‘If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees………..
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
from The Vision by Wendell Berry
Course Hosts & Facilitators ~ holding the whole journey
A heartfelt facilitator and culture designer, Peter has been involved with 8 Shields programs and events since 2011. He’s on the team setting up the UK 8 Shields ‘Nature Culture Network’ and runs 8 Shields introductory weekends and events around the UK and Europe. He has been on the staff for the 8 Shields Institute’s ‘Regenerating Nature Connected Communities’ online course, and since 2017 he has been one of the lead organisers for the UK Art of Mentoring camps.
Peter has also been teaching and facilitating Permaculture courses since 2007, specialising in ‘People Permaculture’ (social and personal regenerative design). He co-creates immersive and empowering learning experiences that connect people more deeply to nature, themselves and their community.
Back in 2000, Peter co-founded Steward Community Woodland, a sustainable woodland community in Devon. He lived, designed, learned and played there in deep collaboration with the land and people for 7 years. Peter now lives on a farm in South Dartmoor, where he enjoys wild running, cold swimming, chopping up wood, listening to birdsong and singing to himself.
For more about Peter – www.livingincircles.com
Sky Maria Buitenhuis
Listen to Sky speaking on the Connection Matters Podcast.
Sky has extensive experience supporting people to deepen their connection to nature, including our own inner nature as part of the larger natural landscape. She is the co-founder of GIFT (Global Institute of Forest Therapy) and the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Aswell as designing and directing the organizations training programs, she has personally trained and mentored 100s of people to follow their passions of becoming forest therapy guides.
As a nature connection and cultural repair guide, she draws on her trainings as a Work-That-Re-Connects and an 8-Shields facilitator as well as many other influences and her own on-going personal journey of remembering and embodying her most enlivened natural state of being. She continues to actively learn from indigenous cultures and their wisdom-keepers.
As a facilitator, her passion is to offer people the experience of ‘coming home’, that is remembering that as a human we are embedded in this complex and infinitely diverse web of life on our beautiful planet Earth. She is deeply moved and nourished by supporting and witnessing others having this embodied, innately human, experience of returning home to wholeness.
Within her nature connection work she also has a deep passion for supporting women’s journeys of returning to the wisdom of their bodies through teaching fertility awareness/natural family planning and womb wellness.
Sky loves to get elemental! What makes her feel most vital is communing with the Earth in various ways, such as wild-crafting with her hands, tracking animals, wild swimming and sitting quietly and listening out on the land. She really enjoyed getting her Level 2 Track & Sign cybertracker evaluation with the San people in Namibia. She also loves to dance, to sing and catch songs, and reading and writing poetry.
Guest Teachers from previous and upcoming years
Victoria Mew has followed her love of nature and curiosity in indigenous cultures since she was 12 years old having been introduced to a wilderness family camp, sleeping out in a lean-to shelter with a fire for her first time. Throughout her teens she pursued this interest training with Trackways, Coyote Tracks, and the Tracker School.
Victoria spent her gap year training with Wilderness Awareness School, building up experiences that would culminate in a week-long survival quest in the Cascade mountains; tracking coyotes until she caught up with them, learning what wild plants could be harvested for a meal, experimenting with different types of shelters and being mentored to bring these skills to children of all ages.
Victoria is a qualified forest school practitioner, and gained a BScHons in Human Sciences at UCL, with her dissertation exploring: How does growing up separate from natural environments affect childhood development? She has since founded ‘Cultivating Curiosity’, an organization that brings works with people of all ages outdoors facilitating deep nature connection and Red Squirrel Resources – an online video resource library of activities for forest school leaders, parents, teachers and outdoor educators.
Victoria was involved in setting up the UK Art of Mentoring camps and continues to be involved as a Ring 1 presenter and a design consultant.
Victoria will welcome us all to the course at the East weekend in March 2023.
Chris is a leading inspiration in the field of nature connection and environmental education for families and schools in the UK and increasingly worldwide online. He is musical and playful too. He has many things in his teaching bundle including a degree in environmental science and a natural talent for working with groups of people, telling stories, sharing bushcraft skills, foraging, creating environmental art and playing the didgeridoo too.
He wrote his first book, “I Love my World”, in 2009, reprinted in full colour in 2020 and has now created “absolutely incredible” CPD and nature connection courses online at http://www.natureconnection.co.uk.
He’s a dad, lives in Devon and loves swimming, surfing and climbing trees barefoot. Chris is founder of http://www.Wholeland.org.uk
Chris has brought his vitality and passion as the South East guest teacher in the May weekend for the last few years.
Amy is a mentor, counsellor and facilitator, community builder and activist, traditional craftswoman, herbalist and deep nature educator, song carrier and ritual holder. She works with little ones to elders and everyone in between, and has been involved with 8 Shields events since they first came to the UK and has had staffing roles at most of the UK Art of Mentoring camps ever since.
Amy grew up in an old watermill and pottery in North Wales that her parents turned into a trout farm. Her dad taught her about trees and woodland plants, her mum taught her about compost and vegetables, and her little brother taught her how much fun it is to hunt for eels in the mill race mud. The Afon Seiont, the river that runs through the mill, has taught her more than she ever read in any book. Cynefin is her favourite Welsh word – it roughly translates as the place where you feel most deeply at home, whole, connected, alive and with a sense of belonging.
