AK Wilderness Skills Wolf Walkers

Alaska Wilderness Skills is a youth oriented life skills experience with a vision of "Awaken and engage families and individuals of all ages, through nature-based programs, reconnecting them with the earth, and inspiring them to live a meaningful life."

Mission: Provide nature-based education, leadership, and inspiration through experiences in our physical environment. Provide opportunities to enhance awareness, deepen compassion, and increase skills using the ancient arts of tracking and wilderness survival.

Alaska Wilderness Skills Incorporated is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit exempt from federal income tax and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

About Wolf Walkers

Wolf Walkers

The Wolf is a mystic animal present in the North and is known as a great hunter, also a good social team mate and single line walker even with the whole pack, powerful, aware, and much attuned.

As a Wolf Walker, your child will gain hands-on instruction in the ancient arts of wilderness survival, animal tracking, and nature awareness.

Led by founders Ryan Ford, Klaus Lerch, Laura Derungs and the AKWS Instructor crew, Wolf Walkers exposes children to the stories and teachings of Grandfather Stalking Wolf, a Lipan Apache elder who wandered the western hemisphere for 60 years and handed down his teachings to the well-known author and teacher Tom Brown, Jr.

Laura Derungs

Ryan Ford

Ryan Ford

Klaus Lerch

Klaus Lerch

At Wolf Walkers, we weave Grandfather’s philosophy of Earth-living into all the skills we teach. We also incorporate the traditional wisdom indigenous life-ways shared by Elders.

Our Wolf Walkers curriculum subtly engages students in a spontaneous flow of interactive learning opportunities that:

  • Strengthen powers of concentration, observation, and endurance
  • Provide access to deep reservoirs of self-confidence and self-knowing
  • Cultivate intimate, respect-full relationships between students, the Earth, and all who dwell upon her
  • Empower, inspire, and prepare students to become active, responsible caretakers of the Earth

As a result, Wolf Walkers experience a different type of education. Encouraged to sit and read nature like an open book, they are rewarded by the magic of the natural world. In nature, they learn how to care-take the earth – where the bedroom is the debris shelter and the living room is outside. They refer to going up and down the hill as “upstairs” and “downstairs”. They begin to have a deep understanding that the Earth is our home, that our home is much bigger than they once thought, and that care-taking this home is a great honor and responsibility.

Many Earth-skills are shared during Wolf Walkers classes. Some of these include:

Level I and Level II

  • Basic fire-making - Advanced fire making, hand-drill, group drill, pump-drill, no knife....
Bow Drill
  • Shelter building - Other shelter designs
Debris Shelter
  • Animal tracking - More animal tracking, track casts, naturalist studies, bird language
The Wolf knows when to follow a track and when to walk the other way. Can you tell when the Bear left his track in the sand?
  • Camouflage - Advanced camouflage
Earth Camouflage
  • Rock work - Get into pressure flaking obsidian
Stone Tools
  • Stick and dart throwing - Atal Atal spear throwing
  • Bird language - Quickie Bow and Arrows
Time out. Sit Spot, This is your space to connect.
  • Awareness games - More awesome Awareness games and adventures
Blindfolded String walk
  • Food prep, Birch and willow - Carving figure four trap and baited t-bar snare (non-lethal)
Orange cup muffins

Summer 2017 Classes

Wolf Walkers is an ongoing program designed for home-schoolers and public school students. As a Wolf Walker, your child will gain hands-on instruction in the ancient arts of wilderness survival, animal tracking, and nature awareness.

Session 1: Sustainability

Sustainability - The student will experience an inner reorientation of their relationship to all life forms upon the landscape where the student internalizes how the quality of one’s survival is based upon the quality of one’s relationship with these life forms.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Basic Needs - Understand and explain how our basic needs of Shelter, Water, Fire and Food may be sustained through Natural life forms.

2. Awareness - Demonstrate awareness of Natural resources sufficient to identify and gather materials to meet their basic needs

3. Fashion Natural Tools - use them to meet basic needs.

4. Read Broad landscapes - from afar to identify primary areas of wildlife trail systems, utilitarian plant species, and natural resources for tool making.

Wolf Walkers at Campbell Tract (BLM)!


  • Minimum of 8 students and Max of 16
  • 1 pm to 4 pm
  • Ages 7 to 13
  • Tuition: $150

Session 2: Intro to Tracking

Introduction to Tracking - The student will glimpse into and sense the interconnectedness of all things by reading the myriad tracks and trails etched within the confluence of the landscape’s topography, plant life, and soil substrates – including locating, aging, and interpreting tracks that are several years old. The student will sense and move within the landscape to the extent that they are no longer a disturbance to its natural baseline and can intimately observe wildlife without being detected, e.g., the ultimate experience being to touch a deer.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Natural Rhythms - Move within the natural rhythms of Nature to minimize their impact upon the environment and increase the student’s ability to observe Nature unaffected by their own presence.

2. Discern the Presence - Apply and combine all of the student’s senses to discern the presence and actions of wildlife.

3. Reconstruction - Reconstruct the chronological outline of wildlife activity.

4. Critical Thinking Skills - Display critical thinking skills in the interpretation of wildlife tracks.

5. Track Orientation - Understand how tracks originate in the earth.

6. Identify Tracks - Identify, age, and record wildlife tracks in different soil types.

7. Animal’s Behavior - Appreciate how one animal’s behavior and movements affect the forest and vice versa.

8. Landscape Topography - See within the confluence of landscape topography, plant life, and soil substrates to read the many patterns of wildlife trail systems as one would read a road map of city streets and highways.

