Nature Connection and Mentoring:

We are designed to be in reciprocal relationship with our wild surroundings. There are myriad other beings around us — the otter in her bank den, the yellow warbler perched in the alders, the sensitive fern clumped below — living their inter-related lives, all tuned in to each other and to the whole. We are the only ones who have stepped outside that circle. In order to return to reciprocity, we need to cultivate relationship with our non-human neighbors on a species and individual level.


Most of us have grown up without the instruction necessary to create this connection. Time spent with other species is authentic human time, pulling us back to our roots and affirming what is valuable in our lives. But finding this relationship is not instinctual — we need mentorship to help us fulfill our fundamental need to be a strand in the web of the wild world. 

The Fox Paw Philosophy:

To relate to our surroundings, we must learn to notice what is present – to see clearly what we are looking at.


This concept is the core of the Fox Paw School: Looking at the natural world teaches us to truly see what is in front of us. At Fox Paw, this means focusing on close observation of the external — tracks, birds, trees, rivers — while remaining open to the possibility that this external observation may teach us something about our inner selves.


The nature connection skills you'll find at Fox Paw are best cultivated over time, slowly and patiently, with extensive exposure. For this reason, I focus on long-term programs that span most of a year. Shorter classes are an excellent entry point, but in order to progress, you'll need structure and plenty of time in the dirt. The Wildlife Tracking Intensive and the North Woods Naturalist Intensive form the backbone of the Fox Paw curriculum. On their own, each is a complete package with a distinct focus, but together, they provide even more depth and experience.


Fox Paw is grounded here in Vermont's North Woods, the overlap zone between the boreal coniferous forests to our north, and the broad-leaf deciduous forests to our south. We are fortunate to live in the diverse meeting point between two distinct biomes. Learning what makes this place unique allows us to more fully inhabit this region we call home.

I've been learning from the natural world for the better part of two decades. After growing up in New England, I spent my early adulthood wandering the US southwest, always with a field guide in my backpack. In 2011, I moved to Central Vermont, a couple hours north of my childhood home. Since then, I've focused intently on building a mutualistic relationship with the natural world, primarily through wildlife tracking, natural history, and herbalism. I also have a deep passion for making traditional crafts with wild-harvested materials.


I hold a Cybertracker Level III certification in Track and Sign. In addition to running Fox Paw, I am a lead instructor at the wildlife tracking apprenticeship at White Pine Programs in southern Maine.

Jonathan Shapiro

(802) 249-1463

Plainfield, VT

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