After over a decade of providing experiential outdoor education through mentoring programs, homeschool enrichment, and camp, we continue our mission to cultivate the next generation of naturalists and leaders through the Trackers Forest School.
- Outdoor Classrooms: Any lesson that can happen in a classroom is enhanced out of doors. We take academic experiences to the next level by immersing students in nature every day.
- Academic Standards: Our interdisciplinary curriculum meets common core standards by blending outdoor skills with lessons in math, reading, writing, history, science, and art.
- Enhancements: Our daily program is enhanced with additional focus on Naturalist Studies, Plants and Botany, Wildlife Tracking, Forest Craft, Woodworking and more.
- Children range in age from 4 to 18 years.
- Trackers Earth also trains adults in their Instructor and Teacher training programs.
- Students are arranged in 3 levels: Elementary (Grades K, 1, 2), Middle (Grades 6, 7, 8) and High (Grade 9).
- After Care, Summer Camps, Winter Break, Spring Break, and No School Day camps are also available.
- Excellent teacher to student ratio (1:7 for Kindergarten).
- Individual teachers dedicated to Naturalist Learning, Plants and Botany, Wildlife Tracking, Forest Craft, Ecology, Woodworking, Ornithology (birds), Social Sciences, and more.
- Our Teachers are talented educators, from diverse educational and outdoor backgrounds, who bring a balance to traditional academics with outdoor nature immersion.
Kelsey, our Forest School Principal, wants kids and adults to find a comfort with the natural world that’s been lost.
Tony, Founder, believes that kids are far more capable than the modern world allows.
Chris joined Trackers full time as our Administrative Director in 2012, but she’s been involved from the very beginning.
Why Forest School?
Experiential education outdoors immerses students in their learning in ways that traditional education models can’t. With a holistic, learner-centered focus, students become invested in their education and foster a lifelong relationship with the land, their mentors and classmates, and the community. They are allowed, and even encouraged, to push their own boundaries through supported risks, teaching them independence, resilience, and perseverance outside of four walls. Instead of stand-alone subjects taught in a vacuum, skills and lessons are woven together, becoming transferrable across environments and connecting students to the world around them.
Forest Skills can be fire-by-friction, wood carving, stone tools, fiber arts, and even campfire cooking, but our studies do not stop there. Through study in forest craft, students build their own experience with our shared human heritage and form a deep-rooted desire for continued learning. As students grow in knowledge and skills, new avenues for exploration open naturally. Outdoor skills aren’t just limited to the more tangible archery and navigation; the natural world also builds self-esteem and confidence, positive relationship development, and creative problem solving.
We draw inspiration from many educators: Maria Montessori, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ray Mears, Jon Young, Daniel Quinn, Nancy J. Turner, and many others.
Trackers Earth offers camps and outdoor programs for all ages. We provide innovative education in nature connection and authentic outdoor skills. Camps and classes include outdoor skills, wild plants, archery, restoration and much more. Our organization and education models are collaborative. Our purpose is to create a village of connection to the land, accountability, common sense, and limitless enthusiasm.
Trackers camps and outdoor programs have been recognized by several awards including Best Summer Camp by Portland parents and an industry specific award for creative programming by the American Camp Association.
Tony and Molly Deis founded Trackers Earth in 2004. Tony based Trackers on his personal work in outdoor education since 1992 while teaching and developing programs for local outdoor education organizations. Since then, referrals from both parents and students has grown Trackers into one of the largest and most well respected summer camps and outdoor programs in Portland, Oregon and beyond.
Tony often says that Trackers has more in common with his big Italian family than conventional outdoor education. We are made up of compassionate individuals who focus on caring for their family and yours, competence and eloquence in all that they do and of course, gathering together for great food.
What is Trackers Earth?
Trackers is a family organization. We are not simply limited to one family. Like a true village, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas from many different kinds of families work side-by-side for the greater good. We value instilling care and respect for the natural world and the community we serve. With Trackers you often get the feeling of “old friends that just met”.