Wolf Walkers at Campbell Tract (BLM)!


  • Minimum of 8 students and Max of 16
  • 1 pm to 4 pm, 5 days
  • Ages 7 to 13
  • Tuition: $150
Fish Wheel at Fish Camp, Copper River

Session 3: Family, Youth, and Teen Wilderness Experience

Offered for - Families with children ages 4-17. Youth 12+ years old may attend without a parent. No previous experience required.


A 6 day immersion experience for families to learn wilderness Earth skills. Students will learn the 4 elements of survival, tracking, and nature observation skills. The program will highlight the importance of living in harmony with the Earth as caretakers. Participants will be divided up into learning groups based on age and experience level. Parents will have skills workshops and discussions on integrating the teachings of the "wilderness mind" into their everyday lives. Meals are all together. Plus, there's time for wandering the river after lunch and many fun night time games and camp fire stories. Come join us and get revitalized!

Skills include:

  • Debris hut shelter
  • Bow-drill fire making
  • Cordage making
  • Throwing stick
  • Cutting edge stone tool
  • Rock boiling
  • Fox walking, wide angle vision
  • Awareness games and activities
  • Tracking basics and concentric ring studies.
  • Lost proofing basics
  • Camp fire stories and night games
  • Attitude and philosophy of a Child of the Earth


  • Tuition: $650 first person, $500 each additional person (include 3 mostly organic meals a day and camping)
  • Deposit: $200 per household due upon registration.
Take every step with purpose.

Session 4: Caretaking & Storytelling

Caretaking - By distinguishing their wants from their needs, the student will understand what must be preserved and nurtured in order to sustain their life within the overall balance of life on the Earth.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Caretaker - Demonstrate an understanding of the caretaker attitude and discuss how the application of natural skills of survival, when optimally applied, can sustain both the person and the environment and foster what Aldo Leopold defined as the real measure of health, i.e. ‘the capacity for self-renewal’.

2. Needs and Wants - Differentiate between needs and wants and explain how the manner in which the student chooses to fulfill them impacts the environment.

3. Well-being - Reflect upon and express the impact of shifting from perceiving the acquisition of goods as a measure of affluence to the perspective that the continuous receipt of quality, utility, and performance promotes well-being.

4. Awareness - Become aware of the interaction among wildlife in the forest and the interconnectedness of natural systems and discuss the potential of bio-mimicry modeling [i.e. where the output of one system is input to another].

I was told a story once that changed my life forever. Can you tell me your story and I will tell you mine?

Storytelling - The student will replicate the oral tradition of storytelling in such manner as to bring their listeners into the story and relive it in a way that conveys the lessons learned that are beyond words.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Personal Attributes - Become aware of the personal attributes that enable the teaching of another in a particular skill.

2. Communicate - Develop the ability to communicate new discoveries using oral and physical expression and appreciate their role in preserving knowledge.

3. Express Empathy - for animal movements and how species adapt to each other and people in the forest.


  • Minimum of 8 students and Max of 16
  • 1 pm to 4 pm
  • Ages 7 to 13
  • Tuition: $150

For more information or to register for a class contact.


Ryan Ford (907) 223-1287 ryan@akwskills.org

Klaus Lerch (907) 733-7896

Laura Derungs (760) 586-0250

Wolf Walkers Guidelines

Our program is giving the power back to young people through building their own relationship with nature. Nature is our teacher and we as instructors only guide and facilitate learning. To do this effectively and well, we need to have some ground rules.

There are 3 main rules within our program:

1. Safety: students must be safe from harming themselves, each other, and the land.

2. Listening: To make sure this happens, students must listen to explanations about safe use of tools at Wolf Walkers. We use knives, axes, shovels, files, rasps etc., and students must show that they fully understand and can operate their tools safely.

3. Distracting: To make sure students are safe and can listen, students are given three warnings if they are distracting the group to the point that others cannot listen to the directions.

Note: In the event of unsafe or distracting behavior students are given (2) two warnings, and on the(3) third warning, a call will go to the guardian for immediate pick up.

Each Session we go over rules with students so they all can become aware of them.

Parent Participation

Parent Participation:

You are welcome to join us as a new Parent for the first one or two classes. This will give you an idea of what we are about. If you want to continue participating in classes, we will go over with you the role of a volunteer.


Turn off cell phone. Be a part of what we are doing. Do not distract away from the group. Please be aware of our Coyote Teaching principles, as these are somewhat different than most "institutionalized" educations systems. Please help with supervision in general and taking trips to the out house with kids.

Drop off:

Please drop off your child no earlier than 15 minutes before class starts. If you arrive earlier than 15 minutes, please supervise your child or group of children you are with until 15 minutes before the program starts. Generally, instructors show up 20 min before a class is going to start.

Pick up:

You are welcome to meet up with us 5-10 minutes before day ends and join us at ending circle. There are occasions that we do our ending circle other places and students will meet you in the parking lot. If you are running late (over 15 min) we will call the phone numbers listed on contact sheet. We will stay with your child until you arrive.


  • Life Skills of Ryan Ford, Klaus Lerch, Laura Derungs, and Marsha Munsell
  • Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children. Tom Brown, Jr. and Judy Brown. Berkely Publishing, New York, NY 1989
  • What The Robin Knows, Jon Young


Created with images by Pixel-mixer - "wolf predator eurasian wolf"

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