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The Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection (Course ID: 1WG-2019)

Course: 1WG-2019 - The Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection

Duration: 6 weeks

Dates: Jan 07 - Feb 17, 2019

Age: Min.18 years

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

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

General prerequisites for enrollment

Students should be: self-motivated, physically fit, able to exercise appropriate independent living skills, and willing to engage in all activities. Maintaining respect and safety for students, animals and staff members is the responsibility of all participants.


General overview:

Winter speaks of beauty, extremes and preparedness: sub zero 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 connection 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 extensive travel in the Yukon Territory. Learning about risk assessment and natural history while snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and skijoring highlight this classic winter adventure. Ultimately, this course provides students with the confidence and basic skill sets with which they can act as responsible and active stewards of the land during the Canadian winter.


Course Component Description

Component 1 of 5: 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. Stargazing and moonlit adventure outings connect students with elements of the natural, nocturnal world.

In addition, viewing selected DVDs, as well as actively participating in group discussions and a 15-day 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, etc., cascading into the systematic destruction of natural habitats and the livelihoods, lifestyles and culture of local Indigenous populations.

ES lifestyle component activities will include but are not limited to:

1.1 Curriculum involvement;

1.2 Meal preparation & 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; and,

1.8 Interdependent studies workshops.


Component 2 of 5: Animal Connection (40 hrs.)


Since settling on the shores of Indian Lake in 1990, wild and domestic animals have been part of the Earth Studies lifestyle. In 1994 the Cushing’s acquired a special Wildlife Observation Permit issued by the Government of Québec to rehabilitate injured and orphaned indigenous birds of prey and mammals. To date, their efforts have successfully rescued and released hundreds of wild animals back into the wild. Earth Studies remains one of the few privately funded facilities in the province of Québec that is authorized to provide this service to wildlife. At any given time there may be several raccoons, foxes, skunks, squirrels, crows, geese, kestrels, hawks, coyotes, owls, bear cubs and/or deer fawns to care for daily on Earth Studies campus.


Sled dogs:

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 famous “Serum Run” that delivered desperately needed antidote to Nome, Alaska during an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925, a dog sled run that saved hundreds of lives. Cushing Kennels is presently 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.


* Please note that working with the sled dogs while participating in the Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection Course will not be as intensively focused on sled dog sports as the 2-week Advanced Sled Dog Sport Course being offered by ES following the conclusion of the Earth Studies Lifestyle + Animal Connection Course.



While researching for a breed of horse that would represent our school and equine program, our attention kept getting drawn to the hardy ‘little iron horse’ known as the ‘Canadian.’ We acquired our first Canadian in 2001 and have never looked back. The ancestries of the equine partners here at Earth Studies are famous in their own right, as the Canadian helped carve a nation. Our herd presently consists of five Canadians, one Friesian-Paint and a Newfoundland Pony.


Animal connection component activities will include but are not limited to:

2.1 Introduction to resident animal groups;

2.2 Student training with dogs and horses;

2.3 Confident leadership & responsibility;

2.4 Code of conducts;

2.5 Environmentally normalized social interactions; and,

2.6 Ethical treatment of animals.


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

The focus of this course component will cover the history of equine species, horse care, groundwork, conditioning, riding and stable management. This component provides students with unique opportunities to engage and connect with horses. Our natural horsemanship methods are adopted from several world-renowned equine trainers, including Tom Dorrance, Guy Maclean, Monty Roberts, Pat Parelli, Margrit Coates and Dr. Rowling.

Our horse herd is a vital part of the animal connection that students experience while at Earth Studies. 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. You will discover their individual and unique personalities while taking part in their care and wellbeing.

Topics of instruction for the Introduction to Natural Horsemanship will include:

3.1 Herd dynamics and equine language;

3.2 Horse behaviour & training;

3.3 Horse psychology;

3.4 The 4 ‘horsenalities’;

3.5 Situational awareness;

3.6 Methods of training;

3.7 Introduction to Parelli 7-Games; and,

3.8 Equine nutrition, conditioning & 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 sustainability 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.

The Yukon field trip component activities will include but are not limited to:

4.1 Direct (return) flight from Ottawa to Whitehorse YT via Yellowknife NWT;

4.2 Tour the regions surrounding the communities 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 race festivities, including Meet the Mushers banquet;

4.5 Meet Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race officials and attend the volunteer’s briefing;

4.6 Be a race Volunteer at four different race checkpoints;

4.7 Visit nearby First Nation communities for Native American culture and connections;

4.8 Backcountry day excursions by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing; and,

4.9 Swim in outdoor natural hot springs.


Component 5 of 5: Introduction to Personal Self-Defense (10 hrs.)

This course is an introduction to self-defense techniques and situational awareness.

While there is no direct connection between animal studies and the realm of self-defense, we offer this component because we believe self-defense skills raise levels of self-confidence, teach self-awareness and mindfulness.  

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-defense techniques. It is expected that students will keep an open mind, be ready to learn and practice the drills and techniques with care. By the end of this instruction students will understand:

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


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