Woolman Blog

by Amy Cooke, director - November 26, 2017

I just came across these tenets while researching JWS curriculum for a new business plan:

-Be honest: be who you really are.
-Care for yourself.
-Treat others as you want to be treated.
-Don't make work for others.
-Challenge yourself to grow.
-Make a positive difference in the world.
-If you have a complaint, suggest and work towards a solution.

As timely as ever!

by Amy Cooke, Director - March 1, 2017

I was among the 100,000 who marched in San Francisco’s Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. While enthusiasm for the struggle seemed high, an important question was looming: What’s the strategic plan, as we head into the Trump era? Although there’s no simple answer, I offer this 10-point plan — fully open for discussion and debate.

-George Lakey

1. Recognize that we represent the majority, not Trump. 

Three times more people participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., than were present at the inauguration the day before. He lost the popular vote in the election. Many of his own voters admitted in exit polls that they consider him unqualified to be president. Furthermore, Trump plans to target progressive policies that polls find to be supported by solid majorities of Americans.

Trump does have strengths in addition to his brilliance in manipulating mainstream media. Key parts of the economic elite have decided that they can use him for their own goals. So, they will support him — as long as he can deliver acceleration of school privatization, for example, or the fossil fuel pipelining of America. His core voting base (the minority of a minority) may support him for a period, until his failure to deliver unrealistic promises becomes apparent.

Even before the inauguration, he alienated significant parts of the security state that he needs to depend on. He needs a vast professional bureaucracy to carry out his will, but it has many subtle ways of thwarting him. Harry Truman famously admitted, publicly, his frustration after he was repeatedly stymied by an uncooperative bureaucracy.

Trump’s bullying is both a strength and a weakness. His style alienates many, including among his own voters, and stirs opposition.

Stopping Trump is not a slam dunk, but it is possible when he is given his due as a cagey opponent. It also helps when we decide to be strategic rather than led by fear and moral outrage, jumping from whichever tactic feels good in the moment, but has little impact. Now is the time when we can identify his pillars of support and lay plans to undermine them.

2. Strengthen civic institutions and their connections with targeted populations.

Trump will continue to turn to the age-old weapon of scapegoating to shore up his working-class base, and he’ll feel more pressure to do that as his own programs for “making America great again” fail to deliver the goods to that base — even while enriching the economic elite.

Some sanctuary cities have already made a good start by declaring their resistance to anti-immigrant moves by the federal government. Activists can reinforce these initiatives with a range of civic and religious institutions, urging them to strengthen their connections with scapegoated groups like Jews, immigrants and African Americans. The civics may not by themselves always think of this, so it may take activists within or near them to alert them to their responsibility of solidarity.

Because we are the majority, we can make full use of Bill Moyer’s four roles of social change. Consider: How can advocates, helpers, organizers and rebels strengthen their solidarity impact? Training for Change organizer Daniel Hunter brainstormed some possible moves: Advocates persuade cities and states to give drivers licenses to undocumented people. Organizers create circles of solidarity in which citizens could physically intervene — when immigrants are in danger —and surround the vulnerable ones. (The New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia calls this “sanctuary in the streets.”) Helpers could insist that they provide food and healthcare to people in deportation centers, and if entry is refused, collaborate with rebels to break in with food and risk arrest.

3. Play offense, not defense.  

The last time progressives in the United States faced this degree of danger was when Ronald Reagan became president. One of Reagan’s first acts was to fire the air traffic controllers when they went on strike, putting into question national air safety. Strategically, he chose “shock and awe,” and it worked – most of the U.S. movements for change went on the defensive.

Gandhi and military generals agree: No one wins anything of consequence on the defensive. I define “defensive” as trying to maintain previous gains. U.S. movements in 1980 made many gains in the previous two decades. Understandably, they tried to defend them. As Gandhi and generals would predict, the movements instead lost ground to the “Reagan Revolution” and, for the most part, have lost ground ever since.

One exception stands out: the LGBT movement. Instead of defending, for example, local gains in city human relations commissions, LGBT people escalated in the 1980s with ACT-UP leading the way. They followed up with the campaign for equal marriage and escalated again with the demand for equality in the military.

LBGT people proved that Gandhi and the generals are right: The best defense is an offense.

I hear many American progressives unconsciously talking about Trump defensively, preparing to make precisely the same mistake as an older generation did with Reagan. The LGBT’s lesson is obvious: heighten nonviolent direct action campaigns and start new ones. Instead of defending Obamacare, let’s push for an even more comprehensive health solution, like Medicare for all.

direct action campaign is defined by a pressing issue, a clear demand, and a target that can yield that demand. Powerful social movements, even those that overthrew military dictatorships, have often been built in exactly this way.

These days, campaign design needs to take account of the recent impact of social media. Because many people have allowed social media to draw them into an isolating bubble, activists need to design campaigns that deliberately increase their base through building relationships “beyond the choir.” Increased use of training may be necessary to maximize impact.

4. Link campaigns to build movements.

Standing Rock is a current example of the synergistic and expanding effect of linking campaigns. Pipeline fights, indigenous rights, and even the role of Veterans for Peace — in raising questions about the U.S. empire — were all amplified through linking to the ongoing campaign in North Dakota.

The classic American example of campaign linkage grew from the simple act of four college students in North Carolina on Feb. 1, 1960, starting their campaign to desegregate a lunch counter. Students in other towns followed the example, and the wave of sit-ins became a movement. The movement helped grow existing organizations — for example, the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, which then started a new kind of campaign, the Freedom Rides. Multiple freedom rides were linked and further built the strength of the civil rights movement.

These campaigns did not have the American majority on their side, nor did they win all their demands, but their cumulative value forced major changes and eventually changed public opinion as well. The civil rights movement illustrates the crucial difference in mode of operation between direct action campaigns and political parties’ campaigns.

Democrats, for example, are hugely about polls and focus groups. Their power rests on current public opinion and its manipulation through electioneering and political maneuver. Even for progressive-inclined Democrats, the ability to act is tightly limited by the narrow range of current opinion (not to mention by what the economic elite is willing to allow).

Social movements, by contrast, can take stands that go beyond current opinion and wage campaigns that have transformative impact, such as women’s right to vote, gay rights and stopping pipelines. This difference helps explain why progressive Democrats habitually fight defensively, while movements are free to stay on the offensive and win. Bernie Sanders, for example, is now defensively fighting to save Medicare. By contrast, a social movement is free to launch a fight for single-payer health care. Such a struggle could threaten to split off part of Trump’s working class base and — even if it failed to fully achieve its goal – save more of Medicare.

5. Link movements to create a movement of movements.

When times are out of joint, a successful movement around one issue inspires campaigns on other issues to link and become new movements. That’s what happened the last time the U.S. took major steps toward justice. The civil rights movement begat the Berkeley Free Speech campaign and the national student movement for university reform, the draft resistance campaign and the anti-Vietnam war movement, and so on — energizing seniors, people with disabilities, mental health consumers, women, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, auto workers and many more.

With so many movements developing, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin catalyzed the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, hoping to start linking movements into a movement of movements. They glimpsed an opportunity to amass so much power independent of the major parties that the United States could develop a counter-force to the economic elite and bring about democratic socialism. Creating an independent movement of movements was the successful path taken by the Scandinavians, and both Randolph and Rustin wanted it for the United States.

Substantial linkage, however, was not available at that time. For one thing, the U.S. economy was booming, and there wasn’t enough discontent in the white working class — let alone the burgeoning middle class — to create an opening. What’s more, racism was still too intense, although the United Auto Workers had successfully found a way forward by uniting black and white workers to fight employers in the auto industry. In the past half century, much has changed on both those dimensions.

