Tracking Connections – Podcast (2024)

Tracking Connections – Podcast (1)

New Zealand · 512 Natural Pathways, LLC

We feature voices from around the world, sharing stories of working intentionally with deep nature connection in ways that transform lives, families, projects, and communities. We are excited and honored to lift up the voices of people working toward the best for all beings and the future generations.

Topics we plan to include:

• Designing with Natural Cycles & the 8 Shields Model

• Cultural Elements of Connection & the 512 Project

• Naturalist Training & the Natural Mind Journey

• Holistic Tracking

• Art of Mentoring

• Village Builders

• Ancestral Skills

• Bird & Animal Language & Concentric Rings

• Forest Schools

• Community Helpers

• Elders

• More Topics Emerging...


  • Tracking Connections – Podcast (3)
    13. Reflecting on Tracking Connections —Jon, Sarah, and Aidan15 May· Tracking Connections

    "There's a moment, as a mentor, where you have to recognize, 'I'm more interested in this than they are. And in that moment, if you push, you can actually push them in the opposite direction.'"

    In this conversation, Jon, Sarah, and Aidan reflect on what it means to be "tracking connections." They share about what connection feels like in different situations, how to notice it in others, and the benefits of prioritizing connection in our work, family, and personal lives. They also share some stories about what can happen when we don't prioritize connection and the impacts that disconnection can have.

    "He said to us, 'I have never seen a team come together with such unity, such creativity, so much ingenuity, and such productivity; you put these other company cultures to shame. Now I see the value in connecting first.'"

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • In this conversation, Brian Knittel shares stories and design principles learned from his ten years at the Bay Area Tracking Club. Brian shares what it was like to experience the 8 Shields principles at work from the student perspective in the beginning, and then his observations as he grew to be a station guide and then leader of the club. We hear from Brian and Jon about the finer points of using the Art of Questioning to facilitate the tracking journey, including how it relates to how the San people still train trackers to this day. If you are interested in tracking, or interested in starting any sort of group based around learning nature together, you won't want to miss this episode.

    "That was really the biggest draw for me; turning that curiosity on and getting people excited to learn more.”

    About Brian Knittel

    Brian Knittel’s professional career was as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He has been on a lifelong journey of spiritual exploration and nature connection.

    His journey deepened when he started searching for ways to explain spirituality to his young kids and found Tom Brown Jr.'s books, which sparked a series of "Aha!" moments. He resonated deeply with Tom's teachings and has been training at the Tracker School since 2000. Once he found Jon Young’s work he trained intensively in the Kamana Naturalist journey and the 8 Shields model. He is a long time wildlife tracker and helped lead a vibrant Tracking Club on the California coast for close to a decade.

    He is deeply involved in these lineages, taking classes, mentoring others, and has been on a path towards Elderhood. Helping people learn about the essential nature of core routines, community building, and living in harmony with nature brings him immense joy. He has been a leader of groups within the Mankind Project, mentoring heart-centered men on a personal growth path, which has further shaped his beliefs about the importance of cultivating a state of personal peace.

    Today, he uses many healing methods – Shamanic, elements of power, nature connection, and more – to help others find their own paths to peace and well-being. His vision is to create a world filled with love, healing, deep connection, and a deep respect for Mother Earth.

    He lives in Mendocino, California with his amazing partner Amanda, who shares his passions for healing and nature. They have a blended family of four wonderful children, and when he's not exploring the natural world or helping others, you might find him practicing martial arts – something he's been passionate about for over 30 years.

    He's excited to share his experiences with others, exploring the world of spirituality, nature connection, and living a life of purpose and joy together.

    About Bay Area Tracking Club

    Bay Area Tracking Club meets on the second Sunday of each month from 8am-11am. Locations change based on where the great tracks can be found, although our home base and most consistent venue is at Gazos Creek State Beach on the San Mateo County coast.

    Connect with Bay Area Tracking Club on Facebook to learn more

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

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  • Learn more about what Joël is up to:

    Connect with Joël by email: [emailprotected]

    "Acorn Assembly" Backyard Naturalists

    This is the very simple wordpress site we use to inform people about our local “Backyard Naturalists” meetings, mentioned in the podcast, which also has a way for people to contact me. (FYI, the name “Acorn Assembly” was proposed by a group member who had no knowledge of the Acorn terminology used for team-building/facilitation at 8 Shields events—an interesting synchronicity!)

