On a recent sunny day in Augusta, the Douglas family — parents Mike and Karen with kids Dakota, 15; Ryan, 12; and Emily, 9 — gathered in the classroom of Maine Primitive Skills School to talk about their upcoming television debut on “Doomsday Preppers,” a National Geographic show.

 

Foremost, particularly in the minds of Mike and Karen, is how they will be portrayed to the viewing audience. Mike said the television crew leaned more toward scenarios that are unlikely, seeking to sensationalize skills such as martial arts, which is not a focus of the family or school.

 

“We don’t come from a place of fear,” Mike said. “Our focus isn’t preparing for a tragic event.”

 

The Douglas family, by all outward appearances, is typical. Dakota attends Cony High School and Ryan and Emily attend St. Michael. They do not have a television but the children play educational and fitness Wii games and watch DVD movies in their home, which sits about 30-feet back from Church Hill Road.

 

Emily, antsy to finish talking and spend the rest of the morning ice skating with her new pink ice skates, said she enjoyed having the camera crew around.

 

“I loved the cameras because I’m going to be famous,” she said between tales of Pipsqueak the pig — she caught him at a fair, and his Secret Agent name is Mr. Pigglesworth — and frog-stalking, which she teaches to adult classes at the school.

 

“It was fun to have the cameras here,” Ryan said.

 

He added the hardest thing for him during filming was to be sure he wasn’t looking at the camera.

 

Mike said he expects the children to have a heavy focus on the show, scheduled to air Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. The television crew filmed a tomahawk demonstration by Dakota; Emily demonstrated disarming of knives and guns and Ryan was filmed building a shelter in the woods on their 30-acre property.

 

Mike proudly describes his children as “feral,” as they spend a lot of time in the woods, though they each have mastered different skills. Ryan, he said, prefers four-wheelers and activities closer to home and “surprises me all the time,” while Emily is an expert at identifying wild edible plants in addition to frog stalking and Dakota has honed martial arts skills and projects a calming nature.

 

Karen, a Maine native, also sticks close to home; while Mike, a transplant from the Pine Barrens area of N.J., teaches classes in the woods.

 

“If the landscape isn’t healthy, we aren’t healthy,” Mike said, adding he saw the destruction caused by development in the Pine Barrens. “I saw it destroyed and I didn’t want it to happen here too.”

 

Mike and Karen bought an existing home with plenty of wooded land to raise their family when they settled in Augusta.

 

“Today’s world is based on fear and disconnect. Now kids are hooked into electronics and don’t know how to socialize, let alone the difference between a white pine and a white oak,” Mike said. “Real learning involves your whole being. It’s not something you can get from YouTube or TV or a book.”

 

Skills the Douglas family has learned include how to make a fire without matches, how to build shelters from natural materials and how to identify edible wild plants. The school also offers Wilderness Survival, Primitive Skills, Tracking, Wild Edibles, and Earth Living classes.

 

Dakota said he thinks many boys his age are overly confident because they are big; he attributes his confidence to mastery of martial arts, evidenced by numerous trophies and medals from competitions.

 

“He doesn’t project a predatory nature,” Mike said, describing several incidences of Dakota’s interactions with nature and animals.

 

“When I was 5, I would go out and sit by the bird feeders with a hat full of bird seed,” Dakota said. “After about 15 minutes, there would be 20 chickadees.”

 

He said most animals, wild or domestic, are not afraid to come near him and his friends are often amazed by it.

 

A brief walk around the Douglas’ property shows a backyard including a pen for Pipsqueak, a shelter, tomahawk practice range and trails throughout the woods, which retain a wild natural state with only selective wood harvesting. Classes are offered year-round for adults and children seeking to learn more about living in harmony with nature. The most important thing people need to learn, according to Mike, is “awareness. Everything else follows.”

 

For more information about Maine Primitive Skills School, visit them online at primitiveskills.com/ or like them on Facebook. More information about “Doomsday Preppers” is online at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/doomsday-preppers/.