My point is that multiple campaigns on the same or similar issues generates a movement, and that multiple movements provide the opportunity for a movement of movements. The closer we come to that point, the more pressure there is on the Democrats to co-opt us. The Republicans’ historic role is usually repression, while the Democrats’ job is to limit and control grassroots movements by pulling them into the party.

We saw that happen to the later stage of the civil rights movement and again with the Democrat-embraced health reform movement of 2007-9, when the single-payer option — and even the public option — was dropped to pass the medical industrial complex-friendly Affordable Care Act.

When a social movement is independent, it can force the Democrats to become allies instead of controllers. The civil rights movement did exactly that before 1965; we see what it can look like in the excellent film “Selma.” On a more micro level, Daniel Hunter — in his book “Strategy and Soul” — reveals how a neighborhood-based movement forced politicians to come to the campaigners, instead of the campaigners seeking help from the politicians.

Whatever our partisan sympathies, a quick look at political trends in the United States shows why movement independence is more crucial now than at any time in the last half-century.

Public alienation from the major parties – Republican or Democratic – has gone off the charts. Voters stay away from the polls, as if afraid of catching germs. The Tea Party gains more cred when it trashes the Republican Party. Donald Trump reassures his voter base by verbally attacking Congress – both parties, no less — in his inaugural address. Much of his voter base had long since left the Democratic Party because of its own betrayal of working-class interests. Black working-class voters also signaled their alienation by failing to give full support to Hillary Clinton, despite Barack and Michelle Obama’s entreaties.

Such a period of alienation is just the time for direct action campaigns that fight for progressive demands — like $15 per hour and Medicare for all — to signal independence from the politicians who bear so much responsibility for U.S. decline. Such independence appeals to the vast majority, including many Trump voters. A self-respecting movement of movements knows that the Democrats will then come to them and offer to be allies.

6. Avoid one-off demonstrations.

This political moment adds force to the sizable advantage of direct action campaigns over single demonstrations, however large. Protests are by their nature reactive. In these next years, predictably, Trump will act and progressives will react, then Trump will act again and progressives will react again. Trump, an accomplished fighter, knows that staying on the offensive is what enables him to win. Progressives, often led by people with a track record of loss, take the bait and react, over and over.

Simple protests, no matter what the issue, essentially signal to Trump that he is winning — he has manipulated us into reacting.

I realize that reactivity is a habit among many activists, and may take heroic self-discipline to avoid. An alternative is to organize a campaign, or join a campaign near you, even if the issue is not your favorite, and plunge in with full talent and energy.

7. Heighten the contrast in confrontations between the campaigners’ behavior and our right-wing opponents.

Many have noted Trump’s signals to his white supremacist and other allies that violence is an acceptable means to use against us.

This is an old story in the United States, and there’s no reason to let it throw us. Through clear nonviolent policy, like that of the Women’s March that urged against bringing anything that could be considered a weapon, we remain centered and able to attract large numbers. Some movements have made grave mistakes by responding to violent attacks in kind, losing ground on their goals as a result. Others have performed brilliantly, as did the civil rights campaigns that faced down the largest sustained terrorist organization in U.S. history, the KKK, often without protection from local law enforcement and even federal authorities.

The Global Nonviolent Action Database presents campaigns in almost 200 countries, including many nations where repressive violence was far worse than it has been in the United States. The database makes it possible to search for campaigns that faced repressive violence and to learn how they handled it. It is easy to find out, therefore, what worked and what didn’t, and to reinforce the lessons through training.

8. Aim to unite around a vision for justice, equality and freedom.

Individuals, campaigns, and movements all gain greater power and credibility through projecting a vision of what they want, as well as what they don’t want. They grow more easily, withstand attacks more easily, and have an easier time maintaining their boldness and creativity. “Protest movements” like Occupy are notoriously fragile and precarious; sustainable movements like the struggle for LGBT rights and equality have a liberating vision. The homophobes were right: We did have a “homosexual agenda!”

The good news is that on August 1, 2016, the Movement for Black Lives offered a visionthat can be a draft for dialogue for many campaigns and movements. Many groups have already endorsed it. The vision is bold, substantive and so different from the present that it is even in alignment with the best practices of the Nordic countries. In that sense, it is highly practical and backed by a half-century track record. Compared with the ever volatile and shifting Donald Trump act, a rough agreement on vision by a movement of movements could enhance our credibility and divide his base.

9. Make the vision more real by extending new economy institutions and coops.

These often fly under the radar in our highly politicized discourse, so two things need to happen. People who are active in campaigns and movement development need to honor the development of economic infrastructure that reflects the values of our united vision.

Second, the new economy institutions need to brand themselves as part of the justice movement, giving up the advantages of modesty. They may find new advantages and surprising opportunities for growth. After all, a majority of Americans polled have already said they like the concept of employee-owned companies.

10. See U.S. polarization as opportunity.

Donald Trump frames U.S. polarization in ways that benefit him, trying to increase the loyalty of his base. Many progressives decry the polarization, as if their upset at its ugly manifestations will make it go away. The reality is that the polarization is fundamentally linked to economic inequality and was growing for years before Trump came forward. It is not going away. The question is how to manage our fears and learn to navigate the stormy waters.

The good news is that the greatest polarization in Scandinavian history — Nazis vs. Communists in the 1920s and ‘30s — was also the time when broad people’s movements made their breakthrough, pushed the domination of their economic elites aside and invented a new model of economic justice. The polarization did not stop them — if anything, the movements used the opportunity.

Yes, polarization is dangerous. Germany and Italy polarized when Sweden and Norway did, but went fascist. Their movements made huge mistakes, mistakes avoided by the Swedes and Norwegians. Our most recent period of great polarization in the United States was also dangerous, but the 1960s and ‘70s was our period of greatest progress since the polarized 1930s.

In short, there’s good reason to see the Trump era as an opportunity not only to stop him, but to make major gains in justice and equality. It will help to learn to turn our fear into power. We’ll also need strategy, and the humility to learn from successes of other movements that have come out ahead during hard times. It is not rocket science. If we’re willing to shift personal habits and priorities, support each other through hardship, and come together on a plan, we can win. That is our opportunity.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Admissions and Outreach Director - July 5, 2016

Welcome to our first interview in our new series! We hope to catch up with past students and see what they are up to! We like to say the magic happens once the students leave Woolman, we are continually amazed by the work that they are doing in the world, from farmers to trail blazers to social change makers! Alumni, you are the reason why Woolman exsists! If you are interested in learning more about student life click hereIf you are a former student wanting to share about your life you can fill out an alumni questionnaire here!  If you'd like to reconnect in other ways please e-mail admissions@woolman.org! We'd LOVE to hear from you.  Without further ado, Kelly Flanary, Woolman Semester School Student Fall 2013.

Name: Kelly Flanary 

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Semester: Fall 2014

School/Job: Sterling College, Camp Cook,

Oregon College of Art and Craft


What are you doing now that you wouldn't have done without Woolman?

Well, I first came to Woolman the summer after my freshman year of highschool in Teen Leadership Camp. That summer completely changed my life. In the short two weeks I was here I learned more about myself than I ever had before. Camp and the semester program carry a lot of the same themes and are rooted in the same Quaker philosophy. I found myself being immersed in a culture I never had before. Things that I had once been self conscious about or thought to be socially unacceptable, were celebrated and a complete social norm. Everyone in my group including the counselors, became the greatest friends I had ever had. They taught me the limits of my body while backpacking and the immense love that can come from the hearts of the members in a community. I started on a whole new path in life. After I came home I became immensely depressed. The world was nothing like the one I had lived in before. It was different. I had a new perspective on people and society. I craved to go back to Woolman. As I came back through the summers Woolman taught me who I was and how to be the person I am today. The people and the land are constantly pushing me to transform myself into a better shiner self. In a lot of ways Woolman has raised me.