    Online portfolio of classroom activities

    This is the site I use to model for students how to showcase their work with the kind of hands-on activities I mentioned in the podcast; the “Connections” tab links to students' own representations of their work.

    Internal Family Systems Trainings

    This is my practitioner listing for Internal Family Systems (IFS) on the IFS Institute site, which also links to resources about this method of working with parts and self. I didn’t go into much detail about this way of working during the podcast but thought I’d provide it as a reference—unless you think this might be best left for a follow-up podcast at some point.

    Book - Hidden Lives of Brahman

    My academic book, “Hidden Lives of Brahman,” showcases my research in traditional Brahmin schools in India, mentioned briefly at the outside of the podcast. My ethnographic approach to the topic actually has a lot in common with the way I approach village building!

    Laurence Cole

    When speaking of the power of music to draw people together, I reference Laurence Cole’s website ( and thought others might want to draw on it.

    Braver Angels (

    ​Braver Angels provides community facilitation tools to host gatherings that provide a welcoming space and prompts for conversation between people on opposing sides of the political spectrum. At first glance this probably seems like the opposite of what’s needed to build connection, yet the emphasis on focused listening to each other's' life experiences, with pauses for reflecting back what one hears, is one of the most powerful forms of "culture of allowance" that I've experienced, which also benefits from work drawing on 8 Shield archetypes for facilitation.

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • “The coyote’s on the edge of your awareness. Where’s your edge? Where is your student's edge? That’s what you’re trying to find and push gently out.”

    In this episode Jon, Sarah, and Aidan are joined by Rick Berry from 4 Elements Earth Education. Rick shares his story of nature connection and how that has led to mentoring others over the past 30 years. He shares about how land and place influence our lessons, how he guides teens in transformational ways, and the importance of modeling the values we want to pass on to the next generation. Rick shares stories of his own lineage of mentoring, including how coyote teaching was passed on to him through Tom Brown Jr and Jon, and how that has contributed to his own teaching style. Rick shares a beautiful vision for unity and the role we can play in welcoming and allowing each other’s unique ways of being, before closing with an invitation for each of us that might offer a little healing today.

    “We do have a common vision and we each do this in our own unique way. We have to come together to Heal”

    About Rick Berry

    Rick Berry began with the Tracker School in 1986 at the age of 15, and has been teaching these skills for the past 30 years. After graduating with a B.S. from Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, Rick honed his skills in the remote Klamath Mountain range where he immersed himself for 12 years in indigenous life-ways--passed on to him by Gary Morris who himself had lived with Yurok Elder Calvin Rube for 20 years.

    Later, Rick spent two years in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey as a care-taker for the Tracker School, refining his tracking and survival skills. Rick taught with both Jon Young and Tom Brown, Jr. through the Tracker School’s Coyote Camps, and moved on to serve seven years as Director of The Children of the Earth Foundation.

    Rick, Cherokee Descent, (Grandmother was part of the Red Bird Stokes Stomp Ground in Vian, Oklahoma), has been working in collaboration with the Siakumne Maidu Tribe for the past 14 years creating the Fox Walkers youth programs at Pata Panaka / Burton Educational Preserve in Nevada City, CA. In 2019 Rick was asked to be the Executive Director of The Children of the Earth Foundation; Rick will oversee Coyote Tracks Programs under the 4EEE west coast non-profit umbrella.

    Learn more about Rick at

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Tracking Connections – Podcast (7)
    9. Stories of our Nervous System - Kathleen Lockyer17 Apr· Tracking Connections

    “You can’t rehabilitate someone that hasn’t been habilitated in the first place.”

    In this conversation with Jon and Aidan, Kathleen shares her journey to becoming an occupational therapist, the role nature played in raising her own children, and how nature connection principles facilitate healthy sensory development. We also discuss the science behind story catching and the role it plays in helping children develop, and the role we play, alongside nature, in regulating each other’s nervous system. Kathleen brings a wonderful perspective as a mother, occupational therapist, researcher, and mentor, and her stories are funny, insightful, and full of hope for the future.

    “There’s no such thing as self regulation; we regulate in relationship to everything else.”

    About Kathleen Lockyer

    I am the daughter of a fisherman from Newfoundland, Canada, and a debutant from New York City. Raised a little wild, and a little cultured, I’ve learned enough to know that preserving a healthy amount of wild is good for a growing heart, body, and mind. Guiding others to reclaim wholeness and love the messiness of raising children while healing themselves is my joy.

