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Naturalist Skills: Place-based Ecological KnowledgeDevelop a holistic understanding of the natural history, taxonomy, and species of North America. As part of the program, students also complete a Permaculture Design Certification, which prepares students to work as sustainability consultants. Faculty: Jason Knight, Heather Swift, Bernard van der Weerdt, Chris Byrd, Brooke Nelson, Leah Houghton, & Dave Boehnlein. We are more than happy to provide an opportunity to sit in on a class, meet students & staff, and get a tour of our campus. Applications are being accepted for the 2016-2017 school year, which begins on September 6th, 2016.
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This past weekend I spent in Monrovia, California following and reporting on the SISU Iron event. A little background about the SISU Iron, it was originally created by Daren de Heras (Death Race finisher) as a training experience for those looking to do the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont.
We arrived at Camp Trask in the mountains above Monrovia, California early Friday afternoon.
The race began with the participants gathering together for a speech by de Heras and Matt Trinca they welcomed them and instructed them to head up a hill and would be told what to do next.
Once the racers matched their number to duckies they had a chance to warm up by the bonfire which they were instructed to keep going for the whole event, also chopping and dragging some wood to keep it going in the process.
With the 30-Hour underway a new day upon everyone it was time to chase the squirrel and chase the lamb. The next task again new groups were formed and the group were tied together in a chain gang way and told bring hike up a certain trail with a tire and kayak. Upon return of everyone to the camp after the run, the camp director was given a donation from all the Iron participants – a new chainsaw. All the people who started the 30-, 20-, and 10-hour challenges all finished, either officially or unofficially. Many will probably read this recap and say it sounds like the Death Race or sounds like Survival Run. My opinion of the event is extremely positive, it was well run, with very few hiccups, the tasks were hard but accomplishable.


Students also participate in an official CyberTracker Track & Sign Evaluation to become certified wildlife trackers. See what graduates are doing with their education on our Alumni Bios Page and Employer Testimonials Page. Since 1968, we have offered adventurous souls the chance to learn indigenous skills in an active, hands-on environment. We may have gained a sense of power and control but, in the process, we’ve lost a sacred connection with the natural world. As a result, BOSS students experience a closeness with the land, its resources and its inhabitants that teaches sustainability and respect.
The SISU Iron falls into the category of Extreme Endurance Event when looking at the OCR world as a whole.
The event was created to give people a chance to train and to get a feel for what was to come at the famous event. Upon reaching the top of the hill they were each given a cinderblock to bring back down through a stream to the registration area to get their bibs. The next task where the participants had to navigate a couple miles through the woods along a marked trail, overcoming obstacles – a bucket pull, small tree climb, wobbly bridge, tunnel crawl, while trying to catch the Squirrel and Lamb then back to camp. Participants had to show their skills in shooting (and pellet gun), spear throw, and knife throwing. All were instructed to rest and at 6:00am meet at the chapel area of the camp for the awards ceremony.
Additionally, students complete a Wilderness First Aid Certification as part of the program. Courses range from 3-28 days in length and take place in the spectacular landscape of Southern Utah. This year the SISU Iron offered a 10-, 20-, and 30-Hour Challenge for all levels and is held at Camp Trask – a Boy Scout camp in the mountains above Monrovia.
Now the event has grown much further and offers people a bridge between an obstacle race and some of the more extreme challenges out there. The racers went under a cement bridge and down the stream around 9pm on Friday evening kicking off the event. One racer had showed up late which resulted in the whole group having to go back in the pond after warming up, singing happened and the group was in good spirits.
After that a series of physical challenges took place in the fort before coming back together at the amphitheater near the bonfire. Upon arrival back at camp the group as a whole was put through a 10-minute soul crushing PT session with Coach Pain. For the next couple of hours they helped the camp clean the pond, cut down tall brush, and move and create a brick wall behind the shooting range.
It is meant to give those looking for more outside of an obstacle race a taste of what’s out there. Prior to arriving at the event I had heard mixed things regarding SISU and their events, some had called them a copycat to the larger extreme endurance events, and sort of looked down on the event as a whole.


Once they got back to the registration area they were given a bib number and instructed to head down the stream further to the frog pond to find rubber duckies with matching numbers to their bibs. The group was able to warm by the fire again before being split off into teams for a hike up to an abandoned cabin and back with a block of concrete. Again the group was split up into groups and they all headed up the hill just before sunrise to their next task. After all had completed the skills test everyone was brought back down to the fort and given their next task.
After that the final piece of community service was to carry some logs back to camp along with another pile and saw, chop, and stack it for the Boy Scouts. It was at this time that the Ironman and Ironwoman were announced (an award voted on by the racers for the man and woman who overcame and prevailed on the course). Throughout the entire event, de Heras paid homage to these other events and told participants which events what challenges were drawn from. Overall, the most elite and the newest participant all could get something out of this event.
They were instructed to grab a cinder block they had brought down the night before and bring it up to the hill to the skills assessment challenge. Unlike other events, there is no winner or loser, the group moved as a whole from task to task.
A hike up to a waterfall a couple miles away climbing up several concrete dams traveling upstream, once at the waterfall the participants filled up their buckets and food coloring was added and they trucked back up to the camp without losing water.
In order to be an official finisher in the Iron you must have completed all the tasks, each task received a merit badge along the way. However, unlike those big long events where tasks last for 6+ hours per task; every task lasted no longer than 2 or 3 hours. From the beginning, the SISU Iron has taken some of the best and most memorable tasks from these bigger events and given athletes a taste of what they are about. The participants started fire with flint and steel (no matches or lighters) and boiled water and made some tea (tea bags where in the required gear). After making tea they headed back down the hill to the bonfire for some sprints and plyo exercises as the sun came up on a new day. Each new task was started as a group and the fastest just had more recovery time before the next one. The merit badges for completed tasks were a nice touch and participants had to sew them on their packs after each challenge.



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