Memorable Woolman moment?

One of favorite moments was during my first summer here in TLC. We had just bike down on the American River Bike Trail to Soil Born Farms in Ranch Cordova, CA.  Soil Born is a biodynamic begat me farm right off the bike trail. (Which I later worked at) We were going to be spending the night there and helping out with farm work in the morning. It was really my first introduction to farming of any kind. I had visited farms and seen animals on the side of the freeway. But I never worked or done any farm work of any sort. It was all SO magical to me! We went swimming in the American river around dusk and as we walked back up through the farm to where we were staying me and my friend Sophie stayed back to watch the sheep in the pasture. There was around 10 ewes with there small little lambs. The sun was setting behind them and the summer bugs and crickets were busy chirping. The little lambs all played and hopped around jumping straight off the ground, into the air. Sophie and I laughed and laughed. The little lambs were putting on quite the show. Everything just felt still and the world was so quiet and so right. The long day biking, eating yummy food, swimming in a river, and the sweet sweet sheep all mixed together created this effortless moment. I had never experienced life like that. Ever. Since then sheep and farming have become apart of everyday life. But I always think back to that moment. That moment made me want to farm. To be surrounded by life is the sweetest of gifts.

Words of wisdom for prospective students?

Woolman comes to people exactly when they need it most. It's not easy, it's not always rainbows and sunshine. Living in community is hard. Talking about the world is hard. But hard work is the most rewarding and transformative work there is. You will have the opportunity to live like you never have before. So many people have come before you. We are all welcoming you with the biggest open arms there are. Prepare to have the greatest love affair you have ever had.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Admissions and Outreach Director - June 29, 2016

Welcome to our first interview in our new series! We hope to catch up with past interns and see what they are up to! Interns are magic-makers, dream builders, nutrient dense meal-makers, highly qualified homework helpers, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, and an irreplaceable part of the Woolman Community.  The community intern program is a 10 month experience of living, working, growing, and learning as part of the Woolman Educational Community.  For the past 20 semesters we have been so grateful for those who have worked here!  If you are interested in learning more please click here! If you are former intern and would like to share your experience you can fill out an intern questionnaire here! If you are a former student itching to let us know what's alive in your life, don't worry you can fill out an alumni questionnaire here!  If you'd like to reconnect in other ways please e-mail admissions@woolman.org! We'd LOVE to hear from you.  Without further ado, Patrick Aguilar, Woolman Semester School Intern 15'-16'.

Name: Patrick Aguilar

Hometown: Grass Valley, CA

School: U.C. Santa Cruz-B.A. History


Why did you intern at the Woolman Semester?

I chose to take this internship because during my time working for Camp Woolman showed me my strongest part of myself. The community environment and emphasis on a holistic relationship with one's self piqued my interest. After my summers at Woolman, I had a deep sense that there was much more for me to experience from this place.

How did the internship help guide you in your interests?

The internship introduced me to cooking in a way that I had never experienced, and the creative nature of that aspect of the internship was something I fell in love with. Additionally, I found the Woolman internship to be an incredible guide in addressing and resolving many personal problems or parts of myself that I wasn't happy with.

Words of wisdom for new interns?


Make sure to enjoy all these new relationships you'll find yourself engaged in. Everyone you know will have something incredibly important to teach you, and opening yourself up to them will allow for some really powerful growth.

How do you find peace, justice, sustainability in your life today?

My time at Woolman has been so incredibly helpful in maintaining peace, justice, and sustainability in my life. Woolman has provided me with useful tools for addressing conflict (internal and external), and understanding the difference between my own needs and stressors and other people's needs and stressors. That differentiation allows me to live more peacefully in many of my interpersonal relationships.

by Emily Wheeler, Program Director - June 14, 2016

In April of 2012, I returned to Woolman for the first time since my Community Internship ended two years prior. I am not a Quaker and I rarely attended the Sunday Meeting during my time as an intern, but when Sunday arrived, I decided to go. I will never forget this Meeting, as I sat sandwiched between two women in their 90’s whom I will forever consider my elders and mentors: Lynne Henderson and Mary Jorgenson. Mary was undoubtedly wearing pink, the brightest shade of it, or perhaps that is just how she is permanently held in my memory. In the 60’s, Mary had been part of a group of activists who moved to Nevada City, California with the vision of creating a residential program for young people to commit to and grapple with their commitment to the values of peace, justice and sustainability – the vision of Woolman.

During Worship that Sunday, Mary stood to share about her value of non-violence. She began by reflecting on her history of organizing for racial justice and her many experiences being arrested while participating in peaceful demonstrations during the civil rights era – a time that people often recall when speaking about Mary’s life – but the ministry that day was not about her past, it was about her present. She spoke of non-violence and how difficult it is for her to truly live non-violently, to do so in her thoughts, words and actions. She noticed this most acutely, she said, in her own home, with her husband and family. Her ability to self-examine and self-reflect was inspiring and I believe her willingness to do so and share with others was one of Mary’s greatest gifts.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet up with the Director of my graduate program at Goddard College – another small academic institution, much like Woolman, working for peace, justice and sustainability. We met up for a walk along the Cape Cod National Seashore, where I am currently visiting old friends, and immediately started sharing about the past year, both at Woolman and Goddard. “It’s really hard work”, she stated, “to be constantly walking the line between our values and our actions”.

To this day, these values are central to the Woolman community: they adorn our marketing materials and the banners that we hang on stage at Graduation, but more importantly, the values guide our curriculum, they are the underpinning of our restorative practices and they inspire our commitment to land stewardship, producing organic food and providing high-quality, nutrient dense foods for all diets present at any given meal. These are just a few of the manifestations of peace, justice and sustainability on our campus.

This year, to a greater extent than I’d seen before, Woolman’s core values came under scrutiny. And the examination came from within our own community – staff, interns, students – with a strong critique of the ways our institution is not living up to its own vision for world based on principles of equity and social justice. Questions were asked: How can our campus become safer for marginalized identities? How can our staff and board explore topics of oppression and privilege to the extent that our students do in their classes? How can we become more comfortable addressing microaggressions in the moment and fostering dialogue that is both calling out and calling in when members of our community unconsciously perpetuate forms of oppression? We seek answers to these questions in order move through our challenges and into a more just, equitable and peaceful coexistence where all members of the community can thrive.

Throughout the Spring, I had been keeping up with some of the conversations happening on college campuses like Yale and Middlebury, and most recently a more nuanced illustration of this dialogue was published in the New Yorker about Oberlin College highlighting the paradox of institutions that are both welcoming (if not trailblazing) conversations around the greatest injustices of humanity today while simultaneously not fully acknowledging the manifestation of those injustices throughout the campus community. Upon reading this, I realized that I had been so immersed in the lives of the 50 some-odd individuals on the Woolman campus, that I had not paused to see where the conversations at Woolman were located in the larger context of activism in 2016. With a little space and time for my own reflection, it all makes a lot more sense to me now.

When I come back to the message that Mary shared that day back in 2012, I feel gratitude for the Woolman community, for the people who have created and will continue to create a space for deep reflection and discernment around our values. And whether the dialogue continues in Quaker schools, high school semester programs, liberal arts college campuses or even in our own families, I feel confident that the collective consciousness is shifting. “Student movements have an odd habit of ending up on the right side of history,” writes Nathan Heller in his article about activism at Oberlin, and this, I believe, no matter how difficult or painful the work is in the moment, is reason to continue.

by Andrew Sellery, Ceramics Teacher - June 8, 2016

Another amazing Semester here at Woolman, and the firings (wood & Raku) were, as always, the highlight of Ceramics events. I really love to use the process of Raku firing early in the semester to offer students a hands on experience showing the diversity of the ceramic experience, as well as exposing just how hot and immediate an art process can be. Yes, pulling out a Raku project at red heat, glass surface semi liquid, is an exciting, intimidating & magical experience!

