stores. If you wish to purchase new items, REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hudson Outdoor, Gander Mountain, and other outdoor and camping stores all sell these items. Target sells poly-pro long underwear in kids sizes.

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Oh the fun we are having! SUMMER CAMP! WOOT!

Well it’s that time of the year we have all been waiting for!  That’s right it’s time for our summer overnight camps! We are having a blast with a great group of kids.  So far they have learned how to gather the proper sized firewood, build the proper structure, ignite it using only one match, and how to use the fire to cook their food.  The campers have also learned how to safely and properly use a knife, carved their very own rabbit stick, and learned how to move silently through the forest. Today they will start making friction fire kits (bow drill) and learning how to make basic stone tools.   Afterwards we are going fishing and camping out under the stars along the Shenandoah River where they will use fire as a tool to burn and scrape wood to make eating utensils.  Oh yeah, We can’t forget the scout log (pictured above).  Well that’s a secret but I am sure your kids will tell you all about it when the return home stronger, more confident, and full of stories of adventure!

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Summer camp fun has begun!

Don’t let your kids miss out on a summer with out Ancestral Knowledge!  Look at the fun that they could be having at one of our many camps this summer!  Sign up today for one of our Day Camps or Overnight Camps!


Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

We made it to Rendezvous! Thank you for helping Make it Possible!

We Made it to Rendezvous!

With overwhelming support we surpassed our goal!

We raised $1710!

All additional donations will help provide enough financial Aid for 4-6 kids to attend our Summer Camps!  THANK YOU!


We Need to raise $1080 for our crew to make it to Rivercane Rendezvous and to cover these expenses;

Event fees for Lindsey – $290
Event fees for Josh U – $290
Fuel expenses for 2 cars- $300
Food expenses for all 4 people-$200

 Help Support Us on Our Adventure!  Donate Today!

We accept any donation amount!  When you make a tax-deductible donation for $80 or more through PayPal you will receive either a Mora Knife or an Ancestral Knowledge T-shirt as a toke of our appreciation!  You get to choose! Stay tuned on Instagram and Facebook for updates about our Journey together!


Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Skills Showcase: Debris Hut Shelter

ShelterLearning how to build a shelter is one of the most engaging skills for instructors and students alike. Few other skills under the “primitives” umbrella get you as much bang for your buck. The skill of constructing (and/or finding) a safe, dry, warm place to retreat should be a top priority for everyone, ranging from those who are very focused on emergency survival scenarios where the idea is to live through the immediate future and get back to civilization (protection from the elements is generally one of the first issues you want address) to those who are interested in longer-term wilderness living situations.

Volumes could be written about different styles of shelter, materials, etc. One of the most basic and frequently taught methods is a simple debris hut, which is essentially a framework of branches that can be covered and filled with layers of debris that shingle (on the outside) and insulate (on the inside). There are dozens of ways to tweak and customize this type of shelter, and it’s the type of shelter we teach most often. So for kids, what are some of the benefits to learning how to build shelter?

For one thing, it’s a skill that allows a wide range of ages and skill levels to tap into their powers of creativity and imagination. There’s a reason almost all kids love to build forts, and they’re all the better for doing it outside in the fresh air and sunshine instead of indoors where their poor little developing brains are bathing in the ambient noise of television commercials and the harmful compounds off-gassing from paints, carpet, and couch cushions. Building a shelter requires cognitive skills like visualizing, executing plans, problem-solving, and overcoming setbacks. Debris huts are relatively free-form, too. The sky is the limit in terms of finding new ways to fit the pieces together, find new ways to utilize the materials you actually have at hand in different situations, or add features like a lowered entryway that will keep your warm body heat trapped in the inner chamber, a fence of sticks at the base of your walls to trap slumping layers of leaves, or a lean-to/heat shield outside to protect a fire if you have one. The building blocks for shelter are accessible to almost everyone, with little skill or modification necessary. Sticks, leaves, and bark are laying everywhere at your feet, just waiting for kids to imagine and create things out of them, and shelter really helps people of all ages re-establish a creative connection to their environment.

