A “Week in the Woods” for Educators: Learners Receiving UAF Credit


Week in the Woods for Educators
ED F595P-F01, Two​ ​Credits
CRN 52464

Instructors/Directors: John Manthei, Marianne Stolz, and Allison Wylde

Contributing/Visiting Instructors may include:
Carolyn Parker
Terry Chapin
Toni Kaufman
Zoe Jones
Derek Sikes
Jesse Hensel
Christin Anderson
and others


​Teaching certification or baccalaureate degree or permission of instructor.

Week in the Woods is a rugged outdoor program. Participants will need to be resourceful, have a desire to work with their hands, not be afraid to get dirty, and be familiar with basic camping conditions in Interior Alaska. Everyone will be expected to set up their own tent and provide supplies for six days and 5 nights, except for food and water, which will be provided by staff.

Pit toilets, a fire pit for communal use, and extensive tarps and tables will augment the woods for the best of all classrooms. Participants have to be prepared to keep themselves warm and dry in rainy conditions, as well as stay comfortable with mosquitoes and flies. Detailed information regarding the camp setting and how it all works can be found on the website.


The location for Week in the Woods is a tranquil spot in the heart of the Tanana Valley State Forest near Fairbanks, Alaska. The site is 5 miles down a narrow dirt logging road, accessible with a normal car. The actual work and camping area is located about 200 yards off the road. It is an upland, mature stand of mixed birch, spruce, and aspen with a moss and shrub forest floor.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided for all participants. There is a fire pit area around which everyone sits, eats and talks. There will be 2 pit toilets nearby and several large work areas that are tarped-over in case of rain.

Dates and Times:

Friday, June 23, 2023 through 4:00 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Students are required to spend all six days and five nights onsite and participate fully in projects and discussions.

Course Reading/Materials:

​No reading materials are required. Students are encouraged to bring tools if they have them; i.e., crooked, hook or straight knives, gouges, adzes, hatchets, saws, sharpening supplies, pencils, journal, etc.

Course Description:

This course will provide educators or other professionals the opportunity to investigate a hands-on approach to learning that is enhanced by environmental, historical, and cultural information. Augmented by the instructors’ knowledge and expertise, students will work in the natural environment with materials harvested on site to explore context and process while constructing projects and practicing skills. This camp offers a unique occasion to learn while working with a multi-generational community of curious minds in the best of all classrooms, the woods. WITW has been a life changing experience for all those brave souls who have joined us.

Course Goals and Outcomes:

Week in the Woods provides a unique opportunity for educators to learn and implement place-based science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). Students will explore the creative process in the boreal forest environment. The act of searching out and harvesting the forest resources necessary for their projects will foster a more intimate relationship with that environment.

Students will be exposed to new ways of seeing, experiencing, and appreciating the woods so that they can develop methods of instruction that will effectively communicate the knowledge and skills of woods craft and natural and cultural history to their students.

Students will explore the unique characteristics and treasures of several different forest types and the influence that man, animals, fire, wind, disease, and age have on these forest systems. Once students become familiar with these characteristics, they begin to internalize and personalize Alaska geography in a way that makes it easy to share with their pupils. Students will begin to feel the connection between the resource they are using in their projects, and the source (its immediate environment). Feeling this connection will stimulate curiosity and creativity while expanding their comfort level in the woods. This familiarity will inspire creative lesson plans and will help students find avenues to expose children to Alaskan geography, natural history, and ecology.

We hope, in the end, students and their students will want to return to the woods again and again not only to “go shopping” but for inspiration and solace.

How We Hope to Achieve these Goals:

Students will stay in the woods for six days and five nights allowing the energy of our urban lives to be replaced by a more peaceful energy of the forest. The use of cell phones and electronics in camp will not be allowed except for emergencies. Through the process of creating objects from forest treasures, students will learn joinery, riving, hewing, carving, weaving, lashing, cord making, birch tar making, and more. Students will explore old and new techniques and hand tools from many cultures.