Closing the Semester with a wood fire exposes the student body to the reality of just how much hard work, focus and commitment is needed to bring a simple bowl to completion. Cords of wood split to sticks, days of seemingly endless feeding of wood to fuel the pottery chambers until white heat is reached, relying on all to be guardians of each others' art & craft. Finally pulling down the door bricks to expose many weeks of passionate and heart felt work. Much like opening a treasure chest, not knowing the contents. I'm forever grateful to Woolman Semester School for offering me the opportunity to share this passion!

by Carl Sigmond, Documentary Projects Teacher and Operations Manager - June 8, 2016

In an age where almost every smartphone can be a video camera and citizen journalism is becoming more relevant to the public discourse, it is even more necessary to teach the theory and technique of effective documentary making so that our students can bring their stories into the greater world in an effective and engaging way. 

The documentary project has been a central and consistent part of the Woolman Semester curriculum for close to a decade. Each semester, students form groups around topics that spark their curiosity and passion, and over the course of their time here, they team produce a short video documentary on their topic of choice. Students work in groups of 2-5 and collaborate on every aspect of the film-making process, from envisioning a narrative arc to shooting and editing footage into a cohesive story. 

In class, we discuss how to share and divide up tasks to ensure that every group member’s voice is heard and valued and work through group conflicts as they arise. We also confront key questions of the documentary genre, including: How does one person represent another? How do filmmakers represent themselves? How are power relations expressed and challenged through these representations? 

This semester, Documentary Class was the Global Thinking Project Class, and so the Global Thinking class theme of multiple perspectives ran throughout the Doc Class as students tried to answer these questions for themselves and in the documentaries they created. Students struggled with group dynamics, how to reconcile seemingly conflicting visions for where the documentary should go, but in the end, they successfully produced films on love and relationships, community life here at Woolman, the symbiotic relationship between animals and farming, and the stigmas surrounding mental illness. We had a public screening on May 12.

When I was a student in the Spring 2009 Woolman Semester, I was part of a team that created a documentary on the local food movement here in Nevada County. After Woolman, I studied documentary filmmaking and documentary as a tool for social change at Haverford College. Now, back at Woolman, I love teaching a tool that I’m so passionate about. It is my hope that I am offering our students the skills so that they will leave Woolman empowered with the knowledge to use this tool in their own social change work. 

by Marianthe Bickett, Farm to Table Apprentice - June 1, 2016

Just as I started my position as Farm to Table Apprentice at Woolman, the students began a unit on food access. First they watched the documentary A Place at the Table, about food insecurity in the United States. The documentary highlighted the lack of federal funding for the food stamp budget, as well as the subsidies the government provides for industrial agriculture that allow processed, sugar-laden food products to be so cheap and readily available. Families forced to survive on these services end up relying on refined carbohydrates and sugars, contributing to the prevalence of diet-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The students discussed the film afterwards, deciphering where their experiences fit in among the spectrum of food access. The film was powerful, and I could see the awareness and motivation it brought to the students.

In our next class, students got to put this newfound information into practice. The class was split into four groups, and each group was assigned an identity: farmer, college student, single parent or insurance broker. They were assigned a likely budget based on those identities, and then asked to prepare a snack for the class using that budget. We priced everything in our kitchen to match market prices, and gave each group different allowances – for example, the farmer had a very tight budget but eggs and produce were free for them!

I am always impressed with the students' skill in the kitchen and this class was no different. Every group managed to prepare something tasty and healthy, although the differences in what they could each afford were striking. All in all we had two different smoothies, two varieties of egg scramble, a big kale salad and popcorn made in coconut oil sprinkled with cinnamon and dark chocolate chips.

Here at Woolman, we have the luxury of a big garden that gives us fresh produce, herbs and fruit. We buy organic pantry ingredients, and we have talented staff that prepare healthy meals that accommodate many different dietary needs. We eat vegan cashew cheesecake, sweet potato fries, homemade kraut and huge fresh salads on the regular. So it is all the more important to learn about and recognize the food disparity that exists in our country, and for our students to be inspired to find creative solutions so that this kind of fresh, delicious healthy food becomes more accessible to everyone. 

Kale Salad getting thoroughly massaged by our farmers

by Annika Alexander-Ozinskas, Environmental Science Teacher - May 20, 2016

The second half of Environmental Science kicked off with the Food Intensive in April: a week-long field trip to the Bay Area to study food systems and food justice. We met with Briar Patch Food Co-op, Phat Beets Produce, Acta Non Verba, Food First, Veritable Vegetable, PLEJ for Liberation, Three Stone Hearth, UC Davis Feedlot, UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, UC Davis Student Farm, the National Germplasm Repository, and visited the Jelly Belly factory. Our conversations ranged from the ethics and sustainability of genetically modified foods to the political and social challenge of food deserts in urban areas. Students were shocked by the industrialization and corporatization of food, and inspired by those who are working for localization and equity in food production and distribution.

After our trip, we spent a week studying astronomy. Students chose topics to research and share with the rest of the class, including pulsars, astronomical navigation, and the ancient mythology underlying the common names of constellations. We spent hours outside observing the stars, the full moon, and even got a glimpse of Jupiter and three of Jupiter’s moons!

Our next couple weeks were focused on local ecology. We spent a day doing “citizen science” with SYRCL, the South Yuba River Citizen’s League, at a restoration site along the Yuba near Hammon Bar. In small teams we counted the number of surviving willows that were planted to provide more habitat for local fauna, including salmon fry, to rehabilitate an area that remains covered in mining debris from the Gold Rush. We also took a native plant walk on the nearby Independence Trail, observing a beautiful wildflower bloom and discussing the many uses of local plants. Several students submitted original artwork to SYRCL’s Youth for the Yuba contest in May, and won prizes for their poetry, paintings and photography. Their work was featured on local radio station, KVMR, as well as in the window display at Art Works Gallery in Grass Valley. Way to go Woolman nature artists!


Our last section of class was spent wrapping up and presenting sustainability projects. Student projects included: cleaning and organizing our on-campus “free store” (where clothes and objects are reused and upcycled); planning an eco-friendly mural; planting an herb garden; planning a local community garden; leading a guided meditation; creating “tree cards” to teach trail users about the trees on campus; rehabilitating our community bikes; researching shark finning; wildcrafting teas, tinctures, paper, ice cream, and more from native medicinal plants; clearing the Woolman woods of trash; extending the Woolman outreach network; learning about genetically modified trees; planning the construction of a bicycle-powered blender; and hosting a banquet and educational seminar on the importance of ancestry.

As an educator, there is no experience more powerful for me than witnessing the passion and curiosity of my students. This semester was a feast for my soul - hearing these students speak, reading what they wrote in their nature journals and reflections, and seeing the looks of amazement on their faces as we observed the natural world… all of these things have filled me with joy and hope. It was an honor to work with these young people. I believe in their wisdom and their vision for stewarding the planet, and am excited for all that their futures hold.

by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Thinking Teacher - May 20, 2016

What kind of governance system do we actually have? This was our guiding question for one of the last units of the semester in Global Thinking class. The common narrative of today's society often purports that the US is one of the world's leaders in democracy. In the spirit of critical analysis, students questioned this rhetoric and upon deeper examination discovered that in fact our government is far from a pure democracy. True democracy involves each person within the governed community having one vote to participate in decisions that will affect them, and each of those votes being held with equal weight. While we may vote for specific measures or ballot questions within our local district each November, in general in the US we vote to elect representatives, which makes this country a democratic republic, meaning we pick somebody else to make decisions for us.