shelterBuilding shelter can also be a real ice-breaker for students who aren’t as comfortable in natural settings. Some kids are even squeamish about simply sitting in leaf litter or on the ground when they first find themselves in the great outdoors. Next thing you know, they’re having a blast working in teams to rake up giant piles of leaves (and jump into them), gather sticks and branches, and peel up dead bark in sheets. The trick is to take what would normally be a chore, and transform it into play. It can be a social activity where everyone collaborates, building up each other’s strengths and compensating for their weaknesses. Making a shelter really helps people get over any hang-ups and break down any barriers they see between themselves and the natural world, because before too long you’re covered with nature in the form of “dirt” and leaf duff, and, lo and behold, it’s fun. According to the hygeine hypothesis, getting all this crud on you is actually beneficial to your health and immune function, and missing out of the experience of slathering yourself in benign and beneficial symbionts (bacteria and other) can be detrimental.

At the end of the day, few things can make you feel as “at home” in nature as…well, making a home in nature. It bolsters confidence, beefs up critical thinking skills, makes people more aware of the utility and presence of natural materials around them, makes them more effective and clever at using those natural materials, gives people a sense of agency and capability in their environment, and can bring them together for a darn good time.

Posted in AK Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Travel Without Time or Destination!

So many people talk about wanting to connect with nature, achieving oneness, or grounding themselves. There are so many programs and organizations advertising nature connection (we sure have them). I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but in my opinion no program or workshop can make that happen, it’s too personal of a journey.  However, I do believe that workshops and programs can lead you to the trail head, point you in a direction, or give you the vehicle to get you there, but there is a catch!  It definitely isn’t as easy as a click of a mouse and it won’t happen overnight!  I can say, learning wilderness skills and increasing my awareness have been part of the best years of my life! When I experienced the feeling of oneness and connection for the first time it was only for a moment!  And it wasn’t in a program or class, it was with a group of friends practicing what we learned from a program we all had attended.  Once you experience it, what then?  You want more, you need more, you want it to last longer, but how?  In my experience I have found that I feel one with the earth, myself, and connected to those around me when I am regularly working on skills and projects from the days of our ancestors. Whether it’s bow making, animal tracking, or studying wild plants, these skills form a direct connection to the earth, our ancestors, and our deeper selves. Another way to achieve this is by venturing out without time or a destination.These traditions are some of the keys that open the doorways to the past, present, future & inner peace! Take the journey, leave the watch and phone behind. Learn to travel without time or destination and most importantly enjoy yourself!

At Ancestral Knowledge we are dedicated to helping people find their passions!  If you would like to get started on the personal journey of a lifetime let me know how we can help you get started. 
Thanks for reading!
PS-  Check out one of our programs below! They are perfect for all skill levels from beginner to advanced.  They will surely add some fun and adventure to your life!


Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Future Primitives- Teen Skills and Leadership Training is under way!

We are so excited to have full enrollment in our Future Primitives program!  We are having a great time hanging out and working on our projects.  We have had three meetings and we have already accomplished so much!

So far everyone has made their own personal bow drill kits and we even had a PFF! (Personal First Fire)  Everyone has established a sit spot and began their nature journals, making entries about the weather and the animal activities they have experienced while visiting them.  We have erected a sundial to track the earths movements to increase our directional awareness.  We have lit several fires during our emergency fire drills, one participant came prepared with a steak to learn how to cook on an open fire.  let’s not forget about the GAMES!  You never grow to old to play games, but now they involve sticks and stones, bows and arrows, and the occasional blindfold!


Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Fall Primitive Skills Jamboree Oct 30th

Ancestral Knowledge is inviting you, your friends and family to come and join us in celebrating and honoring our community and the power of nature connection! We would love for you to come and help us in reaching our goal of 100 people in attendance at our BIG annual community Jamboree. This will be fun for the whole family! There will be survival games and crafts, stone axes, guided nature hikes, skill challenges and other fun activities. This is a good time to gather, play, and meet new people. You will have a BLAST! As we wind down, we will have a meet and greet with the Ancestral Knowledge Board of Directors and Instructors. Come out and meet some of the most interesting and progressive people in the area. Looking forward to seeing you there!

This event is free!

We ask you to help support our mission and reach our goal,  donations of any size help and here is why;

Annually we receive over $5000 in financial aid requests and provide scholarships to 20-30 participants to attend our camps and programs. When you donate $15-25 or more for individuals and families you will help us provide deep nature connection to anyone who seeks it.

