Justin Pegnataro, Executive Director of Two Coyotes founded Two Coyotes in 2000, a non-profit organization dedicated to nurture healthy, whole human beings through building self-awareness, community, and connecting people to nature. Recently, the school started an amazing summer camp program in Granby. In this program Justin states, "We use wilderness survival, wildlife tracking, and naturalist skills as tools that help us to better understand ourselves and our place in the world. There is a growing body of scientific evidence concluding that contact with nature is essential to the healthy development of children's brains and bodies. At Two Coyotes, we support people in becoming happy healthy and whole."
Justin mentored graduate students in teaching environmental education at the Yale School of Forestry, and coordinated an experiential science program in New Haven. He holds B.S. degrees in both Anthropology and Biology, and has been teaching children about nature for the past twelve years. He brings his passion for nature and powerful commitment to community to Two Coyotes. Justin recently sat down for an interview.
Q: Two Coyotes Wilderness School has been growing! The school recently expanded its Newtown summer camp program to Granby. Tell us about the summer camp program now being offered in Granby?
A: Last summer Two Coyotes Wilderness School offered their wilderness-based summer camps for the first time at Holcomb Farm in Granby. It was a wild success! Imagine exploring the stream bank with bare feet with mud squishing between your toes. Catching frogs with your bare hands and making fire by rubbing sticks together. At Two Coyotes kids learn about nature and themselves through wilderness experiences.
Located at Holcomb Farm, the camps take place in the huge nature preserve and students have the opportunity to explore and connect with the natural world and their personal gifts. What makes Two Coyotes camps different is their emphasis on personal growth in nature. We believe that nature is a source of healing and growth and that when we spend time in nature with mentors there are many unique opportunities to come into our own. It is no mistake that we call our staff “mentors.” Longterm Mentoring is a key component to our school and its teaching philosophy. A mentor is a person who helps another toward personal development. If you have had one in your life you know how valuable and powerful their presence has been for you.
This summer Two Coyotes is offering camps that focus on plant medicine and collecting wild food, building forts and shelters, catching frogs, advanced survival skills, a capture-the-flag sneaking camp, and making wilderness crafts and tools from nature.
Q: Your school has a unique approach to nature education. Can you explain how nature is taught and experienced in Two Coyotes (versus other summer camps)?
A: The amazing thing is that most of Two Coyotes' lessons are woven invisibly into the day. Through games kids learn how to identify trees blindfolded, they identify wild plants and then prepare a delicious and nutritious feast over the campfire. They learn hand and eye coordination and balance by moving like animals through the forest. Their games and activities teach skills like patience, teamwork, stillness, critical thinking, and much more.
At our camps children learn a lot about nature but it can be hard to tell how with all the fun they are having. Through games, questioning, sparking curiosity and teaching the campers how to find their own answers they learn a lot about the local ecology, wildlife tracking, and camp-craft. They also learn other less tangible things like integrity, confidence, respect, stewardship, emotional resilience and expression, and many other core aspects of strong character. The experiences at Two Coyotes help students to grow into young men and women of vision and character.
Q: What is your opinion about the growing trend that creates an absence of direct experience with the natural world in many children’s everyday lives?
A: With our addiction to screens and packed schedules it seems nature has been pushed to the edges of our everyday life. This is particularly true for our children. Remembering back to our childhood most of us can remember a time when we got home from school, or on the weekend, we were told to go outside and play. Some of us even had the back door locked to keep us out. No one gave us any instructions and we found our own relationship with nature. For many people in those years there are profound memories of building forts, catching fish, and climbing trees. But where are the children’s footprints behind the hedgerows and in the forest? In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv talks about how we are in danger of a species disappearing from the forests—and that species is our children. Without their participation in the beauty of nature there will be no one to protect it for future generations.
Q: Many say, "It takes a village to raise a child." How can incorporating community, mentoring and nature together help our children?
A: At Two Coyotes creating community is just as important as what is taught at camp. Each morning they begin by holding hands and sharing gratitude for life and then singing a nature song. The camp mentors (or teachers) help the campers create a safe place where they feel like members of a team. Creating a sense of love, respect, and support that gives students the courage to take the risk of discovering their gifts and finding their growing edges. It takes a community to raise a child, because in the hero’s journey of finding our purpose and coming into our strength, we need the village to lift us up, to send us out on the adventures of our life and to welcome us home with open arms. Two Coyotes creates that kind of village for kids.
Interested in learning more? Come find out more about the Two Coyotes Summer Camp experience during its free Open House Family Fun Day on Sat, May 2 from 1-4 at Holcomb Farm located at 113 Simsbury Rd, West Granby, CT. Bring the whole family!! Meet the instructors, see the land and get a taste of summer camp Two Coyotes Style!
Activities include: Making fire without matches · Wildlife tracking · Wild Theater · Gratitude circles · Nature games · Natural art · Drumming · Roasting marshmallows · Wild edible plant hikes · Live music and food
To RSVP and learn more, visit: http://granbyfamilyfunday.eventbrite.com
Photos by Phyllis Meredith, phyllismeredith.com
FUN & REC