COVID19 Update for Adult Spring & Summer Programs

Dear currently enrolled VWS program participants,

This message is for participants registered for these programs:

  • Hunter’s Heart w/ Bob Etzweiler
  • When Women Were Trees w/ Kathy Dean
  • Birding By Ear w/ Kathy Dean
  • Land Stewardship Camp w/ Connor Stedman
  • Track & Sign Evaluation w/ George Leoniak

See the end of this email for an update on the status of each of these programs.

As we watch spring unfold, we also are watching the unfolding of the pandemic and the continuing restrictions on gathering together in groups. Our great hope is to be able to come together with you in person for these programs.

With this message, we would like to update you about cancellations & refunds and how Vermont Wilderness School as an organization is weathering this period.

THE GOOD NEWS: VWS instructors have begun offering some new “distance-learning” opportunities: 

  • Our new Facebook Group: “Vermont Wilderness School Community” is providing a private forum where VWS students (past & present) can share our nature mysteries, wildlife sightings, and more. Just request to join, and we’ll add you. (See here a recent short video by Bob Etzweiler).
  • Amy Hyatt’s upcoming weekend course Designing with Natural Cycles for Creativity & Community. This is one of our more popular courses on the design principles that guide our programs here at VWS. And we’re finding it translates well to the online format.
  • Some of our staff are also available to do one-on-one mentoring calls.  Please contact Amy if you are interested in learning more about this option.
  • There are dozens of online courses being offered by other wilderness schools in our network. If you’re looking for a recommendation on a particular topic, let us know!

These distance offerings are an adaptation to our current difficult situation. Just because we are alone in our homes doesn’t mean we can’t maintain connection and support each other in our nature-connection adventures! We welcome your feedback as we develop them further.

THE BAD NEWS: This pandemic represents a very serious threat to the economic viability of the Vermont Wilderness School.

Social distancing requirements have hit some organizations and businesses especially hard. This includes VWS. The effects already include: inability for programs to meet in person, loss of wages for our staff members, and potential reduction in donations and grants. Our insurance policy (like most policies) does not protect us against losses due to a pandemic. VWS does not have an endowment or nest egg to get us through a time like this. We will continue fundraising, but raising money from grants and donations will be more difficult during the coming recession, especially when we are surrounded by such great need.

We want to be here to provide in-person youth and adult programs as soon as we are able. With great sadness we have had to cancel our spring programs and slash the hours of our field staff. We also are reducing our administrative staff hours significantly.  Please bear with us as our administrative capacity shrinks. Even with these reductions, it will be difficult to keep VWS financially viable, especially if the stay-at-home order persists into the summer. 

We are so grateful to have received expressions of support from so many people in the past month.  Many of the parents whose children are enrolled in our youth programs have declined refunds for cancelled sessions, simply to help keep VWS viable during this time. The message we are getting is that people want to support VWS to be here for the long haul, and that our mission is more relevant than ever. 


We are doing our best to reschedule any cancelled programs. If a course cannot be rescheduled, you can request a credit OR a refund check for the full value, including deposit. (A $10 processing fee applies if you choose the check option.)  The exceptions are our two ongoing programs (Hunter’s Heart & When Women Were Trees) which are using a credit system instead refunds. Our full cancellations & refunds policy can be found here.


Hunter’s Heart w/ Bob Etzweiler — March 28 & 29 (cancelled), April 18 & 19 (cancelled), June 6 & 7 (still on)

At least two of the missed sessions will be made up.  One possibility is scheduling an additional weekend later in the summer. Another possibility is providing you a credit to make up any missed sessions next spring (together with next year’s apprenticeship members). Bob will continue to offer group videoconferences and one-on-one coaching throughout this spring.

When Women Were Trees w/ Kathy Dean — April 18 (cancelled), July 11 (still on), Oct 17 (still on)

Kathy has offered free admission to both of her Birding By Ear workshops as a substitute for the missed April session. We hope you will take advantage of these wonderful sessions. (Please register here.)

Birding By Ear w/ Kathy Dean — May 3 (cancelled), May 31 (still on), June 6 (still on)

Birding by ear classes can be held even while practicing 6-foot social distancing.  If restrictions are loosened by May 31, and we feel it is safe, we will run these two sessions.

Land Stewardship Camp w/ Connor Stedman — June 11-14 (still on)

Because this is an overnight experience with shared meals, we are being more cautious about it. We are looking at backup dates in late summer or early fall.  Stay tuned.

Track & Sign Evaluation w/ George Leoniak — June 13-14 (still on)

A tracking evaluation can be conducted safely with 6-foot social distancing measures in place.  We are looking at backup dates in the fall, and we are planning our annual winter tracking evaluation for January 2021 as usual.

Thank you for understanding and patience, and for considering how we might help each other during this uncertain time. If you have any questions, please contact Ash Young.

We sincerely hope to continue to offer our in-the-flesh, out in the woods programs in the future, whether it be in May, the summer, or the fall.  At VWS we believe that together we can rise to meet the challenges we all are facing.

In relationship & gratitude,
Sam Stegeman, Executive Director
Ash Young, Administrative & Outreach Coordinator
Ingrid Burrows, Board Chair
Amy Hyatt, Essentials for Resilient Community
Bob Etzweiler, The Hunter’s Heart
Connor Stedman, Land Stewardship Camp
George Leoniak, Track & Sign Evaluation
Kathy Dean, When Women Were Trees