Coyote Trails summer program teaches kids outdoor skills and art

July 11, 2011
Mail Tribune

The Coyote Trails School of Nature summer program in Ashland wrapped up two-day camps last week, both aimed at teaching young people survival skills, nature art and an appreciation for the great outdoors.

A Little Foxes program aimed at children ages 6 and younger and an Earth Art program aimed at those ages 7 and older were held just outside of Ashland along Dead Indian Memorial Road. Coyote Trails also runs a variety of more intense camps designed for adults with different skill sets throughout the summer.

Camp Director Joe Kreuzman said that the week’s programs combined nature observation and nature art while helping kids get in touch with some long-forgotten abilities.

“Senses — when you’re in a town and on the sidewalk, just walking in a straight line, that doesn’t let sensory awareness get pulled out,” Kreuzman said. “Out in the woods, the senses open up, and that means opening up a connection, an interconnectedness with nature. … What our kids and parents learn is how to bring back that balance (with nature).”

Coyote Trails was the recipient of a $6,000 grant from the Nye Family Fund, working through the Oregon Community Foundation to provide scholarships for special needs children and young adults to attend the program this year.

Special needs students in the Coyote Trails program are fully integrated into camp activities and are not treated any differently from other camp participants. Some past participants with special needs have gone on to be instructors in the Coyote Trails programs.

Andy Willmore, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been a student of the camp in past years but now is an instructor in training. His responsibilities include showing camp participants how to identify animals and move through the forest. As young children run in circles around him playing with animal pelts, Willmore said he appreciates the calming sense that the forest brings.

“A lot of the time I like to be deep in thought and I can act that way in this environment,” Willmore says, gesturing toward the trees. “I can go off and examine all of that, and slow down.”

One of the art activities on Wednesday involved using plaster to create a favorite animal.

Ten-year-old Elijah Krayna chose to build a bat because he liked its black color and ability to fly. If he could be any animal in the world, though, Elijah said he would be a panda, but he couldn’t build one.

“Building a panda would be too hard,” Elijah said. “They’re too big.”

Activities also included using plaster casts to make and identify animal prints, sneaking through the woods, and starting a fire using only the materials found in nature.

Instructor Amanda Smith, who gave a fire-making demonstration, also became involved with Coyote Trails as a student. She demonstrated how to use tree bark as tinder and rub two sticks together to create friction and, ultimately, flame.

Mären Burck, an Oregon State University art student who oversaw some of Wednesday’s body art, said she appreciates the young artists’ work because of its purity and originality.

“I feel just lucky to be around them,” Burck said. “These kids are too young to be regurgitating something they saw somewhere else, this is only art.”

More information about Coyote Trails School of Nature programs can be found by calling 541-482-0513.

Mat Wolf is a reporting intern from the University of Oregon. Reach him at 541-776-4481 or by email at