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The Commons: How to Spend a Gap Year

A Year, a Mountain, and Five Young Women

Earth Seasoned art

Courtesy Earth Seasoned #GapYear / Wandering Wolverine Productions

I have always been passionate about the value of time spent in nature and the belief that nature belongs to all of us, regardless of gender, race, or income. While I don’t believe that time in nature is the panacea for our ills, I have witnessed over and over again how it helps, heals, and gives us the spiritual leverage of connecting with something bigger than ourselves—especially for kids. Just think of the messages our kids are bombarded with: “You can’t afford college, without which you’ll never get a good job!” “The environment is already ruined, and natural disasters will keep getting worse!” “Another mass shooting has occurred, this time in …” It’s one horrific detail packed on top of another in a seemingly endless drone of negativity. I also know that an antidote to all that negativity can be found in simple things: learning to make a fire from friction, learning to build a warm shelter, and learning the tracks of animals—and how to follow them. These are some of the skills taught at the Coyote Trails School of Nature (, which my husband started 16 years ago …

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