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The Earth Studies Lifestyle & Animal Connection (Course ID: 1FG-2019)

  • The International School for Earth Studies 197 Chemin Fierobin Ladysmith, QC, J0X 2A0 Canada (map)

The Earth Studies Lifestyle & Animal Connection (Course ID: 1FG-2019)

Duration: 6 weeks

Dates: Sep 09 - Oct 20, 2019

Age: Min. 18 years

Cost: $7,244.00 USD  (all inclusive, tax included)

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


General Overview                            

Autumn is a season of change: changing leaves, changing bird migrations, and changing animal foresting patterns as they prepare for winter. It’s a season of hard work and organization. This environmental leadership course teaches students about outdoor lifestyle and emergency skills, environmental literacy through leadership language and animal connection, so they may become more nature savvy outdoor enthusiasts.                 

At Earth Studies we believe that 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 program brings together North American, European and First Nations students.

Structured daily activities, group discussions and critical thinking exercises inherent to operational tasks and chores immerse students in an environment that nurtures and expands the qualities of character essential to leadership. Ultimately, this program will provide gap students and interns with the confidence and basic skill sets with which they can act as responsible leaders and engaging stewards of the environment.



Course Component Description


Component 1 of 6: The Earth Studies Lifestyle (80 hrs.)

Cooperative group living, living an active outdoor lifestyle, acting out daily chores and discovering Nature highlight the Earth Studies lifestyle. Learning outdoor survival skills, flat water canoeing, wilderness canoe tripping, stargazing and evening firesides make this experiential course a truly unique nature-connection. Discovering indigenous edible plants and growing organic vegetables round out the Earth Studies lifestyle.

DVDs, group discussions and a 10-day field study tour to the eastern Great Lakes help students gain awareness of pressing North American land use issues, such as increasing energy demand and the nuclear energy debate, diminishing Great Lakes water quality and stability of fish stocks, the systematic destruction of natural habitats and the effects on regional Indigenous populations, their cultures and traditions.


1.1  Curriculum involvement

1.2  Meal preparation & housing accommodations

1.3  Camping, canoeing, swimming, hiking

1.4  Leave No Trace

1.5  Outdoor wilderness survival

1.6  Animal environmental impact

1.7  Teamwork and leadership



Component 2 of 6: 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 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. Through daily structured sessions working with the huskies, participants focus on specific goals concerning canine companionship - such as leadership dynamics, teamwork, respect, trust and unconditional love.


2.1  Introduction to Cushing Seppala Kennels, The Pack + Behavior Dynamics

2.2  Establishing Respect, Trust + Love

2.3  Kennel Rules, Boundaries + Limitations

2.4  Kennel and Husky Maintenance

2.5  Introduction to Sled Dog Sports

2.6  Canine Aquatic Therapy



Component 3 of 6: Dryland Dog Musher Training (40 hrs.)


Earth Studies has partnered with The Dog Masters USA to offer this unique introduction to dryland training with huskies. Students will learn about the traditional art of dog-powered sports through 40 hrs. of immersive group and individual workshops.

 Working daily with the school’s’ resident pack of 20 huskies, students will build a solid foundation of skills and experience living with dogs and supervising pack dynamics, while pursuing personal interests or passions in animal education and outdoor travel.

 Facilitated by Dog Masters founder Kirk Cushing, the goal of this session is to provide experiential human and dog behavior training that focuses on helping establish healthy people-dog relationships. A certificate will be issued upon successful completion of this course. 


3.1  Canine Care + Kennel Maintenance 

3.2  Dog Behaviour Training

3.3  Dog Psychology and Education

3.4  Sled Dog Sports Training

3.5  Leadership and Risk Management, and

3.6  Animal Husbandry.



Component 4 of 6: 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 care, groundwork, stable and trail maintenance are highlighted. We promote high safety standards by requiring all riders to wear CSA approved riding helmets and vests.


4.1  History of the equine species

4.2  Introduction to Natural Horsemanship + herd dynamics

4.3  Introduction to basic horse care and ground work

4.4  The 4 ‘horsenalities’

4.5  Situational awareness

4.6  Equine nutrition & maintenance 



Component 5 of 6: Eastern Great Lakes and Nuclear Energy Field Studies Tour (10 days)

For 10 days students will embark on a study tour of discovery to the eastern Great Lakes region and explore beautiful rugged landscapes steeped in culture and history. This study tour also introduces students to the history of Canada's nuclear power industry, some of eastern Canada's active reactors, the challenges faced during their decommissioning and the controversy surrounding containment of radioactive waste. 

This tour will travel entirely within the vast traditional territory of the Anishinawbeg/Ojibway First Nations (FN), the Indigenous People who thrived in these areas for millennia prior to colonization. Students will have ample opportunity to meet with Anishinawbeg/Ojibway people, especially with those actively working in the fields of environmental stewardship and long-term regenerative development.

Time and circumstances permitting, students will also visit nearby environmental science research centres working on research related to climate change and the ever-increasing number of threats to the health and viability of the region's ecosystems. Interacting with scientific and Indigenous experts, students will gain a wide range of insight and perspectives about the unique and rich biodiversity of the region.


5.1  Tour two Canada Nuclear Laboratories and a decommissioned reactor site in Chalk  

       Rivier/Roplhton and have conversations with local expertise

5.2  Learn more about the City of Sudbury and their massive citizen-generated environmental 

       clean-up initiative

5.3  Visit Manitoulin Island/North Shore Anishiniawbe and learn more about the Ojibwe FN

       culture and their environmental work and perspectives

5.4  Study the ecosystems of the Bruce Peninsula/Georgian Bay/Eastern Lake Huron Shore

       areas and the ecological risks that endanger them

5.5  Interact with scientific and Indigenous People’s experts from Nawash and Saugeen FN

5.6  Visit the Cape Croker/Nawash/Neyaashiinigmiing/Lion's Head/Douglas Point Nuclear

       decommissioned reactor/Sauble Shores

5.7  Visit Ste Marie Among the Huron’s national historic site first established by French Jesuits  

       in 1639

5.8  Visit Algonquin Park, the oldest provincial park in Canada est. in 1893



Component 6 of 6: Introduction to Krav Maga-Style Self Defence (2.5 hr.)

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 in-house civilian certified, military trained instructors will teach the importance of situational awareness, how everyday items can be used for self-defence and basic physical tactics for personal protection. 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:


6.1  The basic principles and tactics of self-defense

6.2  The difference between a hard target and an easy target

6.3  The importance of awareness

6.4  How everyday items can be used for self-defense

6.5  Basic physical tactics for personal protection, and

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

For additional information and planning details, please contact Mr. Geoffrey Cushing, Director of Operations for any Internships & Gap Course related questions at 819-647-3226 or