ACORNS Program Competencies


Sensory Awareness - All experience and communication happens through the senses. We seek to focus on engaging all of our senses to track our own experience of what we hear, smell, feel, taste, etc.. Through this practice we can ‘listen’ with our whole body and be present to what is available to us to learn and share in any given moment.  


Self-Awareness - Our programs are designed to help individuals develop awareness of their behavior patterns, individuality and impact through community shared learning. Observing how we affect the environment around us, and activities focused on tracking our own behaviors we get feedback about why we experience things the way we do and our choices within that. We will learn to notice our own personality, preferences and needs within the context of the natural environment and community.


Nature Fluency - Building knowledge of the complex systems around us comprised of seasons, cycles, ecosystems, food chains and the greater web of life. Through immersion, observation and deep study we begin to understand the patterns around us and their interconnectedness.


Curiosity - Pursuing what truly engages our interest, meeting our learning where it is authentically arising. Emergent learning and opening ourselves to questions as we find ourselves asking them.


Play - We are all born with an innate enjoyment of learning through play. This learning is processed more holistically into our system, contributes to community-building and supports authentic engagement.


Creativity - Opportunities to design, build, create and share ideas, skits, art, crafts, games and more.


Sustainability - Through learning about natural systems, we learn how to support them and not interfere with the natural processes. We will learn about waste, impact, leave no trace, propagation, sustainable harvesting and more.


Community Awareness - As we expand our lens to the greater world around us, we notice how all things are tied together. By supporting our community and its diversity we support the health of everyone and the sustainability of the world around us.

 Behavioral Contract & Community Agreements

Upon joining our program, youth are expected to sign an accountability contract committing a willingness to engage with our community agreements and values. We require that all participants have a willingness to try, engage or participate on some level and are enthusiastic about the content of our programs. In the application process is an accountability contract, which is a part of our process when working with behavior issues within our program. Please be sure to cover this document thoroughly with your participant in order to ensure their success in our program!

Safety is of the utmost importance to us and is non-negotiable. Participants unwilling to uphold their accountability agreement in a way that is risking the individual emotional or physical safety of themselves or others may be asked to engage in a problem-solving response, and in some cases may be asked to remove themselves from our program. Teachers and administration will be in communication with parents and guardians regarding any early concerns that may emerge during program, and be asked to participate in working with the participant to resolve and address any issues.

ACORNS NW is committed to providing quality support and programming to participants, and collaborating with families to create responses to behavioral issues that encourage healthy resolution and growth. We require the participation of each youth to be a part of that solution.

We believe in helping youth identify what the consequences of their behaviors are, beneficial or otherwise. For example, identifying how their enthusiasm sparked a new interest within the group or how their invitation helped a new student feel welcome. Maybe they need help recognizing they are frustrated before they say things they don’t mean, or tend to forget where they placed items and are working to keep track of things. In the case of behavioral issues, we are sure to engage self-reflective exercise, conflict resolution techniques, problem-solving techniques and student oriented goals. Our teachers seek first to explore the needs behind the behavior as our primary path to resolution. We use a compassionate and understanding approach to help create healthy alternatives, trust and understanding. Examples of created consequences within our programs include being asked to take a break from an activity to orient to how they are doing and what is happening, or having an individual check-in with a teacher. Teachers may adjust the plan for the day at any point to accommodate the safety needs and abilities of the group, especially as relates to boundaries, knife work, risk-taking, group games, etc..