    Learn more about Kathleen at

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • “I'd been working for an organization trying to connect people to nature, who were walking past everything. And it made me kind of slow down and notice the tiny things.”

    In this wide ranging conversation, Ciara shares about the challenges of working in an organization that lacks a connected culture and leadership, and finding that culture through nature connection. Jon, Aidan, and Ciara reflect on Greg Sommer, his learning journey and mentoring style, and the impact he has had on each of their lives, and the story of how he introduced Ciara to sit spot for the first time and it transformed her journey. She continues by sharing her story of connecting into the forest school movement, the work she does with children through Forest School Ireland, and the impact nature connection can have on both the students and the teachers.

    “Everybody walks into this going, 'Oh, I'm just going to learn a lot of activities, I'm going to write some essays, and I'm going to be a forest school leader.' And afterwards, there's tears at the end of the training, going, ‘Oh, my God, it's epic, my whole life has changed.’”

    About Ciara Hincksman

    Ciara Hinksman owns and runs Forest School Ireland – formerly Earth Force Education, founded in 2009. In 2008 she lived off-grid in Co. Kerry for three months immersed in bushcraft, nature awareness and sustainable living practices. She went to the first Art of Mentoring camp in the UK, based on the work of Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute. Subsequently, she traveled extensively in the UK and USA meeting and learning from nature connection mentors, powerful youths, and Elders. Truly inspired by these people Ciara wanted to be part of bringing connection to nature, to self, and to others, back home. Her passion is facilitating place-based, learner-centered development through story, wildlife, plants, crafts and play whilst also following the natural cycles of our seasons and lives.

    Learn more about Ciara at

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Connecting to nature and following natural cycles has a profound positive impact...

    In this episode, we’re joined by Sky Maria Buitenhuis from the west of Ireland and Peter Cow from Dartmoor, UK. They share about the programs they have designed around the 8 Shields and their impact on individuals and communities. We learn about the effects of designing in alignment with the lunar cycles, and what happens when we send participants to their sit spots at all different times of day. Peter and Sky also share the positive outcomes they see from carefully designing a container that welcomes peoples’ full selves, allowing them to be their authentic selves and bring their offerings to the world.

    Connecting with nature and each other helps heal human relationships and the planet.

    About Peter Cow

    A heartfelt facilitator and culture designer, Peter has been involved with 8 Shields programs and events since 2011. He’s on the team setting up the UK 8 Shields ‘Nature Culture Network’ and runs 8 Shields introductory weekends and events around the UK and Europe. He has been on the staff for the 8 Shields Institute’s ‘Regenerating Nature Connected Communities’ online course, and since 2017 he has been one of the lead organisers for the UK Art of Mentoring camps.

    About Sky Maria Buitenhuis

    Sky has extensive experience supporting people to deepen their connection to nature, including our own inner nature as part of the larger natural landscape. She is the co-founder of GIFT (Global Institute of Forest Therapy) and the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. As well as designing and directing the organizations training programs, she has personally trained and mentored 100s of people to follow their passions of becoming forest therapy guides.

    Learn more about Sky and Peter at and

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Tracking Connections – Podcast (10)
    6. Embodied Awareness - Nate Summers27 Mar· Tracking Connections

    In this episode, Sarah and Jon host their friend and colleague at Living Connection 1st, Nate Summers. Jon begins by sharing stories of when Nate and Jon first met in Washington State in 1996 right when the Designing with Natural Cycles model shift from 6 Shields to 8 Shields.

    The conversation explores the Profile Journey and Natural Learning Cycle through a variety of examples including an individual's journey from inspiration to embodiment of a complex skill, in this case that of a practitioner of deep nature connection, tracking and awareness and how these skills eventually lead to a form of invisibility and sense of awe and wonder. Other ways Nate discusses Designing with Nature Cycles include writing books, designing classes and even an impromptu scout mission at Sarah's request. ...

    Designing with Natural Cycles and the 8 Shields model can be applied in a wide variety of ways with powerful and predictable outcomes.

