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Woman at Work: Heather Cook, Forest School Teacher

The Dovetail team is very sad we’ve never attended Forest School. Tell us all about it!

Cottage ForestSchool is all about self-propelled learning through curiosity. Say wewere on a frog kick: the class catches them, analyzes them,builds themhomes, reads books about frogs, or identifies, writes and drawsdifferent species.

I’m passionate about giving kids hands-on skills that can become resources for them, so I teach sewing,cooking, wood working, building, and survival skills as well. We have a good framework that isn’t too rigid, which lets us explore so many unique things.

How did you come to a career teaching the future of our nation survivalist skills? 

I was raised by a survivalist family in the deep woods of off-grid Montana. I was unschooled, and didn’t attend a formal classroom until my first day in college. My education was based on skill learning, survival, necessity, and experience.Because of the isolation and the hand-forged lifestyle we lived, I learned many skills needed to make life work. I find that education more valuable than any formal education I received.

I did get a degree, and worked with teens for 18 years. I used so much of my own experience-based education in that work, from building confidence in kids by teaching them survival skills to giving them a creative outlet by showing them how to knit. I also built a creative collaborative that shared educational resources with the community. Now I do the same with teaching at Forest School,and in my real estate endeavors.

I do a lot of different things, but I love that and I find my life rich and dynamic and constantly engaging. I have never felt like I fit the mold for one thing. I’m deeply curious and love to push my limits, so I’m constantly growing, changing and expanding my passions. Growing up, it wasn’t really a question if I wanted to know how to do things—learning them was a necessity. We were isolated, off-grid, and had very little. It was all hands on deck and everyone pulled their weight, regardless of age or gender.

Who’s a role model who helped you in your journey to where you are?
My daughters. Their hunger for knowledge, their creativity, and ingenuity are a constant inspiration.

What scares you?

Very little scares me. But mothering does.

How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?
Self-sufficiency is a woman’s right. When you are self-sufficient, you hold your own power to ask for what you want, not out of need, but out of wholeness.It decreases your vulnerability, and gives you a powerful platform to protest what cannot be tolerated. We cannot protest a system we are dependent on. Self-sufficiency gives us independence to create change we want to see.

How do you fill those wonderful summer breaks you teachers receive? 

During the summer, you’ll find me in manual labor gutting and remodeling houses for Airbnb’s. The fun part comes at the end when I get to pull out my artist side and design the interior spaces.

I have a passion for creating spaces with natural elements that create rest and an overall feeling/experience for people. I also spend time honing my survival skills, training as an endurance runner, taking my daughters foraging, challenging myself in wilderness survival, and sharing my survival skills with others on educational platforms.

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?

I have to sacrifice comfort. Sometimes what I do is gritty and hard and tough. Sometimes my body hurts and the weather sucks and I’m tired or cold or wet.

​​What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?

Women can do anything. They can be a Jane of all trades. They can survive alone in the wild, they can go the distance. You don’t have to do just one thing. We are tough and are built for endurance and grit. 90% of what I do comes from the mental willpower of my mind, 10% comes from my ability.

When you don’t know how to do something or it feels like you can’t…self educate! We live in such an amazing time when information is readily available. Don't let “I’ve never done it” stop you.

What does workwear designed for women mean to you?
I believe in the philosophy that all ships rise. If I support you and offer my talents and abilities, and you share yours, we are better together. Workwear designed for talented working women, by talented working women is a movement that unifies forces of nature: women working together.

Y’all better be ready.

Follow Heather @lilmustangrunner. Heather’s pronouns are she/her. 

Dovetail Workwear Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women At Work! They say it their way and wear it their way.