Luke McLaughlin

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Founder & Director

Luke is a naturalist, teacher, rewilder, mentor, survivalist, and founder of Holistic Survival School. Luke has committed his life to mastering and teaching ancestral and indigenous living skills in order to help people find their balance and connection to the Natural World.  Luke learned his skills working at a primitive wilderness therapy program in the West Desert of Utah.  With over 500 days on the trail, Luke has mentored hundreds of people in the wilderness and learned how Earth skills teach us vital life lessons. Furthermore, Luke has witnessed first hand how nature connection helps bring about growth, health, and vitality to everyone’s life.

Luke combines humor, knowledge, and patience to create an easy-going, yet informative experience. He is dedicated to meeting people where they are at, with love and compassion in order to help foster a new (actually old) way of being human. 

Additionally, Luke believes that it is every human’s birthright to have a deep physical, emotional, and spiritual connection to our Earth, and he has dedicated himself to being a bridge to our modern culture.   Luke demonstrated his primitive skills and survival abilities on the Discovery Channel’s shows, “Naked and Afraid” and “Naked and Afraid XL”, where he survived for 21 and 40 days in the wilderness.

Luke is currently most excited about HoSS’ 9-month Adult Immersion program. Learn more about that program here: 9-month Immersion


Tyler Lavenburg - Lead instructor 

Nose to the grindstone (sometimes literally), Tyler lives for the opportunity to work with his hands. Whether it be weaving baskets, sewing buckskin, fletching an arrow, it is in this realm of focus and awe of creation that he truly revels in.

He first fell in love with Southern Appalachian ecology as a student at Warren Wilson College, graduating with a degree in Environmental Education. Through reading the children's novel "My Side of the Mountain," Tyler began to follow the rabbit hole of traditional skills and wild foods. Since then he has been blessed with many teachers and mentors to continually draw his attention to greater layers of mystery and possibility in crafting a handmade life.

Over the past seven years Tyler has apprenticed and taught with many traditional skills schools and events including Wild Abundance (North Carolina), The Roots School (Vermont), Living Earth School (Virginia), Earthskills Rendezvous, Firefly Gathering, Florida Earthskills, Whippoorwhil, and more. He has worked with hundreds of children and adults through public/private schools, homeschool cooperatives, and special events.Tyler is devoted to understanding material use in context of it’s ecological niche—unveiling ancient and scientific wisdom to appropriate technologies.   Whether it be putting by wild foods or working with stone tools, bows and arrows, hides, baskets, fiber or woodcraft, Tyler orients his life by the skills that have kept our ancestors alive for thousands of years.

Currently Tyler is working on developing his homestead with his partner in the Reems Creek Valley, the home of Holistic Survival School!

Rachel Shopper

Rachel Shopper- instructor

Rachel Shopper is an outdoor educator, naturalist, and poet. She studied nature connection and earth skills at the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, WA, and is also trained as a Kripalu yoga instructor and a permaculture designer. Rachel has taught for numerous programs, including Muddy Sneakers, Forest Floor Wilderness Programs, Firefly Gathering, Women’s Wilderness Workshops, and Organic Grower’s School.  She currently lives in Leicester, NC and is a master’s student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  Infusing her classes with humor, creativity, and curiosity, Rachel facilitates from the heart and encourages her students to express themselves and their gifts with fullness and joy.

In 2019 Rachel will be lead teaching, our Scout and Invisibility class, as well as our Women’s Wilderness Wisdom class.


Kelly Gaskill - instructor

Kelly resides in western North Carolina, she has a background as a horticulturist, but more recently she spends her days gardening, crafting, exploring the forest, and educating children in nature. Kelly brings her plant knowledge and love of the natural world together with her joy of crafting and creativity to the dye pot.

An exuberant experimenter, she has developed a vast knowledge of dye plants, mushrooms and lichens of the Appalachian mountains and beyond. She has been sharing and teaching natural dyes and eco-print design for the past 6 years.

Kelly will be teaching a natural dye class - Creating and Connecting with Wild Color this September.