Ok, so we're not exactly a pure democracy, even though we rarely acknowledege this publicly. But our goverment functions pretty effectively right? Well, that depends on how we measure effectiveness. If we're aiming for a government where everyone who will be affected by a decision has agency in having their voice heard in that decision, then our "democracy" (or even democratic republic) falls quite short of effective. Having studied the Prison Industrial Complex, the enormous wealth gap, and immigration justice earlier in the semester, we know that far too many people in the US do not have agency in contributing to our government. You can't vote if you're in jail, you can't vote if you don't have full citizenship, in many states you can't vote if you don't have the right kind of ID, heck if your boss doesn't give you the day off on the Tuesday of voting day or your designated polling place is so far from your house or work that you'd lose wages just to go vote, you might not have access to our "democracy".

If so many people are marginalized from voting, then who's making all the decisions? Those who can vote definitely have influence in choosing elected officials, but our current political and legal systems give some people more influence than others. Supreme Court cases like the one that supported Citizens United granted giant corporations the ability to dump endless amounts of money into political campaigns. Not only does this provide extensive resources for a particular candidate to increase their advertising and outreach to attract voters, but if elected that candidate often has to answer to the desires of the corporation(s) that sponsor them. Thus our elected officials are not necessarily representing us in the way we desire. Our continued research in class revealed that the US is in fact more of an oligarchy than even a democratic republic. An oligarchy is a system where very few elites actually hold most of the influence and power. If you'd like to know more about it, check this out: https://mic.com/articles/87719/princeton-concludes-what-kind-of-government-america-really-has-and-it-s-not-a-democracy?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social#.JxSAab9Tq.

Rather than simply being outside bystanders learning about the ways people can engage with our political system, students took action and contacted one of their representatives to make sure their voices were heard as constituents from their district. We researched our elected officials to see how we felt about their platform and determine whether we felt that they actually represented us well, offering both gratitude for policies that were in line with our values and also offering critique and suggestions of what we wanted them to do differently. Check out a few students' letters to their elected officials:



After this somewhat shocking reality check (although I must say given what we'd learned about the growth of corporate power these days it wasn't completely surprising to hear that the US is actually an oligarchy) the universal powers at be provided us with a fabulous opportunity to see politics in action! Smack dab in the middle of our unit on governance, who rolls into town but Bernie Sanders himself! We took a field trip to Sacramento to be part of an exciting rally to support Bernie and hear from him how he plans to not only bring our government back towards a legitimate democracy, but also decrease the wealth gap, increase access to education and healthcare, and fight for racial justice among other progressive initiatives. Check out the photos!

And above all, regardless of who you support, if you have the agency and ability: don't forget to vote!!!

by Adrian Struck, Student, Spring 2016 - May 4, 2016

This past week we spotlighted a student who is attending the Spring 2016 Semester — Here are some of the things Adrian has experienced so far. Adrian is from Cuernavaca, Mexico and has fell into the Woolman Community seamlessly.

On Coming to Woolman:

I came to woolman, I wasn’t feeling good back home in the regular school where i was studying, I felt bored in my current program because I wasn’t doing the things I loved. I decided to come to Woolman and find myself and what my passions were, and to have 1 semester to really connect with myself and see what I really want to do in my life.

On transitioning from Mexico:

Coming from a different country, it was a good transition. It’s like living in 2 different worlds; in Mexico they have a different way of acting and thinking, and seeing both perspectives gives you a whole new sense of how humans interact with each other.  It was easy for me; you need to be willing to come here with an open mind and willing to learn a whole new way of living and thinking that will change you for ever.

Living at Woolman:

Living at Woolman has been so far one of the best experience in my life, I’ve learned so much about myself and changed so much, everyday i’m happy to be here, I love to see the woods everyday, I love nature, it’s great to be in full contact with nature. Living in community you always have someone to talk to — it’s like a big family that supports you, every person here is an amazing human being. It’s great to hear about their amazing stories.

The classes are incredible and the teachers are the best I’ve ever had in my life, you can see that they really love the work that they are doing — they really want to be a teacher and you can see that through their classes.

Leaving Woolman Thoughts:

I would recommend Woolman to people who want to connect to themselves. Woolman has changed me a lot. I’m kind of a new person I now know what my passions are  — Woolman gives a great real life experience. I’ll miss the staff members, students, this place — and walking everyday for a half hour in the woods.

by Sara De Roy, Student Spring 2016 - May 2, 2016

There is no such thing as a typical weekend at Woolman. Much of them are spent talking with classmates, going for walks, eating food, watching movies, and doing homework - pretty much like weekends at home. Every weekend, our fabulous interns schedule something for us to do. There have been Capture the Flag games, trips to the grocery store, and walks outside. Other times, we have more out-of-the-ordinary activities. We’ve gone to a Lunar New Year festival, had a dance party, attended a yoga class, and spent hours making rice and nut milk. Here’s an overview of what I was up to this weekend.


8:17: Breakfast in the Dining Hall. We have brunch on weekends so if we are up earlier, breakfast is up to us,  but that’s not a problem - in the walk-in we have delicious leftovers from the Seder dinner that we made with last night.

10:07: A trip to the laundry room. Not a favorite task of mine, but I really need a clean towel.

11:13: Heading off with Hilary, our NVC teacher, for a hike to the Yuba! We did this hike our first week here and I’ve been wanting to do again since, but this is the first time that someone has been available to take me.

2:56: We’re back! Time for a snack (leftover miso soup), sending some materials off to a college, and meeting a future student.

4:48: A stroll up to Mel’s Pond. The students have been planning a cookout for a while and we have the rare treat of having hamburgers.

8:02: Chatting with a visiting alumnus. He came six semesters ago, but still comes back every semester.

8:35: A much-needed shower.

10:29: Journaling in bed. A bunch of my classmates are watching a movie in the Meeting House but I’m too tired for anything but nesting on my top bunk.


8:40: More Seder leftovers for breakfast - and a long chat with Gray’s dad about history, math, and genetics.

10:01: Making brunch with an intern and a classmate. Trying to figure out the gluten-free vegan pancakes is a bit of a struggle but everyone seems to like it - maybe it’s all the whipped cream and stewed fruit we put out with them…

1:03: Helping Charlotte in the garden. I spray two and half rows of infant red peppers with Dr. Bronner’s - to kill aphids - and help her weave a blackberry trellis.

3:38: Homeworking. We’re making “Occucards” for Global Thinking class. Mine is on free community college - on the front there’s a drawing of a community college diploma with a “$0.00” price tag.

5:36: Dinner - mushrooms, quinoa with peas, kale and peppers, cucumbers with tomatoes, and hummus - followed by dish crew in our industrial sized kitchen.

7:05: Blog post writing, followed by watching one of the interns get her head shaved!

8:52: Video chatting with friends back home.

10:21: Bedtime!

by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff, Maya Horton, Farm to Table Intern - April 28, 2016

Woolman meals rival your local five star restaurant, and leave you wanting more, but luckily there is always more...

Living at Woolman has it perks, but if you ask where the real heart of the school is, it isn't hard to find; The kitchen is warm and enticing, overwhelming and easy, and over the stove and inside the oven, between stirs and blends, you cook with others, and this is where the magic happens. 

Here are a few photos of what a week of eating looks like at Woolman! Enjoy- and if you really want, stop by for a meal!

