9 Month distance Immersion Training
In today's daily rush, it's easy to forget to nourish ourselves.
There are two key sources of nourishment that often feel elusive for many folks to connect with these days: the natural world, and real heart-felt community.
The irony is that these two "nutrients" are meant to synergize and work together to nourish the individual. And, we need these supports more than ever before!
Yet, many report that it seems to be hard to find time to get outside, or to find folks that they feel a real connection with that can become mutual supports on the journey of life. This part of life used to be "built-in", but now it requires some intention to cultivate.
In many communities, the inter-generational mentoring structures that make up the older place-based cultures have broken down. Many adults, youth, and even elders now feel isolated, feeling like they have to "go it alone" or primarily rely upon their nuclear family for support. At the same time, many people report a feeling of disconnect from the natural world, and wonder how to live more in tune with the patterns of nature, or if this is even still possible.
A sense of isolation and uncertainty has become the norm for many today, but it wasn't always this way. What happened? Where did truly supportive community go in the modern era? And, what has become of our relationship with nature?
Culture isn't just found in yogurt. A grounded, forward-thinking culture can truly support community well-being. An adaptive, optimized culture :
Historically, it was each society's cultural mentoring structures (highly developed, place-based cultural practices) that supported each individual in discovering their unique gifts; the ancient cultural teachings served to awaken a person's connection with the natural world, which would in turn regenerate the leaders and innovators of tomorrow that guide the culture forward.
The mass legacies of war, displacement, and the resulting trauma around the world have played a large part in disrupting traditional culture in many places. The resulting void has created a hole in the modern experience that increasingly trends towards disconnection on many levels.
The lack of culturally-supported alignment with nature is now catching up with our modern society.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N, coined the term "Nature Deficit Disorder," which describes how our loss of connection with nature has resulted in widespread behavioral problems and despair, as well as a stunting of human development.
Technology addictions and other addictive behaviors, depression, feeling a lack of purpose, isolation, divorce, stress, and anxiety are all systemic issues that can be traced to a massive loss of culture.
Fortunately, the emergence of culture isn't always just something that "happens"...
Its positive emergent qualities can also be intentionally supported to take root.
An intentionally-designed connective culture can help us support our relationships with our deeper selves, each other, and the natural world.
There are simple steps we can take to build in more connective, meaning-rich moments that infuse positive transformation in our lives.
This change begins within; as we open to more connection with nature and creativity in our own lives, we naturally inspire others with our authentic presence and curiosity.
This is why the first stage of connection-based training in the 8 Shields Pathway includes a focus on the personal nature connection journey: nature awakens the attributes of inner presence, peace, joy, and true well-being.
Beyond individually embodying the kinds of change we wish to see, we can also learn to utilize simple group processes that support connection in community settings.
Activating our deepest purpose and finding a deep sense of well being is not an individual endeavor but a community one. It starts with one's inner connection, and weaves outwards as each community member or loved one is invited to bring their creativity forward.
Setting the stage for this requires an awareness of that which is often invisible in daily life...
Most people have heard of a magnetic field. You usually can't see or feel a magnetic field unless you have special equipment.
But, if you run a small magnet across some iron filings, what happens? All the bits of iron align with the magnet's field. The magnetic field is invisible, but its presence creates transformation.
Culture is often invisible, too. Yet it impacts us every day, whether we realize it or not.
Every school, team, workplace, and situation where people do things together takes place within a cultural field - an often invisible matrix of attitudes, beliefs, and subtle awareness that generates action. A well-thought out learning culture enhances connection, engagement and learning exponentially.
At our in-person 8 Shields programs, we utilize a powerful team-based facilitation model that weaves behind the scenes to amplify the learning and connections at each event.
We call this team model the “Acorn,” based on the amazing invisible potential of an oak tree hidden within the smaller form of the acorn. The Acorn Team creates a vibrant tapestry of experiential learning and connection that adds many layers of depth to an event.
The Acorn Model is part of the “secret sauce” that makes our 8 Shields events so engaging. The Model can be applied in many team settings, from educational settings to community-based events, conferences, businesses, schools, and more.
An Acorn is a team of people working together behind the scenes to create a connective field for a larger group experience.
The Acorn is at the core of the Art of Mentoring training model that has inspired hundreds of learning communities around the world in the US, Canada, Austria, Germany, UK, South Africa, Israel, Australia, France, and beyond.
The Acorn Team Model is a proven strategy for weaving a powerful connective field that ignites learning, transformation and teamwork. It's been applied for 30 years around the world at schools, leadership teams, camps, community events, and even at weddings! You can bring this model into action in your local community, too.
