A quick sit-down with Tim Smith of Jack Mountain Bushcraft School

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This past few weeks have been crazy as I settle into the swing of things up here at Jack Mountain. During a lull in activity I got to sit down with Tim Smith, the owner and lead instructor at the school and talk about how he got into this industry, as well as his approach to teaching. Tim studied anthropology during his undergrad work, and later earned a master’s in education. He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve met, and I think his studies have influenced that a lot. He has a vast amount of knowledge about his craft, and that knowledge came about simply because he is passionate in his curiosities. He has an ability to fit into any conversation he stumbles into with a quick wit, a genuine interest in teaching the things he’s learned to others and a sense of humor that seems to be aimed at himself more often as it is at others, a trait I haven’t seen in many people, let alone teachers.

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  I’ve always figured you can tell a lot about someone by the books they keep in their library, and the one Tim’s built for his school seems to be a pretty good indicator of his personality as I’m starting to get to know him. It’s packed with old books on every relevant subject. Cooking, navigation, hand tools for woodcarving etc. However he’s supplemented the strictly academic books with Walden, Whitman, Robert Service and books on the Tao, guided meditation and a slew of others. He’s also placed copies of Lance Bass and Justin Bieber’s biographies in their. Like Tim, the library is deep reservoir of experience and opportunity for learning, but always ready with a joke or some form of levity when the work gets to be too much and the mood needs lightening. Our conversation covers his journey into making “jack mountain” a reality, as well as some information on the school, and the scholarship he’s so graciously awarded me, and would like others to take advantage of in the future. Tim has been running Jack Mountain since 1999, and in our interview he explains that he didn’t really have a vision of it as it is today. He goes in to say  that he and a friend were running one day courses, and thought “what if we had students live on site, and ran this as a whole semester?” He goes on to explain that it’s been a learning experience as well as a bit of an experiment in education for him. Tim is constantly reading about education, and leans more toward the idea of “unschooling”. He explains that most of our modern school system is about wasting time, and lecturing (I’d argue that the two aren’t mutually exclusive) and that he’s more interested in hands on learning. It’s one thing to explain a concept to a young mind, but it’s better if you can “show me with a rock and a stick “. 

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I’ll post a link to our podcast as soon as it’s done being edited. It’s  good conversation, and certainly not taken too seriously at any point (at one point we talk about empty Walmart parking lots, and telling horse and buggy drivers on the roads of presque isle to go faster. I won’t give away too much, since the podcast itself goes over how he got into the industry of bushcraft/sustainable living, but I will say that even after a few weeks and some change of talking and learning with Tim, I’ve found a reservoir of experience that I wouldn’t have had I stayed on previous paths of life. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as we enjoyed recording it.
If anyone is interested in getting involved with Jack Mountain, or wants to know more about my experience here, and my experience getting the scholarship I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments, or you can check out Tim’s site at Jack Mountain

If there are any questions, let me know in the comments below!

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