1.Sauteed Sesame Kale, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Local Grass Fed Beef with Red Sauce

2.  Shaksuka, Sauteed Cabbage and Kale, French Fries

3. Fresh Baked Bread (by our students!), Coconut Milk Corn Chowder, and Vegan Cashew Cheesecake

4. Vegan Gluten Free Black Bean Burger, Chickpea Salad with Sweet Potato and Mint

We are so grateful for access to organic and local food, sometimes even from our own garden and orchard!  Meals at the Woolman Semester School are made by us, the WHOLE community! Each meal has 3-4 designated community members (students, interns, and staff) to make a meal! We love learning about new recipes, ingredients, and food from different cultures, and as always, we are happy to take requests!

by Andrew Sellery, Ceramics Teacher - March 21, 2016

Greetings from the clay room!

It has been quite the journey this Semester as students searched their own way in expressing themselves in clay. Students always excited in the beginning to explore something fun, soon arrive at the reality that new things have there own very challenging aspects in the learning curve. All students have indeed found their way through this process and are really ready to blossom in the journey of self expression.
We have arrived at the mid point of our Semester in Ceramics, and it was shared in a magical night of Raku! So wonderful to watch a student body so boldly step up to the challenges Raku demands. Presented with extreme heat and smoke, their red hot clay art was deftly tonged to the reduction cans with great teamwork. Raku is such a wonderful dance of movement demanding each participant be thoughtful of their position and job in the Raku process. Everyone did great!

So excited for the second half of this Semester and confident each student will be ready to step up to the challenges presented them, and finish the Semester a little bit closer to understanding their own artful voice.
Enjoy these photos from last Friday's Raku event!
by Annika Alexander-Ozinskas, Environmental Science Teacher - March 18, 2016

Our land at Woolman is steadily changing and blooming with the onset of spring. Last week, we were inundated with rain - our creeks rose, and the South Yuba became a torrent of churning, brown runoff. In environmental science, we are learning about the inner workings of the natural world through observing the constant change around us. In the past month we have talked about global warming, the greenhouse effect, fossil fuels, oceans, bees, and fungi: all topics requested by students. For 4 days we journeyed from the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific Ocean to explore the role that water plays in ecosystems all along the way. Our group was especially enchanted by learning about the historic salmon runs in our watershed; by wandering around an old growth redwood forest; and learning about whales while sheltering from gale force winds in the Pt. Cabrillo lighthouse.

We continue to study water by observing the ebbs and flows in the waterways around Woolman. Along with water, we have been observing the flora and fauna in our ecosystem, the life that water makes possible here. Besides class field trips, students are going into the woods around Woolman on their own with field journals to record what they experience. Here are some photos that current student, Adrian Struck, has captured on campus: 


Here are a few selections from our class journals to give you a taste of what students have seen in the foothills this past month:

“Whiteleaf manzanita. We have lots of these at Woolman, but up here they look greener. I think it’s because they’re wetter in this cooler, rainier climate. The leaves are egg-shaped and green with golden edges. The little flowers are pink and taste super fantastic, so sweet.” –Lucia Sedoo

“The feeling of bugs on your face and ears. Meditated and tried to become one with the muddy pond. I observed tadpoles, newts, even frogs for a while. How spiders were crawling on my hands and knees and at that moment I had let go of my big fears towards these small insects.” –Bryan Mejia

“Stream in the ravine. Went through clearing to get here. Amazing luck! Started walking along stream and a huge dark red and orange newt swam right by me! Probably at least six or seven inches from nose to tip of tail. Beautiful dark velvet red with orange underside. Saw another when I walked a few feet upstream. A third making its way steadily upstream. Fourth one walking on an island made of rocks in the middle of stream. Disturbed one by bumping a rock, it swam away. It’s lighter red than the others. Another lying motionless in the stream. Another more orange one right below my sit spot, as well as two mating. The two mating are rolling over a lot. Showing their stomachs and undersides. Wait! There are three in the mating jumble! Color doesn’t seem to be a function of their gender. Two of the newts who are actually mating keep trying to deter/exclude the third, which I’m guessing is a male. I wonder how their reproductive systems work?” –Tara Padovan

“Himalayan blackberry. The stem and branches are a deep burgundy. The leaves are dark green. The branches are alternating and fairly regularly spaced (every 2-4 in). The stem is about a centimeter in circumference at its widest, though it narrows toward the middle and at one end. Both ends appear anchored into the ground, growing near rocks. The leaves grow in clusters of 2 to 5. Most of the leaves are cut or shriveling. Thorns, which grow in no set pattern, are ubiquitous along the branch and stems. The thorns have wide bases, which taper into sharp points. The thorns are burgundy at the base a yellow-tan shade at the tip. There is no discernable smell, but the thorns stop me from wanting to get my face too close.

The creek is calmer today, though it seems to have picked up over the last 10 minutes. Two clusters of foam have formed under the rock that I am sitting on. It’s 7:26, and the sun is not yet visible but it seems to be rising quickly. A patch of the moss seems to have come off; it was ailing before and now it looks like it has been sloughed off in places. I don’t see any newts, but they are the same reddish-brown color as the rocks lining the creek, so they might be camouflaged. The creek is slightly lower that its been before; I barely had to worry about getting my feet dirty as I walked to my rock. The creekbed is full of rocks, mostly large ones that are exposed and dry on top. Dry pine needles are on top of them - long (10+ in) needles that are clustered in threes. A banana slug is perched on top of one rock. Either it just appeared or I just noticed it.” –Sara De Roy

by Charlotte Lippincott, Farm to Table Manager - March 17, 2016
This week in Farm to Table class, we explored coevolution, fermentation and the gut!
The human microbiome is arguably understated, considering how central it is to our experience of health, wellness and life itself. The gut assimilates the food we eat into nutrients while also moderating our immunity, detoxification, brain development, energy levels, cell regeneration, and countless other body systems. As such, these crafty little inhabitants of our microvilli serve as the mediators between our selves and the world around us. They also constitute a world within us: scientists believe that at least half of the cells in our body belong to microbes, constituting over 10,000 species. So when you “trust your gut”, you are taking advice from trillions upon trillions of microbial voices. Our microbiome is amazing!
After getting better acquainted with our microcosmic counterparts, we discussed the benefits of fermentation and made kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish. Students split into stations and chopped and grated napa cabbage, green onions, carrots, daikon radish, garlic and ginger. Together we salted and massaged the veggies with chili flakes and pack them tightly into jars, to be shared after spring break. We tasted kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, and some homemade pickled limes; it's always exciting to watch students react to new tastes, or see their eyes light up with familiar flavors. Fermented foods have a more profound place in our diet than many may realize; cheese, yogurt and kefir, coffee, bread, beer and wine, soy sauce and most other condiments, pickles and some meats and fish we have subsisted on, thanks to the process of fermentation, for thousands of years. Only relatively recently has Western culture waged a war against bacteria, and within our current industrialized food model we are increasingly disconnected from the process of growing, preparing, preserving, healing and connecting through our food.  

As we explore fermentation in Farm to Table class, we find so many ways in which it connects to our greater values of peace, justice and sustainability.  The process of fermentation is an opportunity to reconnect with our food, our communities, and our own power to heal. It creates a space to celebrate food stories and locate ourselves within many intertwined, rich cultural histories. It is an opportunity to reconfigure our roles as consumers in a fragile, fossil-fueled, sterilized, capitalist food model. And it is an opportunity to proactively support the health of our body systems and communities outside of the pharmaceutical-dominated biomedical model. 

