Saskia Vanderhoop

Saskia Vanderhoop was born and raised in Holland, and moved to America about 18 years ago.  She grew up in a tiny village in the middle of the woods on the Queen’s hunting grounds.  By virtue of her surroundings, she became a self-proclaimed “nature girl,” spending time climbing trees, horseback riding, and running through the woods. In the later years, when she had her first child and was living in Amsterdam, she began to see that her upbringing was not the norm. She then started searching for a more natural and fulfilling way to raise kids, and for a way to deepen the experiences she had as a child and continue to learn the way that people have learned for thousands and thousands of years. She learned about the Tom Brown Jr Tracker School, and took a few wilderness courses. Ten years later, when she had her second child, she realized that she wanted to not only learn more, but to create a community around herself and spread her growing knowledge.  Thus, she and her husband David began a place-based learning program on Martha’s Vineyard called Sassafras Earth Education. They take people of all ages out into nature and help create deep connections to the earth through curiosity and passion.
Saskia received a Vision Fellowship in 2015, and will use it to deepen her practice and study of what is known as Nature Connection Mentoring, specifically Bird Language.  Her mentor is Jon Young, the founder of the 8 Shields Institute and author of “What the Robin Knows” and “Coyote’s Guide”. He was the first student of Tom Brown, who would take Jon out on epic wilderness adventures. Jon was raised as a scout and a healer, and went on to research how to bring the qualities of deep connection, awareness, and curiosity, to the western world. He subsequently designed workshops to make this way of life- of a life-long endeavour of learning from the earth- accessible to more people. Jon Young developed a curriculum, including categories such as animal tracking and plant uses, as well as bird language, which Saskia will be studying. The approach he developed aims to allow people to understand what birds are saying. Everyone is surrounded by birds at almost all times, and an intimate knowledge of these creatures will give people of all ages another way to connect to the landscape. Birds have developed an incredible system of communication because their lives are at stake at any given moment, and if humans can understand it, they can learn an incredible amount about the ecology of where they live. This is called deep nature connection.  Saskia says, “Bird language is a great avenue to bring the deep nature connection to everyone, and through the Fellowship I will bring Bird Language to the island.”

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