Our goal is to raise $3000 during this event. If you donate $80 or more you will receive your choice of a Mora knife or Ancestral Knowledge Tee shirt as a gift of our appreciation.(Donations are 100% tax deductible and all proceeds go toward our “Send a Kid to Camp” Financial Aid fund)

Annually we help over 600 children and 200 adults make a deep nature connection through our events and programs.

Time: 1:30-4pm (arrive anytime between 1:30pm and 3pm to join in the fun!)

RSVP, Get Directions, & Make a Donation Here!

The Gathering of Minds

Ancestral Knowledge is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is operated by a community of naturalists who specialize in native living skills and primitive technology. Using Nature and the wilderness as our classroom, we offer hands-on learning through the study of tracking, awareness & philosophies that support a sustainable lifestyle.

Volunteers are needed; please contact us if you are interested in helping out.

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Are Those Mangos? No, its a Paw Paw!

pawpawPaw paw trees produce the largest native fruit in North America, and as you can see in the photo below they look sort of like small green mangoes. During this time of year the fruits are ripening, and the kids in our Homeschool Naturalist programs are loving them! In addition, paw paw trees bless us with bark that makes effective cordage and wood that is most useful in friction fire kits. Identification of edible and useful plants is one of many skills your kids could be learning with us here at Ancestral Knowledge! The next Homeschool Naturalist Program starts Oct. 31st, and sessions run for 6 weeks.

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

2016 Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Gathering- The MAPS Meet is a Seasonal Gathering for All Ages!

The Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Gathering is the perfect event for all novice and seasoned outdoor enthusiast and skills practitioner. The MAPS Meet was the first gathering in the Mid-Atlantic region with expert instructors who focus on teaching you at your level of understanding and experience.The gathering is located about an hour outside of DC on the border of Virginia and West Virginia along the Shenandoah River. This years event is being held May 27th-30th. More Information and Registration

“I couldn’t believe how much I learned in such a short period of time. The instructors were very knowledgeable and everyone was so friendly.  Next year I am bringing my family and friends.”

– Tammy – MAPS Meet Participant

Read the featured article about the event in the The Washington Post Magazine


Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

How to Brain Tan a Deer Hide

Have you ever wondered “how did the natives make such beautiful and soft leather without all the chemicals?”  We will attempt to explain the process so you can try it at home.  We are assuming that you already posses the animals skin.

1. Fleshing- with a rib bone, leg bone or hardwood stick that has been carved and burnished, push all the flesh off of the hide. you need a smooth beam (log).  You can either lean it against a tree pinning the hide with the beam or lay it across the log pinning it with your body.

2. Dehair– this can be done on or off the rack.

  • Off the rack –  Soak the hide in a stream till the hair starts to slip on the neck then use the same technique as fleshing.
    • On the rack- Poke holes every 4 inches around the edge of the hide.  Make sure the holes are 1/2 inch in from the edge running parallel to the edge about 1/2 in length.  Stretch the hide tight enough using string through the holes and pulling the hide evenly so that is can dry out on the rack without any wrinkles.
    • once dry use a bone or stone scraper to remove the hair.  which leads into the next step

3.  Scrape or remove the grain – when the hair is gone you will see a peppery look to the hide.  This is hair follicles embedded in the epidermis (outer) layer of the skin.  This layer must be removed.

Scrape carefully till the dermis layer is exposed.  The skill will become fluffy like suede.  It is best to work in small sections or blocks 4 to 6 inches square.

On your first hide you will probably scrape so lightly that this will take hours or scrape so hard that you poke holes through it.  Either way, don’t give up, it’s all part of the learning process.  you can always tan another hide, right.

Be careful along the belly and inner thigh areas.  They tend to be the thinnest and easiest to bust through.

4. Membrane- once the dermis layer is reached turn the hide over and scrape the flesh side till it is fluffy as well.  This side doesn’t take as much scraping.  In both steps 3 and 4 work the center of the hide first and then do the edges.  I like to keep a two-inch buffer around holes and the edges, then come back and scrape those areas last.

5. Brain- take the animal brain(if you have it) and smash it up in warm water. about 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon is all you need.  If you don’t have any brains you can substitute with egg yolks (not the whites).  DON’T USE HOT WATER.

