The Understory Policies and Expectations

Our goal in laying out the below policies and expectations is the creation of a space that is optimally conducive to growth.  We want each member of the learning community to feel safe, respected, included, engaged, and alive.


By agreeing to participate in The Understory you are agreeing to create and maintain:

  • An inclusive learning environment that is free from discrimination or favoritism, and verbal or physical harassment of any shape or form. 

  • A supportive space for taking physical and and intellectual risks rooted in real life challenges.

  • A clean and high functioning eco-homestead facility.

  • A substance-free space for leaning.


We ask that each participant shows up with the intention of “always becoming” your best self. We understand this is a process, not an end goal.  The process asks that you:

  • Engage with daily group practices that create space for honest emotional sharing, and the giving and receiving of feedback from peers and facilitators.

  • Contribute to the creation and evolution of group agreements.

  • Show up on time for all group activities including chores, meetings, lessons, hikes, etc.

  • Refrain from language or actions that are hurtful or judgemental of others, present or not present.

  • Communicate with the group or seek help from a facilitator on the program if you are having trouble taking care of yourself emotionally or physically.

  • Dial in by unplugging.  Our programs and location provide you with a rare opportunity to be fully present. Though we are not anti-technology we are pro being mindful and present.  Our site happens to completely lack cell phone reception.  For more on the use of technology see our FAQ page.

  • Adopt a beginner’s mind.  This means leaving your preconceived notions behind.  It means viewing people, your coursework, and situations you may encounter with fresh eyes and a willingness to learn in unexpected ways. 

  • Refrain 100% from the possession, use or distribution of drugs or alcohol during the program.  This experience demands your full consciousness and uninhibited capacities at all times.

Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Maine Local Living School recognizes that all environmental crises are rooted in the exploitation of people.  We cannot disentangle the climate crisis from other forms of oppression and injustice.  For this reason, all education for living wisely and equitably is activism for the road ahead.  Our focus is on anchoring into our unique places and beginning the powerful work of decolonization and re-inhabitation.  Re-inhabitation means rebuilding local knowledge and skills, acknowledging ways of knowing that have been marginalized through colonization, and rebuilding cultures that recognize the earth and each other as sacred gifts.

We are committed to continuously learning, as an organization and as individuals, about justice and equity, privilege and oppression.  We are striving to create a welcoming and inclusive MLLS community for people across the spectrum of identities including but not limited to race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of origin, and religion.  We understand that historical and current systems of oppression have led to many barriers and exclusion for people who hold marginalized identities from accessing land, knowledge and skills for living well on the land.  We are working to counteract these forces through prioritizing scholarship support for students with marginalized identities, especially Wabanaki students.  Maine Local Living School recognizes that we operate on the unceded lands of the Eastern Abenaki.  Wabanaki people are also welcome to contact us regarding harvesting medicines, wild food, firewood, basket materials, saplings and deer from this land.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Throughout the program students learn through participating in life on an off-grid homestead.  Daily activities include hiking, handcrafts, tool use, cooking with fire, and moving around heavy natural resources like water, wood, rocks, compost etc.  We spend hours each day on uneven terrain learning about the world around us through direct participation.  We will also embark on a multi-day backpacking trip and potentially a short canoe trip.  This program is designed to push participants emotionally and physically knowing that our edges are where growth happens.  We welcome applicants with differing physical, emotional, and academic capacities.  We emphasize open communication, kindness and community as a means of supporting each other through the experience.  At the same time there are some baseline eligibility criteria to participate in The Understory.  Please read these carefully before beginning your enrollment.  Each potential student must be able to independently meet the following criteria:


Awareness, Cognition and Communication:

  • Recognize and respond to instructions regarding environmental hazards. Effectively alert others about hazards. Act responsibly around hazards to minimize risk even when not directly supervised.

  • Understand and follow verbal directions given by others, including in hazardous situations or with respect to the use of potentially dangerous tools.

  • Stay alert and focus attention for up to several hours at a time while working with sharp tools, traveling in wilderness terrain, attending classes, and receiving instructions.

  • Effectively notify course instructors or other course members of personal distress, injury, or need for assistance.

  • Verbally communicate with others in potentially challenging situations, such as in inclement weather or in situations of interpersonal conflict.

  • Willingly engage, at the highest level of ability, with the intellectual tasks presented including reading, journaling, discussion, writing and presentation.


Living in Community 

  • Work effectively as a member of a team despite potentially stressful and difficult conditions. This may require problem solving on an interpersonal or group level, as well as a willingness to accept differences.

  • Contribute to a safe learning environment with language and actions that demonstrate respect and compassion for all students, instructors and others involved in the program.

  • Take responsibility for behavior and its emotional or physical impact on others.

  • Be able to put the needs of the group before individual needs.

  • Be able to consider and integrate constructive feedback. 

  • Able to tolerate changes in diet, group living, unanticipated schedule changes, unfamiliar surroundings, living off-grid without electricity and running water, and long days filled with mentally and physically challenging activities while maintaining a community orientation and growth mindset.


Life Skills:

  • Properly wear and use all required safety equipment.

  • Maintain proper medication dosage, if taking prescription medications, by self-medicating without assistance (except in emergency situations).

  • Have the cognitive ability to learn necessary skills within the time allotted. Perform, after being instructed, required activities without direct supervision.

  • Learn proper use of sharp tools and maintain proper technique without direct supervision.

  • Remain adequately hydrated, fed, and dressed to remain generally healthy and to avoid environmental injuries from exposure to cold, heat, or the sun.

  • Follow hygiene protocols and procedures.

  • Live comfortably in remote backcountry environments regardless of temperature extremes, including sleeping outdoors.

  • Be able to travel up to 6 miles in one day, over varied wilderness terrain, with a backpack weighing up to 40 pounds. Travel may last as long as 8 hours a day for up to 5 days in a row.

  • Be able to swim or be comfortable in water while wearing a personal flotation device.

  • Ability to learn how to paddle a canoe and sit or kneel in a canoe and paddle for a multi-day expedition.

  • Able to be up to one day away from medical facilities.

  • Able to carry up to 40 lbs over uneven terrain (eg. hauling water, portaging a canoe).


Maine Local Living School reserves the right to deny admission to any student we feel does not meet these Essential Eligibility Criteria or demonstrates an unwillingness to live up to The Understory policies and expectations.