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Fostering Life-Long Connections with Nature 

Each year hundreds of diverse youth from Tompkins County and beyond reconnect with the natural world through our year-round nature immersion programs and mentorship from our talented and dedicated staff.

Primitive Pursuits is a non-profit 4-H program in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. We provide leadership and place-based wilderness skills education to toddlers, youth, teens and adults throughout our geographical region.

Land Acknowledgement and Responsibility:

The Primitive Pursuits team recognizes that the land where we live and work exists within the territory of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (Cayuga Nation). We acknowledge the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy for their enduring stewardship of this place throughout the centuries and still today. We recognize a responsibility to learn about this history while also educating newer generations about how to live in good relation to the earth and with our neighbors. This learning and relationship building is ongoing and we welcome guidance and feedback along the way.

An Enduring Mission:

For over 20 years it has been our mission to steward the health of our community by fostering life-long relationships with the natural world through exceptional mentoring and nature education. During this time our understanding about the value of nature connection has been affirmed again and again by a growing body of evidence connecting time in nature to human health and well-being.

Through our mission, we work daily to achieve a cultural intervention that will bring back into our modern lives a necessary and healthy relationship with the natural world and within our human communities.

Who We Are:

We share experience teaching in primary schools and universities as well as other wilderness education programs. Our curriculum has helped to shape college degree programs and is available in print.

Our interests include birding, tree lore and cultivation, bow-making, primitive technology, winter survival, permaculture, and animal tracking. More importantly all our staff share a passion for teaching skills that strengthen our relationship with wild nature.

With over 40,000 hours of combined outdoor education experience, you won't find a more competent and dedicated staff anywhere.

Meet Our Staff
"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." John Ruskin


In each activity that we lead, story we share, or skill we teach, we draw from a place of personal inspiration. In doing so we create a learning atmosphere that motivates campers to explore nature, to practice skills and to share their experience with others outside of our programs.


In all that we do, we role model a sense of appreciation and reverence for the abundance the natural world provides for us. Through this act of thanksgiving we begin to see our direct impacts and the great potential we each have to nurture the health of our environment as well as our human family.


We create a space where each participant can feel at home among peers and mentors and within the elements of nature. Experiencing the non-judgmental simplicity and expansiveness of nature within a supportive group creates a powerful space for healthy personal growth. Read more about our commitment to diversity here: http://ccetompkins.org/diversity


We support individual growth by encouraging each participant to see and move beyond their perceived limits while experiencing and exploring their roles in a supportive community. We believe that by achieving the balance of individual & group mind we are fostering a generation of courageous, innovative and caring human beings.

Blog Posts About Our Teaching Practices

Tools of Mentoring

By Melissa Blake

Role modeling

Humans learn a lot by watching. When other people see us being comfortable in nature, eating wild food, and starting fires with friction it inspires them to do those things, too, and gives some idea how to do them...


Flaming Bundle Challenge

By John Chilkotowsky

When done repeatedly, this is a wonderful activity for quickly highlighting to a group the diverse natural materials unique to each environment. Because each material works differently dependent on such things as weather conditions (current and recent) and where the material is in its life cycle (alive/dead/recently dead/decomposing, etc.), there is amazing potential to highlight ecological lessons without ever mentioning the word ecology...


Get to Know Your Neighbors

By Kirsten Wise

One that really was a staple and surprised the heck out of me— because up to this point I thought of it as an additive to other things— was garlic mustard. At that time of year it is really shooting up and it’s got all this growth energy going into it— bright green and fleshy, sort of succulent. They have the same presence of broccoli. It grew so quickly that two days later I could harvest from the same page. Even if it flowered I could even harvest that. I saw how quickly it started to change over the period of ten days. ....


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