Students will repeatedly go on guided excursions learning how and where to find specific treasures by learning the unique characteristics of forest types and recognizable situations within those types (plants, animals, colors, smells, sounds, textures, moods, moisture levels, etc.) They will harvest small quantities of bark, roots, branches, crooks, foliage, dry and green wood of all species, burls, galls, fungus, and more.

Students will look for inspirational treasures and create objects around them. They will search the forest for particular treasures to fill specific needs of their developing projects.

Students will also study edibles and medicinals and their current and historical uses.

Each student will be expected to design projects using the introduced techniques and knowledge. Socratic instruction and mentorship will provide students with a framework to build successfully. Students may choose to focus on one thing or sample some of everything.

While collecting, creating, and living in the woods students will be absorbing lessons of botany and natural history. Students will be taught to appreciate everything they utilize from the woods in its environmental context. Students will also take part in discussions about the historical context of using forest resources.

Instructor demonstrations will be for the purpose of teaching technique or process and not necessarily for the creation of a specific product. We hope students will use what they have learned as a guide along a new path and not necessarily as a pattern to reproduce what they have seen.
Some of the projects and techniques we will cover:

  • Sharpening
  • Carving
  • Riving and shaping
  • Several decoration techniques
  • Twig sculptures
  • Weaving in a wide variety of materials
  • Bark harvesting
  • Useful items woven or folded from birch bark
  • Birch tar making and use
  • Shrink boxes
  • Spruce root digging and techniques
  • Lashing
  • Primitive cooking techniques
  • Fire starting
  • Observation skill building

Instructional Methods:

​Lab, discussion, demonstration, Socratic instruction.

Instructors will be available for students from 9am to 9pm each day.

Course​ ​Calendar:
10am – 12am: Students will set up their personal camp and get settled in.
12pm – 1pm: Lunch
1pm – 2pm: Introduction to the program, the staff and one another. Review potential projects.
2pm – 3pm: Walk in the woods with staff and begin to appreciate what’s on the shelves in the store room.
3pm – 4:30pm: Develop an individual plan for the week and set priorities and goals.
4:30 to 5:30: Review plans with staff and Q&A. Share information gathered on primitive
fire and cooking technology.
6:00pm – 7pm: Supper
7pm – 9pm: Work on projects.
9pm: Tools put away.

Saturday​ ​-​ ​Tuesday:
9am: Breakfast and chores done.
9am – 12pm: Work on projects, partake in guided walks, demonstrations, and talks.
12pm – 1pm: Lunch
1pm – 5:00pm: Same as morning.
5 to 5:30: review progress, adjust goals. Reflect on how the day’s activities can be applied
to the classroom (this as a prelude to the final summary paper).
5:30 – 7:00: Supper
7 to 9: Work on projects or take part in community events.
9pm: Tools away.
10pm: All quiet.

9am – 12pm: Same as Tuesday
12pm – 2pm: Lunch, group discussion, Q&A, critique, review camp’s successes and
failures. This will be the entire WITW community.
2pm – 4pm: Disassemble camp.

Course Policies:

​Students are required to spend all six days and five nights at camp and adhere to the schedule as closely as possible especially with regard to start times for projects and walks.


​Evaluation will be based on attendance, journal entries, participation in demonstrations, projects, discussions, and walks, completion of the two assigned projects, and the summary paper.

Staying in the woods 24/6 is also essential.

This course will be graded Pass/Fail.
A pass grade will require that a student achieve 80 out of 100 possible points.

10 points –Journal
15 points –Attendance
25 points–Participation
20 points–completion of 2 assigned projects
30 points–Summary paper (deadline June 29)

Receiving less than 80 points will determine a failing grade.

Registration Procedure:

Please register and pay for the course through The Folk School prior to registering with UAF Summer Sessions. Visit the Week in the Woods website for registration.

For UAF Summer Session information and registration, visit: https://www.uaf.edu/summer/


Kerri Hamos, Program Director: (907) 457-1219 or kerri@folk.school

Support Services:

​Instructors will be available by appointment after “Week in the Woods” to assist students as well as follow-up collaboration in the classrooms.

Disabilities Services:

The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. We will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (203 Whit., 474-7043) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities. Realize, however, that this is a “field” course and all students must be prepared to meet those challenges.