If you are spending any time in Edmonds, you may have experienced a range of “sightings.” There are celebrity sightings, like Rick Steves, or even Bill Linsday, the Edmonds Temperature-Taker Dude. There are also a lot of great nature sightings, including bald eagles, owls and the elusive snowy owl — and some people are lucky enough to see an Orca whale. Another very coveted sighting, bringing the celebrity and nature sightings together, if you will, is that of Allan “Hawkeye” Sande, founder of Quiet Heart Wilderness School and “Through The Eyes Of A Naturalist” teacher at my son’s former preschool. We once saw him at the library, and we weren’t the only mother/child set running to catch up for a quick hello.
My youngest son was in his second year of preschool when he met Hawkeye. Given his language skills as a preschooler and his then-undiagnosed dyslexia-related hearing challenges, he would come home and talk about “Hot Guy.” (Hawkeye has told me my student wasn’t the first to make this mix up.)
My favorite Hawkeye story is from our field trip in Mill Creek, where à la Crocodile Hunter/Crocodile Dundee, he reached into a marsh and pulled out a snake with his bare hand. It was such a smooth procurement in a surreal moment, and I instructed my then 4-year-old to walk over to Hawkeye and get closer to the snake. To add to all of that, my Facebook post from 2014 about this field trip reminded me this snake also “secretes stinky stuff.” This story is only the tip of the iceberg of reasons local kids have been so jazzed to see him out and about.
As “sightings” go, Hawkeye was pretty easy to spot, as his attire definitely fits the bill of a man with that moniker. With each item — either camouflage or a camouflage complementary neutral — Hawkeye wears a hat, a vest with use beyond fashion and boots. And, at our meeting to discuss his impending retirement, this scarf/neck covering that would fly in my sister’s hipster LA neighborhood. After running Quiet Heart Wilderness School since 1997, Hawkeye will be retiring on Sept. 1.
We sat down at Mel and Mia’s in Perrinville to talk about how Quiet Heart started and where it is headed under its new owner — teacher and Edmonds mom Chrissy Roberts.
The genesis of Quiet Heart Wilderness School was not quite what I had expected, though Hawkeye himself is both exactly and not at all what you would expect him to be. Raised in Mason County, Hawkeye learned the things that he teaches through Quiet Heart “from life,” spending his childhood wandering the woods with no shoes. When it was time to go back to school, he said his feet “hurt for weeks” because had to wear shoes again. He has called Edmonds home for 33 years, but is headed back to Mason County, in part to care for his aging parents.
The first reason he gave when I asked him why it was time to move on was that he was “tired,” which sounds about right after spending his years the way he did: sailing, ascending Mount Rainier twice, serving two years as a member of the Olympic Mountain Rescue Team, and running a day care. Now all but the final item in that last sentence fall right in line with what you would expect from Hawkeye. While operating a day care was not something I would have guessed, it makes perfect sense the more you talk to him about Quiet Heart, the wilderness, and getting to give other children a taste of what he had in his own childhood.
He told me that his child care business was the first male-only day care in Edmonds, and not surprisingly, that he got some “weird looks” in his “hard first year” of operation. After that — and in a pre-social media era, mind you — word of mouth led the day care to have a consistent waitlist during its four-year run.
It was in a pretty organic way that Quiet Heart Wilderness School began. Hawkeye explained that he was always taking his kids and their friends on trips to explore the woods when a friend suggested “you should get paid for this!” Then another time, the “light bulb went off,” he said. He was on a park trip, also with his kids, when they encountered some children throwing rocks at ducks. His son asked him why they were doing that and Hawkeye, still visibly affected by the encounter, answered “no one taught them” any differently. He started with versions of what he was doing already and called them “Saturday Expeditions,” which included things like a “Wetlands Walk.”
Quiet Heart’s preschool program, “Through The Eyes Of A Naturalist,” started out in his then-wife’s preschool, which has since sold and is Olympic View Montessori, and also was at Cyber School, which was an early iteration of Edmonds Heights K-12. My old Facebook post had comments from my friends whose kids were in his programs at different schools — one saying he was the “highlight” of their students’ time in their co-op and another stating,“I’m getting a little envious of this Hawkeye guy,” adding that his son “loves” him. The “Through The Eyes Of a Naturalist” program will continue as a part of the curriculum at the Trike Stop, Olympic View Montessori, and Tessera Art School.
The conversation moved to how it is going to feel as he is moving on from the business he grew and won’t be recognized while out and about the same way. He said with a lot of weight, “I’m gonna miss it,” then lightened things up by sharing a story of the time he was about to walk into an office and a van near him hit the breaks and a handful of admirers tumbled out with one adding “whoa” as they’d not seen him in jeans before. He described his version of the “wide-eyed preschoolers,” who — like my own — were so excited to see him.