Since its beginning, Trackers has helped lead the way in standards of risk management for outdoor camps and programs. Trackers also consults with other outdoor programs and camp organizations, helping them to improve their own best practices for safety and risk management. We cultivate experienced and mature staff that allow us to teach real skills and respect for the land. We seek to bring environmental education back to inspiring adventure with new and leading standards of care, responsibility and personalized learning. Learn more about our safety policies, programs and philosophies from our blog.
- Jess Liotta – Bay Area Regional Director
- Tony Deis – Founder
- Molly Deis – Founder
- Chris Codino – Administrative Director
- David Jacobsen – Portland Regional Director
- Abby Joffe – Forest Kindergarten Teacher
- Sam Linder – Forest Kindergarten Teacher
- Brenton Spratlen – Forest School Teacher
- Brittany Zurschmit – Forest School Teacher
- Jamey Espinoza – Forest School Teacher
We generally follow the Portland Public Schools calendar, however we start and end our school year slightly earlier and later respectively. School is in session Monday-Friday with holiday breaks and in-service days. Our school calendar is released in the Spring.
What are the school hours?
8:15am to 3:15pm. Our day runs slightly longer than other schools to allow for travel time to outdoor locations without compromising school time.
Is after school care available?
After school care is available until 6:00pm with pre-registration. Students have options for quiet time, art projects, reading, and hands-on folk craft. We have many students who join after care simply because they like school so much that they want to stay longer!
Note: For Drop-in care, please give us at least one school day’s notice.
What is the tuition?
Tuition for the 2018-19 school year is $13,550. There is also a $50 application fee.
Are scholarships or financial aid available?
Trackers Forest School is committed to providing financial aid to the greatest extent possible. Limited financial aid is awarded based on availability and need, however, as a new school, our resources are limited.
Where do students report to school?
We meet our Trackers SE Portland Location:
4617 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202
Do you provide lunches or snacks?
Students will need to bring their own lunch, snacks, and water bottle. Trackers strives to be peanut free, so please do not pack any peanut products.
How are students transported?
We own our own fleet of vans and buses. Our staff are rigorously evaluated for driving skill and competency and are given ongoing training by our in-house Transportation Coordinator.
What outdoor locations do you use?
We use many of the same parks as our summer programs, including a mixture of city parks, regional and state parks, and land privately owned by Trackers.
What is your curriculum?
Our curriculum is developed by Tony Deis, Trackers Founder, and Jess Liotta, Trackers Director in collaboration with our entire team! Our Forest School truly benefits from Trackers Earth’s exemplary legacy in outdoor education.
Please visit the Curriculum page of our
Are there overnight expeditions?
Students in grade four and up will go on seasonal overnight expeditions around the Pacific Northwest as an extension of their project work. Destinations are based on relevance to curriculum and student interests.
Are you really going to go outside in all weather?
Yes! Our years of experience have taught us that, when dressed appropriately, children thrive outdoors year-round. In cases of severely inclement or unsafe weather, we will spend more time at Trackers headquarters. Our goal is to teach children to be safe and happy outdoors in any weather. Guidance will be offered to parents in preparing and dressing their child for success.
Do you also spend time indoors in a classroom?
While we will spend the majority of our time outside, we will also spend time in the classroom, as needed, depending on the projects on which the students are working.
How does the school use technology?
To be human is to use technology. From fire-by-friction and bow and arrow, all the way to computers and robots: Humans are technology users. We encourage children to use tech as a tool to deepen their connection to the world around them, not as a replacement for that connection. Tech is a tool to allow for more choices, not dictate the outline of their life.
What is your discipline philosophy?
True discipline comes from within. We encourage students to find the limits of the natural world by learning from the wild and from each other. We set very clear, firm safety boundaries and allow freedom within those to develop self-regulation. Through compassionate conversation and community building, children balance independence with accountability to their community and the natural world. When a child is consistently crossing necessary safety boundaries, we work with them and their family to find positive solutions that take into account the needs of the whole person and the group.