And it is a chance to share good company, microbial and human alike!
by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Thinking Teacher - March 11, 2016

A century of water control, a decade of conflict, a round table of perspectives. Last week in Global Thinking class we simulated a mediation circle of the Klamath River Dam Conflict. Based on student research on the issue, our simulation examined the multitude of perspectives that contribute to the ongoing struggles of the Klamath River basin along the border of California and Oregon. The Klamath River has been dammed for over a century, and as the leases on several of the dams begin to expire the future of the dams, and thus the future of the landscape and health of the river basin, are brought into question. We took to the task of analyzing the options: to dam or not to dam?

In preparation for the simulated mediation, students first outlined all of the parties involved in the conflict. This included local fisherfolk, indigenous communities, industrial agriculture enterprises, state and national governments, and Pacificorp, the giant corporation who built the dams for hydro-electricity. We then broke into small groups to dig further into the perspectives of each party involved. We found that the dams have affected each party in unique ways. If the dams remain, ecosystems would continue to be altered and salmon populations would be further endangered, threatening the livelihoods of the already marginalized indigenous communities that have lived along the river for generations. If the dams come down, large-scale farms and ranches up stream would lose a hefty portion of their irrigation source. And who would fund the removal or refurbishing of the dams?

It was incredible to watch students come alive as they took on the roles of those affected by the decision. Fisherfolk went head to head with Big Ag; representatives of indigenous communities called on the government to uphold their protective agreements; even Mother Nature herself had a voice at the table! To say that the simulation was exciting would be an understatement. As a perfectly appropriate mirror to the reality of the issue, we were of course unable to come to consensus in a mere class period. The activity nonetheless provided a powerful demonstration of the intersection between multiple perspectives, systemic violence, media literacy, environmental justice and other themes we've been exploring in class throughout the semester. And it was a wonderful segway into the water trip the following weekend where students put theoretical learning into practice!

Photo Caption: Students gather with local river scientist, Chris Friedel, at Englebright Dam to discuss hyrdraulic mining and the impact on Yuba salmon populations.

by Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher - March 9, 2016

On Saturday, Feb 27th, Wounded Knee Liberation Day, Woolman students took action in solidarity with students across the country to demand clemency for American Indian Movement hero Leonard Peltier. Earlier this semester, a dear friend of mine in Albuquerque invited me to take up this national call to action. I was excited to learn about the National Student Day of Action for healing and justice and brought the proposal to the students who enthusiastically took up the call. 


Leonard Peltier was active in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and fought against oppression and injustice of Indigenous People in the United States. Over 40 years ago, he was wrongfully convicted in the death of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Peltier is a political prisoner and a victim of the FBIs COINTELPRO program, which used imprisonment as a tool to silence radical movement leaders. Peltier’s health is currently failing and he does not have adequate access to healthcare. Peltier’s critical health issue paired with it being Obama’s last year in office makes now the time for Peltier to finally be granted clemency.

To prepare for the action we watched videos, read articles and letters, and discussed the importance of Leonard Peltier’s freedom.  Organizing started with a group of 6 of us one evening around a table in the dining hall. We decided to go to the state’s capitol of Sacramento to march with "Clemency Now for Peltier" banners, chants, signs, flyers, and postcards to Obama.  Some of us organized an art party to make signs and banners and listened to Free Leonard Peltier: Hip Hop's Contribution to the Freedom Campaign.

Thanks to a Woolman alumni, we learned of another Indigenous solidarity action happening in Sacramento that same day so we started the day by joining them. The Apache Stronghold organized a powerful Save Oak Flat march and rally in solidarity with the San Carlos Apache to protect their sacred ancestral homeland that is being threatened by an international copper mining company. After marching to the capitol and many powerful conversations with Save Oak Flat protesters, students headed to the Farmers Market to start demonstrating for clemency.  They then marched up J street with chanting: “One: We want justice. Two: for Leonard Peltier. Three: Clemency Now!” Check out this photo album from the day’s events.

At the end of the day we had collected nearly 60 postcards for Obama! In reflecting on the action, students were grateful for the opportunity to take action and learned a lot about themselves. They gained skills and experience with writing press releases, contacting news outlets, creating banners and signs, doing social media outreach, leading chants, and engaging people on the street to comment and take action.  I asked them to make connections between colonization at home and US imperialism abroad and to critically consider their own role as a group of mainly settlers taking action for indigenous rights.

One of the powerful observations students made was in their comparison of how they were received by different groups of people.  At the farmers market, people were generally not very interested in what students had to say.  At Cesar Chavez Plaza, however, students met many people without homes who were not only interested in what students had to say but appreciative for their action and offered material support for the cause. 

In organizing and taking action, students were able to directly apply the concepts of peace, justice, power, privilege, systemic oppression, violence, allyship, and collective liberation that we have learned about in Peace Studies class. The students are currently organizing their own actions around issues that they are passionate about and/or directly affected by such as mental health, justice for queer and undocumented people, and reproductive rights – stay tuned for updates on those projects. 

If you are reading this, please take the time to email, call 202-456-1111, or write President Obama at The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 to demand clemency now!  For more information about organizing for Peltier's freedom visit: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/ and watch Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story.

by Carl Sigmond (Spring 09), Operations Manager - December 28, 2015

Reflection and hope have been very alive at Woolman this month. Three weeks ago, we gathered as a wider community (students, interns, staff, Board members, alumni, donors, and F/friends of Woolman) to envision the future of Woolman. Facilitated by Drew Smith, the Executive Director of Friends Council on Education, we spent a weekend reflecting on what Woolman does well, what we can do better, and our hopes for the future of our school. 

We created a list of bold goals for Woolman that build on our strengths and will guide our way to the future. We envision a brighter future with enhanced support for staff, improved facilities, abundant financial resources, robust enrollment, wider sharing of Woolman’s unique curriculum, and ongoing commitment to empowering diverse young people.

There was an energy and an aliveness coming out of the envisioning weekend and a shared sense of hope and readiness to get to work on these goals. We will be forming a steering committee to discern ways forward, to set priorities for Woolman, and to start making our goals realities.

We all shared an intense love for Woolman that weekend, for the land and what we do in community on it, and for the spirit of Woolman that grows more alive and vibrant with each new semester. I was one of two people present during the Envisioning Weekend who had been Woolman Semester students, Woolman interns, and staff members, and I am the only alum currently on full-time staff. Given this relationship with Woolman, it was a true honor for me to participate in this historic event at Woolman, an event that will influence the direction of our school. 

by Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher - December 22, 2015

Every semester the Global Thinking and Peace Studies classes take a weeklong trip to the Bay Area called the Radical Learning for Change Trip (Rad Trip).  The intention of the trip is to connect classroom themes to real examples of people working for peace and social justice as well as for the students to recognize themselves as agents of change.  This Fall we were honored to have trainings, visits, presentations, and engaging workshops with East Point Peace Academy, BAY Peace, Youth Spirit Artworks, American Friends Service Committee, Beehive Collective, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Tri Valley CARES, Casa de Paz, and the Berkeley Poetry Slam.