Quiet Heart Wilderness School is maybe best known for its Outdoor Wilderness Living Experience, better known as OWLE, which is for kids ages 8 to 13. Friday OWLE is held at Three Eagles Camp in the Woodinville area, while the Saturday program is held at Coyote Camp in Edmonds — Coyote Camp is better known as Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church, 8109 224th St. S.W. Per their website, this class — available in two sessions in Edmonds — is where “Students spend each day, sharing responsibilities as a tribe and practicing skills that our ancient ancestors once knew. We play together, learn together and do chores together. We learn how to build emergency shelters, make primitive arrows, collect pitch from conifers for glue, how to make a fire pit, build and maintain a fire. Then there is lunch, where students learn to cook over a fire, another new experience!”
Reiterating this was “NOT only a boy program,” Hawkeye said the popularity of The Hunger Games took the 60/40 boys-to-girls ratio to the opposite — 60/40 girls to boys — for awhile as the girls wanted to learn survival and bow-and-arrow skills to be like The Hunger Games heroine, Katniss. While word of mouth stayed on his side, he told me there is a surge in overall enrollment when natural disasters occur, citing Hurricane Katrina as an example.
It was a real pleasure to hear Hawkeye talk about OWLE, which he is clearly incredibly proud of. Looking at the OWLE program, he is happy that his philosophy of “any child can come and feel safe” shows through. He explained how the program is diverse in ethnicity, gender and gender identity, adding “it’s what life should be like” and “that’s what makes it work.”
A thread throughout our conversation was responsibility, by way of the tools children use and skills they learn in OWLE. Participants are taught to whittle while learning campfire, knife and bow saw skills. While on a walk in Yost Park, I have come across Quiet Heart summer campers carrying, well, something sharp. And while my first reaction was that of surprise, I can say it was being responsibly managed in an age group that isn’t known for its responsible management. Hawkeye said that kids are given expectations and that “seldom” do they lose their privileges in that department.
“Controlled risk is what you learn from” he said, while detailing themes for the program with words familiar to those who have been to any Montessori school, like self-motivated or as new owner Chrissy Roberts told me — student led.
When the subject turned to Hawkeye’s view of Roberts and Quiet Heart’s future, he leaned forward toward the table, which was covered in my notes housed in a half-used kids composition folder and a plate with remnants of a fancy pastry. With excitement — and with what I can imagine is also relief about finding the right person to take over — Hawkeye talked about how new families are joining this year and how Roberts’ has the knowledge base, gained from her background in science and as a woodsy naturalist.
He also noted her energy and technical ability. Roberts changed the registration system and I learned while chatting with her it’s pretty much the most significant change, and that the school’s “heart and soul” will stay the same. Most of the same instructors will be teaching programs and camps, including “Little Bear,” whom I think of fondly as the “barefoot guy in Yost Park.” The admiration between Hawkeye and Roberts is obviously mutual and began before this transaction started. Roberts found out about the potential sale of the school because her son was enrolled in OWLE when the first feelers were put out.
It was fun to learn about Roberts’ background. She and I have older sons around the same age and for a couple of years seemed to be what I like to call “on the same circuit,” running into each other often enough to finally introduce ourselves. With continued connections, earlier this summer I talked to a family we know who just had her as a teacher at Brighton School in Mountlake Terrace. While they were excited for her new venture, they were very sad she was moving on.
In addition to teaching, she spent time as an environmental consultant and had a stint at the Hawaii Nature Center. However, environmental education was always the plan for Roberts, who was inspired by her family’s time in Norway, which has an education model and outdoor experience that motivated her in that direction.
Roberts, who hasn’t landed on a “nature name” for herself (she says she’s still waiting for it to “come to me”), agreed that Hawkeye’s legacy is clear as his philosophy shines through. The programs support the kids to “find who they are in life and in the wilderness,” as she puts it. Further demonstrating his impact, Roberts tells me that “people dress up as him for Halloween!”
There are a lot of options to utilize Quiet Heart Wilderness School as it moves forward. OWLE starts up again in fall — Hawkeye told me they have always offered a free trial day — there are camps in the summer that fill up fairly quickly in my experience of writing about them, and also workshops like “Individual Survival Courses for Men and Women” or a bow making workshop. For more information and for registration, you can visit QuietHeart.org.
A retirement party is scheduled for Hawkeye Saturday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. at City Park in Edmonds. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate him and his contribution to Edmonds and Quiet Heart Wilderness School. Roberts asks that those who wish to attend RSVP at [email protected].
– By Jennifer Marx
Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.