Do you assign homework?
Research clearly shows that homework does not have a significant effect on knowledge retention or academic achievement in the elementary years. For our younger students, aside from reading at home and occasional long-term, self-directed projects, all work is completed during school hours. We would rather children participate in and help maintain the home, or just have fun with their family in the evenings. Students in our middle-school program receive highly individualized project-based independent study appropriate to their academic needs.
How do I begin the application process?
Begin by applying online at:
We will then send you a follow-up form with additional questions. Students applying to grade one and up will also need to submit transcripts from their current school (if applicable). Please note that there is a $50 non-refundable application fee.
How do you approach students with special needs?
We believe all children should have an IEP. Every person learns in a different way and at their own pace. Individualized, project-based learning means being intensely familiar with the whole students’ needs and abilities. We trust our teachers to present curriculum in a way that provides the right level of challenge at the right time. When we observe that a student could benefit from additional support, we will work with the parents and call in outside resources as necessary to help provide the tools to succeed for that child.
Will we be able to meet the teachers before school begins?
There are many opportunities to meet our teachers prior to the school year beginning. At our Open House events, teachers are present and ready to answer your questions. Check out our Forest School website to find out when the next Open House takes place. To learn more about our talented teaching staff, please see our Story and Team page,
After School Programs
Join Trackers Earth for adventures after school. Options include outdoor skills, archery, martial arts and blacksmithing.
Parents can drop-off kids at Trackers Earth’s location in SE Portland for specialty courses including…
- Archery After School – Train archery at one of the largest indoor ranges in SE Portland. Learn with experienced instructors. Grade 2-10.
- Blacksmithing After School – Apprentice with experts. Blacksmith by the forge 1-day a week. Learn the craft of metal bending. Grade 5-10.
- Ceramics After School – Learn the ancient art of pottery with expert instructors. Coil and sculpt clay. Fire your works in our kiln. Grade 5-10.
- Woodworking After School – Learn the craft of woodworking from expert instructors through hands-on projects. Grade 5-10.
- Martial Arts After School – Movement & fitness after school, with a Trackers focus. Train in animal-style martial arts and self-defense. Grade 1-4.
- Art of Nature (Pre-K to K) After School – After School for our youngest students. Drop your child off for afternoons of nature arts and crafts. Grade Pre-K and K.
- Transported After School – A Trackers Educator transports your child and their friends from school to an outdoor adventure at a local park or sometimes Trackers’ Scout Pit. Students train in archery, wilderness survival skills, homesteading and storytelling. At the end of the day, you pick your child up at Trackers’ SE Portland Headquarters. Grade 1-6.
Learn more at TrackersPDX.com/after-school
Portland’s Coolest Summer Camps
Voted Best Summer Camp by Portland parents, Trackers Earth is where kids make friends, learn skills, and get outdoors! Trackers Summer Camps offer day camps (Ages 4-Grade K and Grades 1-12) introduce your child to guided outdoor adventures, fantastic stories, and new friends. Their overnight camps (Grades 5-12) offer authentic wilderness adventure, team building, and outdoor leadership.
Drop-off at three camp locations (SE Portland, NE Portland, W Portland) and Overnight Camp at Camp Trackers in Sandy, OR. They show your kid how to:
- Make new friends and stay safe outdoors at all their camps.
- Survive and have fun in the forest at Wilderness Survival Camp.
- Garden and take care of animals at Farm Camp.
- Train as a Ninja or Secret Agent.
- Join a School of Magic or quest with of Elves, Swords & Dragons.
- Catch a fish at Fishing Camp.
- Become a master archer in Archery Camp.
- Plus, teen camps with Ceramics, Rock Climbing, Woodworking, Blacksmithing and more.
To learn more, visit Trackers Earth Summer Camps.