The following student testimonies were gathered from reflection essays the students wrote for Peace Studies:

“Each student here at Woolman is unique in that they have tapped into their deepest desires to learn, to ask questions, to be vulnerable, and to put themselves in uncomfortable situations in order to understand something bigger than themselves. We practice that here everyday, and it was a truly amazing experience to see that other people are practicing it, too. […] We made our way through the city in our van packed full, learning about Kingian nonviolence, about spreading awareness through art, about the power of youth as changemakers. Each day we became more hopeful of a future we thought we were alone in desiring. In each moment I witnessed my classmates changing before my eyes, saw their fists clench tighter, as if in preparation to fight off all injustices. I wonder if they saw a change in me.” –Sophie Merrill

“Hearing the stories of the organizations we visited really made me value the effort these people put into their work. I think the main thing that I learned on this trip was that the stories are what drive passion. Everything from Casa de Paz to Bay Peace wouldn’t exist without people who care. People whose voices were heard and incited change with art, vigils, acting, and most of all, stories.” –Lena Connolly

“Overall, the RAD Trip filled me with a sense of family, comfort, discomfort, inspiration, grief, empowerment, enlightenment, fatigue, energy, analytical-ness, perception, and an overflow of emotion all at once. This trip was just another milestone of Woolman that has, is, and always will, change my perception of the world, life, justice, and me as a person.” –Victory Amos-Nwankwo

“Going back to my home town and talking about social justice movements made me proud to live in a community that’s about change. This is important to me to acknowledge the importance of how we affect the lives around us and to take action in making that first step to a brighter future.” –Stephon Brewster

“It made me realize that, me as a youth, I have the power to change the systems that oppress people. […] I not only heard people talking about oppression, I got to see it in different forms. I saw it through artivism, I watched it through films, I experienced the feelings, and most inspiringly, I heard it through the stories of those who have been or are victims of oppression. Nothing is more powerful than being exposed to the real side of oppression here in the U.S. Through this experience of the Rad trip I learned there is hope because the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.[…] Throughout the whole Rad trip I’ve collected so much passion, wanting to be the change I want to see in the world by being nonviolent and just being involved. Albert Einstein said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” This is the generation to fight for peace and we can't sit there and watch the world go by because that’s saying it's okay for the privileged to oppress the oppressed, and it's not. If we fight, the worst that can happen is that we might lose, but if we don't fight we’ve already lost. The Rad trip really sparked the passion in me to want to fight (with peace). It gave me the passion to want to open everyone's eyes up because we have so much power as the people, we just don't know it.” -Isolde Harpell


Here are student reactions to a few of the specific organizations we visited:

“One of the stops that was the most memorable to me was the East Point Peace Academy, where Kazu, Sima, and Stephanie taught the students and I a new perspective on nonviolence: the Kingian nonviolence. Apparently, when you take the hyphen out of ‘non-violence’ you get ‘nonviolence’, which has a completely different denotation. ‘Non-violence’ is simply the lack of violence, the abstinence from the violence; whereas, ‘nonviolence’ is the action of taking measures to prevent or rid the world of violence in general. This really resonates with me because everyday, there are many who everyday, decide to take the ‘non-violent’ route in life; perhaps it is because that way is simply easier, perhaps it is out of fears. I have also been a part of that crowd that simply stands in the background and who does not engage in the violence, yet makes no move to prevent it; because “if we express any emotion while talking about it, we’re tone policed, told we're being angry”, and society does not accept people being ‘overly’ passionate about what they believe in.” –Victory Amos-Nwankwo

“Later that day, Woolman visited my art program called Youth Spirit Artworks that works with homeless youth from ages 16 to 25, Youth Spirit Artworks is a place where you can come and do art and have the freedom of expression in an artistic way. Youth Spirit Artworks works with different groups such as Black lives Matter and Mural project. I was filmed for a documentary that’s called lost in America that talks about homeless youth in america and how it impacts their lives. In the process of getting filmed I felt sad having to repeat some of the hardships in my life but at the same time I felt a kind of liberation from my sadness to be able to talk about what my truth is being homeless in America. This experience had given me a voice to express my true strength for what it is and knowing other people was doing the same made me proud of the action I was taking. Being at Youth Spirit Artworks has made me more of a self aware person as far as being able to express myself through art and sharing that with my community makes me feel like an inspiration for others.” –Stephon Brewster

“Aaron’s [IVAW] presentation intrigued me to no end. I liked how he didn’t sugar coat the terrors of war and tried to paint a pretty picture. No, he showed us the atrocities of war, the reasons behind it, the corruption of the entire military. We can’t call it a sensitive topic when people, not terrorists, are being killed by the thousands because of money and resources, or as they say in America “freedom and democracy”.  I understand the way he said things might have made people uncomfortable, but what made me feel uncomfortable wasn’t his language, it was the realization that our country has gotten away with so many murders and no one bats an eye about that. The military is so corrupt it takes up about $598.5 billion (54%) from Discretionary Spending. In all honesty Iraq’s Veteran’s Against the War had the biggest impact on me. I knew some of what he was talking about, but the way Aaron went into detail with things just got me thinking a lot.” –Brian Gil-Rios

“It was amazing how much emotion had flooded into my stomach from realizing that our nation's prison systems are completely unjust. Jerry, who worked for the organization [AFSC], told us a story about how he was in prison for committing a serious crime, and somehow managed to change his direction and become very “successful” in life. I was very inspired about his story, but then I began questioning the treatment of every other person in prison, who potentially could also be contributing to our world. The government and private corporations are throwing people in jail as a solution to an issue, when in reality, the prison system is the issue.” –Maisie Rising

“The final, most prominent theme throughout the RAD Trip was the power of youth intersecting with both stories and art. BAY Peace is a place that intersected all three: youth leadership, art, and storytelling. BAY Peace is a youth organization that studies social justice through theatre of the oppressed. They used artistic improv games to spread awareness of social justice and environmental issues.  By setting up in a park for a performance, they are giving onlookers free access to art and to education about oppression. We played many games relating to gentrification in the area of Oakland. After spending time in Oakland, in the downtown area I could tell that people felt as though their city had been stolen. Their town focused on tourists, on wealthier residents, but not on the people whose whole lives belonged in Oakland. I especially think this is important because several of my classmates here at Woolman live in Oakland. I have noticed the immense pride that they have for their hometown, and I hate that it could be stolen by wealthy people looking to add to their already huge collection of systemic privileges.” –Lena Connolly


Several students made commitments to the change they want to see in the world:

“The moment my passion filled up with rage, was when we came to my hometown, Livermore. The home of the Lawrence Livermore Lab and the Sandia Lab. We visited an organization called Tri Valley CARES that monitors the Lab to make sure it isn’t harming anyone and isn’t polluting our Earth. Also it is to make sure the lab isn’t doing any harmful testings. They are the organization that tests the water, soil, and air in my town to see if it has any harmful chemicals. So far there has been in the past. […] I can’t just go home and live my life day by day without a fear of my water, soil, and air being polluted. That’s why I’m going to join Tri Valley CARES and help end the nuclear testing in my hometown. I want a plutonium free future, so that’s why i'm going to take action with this group.” –Isolde Harpell

“My goal as I emerge from the Woolman cocoon is to continue to push through despair as I learn more about the hard realities of the world, as I strive to empathize with those who are not benefiting from the white privilege I benefit from. I vow to bear witness to and call out injustice even when it is scary, even when it makes me feel anxious or frustrated, even when I make mistakes. There are many ways to do this - maybe I will work through my despair by talking about it, making meaningful connections with people from different cultures or by connecting with nature - the ultimate non-judgmental mother. But I will definitely commit to find balance and not just focus on the negatives but also get in touch with the beauty of differences and culture and society. I will bear witness to and call out both injustice and beauty in the world, and use what I learn to make lasting change in the world.” –Sophie Merrill

“The Radical Learning for Change trip inspired me to find my passion and method in which I can make a change. My goal is to start writing more songs about issues I am passionate about. Sometimes when I am very passionate about something I get a feeling inside of me, nagging me to express this, and I choose music as my method of sharing my opinions. I also have been interested in art therapy because art moves me in a way that is very therapeutic. Art, music, theatre, these are all ways to catch people’s hearts and minds and connect them to the issues that are present in this world and need to be acted upon.” –Sophia Mueller