Learn about the 9 Month Intensive...
Deepen your own nature connection while learning to apply the Acorn model in your local setting.
For those who lead workshops, run events, festivals, conferences, businesses, schools, or are involved with community building projects:
This training is designed to guide you in creating an Acorn team for your local community events. Whether you are gathering friends for something as simple as a potluck experience, or want to create a connective team to support your camp or event, this 9 month distance training will walk you step by step through gathering, training and implementing an Acorn.
Training Topics Include:
Learn and practice applying foundational tools for Connection, Learning & Engagement
in community and team settings:
Goals, Theory and Practice of the Acorn Experiential Model
Expressing Natural Archetypes and cycles in a Team Setting
Foundations of Designing for Peace & Community Facilitation skills
Introduction to Applied Cultural Elements
Core Nature Connection Routines and Practices
Embodying the Attributes of Connection through Nature-Based Practices and Activities
Connection starts within...
The Rebuilding Nature-Connected Communities training will guide you on a personal transformation journey that will awaken your own "connective field," and in turn activate your natural leadership abilities and capacity to help awaken them in others.
For those who aren’t currently engaged in a community project, or are more interested in a personal transformational experience, this training will guide you through exploring the 8 Natural Archetypes, as well as core routines and practices to activate your full potential and awaken your deepest gifts.
You can "choose your own adventure" and be supported by this training, at whatever level you decide to implement the practices.
“I can't say enough good things about this training. I've been hoping for years to learn more about how to put the 8 Shields Model into action through the Acorn approach to creating events.
This training was the answer to so many questions, and an excellent launching pad for getting some practice. This has been foundational training for me. Eventually, I hope to include more of this kind of work in my residential community as well."
- Rowena Conahan, past participant
I think many of us have these feelings and understandings we recognize in our hearts/bodies, but we don't have the language to express what we're feeling and understanding.
The program gave me the language to connect my heart and mind.
- Interview with Paul McDermott, past participant
rncc distance training overview
Training is delivered through 16 group calls over 8 months (October 2019- May 2020), with additional at home digital study materials and practical assignments provided throughout the series.
Experience dynamic group mentoring calls with Jon Young & the 8 Shields Team, and gain depth knowledge through online learning materials in between calls. Social engagement skyrockets learning because it comes from multiple angles, from each person's unique perspective. This engages one's whole being in the learning process.
We guide you to go beyond theory, through regular practical applications of the Acorn model in your local setting.
2019-20 Cohort Group Calls - Rebuilding Nature Connected Communities
The primary training calls of the series are held on Thursdays beginning in September. Each call is 1.5 hours. Choose to join either the 11am PT or 5pm PT cohorts. Calls are held on the following dates:
October (2019) 3, 17; November 7, 21; December 5, 19
January (2020) 9, 30; February 13, 27; March 12, 26; April 16, 30; May 14, 28
Village Talk Call Series.
RNCC members also get access to our ongoing weekly Village Talk Call Series for the duration of your course membership.
Choose from Tuesdays at either 11am, 4pm or 7pm PT each week. Each call is 1.5 hours and provides a regular opportunity to share in 8 Shields topical discussions with peers from around the world. Experience mentoring and the art of questioning with weekly topics around connection building. Meet other mentors, facilitators and fellow journeyers from around the world. Each call has a keynote from Jon Young, and is hosted by skilled 8 Shields mentors.
Attendance on Village Talk calls is not required, but is highly recommended. Village Talk serves as our ongoing "virtual community fire" and is a great way to get inspired and share the journey with others passionate about connection-based practices. Recordings are available each week for current course members, so even if you can't make these calls, you can still join in on the learning experience.
Home study components included in the course:
Renewal of Creative Path Toolkit.
Winter block of the course includes a deep dive into your personal connective system through creative visioning and developing your own community support network. This process alone is life-changing, and in the context of community mentoring will add a whole new dimension to your journey.
Acorn Leaders Toolkit.
A complete map of the 8 directions team model of the Acorn Wheel, from archetypes through team logistics.
Learn how to hold each position effectively in an Acorn Team to support your project or organization, or for your own self actualization and nature connection experience. We will guide you through each module over the course of 9 months. You'll gain an embodied understanding of the 8 Archetypes of the Acorn team mentoring model, through your own nature connection immersion.
Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature, Digital Edition.
Learn essential mentoring philosophy and techniques that can be activated through your Acorn and within yourself. A complete guide to outdoor connection for all ages.
Guidance Through Customized
Your journey will begin with a 1-on-1 assessment call with one of our highly skilled 8 Shields mentors. This call with a skilled Acorn facilitator will help you set goals, orient to course materials, and maximize your learning journey.