    About Nate Summers

    Nate Summers, author of Shadow Survival: A Guide to Tactical Awareness, Evasion, Advanced Survival and More has been a survival skills instructor for over 20 years with a background in anthropology, Asian studies, and natural medicine. He taught and directed at the Wilderness Awareness School for over 15 years, and has served as faculty for the Desert Institute of Healing Arts, the Asian Institute of Medical Studies, and as adjunct faculty for Prescott College. He has taught Scout Skills, Natural Movement, and Survival Skills to people of all ages all over the world. Nate's passions include martial arts, natural movement, foraging, survival, ethnobotany, and going on adventures with his family.

    You can find Nate at his website and at Living Connection 1st.

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Ancient cultures prioritized connecting children to nature for survival and well-being.

    In this wide-ranging and personal Episode, Jon Young has a conversation with Arnaud Gagné about deep nature connection and cultural norms. Arnaud is a graduate of the Kamana Naturalist Training Program, an experienced mentor and leader in the Art of Mentoring and a passionate holistic tracker and mentor who has been involved in the Shikari Tracker Training Program for many years. Jon shares his thoughts on the lack of connective cultural norms in modern times, citing personal experiences from his Irish ancestry. Arnaud discovers his passion for wilderness survival skills through backcountry skiing and mentorship. He discovered Tom Brown's books on wilderness survival and tracking, which sparked a solo journey of practicing and learning the skills mentioned in the books. Arnaud shares a personal story of how to bring healthy culture back for himself, his wife Kristyna and son, Nolan. He discusses the importance of and his commitment to cultural momentum in connecting people to nature and to each other. Arnaud hopes to be an elder in his community, passing on knowledge and healing to future generations.

    A good culture connects people to themselves, others, and the natural world, while fostering awareness of ancestors, the unborn, and mystery.

    About Arnaud

    Arnaud has been a deep nature connection mentor and facilitator for 20 years. With deep gratitude, he continues to be mentored by master holistic tracker Jon Young, one of the global leaders in the nature connection movement.

    Alongside his wife Kristyna, he is raising his son at home with the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment of nature, family and community. He is deeply passionate about helping other parents create a deeply connected natural way of life for their families.

    ​Arnaud has a life-long commitment to helping restore a culture that prioritizes connection to nature, spirit, self and community for all ages and stages of life locally and globally. He lives and breathes what he teaches, not only as a livelihood but as a way of life.

    Learn more about Arnaud at

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Connection 1st principles can be applied to wedding planning, and other community events, with each archetype contributing in a valued way.

    In this episode, Deborah and Root share their origin stories, Village Building experiences, and how they used 8 shields principles with help from their community, to design an unforgettable wedding. Jon reflects on where Village Building comes from and how it has led to vibrant communities all over the world. Root reflects on his marriage to Deborah, and the sense of connection they feel with one another and their wider communities, emphasizing the importance of reciprocity and mutual support. They share stories about the growth of The Art of Mentoring and how the village at the last event in Scotland was supported by musicians, storytellers, bards, traditional elders, families and a full complement of guilds and layers based on age and experience. Now Deborah and Root are building community with their new intergenerational neighbors, and feeling grateful for simple acts of support and connection, building community and finding common ground.

    Using 8 Shields practices creates a sense of community, relieves stress and generates a wonderful loving spirit.

    About Deborah

    Deborah's PhD, MSc, and 15 years of experience are in marine mammal conservation, ecotourism, and interpretive wildlife guiding. Her work on non-disturbing interactions with sea otters is still being applied by tour guides in Monterey Bay, California. For 6 years she coordinated an accreditation program for dolphin-watching tours in Scotland, while consulting on international multi-stakeholder sustainable wildlife tourism projects. For 12 years she co-managed a sustainable living center associated with the Findhorn ecovillage in Scotland. She became an 8 Shields practitioner in 2011, and began co-leading the Village Builders program with Jon Young in 2015. Deborah is co-leader of the online courses Pathways to Village Building, Designing for Peace, and Introduction to Regenerative Community Building.

    Connect with Deborah on Linkedin

    About Root

    Root designs experiential opportunities for learning by creating strong containers for the graceful facilitation of group energy. He holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education, and certificates in Sustainable Curriculum Design, Participatory Facilitation, and Ecopsychology. He has co-led short courses on regenerative cultures and cultural mentoring for Schumacher College, Findhorn College the ALT program in Thailand, and is a certified trainer in Gaia Education eco-social design. With his wife Deborah Benham, he has delivered trainings on Sociocracy, Designing for Peace, Positive Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship, and Culture Repair.

