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The Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection (Course ID: 1WG-2020)

The Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection (Course ID: 1WG-2020)

Duration: 6 weeks

Dates: Jan 06 - Feb 16, 2020

Age: Min. 18 years

Cost: $8,577.00 USD (all inclusive, tax included)

Prerequisite: Experience working with animals and being comfortable in the (unpaved)  outdoors

General Enrolment Prerequisites

The ES 60/40 Rule applies: Each participant is expected to contribute more to the overall course outcome than they intend to take from it. Students must be self-motivated, physically fit, able to exercise appropriate independent living skills, and willing to engage in all activities. Ultimately, promoting a respectful and safe environment is the obligation of all participants.

General Overview:

Winter speaks of beauty, extremes and preparedness: subzero temperatures and snow accumulation change animal foresting patterns as they adapt to winter. It’s a season of observation, awareness and survival. This leadership course guides students through an active outdoor lifestyle focused on environmental literacy through recreation and animal connection. Ultimately, our students become more winter and nature savvy.

 At Earth Studies we believe maintaining a strong connection between people and nature is paramount. The Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection course focuses on creating and reinforcing this by following our four pillars: Environmental Literacy, Animal Connection, Outdoor Recreation and Self-Defence. In addition, this unique experience brings together North American, European and First Nations students.

During this six-week course students discover the backcountry of western Québec and travel through regions of the Yukon Territory. Learning about risk assessment and natural history while snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dog sledding highlight this classic winter adventure. Ultimately, this course provides students with the confidence and basic skill sets with which they can act as responsible stewards of the Land and group leaders during a Canadian winter.


Course Component Descriptions


Component 1 of 5: Introduction to the Earth Studies Lifestyle (80 hrs.)

Cooperative group living, living an active outdoor lifestyle, acting out daily chores, learning weather preparedness and risk assessment, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sled dog sports highlight the Earth Studies lifestyle. Fireside discussions, stargazing and moonlit adventures further connect students with elements of the natural, nocturnal world.

In addition, viewing selected documentary DVDs, as well as actively participating in group discussions combined with a 2-week field-studies tour to the Yukon Territory help students gain awareness of pressing environmental challenges stemming from global warming: i.e. rapidly diminishing continental glaciers and polar ice sheets, cascading into the systematic destruction of natural habitats and livelihoods, lifestyles and cultures of local Indigenous populations.


1.1  Curriculum involvement

1.2  Meal preparation and housing accommodations

1.3  Winter preparedness

1.4  Leave No Trace

1.5  Outdoor wilderness survival

1.6  Animal environmental impact

1.7  Teamwork and leadership



Component 2 of 5: Introduction to Dog Behaviour, Pack Dynamics + Sled Dog Sports (20 hrs.)

Our sled dogs are at the core of our Animal Husbandry program. In 2002, Cushing Kennels began rekindling a heritage bloodline known as the “Seppala” Siberian Husky. This rare breed has a lineage thousands of years old, and was made famous by the historic Serum Run that delivered desperately needed antitoxin to Nome, Alaska during an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925, a dog sled run that saved hundreds of lives.

Cushing Kennels is home to 20 Seppalas and is dedicated to promoting sled dog sports through dog behaviour training and education that focuses on establishing healthy and rewarding people-dog relationships. This session will help increase dog awareness through understanding causes, functions, development and evolution of canine and is a hands-on guide to understanding the basics of dog behavior.

Focused on the Earth Studies pack of 20 Seppala Siberian huskies, topics include non-- verbal body communication, dominant and submissive language, pack dynamics, lead and follower mentality. These basics can then be taught to family members. Please note that working with the huskies during this course will be limited. However, the 2-week Advanced Sled Dog Sports Course (2WG-2020) is dedicated to sled dog sports instruction and certification.


2.1  Introduction to the Pack

2.2  Understanding Pack Behavior + Dynamics

2.3  Establishing Respect, Trust and Love

2.4  Kennel Rules, Boundaries and Limitations

2.5  Kennel and Husky Maintenance

2.6  Introduction to Sled Dog Sports + Dog Sledding



Component 3 of 5: Introduction to Natural Horsemanship (10 hrs.)

The new Earth Studies horse stable complex is home to the Friesian, Canadian horse bloodline and a Newfoundland pony, providing participants with unique opportunities to engage and connect with horses through the lens of natural horsemanship. Our methods are adopted from several world-renowned equine trainers, including Tom Dorrance, Guy Maclean, Monty Roberts, Pat Parelli, Margrit Coates and Dr. Rowling.

We believe there is always a more responsible and accountable way when working with any animal group. This approach has led to our natural horsemanship program where students discover each of the horse’s personalities while taking part in their care and well-being. History of equine, horse anatomy, care, groundwork and stable management are featured as outlined:


3.1  History of the equine species

3.2  Introduction to Natural Horsemanship + herd dynamics

3.3  Introduction to basic horse care and ground work

3.4  The 4 ‘horsenalities’

3.5  Situational awareness

3.6  Equine nutrition & maintenance                                                                        






Component 4 of 5: Yukon Field Trip (15 days)

For two weeks students embark on a field trip extravaganza to the Yukon Territory of north western Canada. Learning about the famous Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1908, cross- country skiing or snowshoeing through some of the planet’s most pristine wilderness, meeting with people in several First Nation communities and learning of their distinct cultures, and being a checkpoint volunteer along the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race – “the world’s toughest dog sledding race” - are just some of the highlights featured on this life-changing experience.

Time and circumstances permitting, students will also visit nearby environmental science research centres (e.g. the Arctic Institute of North America) and meet with scientists working on research related to climate change and the ever-increasing number of threats to the health and regeneration of the planet’s ecosystems, most acutely evident in the Arctic and Boreal regions. Interacting with scientific and Indigenous experts, students will gain a wide range of insight and perspectives about the unique and rich biodiversity of the Yukon.


4.1  Return flight from Ottawa to Whitehorse YT

4.2  Tour the regions of Whitehorse, Pelly Crossing, Haines Junction and Carcross

4.3  Tour the Yukon Transportation Museum, Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre and

       MacBride Museum of Yukon History

4.4  Attend Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race festivities + briefing

4.5  Be a race Volunteer at three different race checkpoints

4.6  Visit nearby First Nation communities for Native American culture and connections

4.7  Backcountry day excursions by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing

4.8  Meet with renowned scientists and research teams studying climate change



Component 5 of 5: Introduction to Krav Maga-Style Self Defence (10 hrs.)

While there is no direct connection between nature, animal behavior and the realm of self-defence, this component is offered because we believe self-defence skills raise levels of self-confidence, personal empowerment, teach observation, self-awareness and mindfulness. This component is a vital asset for those planning to travel during their Gap year.

Our two instructor-guides at Earth Studies have spent years achieving black belt levels - and have provided instruction to many - in traditional Jiu-Jitsu and in contemporary Krav Maga self-defence techniques. It is expected that students will keep an open mind, be ready to learn and practice the drills and techniques with care. Ultimately students will know:


5.1  The basic principles and tactics of self-defense

5.2  The difference between a hard target and an easy target

5.3  The importance of awareness

5.4  How everyday items can be used for self-defense

5.5  Basic physical tactics for personal protection, and

5.6  Some of the commercial non-lethal products on the market for personal protection.