She spends most of her time helping folk find their way home to their own Cynefin, be that inside themselves, in community or in nature. Nowadays that looks like holding regular sessions for individuals, and people in relationship. She practices under the name ‘Hearth in the Edgelands’.
Things that make her happy include; wood smoke from a sweet fire, swimming in any water that isn’t a swimming pool, heartfelt communication, joyfully muddy feet and satisfyingly messy hair, being baffled by a natural curiosity, treasure finding and spinning wool, a new song and a good story. She loves being outside with anyone, but especially the children in her life who help her both lose herself and find her way properly home.
Amy will be joining us to hold the fire of the South weekend in June 2023, and she will be guiding and sharing her stories on some of the Ecological Homecoming evening calls too.
Miki has spent many years deeply immersed in the woods, and honed his wilderness skills with the Swedish Survival Guild. He has trained over many years one-on-one with his friend and mentor Jon Young, master tracker and storyteller, and founder of 8shields.org. For two years he also got dedicated guidance in facilitating community from Mark Morey at the Institute for Natural Learning.
Miki has worked with children. and mentored teens and run summer camps for inner-city kids. He has co-facilitated the Art of Mentoring, and run programs for families with small children. He has taught leaders of outdoor kindergardens, initiated teenage boys, and run wilderness programs. He has also offered Year of the Fox, a yearlong workshop in nature immersion for adults.
He lives with his wife and two boys as the custodian of an 80-acre farm on the west coast of Sweden. They tend the land as part of the ecosystem, learning every day how they fit in and what is asked of them to leave this place better than they found it.
His boys attend a local Waldorf School and deepen their friendships in a father-son group that Miki founded. Together they learn about their place in nature, and what it means for fathers to pass on a nourishing legacy to their sons. One day a month, he also guides a small group of children towards a deeper connection to nature, themselves and each other.
Miki volunteers with the Mankind Project, initiating men into a broader understanding of adult masculinity. Every month, he meets with Män i Väst, a local men’s group he co-founded to provide support for men who want to live more consciously. Their process includes Shadow Work, which Miki has trained in as a basic facilitator. Miki also staff trainings with Celebration of Being, to contribute to healing the wounds and rifts between the masculine and the feminine.
Miki will be diving deeper with us in the North West weekend in November 2023, bringing his strong connection to ancestors, lineage and inner work. You can learn more about Miki at mikidedijer.com
For over 30 years, Jon has been a leader in the fields of village-building, nature-based education, permaculture and cultural mentoring. He’s made vital advancements in modelling effective connection to nature and people. A mentor of deep nature connection, Jon’s also an expert tracker, facilitator, public speaker and storyteller. He is featured in many nature documentaries and teaches in North America, Europe, Australia and southern Africa. Jon has authored and co-authored seminal works on deep nature connection and connection mentoring, including, What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World (2013) and Coyote’s Guide to Connecting to Nature (2007).
A founder of the 8 Shields Institute, Jon has established best-practices for cultural modelling and mentoring nature connection. He promotes ‘village’-building globally as a nature-based model of cultural regeneration.
Jon joined us as an evening presenter for our North Weekend in 2022.
Salvatore has 30 years of mentoring and delivery of nature-based therapies and wellness practices. He has expert knowledge and experience in both ancient indigenous and modern therapies. His focus is on techniques which increase well-being for individuals, families, and communities. He has created a codified therapeutic method drawn from experiences and knowledge. Salvatore has designed and taught over sixteen courses based on this methodology and has presented these courses and seminars in 12 countries, to over 27 different cultures.
Salvatore Gencarelle is the founder and current director of Helpers Mentoring Society, an international organization dedicated to supporting the revitalization of humanity’s relationship with hope and purpose, so that all life thrives.
Salvatore joined us as an evening presenter for our North Weekend 2022.
Ecological Homecoming Core Guides
Amy Downing (see above)
Dan Puplett is a naturalist, conservationist and environmental educator and has had a passion for the natural world from an early age. He has been involved with a wide range of conservation and environmental education projects and worked for Trees for Life for over 11 years. His many roles at TFL included leading over 80 residential conservation weeks in the Highlands, training conservation leaders and co-ordinating rewilding research and monitoring.
Throughout his life Dan has studied a variety of naturalist skills, specialising in tracking and bird language. He has a Level 4 (100%) certificate in Track & Sign under the CyberTracker Conservation system (the international standard for evaluating trackers in the field). He also holds a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Studies and an MSc in Environmental Forestry.
Dan is the author of the FSC Guide to British Bird Tracks and Signs chart and is an Associate Tutor for the Field Studies Council, an instructor for the Kamana Naturalist Training Programme, and a guest instructor for the Aigas Ranger Training Scheme. He has also assisted with large carnivore research as Volunteer Team Leader for Slovak Wildlife Society’s wolf and lynx tracking surveys.
Dan has extensive experience of nature connection mentoring with people of all ages and is a qualified Forest School Leader and Branching Out Leader. Dan lives in Moray, Scotland. He loves funk bass, martial arts, and is currently learning to play the Irish bouzouki. You can find out more about Dan’s work at www.danpuplett.co.uk.
Find out more about the Ecological Homecoming evening calls