  • Soak your hide in the solution either by taking the hide off the rack and placing it in a container with the solution or use  some something to apply the solution saturate the hide while it is racked.

6. Softening- once the hide is saturated and let sit overnight without drying out, you can begin to soften the hide.  the fibers in the dermis layer must be kept moving until the hide is completely dry.  Do this by re racking the hide ( if not still on the rack) and using a stick with a rounded smooth end.

Take the smooth end of the stick and push on the hide while sliding the stick across the surface of the hide.  When the hide is no longer cool to the touch then it should be dry.   You can soften off the rack as well but it doesn’t turn out as flat and smooth as one softened on a rack.

You should have a milky white soft and fluffy skin in your hands.  be careful not to get it wet or it will turn back into rawhide.

7. Smoking- First make the hides into a bag by either sewing or gluing the edges together,  Leave an opening about 6 inches around  in the neck area.  While sewing  or gluing the bag together, have a hardwood fire lit and burning.

Dig a hole about 6 -8 inches across and 1 foot deep.  Hang the hide bag upside down over the hole. Connect a skirt made of cloth or other hides to the neck.

Add hot coals only, no burning sticks to the hole.  Break up the punky wood and cover the coals

Stake or use rocks to hold the skirt down around the hole to funnel smoke into the bag.  Make sure that the punky wood does not flame up.  Add punky wood as needed to keep a heavy smoke generated.

Once the outside of the bags starts to change color (about 1 hour) turn the hide inside out and repeat. The longer you smoke the hide on each side the darker the color will be.  2 hours on each side turns out a nice dark color.



Once the second side is complete you can wash the hide and let it dry and you will have a beautiful piece of buckskin.  This process can be completed in just a couple of days.

We hope this post was helpful.  If you are a beginner seeking hands-on experience in hide tanning or other skills, please check out our Adult Workshops

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Here are some videos highlighting what Ancestral Knowledge has to offer. Enjoy!



Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Ancestral Knowledge Video Released!

Please share our video with all your friends.

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

Woods Wise Day Camps are Underway in Greenbelt Maryland!

Forest Treasure

Our instructors had the pleasure of leading the Gray Fox and Thunderhawk Clans this past week at our Woods Wise I Day Camps, and we greatly enjoyed it. The students were attentive and enthusiastic learners all week – we were impressed and grateful. Our approach at Ancestral Knowledge is to weave together learning and play throughout the day, such that it feels to the kids (as we overheard one boy say last week) that ‘It’s always recess,’ despite the fact that we shared a wealth of important skills and knowledge.

Nature Journals

Every day featured some time for stories, carving and games, and most days included journaling; sneaking up on other groups; and ‘sit spot’ time – where kids would sit still and observe the woods on their own for a bit. We also enjoyed encounters with wildlife, including birds, turtles, snakes, deer and various interesting bugs. In addition we worked specific skills on different days, covering the fundamentals of wilderness survival. Here is a run down of some highlights:

Whitetail deer track found in camp central.

Whitetail deer track found in camp central.

Day 1: How to move quietly through the woods as a group, observing bird language on the go. Knife-safety, whittling techniques and practice. Finding and harvesting mulberries (white and black varieties), black raspberries, and wild greens. How to find potable water.

Day 2: Survival shelter part 1 – bed and framework. Fire-by-friction and 1-match fire structure demonstration. Song-lining for lost-proofing, part 1 – making the song-line.



Day 3: Survival shelter part 2 – roof/walls/insulation and door. Harvesting natural fiber and making it into cordage/string/rope. Throwing-stick, hoop&spear, “Jedi.” Song-lining for lost-proofing, part 1, following the song-line.

Day 4: Building 1-match fires. Making bamboo crafts.

Day 5: Building 1-match fires, part 2. Blindfold string-walk. Introduction to basketry. Stalking/sneaking game – with hose.

We hope to see everybody back soon!


Morning Story time at camp central

Morning Story time at camp central

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed

MAPS Meet Preperations are underway!

A Huge thanks to our fantastic Work Trade crew.  They have been very supportive and working hard getting the site prepared for the event.  ?????????????

Posted in AK Blog | Comments closed