Catalyst Teen Program

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 9:00am to Thu, 05/17/2018 - 3:00pm
Cat⋅a⋅lyst- a person or thing that precipitates an event or change
Join Roots School each Thursday to explore the wilderness, learn skills of self-sufficiency, and grow your strength as an individual.
The process of leaving childhood and growing into adulthood has been honored and supported by cultures throughout time and place. It is a crucial period of accelerated growth in which major elements of our adult lives are shaped. The challenges and lessons that we encounter in this time will have deep and lasting impacts. Learning to know ourselves and to be strong in who we are is one of the first steps in being able to give back to the greater community as adults.

Knowing ourselves well and understanding our context in the modern world requires that we know where we have come from. We look back to times when people survived by their knowledge of the land and their skill with the raw materials that it provided. Our ancestor’s knowledge of the animals and tracking allowed them to read the stories left on the land by wildlife. Their ability to move silently and invisibly on the land allowed them to feed themselves and their families.  Their knowledge of trees gave them fire from friction. They made stone tools, such as arrowheads and knives because they understood how to work with the rocks. Their knowledge of plants served as their grocery store, hardware store, and pharmacy. Imagine knowing the land so well you never feel lost.

The Catalyst Program is designed to mentor students in their journey to  a deeper knowledge of self though the practice of wilderness self-reliance,  primitive technology, connection to the land base, and the pursuit of greater internal and external awareness.

Some students may be able to earn high school credit through their guidance departments, check with us for more information.


This program will be held at Twinfield Union School, Plainfield VT.

Cost and Dates:

Sign up for either the whole year or the Fall  or Spring Semester separately.

Deposits or full payments are due with registration. Payment plans can be established through monthly direct draw via online checkouts.

Whole Year Tuition:

Deposit  $200      Balance: $950      Full Price: $1150 ($50 off)

Fall Semester Tuition:

Deposit: $200      Balance: $400        Full Price: $600

Spring Semester Tuition:

Deposit:  $200       Balance: $400       Full Price: $600   


Fall Semester

The program days are as follows: September 14, 21, October 5, 19, 26, November 2, 9, 16, 30, and December 7, 14. 

Spring Semester

The Program Dates Are Thursdays March 8, 15, 22, 29, April 5, May 3, 10, 17.  We Will Not Be Meeting On April 12, 19, 26.



Student Experiences

A couple of our students have written about their experiences with the program.  Scroll down to read about how their time in Catalyst was a part of shaping their lives.


I started the ROOTS year program when I was fourteen as one of the first students. ROOTS was vital to me. It provided context, a different way of learning and taught me knowledge about the world that I never would have gotten in school. What I learned at Roots enhanced everything else in my life. In many ways it was a real world application for things that I learned in school. I could see how friction works by learning how to make a bowdrill, or understand geometry and physics in learning how rocks break for flintknapping. It fulfilled my need for discovery and exploration by providing me with hands on, experiential learning that I could apply to all other aspects of my life, be it patience, observation, or physics.

I never had a problem with missing one day a week. I would ask my teachers the day ahead of time what we were doing and they would give me the work, if I missed a test I would make it up the day after. It was never a big deal. I was a straight A student and graduated Valedictorian of my class despite of missing one day a week. I would attribute a large part of my success in school to the experience and perspective I gained at ROOTS. I am now a first year at the University of Vermont, studying Anthropology, and I still use the skills I learned at ROOTS every day.



For me, ROOTS was a necessity throughout my high school career. Every Wednesday I could go into the woods and learn skills that would set me up for life after Twinfield. ROOTS was the only place where I felt accepted and respected for my ideas. Also, I was learning really awesome primitive skills.

Throughout all four years I was enrolled, I never had a problem keeping up with my schoolwork. If I missed a test or a deadline, I would talk to the teacher beforehand and set up something that made both of us happy. Most of the time, I would make up the work the next day.

Currently I am working for my father as a fourth generation granite worker. I have recently come home from living out on the west coast and plan on moving back next spring. I have ROOTS to thank for my confidence and accepting the fact that I am going to wait to go to college.

It’s nice to be able to come home to a group of people who love you and are always there when you need them.


Benne Dalton, Sarah Corrigan, and Brad Salon team up to instruct the Catalyst Program, with guest appearances from the rest of the Roots staff throughout the year. Occasionally local experts and guest instructors will join us to add breadth and dimension to our teachings.



The four main goals of the Catalyst Program are:

  • To teach teenagers practical wilderness self-reliance skills.
  • To expand student’s knowledge and awareness of the living world around them
  • To refine and develop their creativity and innate problem-solving abilities both in natural and modern contexts.
  • To enrich their land ethic and sense of place.

Each weekend of Catalyst includes the following Program Elements:

  1. Naturalist Study and Training Students explore nature through first-hand interactions, direct observation and focused field guide research. Discoveries are documented in the student’s nature journal through writing, drawing, and photography. Wildlife tracking will be a major theme. This is where curiosity becomes contagious and leads to a burning need to know.
  2. Core Practices Many (if not all) foundational awareness and wilderness skills develop only as a result of accumulated practice. Because skill development is one of the Catalyst Program’s primary objectives, regular practice time is structured into each day, with one-on-one coaching being part of each session.
  3. Initiative Challenges Based on realistic wilderness survival scenarios, these challenges confront the student with a problem that needs to be solved. These challenges offer experiential learning where the student integrates teachings into knowledge, and turns knowledge into understanding. An opportunity to fully test the primitive survival skills.
  4. Workshop Projects This element of the program emphasizes the process of turning raw materials from the wild into finished and functional hand-made tools. Students will choose, research, design, and make several projects throughout the year. This is where we delve into primitive skill by looking at their context historically, culturally, and pragmatically.

The year is broken into two semesters, and each semester is based around three to five themes. These themes ensure that students gain thorough and lasting knowledge and understanding of the topics covered. Catalyst’s maximum enrollment is limited to ten to ensure low student to instructor ratios. The program takes place on location at Roots School and offers students access to the facilities and land.

Fall Themes:

Wild Life Tracking and Mammal Studies      Hide Tanning      Primitive Projectile Weapons      Atmosphere and Weather Studies

Spring Themes:

New England Native American Pottery Technology           Lithic Technology (Stone Tools)     Ornithology (Bird Studies)        River Ecology

Register Online!


Logistics - Youth

Logistical information about what to bring for your class, camping during overnight courses, directions and so forth can be found here.

Registration Forms

Online registrations are preferred, but registration by mail is accepted. Either proceed online above, or mail in the forms below with a check for the deposit.

Roots Handbook: