Sam Ritter credits his 13-year Waldorf education with molding him into a self-guided student of life. “I attended Shepherd Valley Waldorf School through 6th grade, The Denver Waldorf School from 7th through 9th and graduated from Tara Performing Arts School. This education gave me the ability to think about what I want to do and gave me the skills and confidence to go after it,” he says.
Sam works with his brother and sister-in-law at the Laughing Coyote Project. “My brother Neal and his wife Gelsey started the Laughing Coyote Project 8 years ago. I started working with the summer camps, and have now been working full-time there for the last couple of years.”
The Laughing Coyote Project is an experiential educational organization that works to give participants the knowledge of primitive and traditional crafts and living. “We mostly work with children between the ages of 8-15 and get them outside, connecting them to nature and the world around them,” Sam notes. Many DWS students have had an opportunity to study with Laughing Coyote, through classroom visits to the 3rd grade during a study of primitive shelters, as well as summer enrichment camp weeks that focused on survival skills.
Laughing Coyote students work on projects like fire building, making nets, and weaving cattail baskets, and they learn survival and tracking skills. The instructors draw on primitive and traditional techniques from Native American cultures, European bush craft and Swedish folk traditions.
Since the students work with very basic materials, they can easily see where the materials came from and feel a connection with the raw materials and the final product. “With their hands they make something useful and beautiful, and they have a higher appreciation for it and the environment around them. It gets them out of their heads and helps them to learn what they can do with their hands,” Sam observes.
Sam wants to continue to hone his skills and craftsmanship by following the traditional path from apprentice to journeyman and ultimately to master. “I’ve done what I can to learn these various skills from experts from throughout the world. I went to Sweden last summer to study axe making,” he says. “I’m very interested in making high-quality tools, and more importantly, becoming a great teacher and passing along the skills I’ve obtained to others who want to learn.”
Learn more about the Laughing Coyote Project here.