School of Woodland Ecology

School of Woodland Ecology


Our School of Woodland Ecology is an exciting new initiative we launched in 2016. We are now offering in-depth courses for adults on a variety of topics from native botany to woodlot management to ecological bushcraft camping!

Over the last 25 years, Macphail Woods has offered a huge variety of free workshops on topics from owls to botany to forest restoration and more. For many years, workshop participants have requested more intensive courses. While still offering our popular free workshops, The School of Woodland Ecology will allow participants to delve deeper into specific topics, developing expertise, skills and confidence. The core principles of these courses are plant identification, forest health assessment and practical experience. Whether a weekend nature enthusiast, woodlot owner, outdoor educator or industry professional, we will help you learn hands-on skills which will contribute to all of your outdoor pursuits.

fern sorri

Our teaching method is based on direct experience and observation. Students are taught to recognize keystone patterns whether in a flower or a forest. This time-tested approach works for students of every age and level of understanding and is the basis for sound ecological action. Our instructors have spent thousands of hours honing their teaching, bushcraft and forest restoration skills and look forward to sharing their enthusiasm with you.

We are dedicated to ensuring a safe learning environment for all participants and believe that sharing a love of nature begins with the care and respect of each individual.

2019 School of Woodland Ecology Courses – Coming Soon!

Ecological Bushcraft:

An Overnight Excursion

ecological bushcraft

Bushcraft is the art of living comfortably in nature. Learning to light a fire, construct a shelter or cook outdoors are just a few of the essential skills that connect us to the land and remind us of our dependance on nature.

Ecological Bushcraft is a two-day overnight course that will provide students with confidence, comfort and respect for the natural world around us. Participants will practice hands-on skills such as knots, safe knife use, fire lighting and more.

Click here to learn more about our Introduction to Bushcraft Ecology Course.

Woodland Ecology:

An Introduction to Forest Stewardship

woodland ecology

Macphail’s Woodland Ecology course helps landowners gain the knowledge and skills they need to enjoy, improve and manage their own woodlot whether it be creating better access, harvesting wood or creating a refuge for local wildlife.

Over the one-day course students will gain hands-on experience in pruning, plant identification, habitat improvement, harvesting, forest management, and more.

Click here to learn more about our Woodland Ecology course.

The Backyard Arborist:

Proper Pruning and Planting

backyard arborist

Focusing on hands-on learning, the Backyard Arborist course will teach skills that you can take back to your yard to help ensure the vigour and beauty of your trees and shrubs.

Over the four hours, participants will learn proper pruning techniques to help maintain healthy, attractive and safe trees; transplanting methods for ensuring healthy root growth with little die-back; and how to plant so that your young trees and shrubs will thrive and prosper. These skills will help gardeners of any variety enjoy, enhance, and improve their yards, hedges, and gardens when at home or at the cottage.

Click here to learn more about our Backyard Arborist course

Identifying Native Trees and Shrubs

identify trees and shrubs

Learning how to recognize our native Island plants is a core skill whether you are a woodlot owner, nature enthusiast or someone who wants to live off the land. Often, learning what plants live around you can seem like an indomitable task but keeping your eyes open for certain patterns can help to unravel the mystery.

At Macphail Woods, we often find plant identification to be a humbling task. No matter how adept or knowledgable you may be, the natural world is full of surprises and riddles for those looking. Solving these is a very rewarding experience that will open your eyes up to the world around you and help in many of your outdoor pursuits, from harvesting firewood to camping to birding and more.

Click here to learn more about our Identifying Native Trees and Shrubs course.

Introduction to Native Botany

native plant botany

Plants are amazing organisms. Every year more scientific discoveries shed light on the fascinating lives of plants from tiny algae to ancient trees. A basic knowledge of botany can help with many outdoor activities from pruning to planting and forest restoration to harvesting while enriching forest hikes and seaside walks.

This is a great course for any who have a love of nature and particularly for gardeners, woodlot owners, biology students, environmental educators and any one who likes to put on a pair of boots and get out on a trail.

Click here to learn more about our Introduction to Native Botany course.

Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance

sustainable fuelwood harvesting

Burning firewood can be an affordable and potentially carbon neutral way to heat your home. However, the vast majority of fuelwood is harvested from clearcuts and even homeowners cutting their own wood can damage forestland.

This three day course will introduce participants to all aspects of sustainable fuelwood harvesting: chainsaw safety, plant identification, forest ecology, tree extraction, pruning, splitting and stacking.

Click here to learn more about our Sustainable Fuelwood Harvesting course.

Mastering the Art of Fire-lighting

Isaac with fire

Never play with fire or knives! Well, not until you’ve learned to use them safely. Despite using these essential tools throughout our lives, very few of us know how and where to use them properly. Knowing how can save your life, or just make a weekend camping trip more pleasurable.

This half day course will introduce students to the parts of a knife, safe knife grips, how to work with others and basic whittling techniques. They will also learn fire safety, how to find the best materials for tinder, kindling and fuel and firelighting techniques for wet and cold weather.

Click here to learn more about our Fire Craft and Knife Safety course.

Knots and Natural Cordage

taut line hitch

Does the job require a truckers hitch or just two half hitches? Should I use a sheet bend, zeppelin bend or a square knot? Knowing how to select the right knot for the job and how to tie it properly is a tremendously satisfying skill.

At this course we will introduce the three main categories of knot tying: loops, bends and hitches. We will also cover lashing, stopper knots and rope care. With the basics under our belt, we will also introduce the wide world of natural cordage. Using only natural materials we learn to create variety of sturdy cord. Never be without a good piece of rope again.

Click here to learn more about our Knots and Natural Cordage course.

How to Share a Love of Nature:

A Course for Island Educators

enviro education best

There is almost nothing as rewarding as watching a child fall in love with nature. Despite its potential, nature education can seem overwhelming and difficult to integrate into regular classroom activities. After nearly 20 years of teaching, we have developed an intuitive and practical approach to nature education that helps teachers become co-learners with their students.

This three-day course is for all educators and will happen concurrently with our summer camps. By combining theory-based lectures, experiential learning and taking part in camp activities, students will gain a foundational knowledge of the Island’s plants and animals and develop a host of educational tools.

Click here to learn more about our How to Share a Love of Nature course.


favicon 16x16Location

We use our very own Nature Centre, located on the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead property, as a home base for all of our outdoor activities. Located just 20 minutes east of Charlottetown, the Macphail Woods Nature Centre has a variety of teaching spaces and is surrounded by 140 acres of forest and field. Winding through the property are four trails, a stream and one of the province’s finest remaining examples of our native Acadian forest.

Click here to find us on google maps!

favicon 16x16Cancellations and Refunds

All campers are to be prepaid. However, refunds are accepted up until 2 weeks before the camp date. You will receive a full refund up until a month before the class date. Half the class cost will be refunded if you cancel between a month and 2 week before the class. If you would like to cancel within  two weeks of the class no refund will be issued.

favicon 16x16Registrations

All registrations are made online through Active Network’s Camp and Class manager. If you have any difficulties or would prefer to register with us directly, please contact us at or by phone: (902)651-2575.

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