    You can find all of Deborah and Root's links here.

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Sarah shares how the 8 Shields Design Principles can be seen as a map to our our original design of interconnectedness, and as Jon Young often says, to our ‘ancient nervous system’.

    First through the lens of the senses, Sarah explains how we process information from our environment, and presences the drastic shift in what our senses experience in modern times versus the purity of Nature that we evolved with over millions of years. The effects on our well being become apparent when we consider our neurobiological responses to external stimuli, and our need for physiological homeostasis to live with health and happiness.

    Secondly, Sarah shares about humans as innately social beings, and how our evolutionary success is in large part to cooperation and coordination with other humans for safety, food security, and division of labor. Our nervous systems are wired for safe social engagement for survival, and what we experience in modern family and social systems is in dire contrast to what our nervous system is reaching for.

    Using the 8 Shields as a map, we can take inventory of our sensory and relational experience to see where we are on the journey back to our original design.

    About Sarah Fontaine

    Sarah is a Energy work Practitioner, Wildlife Tracker, and Interspecies Communicator.

    For over 25 years, Sarah has been practicing various healing modalities including Chakra-work, Craniosacral Therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine Meridians and Five Elements, Emotional Clearing, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Somatic Trauma Therapy, and Polyvagal Theory.

    She has studied wildlife tracking through Shikari Tracker Mentoring with Jon Young and Josh Lane, Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School, and Cybertracker Conservation. She is a graduate of the Kamana Naturalist Training Program, and studied Interspecies Communication with Anna Breytenbach and Wynter Worsthorne.

    She currently offers Earth-based energywork sessions, and lives near the Pacific Ocean in the sandhill mountains North of Santa Cruz, CA with her partner Jon.

    You can connect with Sarah at

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Aidan is Jon's oldest son and was born into a community based on Designing with Natural Cycles and spent the first decades of his life immersed in deep nature connection, mentoring and music. Aidan expresses a vision to help people fall in love with music. He found many music students stuck in a place where "music felt like more homework". Aidan used the Natural Learning Cycle to revitalize inspiration and motivation, and then a healthy relationship with focus, leading students to a place of embodying musicianship in a more rewarding and meaningful way.

    About Aidan Young

    Aidan is a musician, naturalist, and mentor. Over the past 20+ years, he has mentored hundreds of musicians, including over a dozen that went on to top music schools, performed on stage over a thousand times, mentored youth and adults in nature connection, including Kamana services, and guided people on their creative paths as a personal mentor. He is a graduate of the Kamana Program and experienced in the Shikari Tracker Training Program, has served on several Art of Mentoring acorns, helped produce The 512 Project, plays guitar, bass, piano, and mandolin, sings, and writes songs. He currently offers music lessons and personal mentoring and lives in Los Altos, CA with his wife Mystical and their three children.

    You can learn more about Aidan at

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

  • Tracking Connections – Podcast (15)
    1. Origins of Tracking Connections - Jon Young, Sarah Fontaine, and Aidan Young27 Mar· Tracking Connections

    Sarah and Aidan offer Jon an audience as he shares the origins and mission of the Tracking Connections Podcast to lift up and honor the amazing projects of so many people around the world.

    Jon shares the story of how his research began from reflecting on his teen years and the values and ethics that he shared with his friends who were also mentored by Tom Brown, Jr. in the 1970's. Though Tom never told any of them directly to care for nature and the future of our planet, all the teens reflected to one another that this was how they felt. They could not understand why all their friends in high school did not share their concern for the way construction was changing the land.

    Jon took this question further, "What had Tom done for them? Could we find a way do this for many others?" This began the research and development that led to the founding of the first project to mentor children in the way that Jon was mentored.

    Soon after founding this first program, Jon met Ingwe, an elder raised by the San Bushman and Akamba Tribe in Kenya. The two faced many challenges in the early years. From their collective effort emerged the Kamana Naturalist Training Program, and the Shikari holistic tracking training, bird language training and the 8 Shields and The Art of Mentoring. These models and principles have been taught all around the world and have collectively reached hundreds of thousands of children who Jon has never met. Surely, Jon's co-founder, the late Ingwe (1914 to 2005), is smiling down on us.

    Visit for more information about our work in nature connection and people connection.

Tracking Connections – Podcast (2024)


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