Over the course of the nine months, you will receive two additional followup calls with your mentor to chart your progress, clarify and refine your implementation, and then wrap the bundle on your journey.
Mentoring encompasses a continuum of learning and transformation. We support each participant to engage with the training at an appropriate level for this point of their unique journey.
For those more interested in their own personal transformation:
For those interested in applying the learning in a leadership context:
Learning isn’t just about imparting information. It’s also about creating opportunities for dynamic, engaging connections to form.
Before there were the formalized schools and institutions as we know them in the modern era, how did people learn?
How is the “human operating system” already hardwired and optimized to absorb experiences and lessons?
The 8 Shields Model was developed through the exploration of these questions. We searched worldwide for universal principles that generate connection-based experiential learning for all ages and stages of life. For over 30 years, we have tested these processes and honed our understanding of the principles that develop connection. These tools enhance team-building, group resiliency and greatly support group facilitation processes.
The Invisible School & "Sideways" Learning
Much experiential learning actually happens “invisibly” - through role modeling, storytelling, and the art of questioning, to name just a few of the universal elements we’ve identified.
The 8 Shields approach is different than primarily didactic, lecture-based learning models. We go out of our way to intentionally create “sideways learning” processes that impart information and experiences in engaging - and often unexpected - ways.
Course content is taught in a layered approach that gives participants time each month to embody the mentoring principles through personal reflection and activities, applied community projects, and group discussion.
About Tuition Fees For This Training:
The 8 Shields Institute's financial model is a social enterprise. Every year we rely on generating a large percentage of our operating income from program fees. This covers essential operational costs, like online hosting platforms, creating and updating content and materials, and staff time. We are also working steadily to secure grant funding to make all our offerings more affordable, and to provide discounts for those in need.
We intentionally keep prices low to be as accessible as possible. A portion of the proceeds from this course will be allocated to the 8 Shields Reparations Fund, lending support to BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous, Persons-of-Color) organizations working to establish racial equity in Outdoor Education and Nature Connection.
At 8 Shields, we value diversity in all its forms and commit to actively building a community that is diverse across many dimensions, including race, sex, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, ability, culture, nationality, socioeconomic status, occupational status, education, life experience, religion, political opinion, and level of comfort and experience with the outdoors. We commit to identifying, minimizing and removing barriers to participation in our programs.
Choose from our sliding scale, payment plan, or group discount options below.
Sliding Scale Options
Please choose one of the pricing options below, based on whether you are on a low income (sea level), mid-income (prairie level), or feel comfortably provided for with some to spare (mountain level) - this option enables a lower income person to attend.
We encourage those who are able to contribute to our “Community Coffer” fund (Mountain level option). These contributions are earmarked for folks who apply for discounts on program fees. When you add $100 or more to your program fee, you support someone who may not otherwise be able to participate.
Register through our secure online payment portal using the links below.
Have questions? Schedule a one-on-one discovery call by emailing support (at) 8shields.org
Frequently Asked Questions
This training is for you if:
-You are called to step into your deepest gifts and greater health and well being.
-Or, you are a teacher, mentor, therapist, outdoor instructor, elder/uncle/auntie or “extended family” member, or part of a larger learning community or team environment.
-You wish to gain skills that build connection and enhance learning and community for yourself and others.
What you put into the experience is what you will get out of it...we have designed this program's calls and activities to give you both the foundational theory and the structure to implement what you are learning.
Between calls and independent study practice, expect to average 3-5 hours/week for full participation. More time invested will result in more potential learning. You can adjust to what feels appropriate to you at this time in your life.
Home study includes:
- Regular sit spot time in nature at least twice a week, for 20-30 minutes per session. Nourish yourself in nature while deepening your understanding of the Acorn model and Natural Archetypes through your sensory experience.
-Monthly listening/reading/written reflection in the Acorn Leader's Toolkit (2 hours/month)
-Winter Reflection and visionary design through the Renewal of Creative Path Toolkit (1-2 hours/week)
-Optional implementation of Acorn Model through four seasonal projects
Over the course of the training, participants have the option to organize 4 different local gatherings applying the Acorn Model. These gatherings will range in size according to your level of experience and your learning edge. The amount of time needed will varying according to your experience and how small or large a gathering or event you decide to organize (everything in scope from a potluck with friends to larger events).
(Note: If you are just getting started with the Acorn Model, it is quite possible that the full richness of learning for you at this point is simply participating on the calls, listening to the recordings, doing the reflection questions and going to your sit spot…and dreaming about events. If that is where your edge is and you are getting all you can at this time, by all means, that is good.)