Woolman Blog

by Joe Beatty, Community Intern & Peace Studies Teaching Assistant - April 7, 2015

Picture this....  April rain.  April rain heavy.  April rain bulky.  April Snow.  The garden apprentice from Tinseltown gasps.  Eyes wide.  It is her first snow.  Before this, white April had only been a dream.  As she dashes for the door she slips on the kitchen floor already muddy from the rainy night before.  She giggles with glee, excited about the plump snowflakes and rattled from her near fall.  Outside the snowflakes fall thick on our hair, dazzling our smiles.  Down south, in her hometown, Los Angeles is shriveling like a stale plum.  But for a moment the bald snowpacks and empty aquifers are forgotten, and we could be elves, feeling wonderful in a wonderland.  Twenty minutes later the snow is gone and the dream is over.


by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator and Kitchen Manager - April 3, 2015

I'm Flo and I turned one year old last week!  What does it mean to be a one-year old goat?  I can do ANYTHING.   I can run really really fast while hopping sideways, backways, upways, and downways pretty much all at the same time.  While your favorite food is probably "sweet" or "spicy" or something silly ...  mine falls into the category of "anything with a lot of thorns" (thistle! blackberries! roses! locust!), which is to say my tongue is tougher than yours.  I eat poison oak.  What is my purpose in life?  To sneak into the school office if the door is left open and play king of the mountain on top of computer desks.  

But, I do get scared sometimes, which makes me sneeze. 
If you like adventure, spontaneous dance moves and authentic self-expression, fruit orchards and head-butting ... come play with me!!!  We can take on the world together. 
by Kat Globerson, Community Intern '14-'15 - April 1, 2015
When I first learned about the Woolman internship, one component that piqued my curiosity was the mentorship program. The idea of being a mentor for a group of teens was intriguing but also nebulous—what exactly does being a mentor look like? Is there some particular way one acts as a mentor? Throughout my time here, I have been delightfully surprised by the many ways that mentorship exists here at Woolman. I have also come to realize that the richness of the mentorship program lies in the mutual growth that comes from mentoring relationships—it turns out that Woolman students are in many ways just as much mentors as are Woolman interns. For me, at the heart of mentorship is a willingness to listen deeply and to give joyfully in order to make life more wonderful, as we say in Non-Violent Communication. Mentorship at Woolman is about being medicine for others when we are able, and allowing others to be medicine for us when we need it, whether in matters of academic obstacles, relationships in and outside of Woolman or grief for the hardships we see in our world. Of course, mentorship here is also about fun and celebration. From working through college essays, kitchen baking and dance parties, trips to the Yuba River, and long one-on-ones over lunch or on the hammocks, mentorship has proven to be a hard to define yet central component of what makes our community so strong here. I am grateful for the variety of ways that I have been able to foster relationships that inspire growth, understanding and straight up gratitude for the chance to share this life with so many lovely humans.  
Mentor & Mentee, Emily Spognardi and Jasmine Rosalbo, Fall 2014

by Sadie Weinberger, Community Intern '14-'15 - March 31, 2015

Springtime has arrived at Woolman! Jackets and sweaters are being shed, the days are getting longer, and temperatures are rising, much to everyone's enjoyment. The garden is waking up, the orchard is in full bloom, and some of the plum trees are already sprouting their leaves.

Maggie, Bri, and the interns have been hard at work for a month pruning the apple, pear, and plum trees. After hours of staring at fruit trees and planning our cuts, our hard work started to pay off as we became more and more familiar with the structure and growth of the trees. They are looking happy and healthy heading into warmer temperatures, and we are looking forward to a bounty of fresh fruit come fall. 

Everyone is hard at work in the garden, too. We've been tilling, bed prepping, laying irrigation, and transplanting hundreds of plants. Baby cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce plants are poking their heads up and greeting the spring! Our asparagus starts, which have been in the greenhouse for a year, are finally in the ground. Though we won't see them matured for another year, their fuzzy green tops adorn the beds and bring joy to the garden.

During shared work, the whole community contributes to getting the garden ready for summer. Below, students and staff weed beds of garlic.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Farm Apprentice - March 16, 2015

My name is Brianna Beyrooty, I'm the new Farm Apprentice at Woolman. For the next 9 months I will be working in the garden, experiencing a full season of farming. From Permaculture to weeding, I'm excited to get my hands dirty and see what this beautiful earth has to offer!

The great thing about the garden here at Woolman is that we are always looking for ways to improve and expand our thinking when it comes to gardening. Permaculture gives us the principles to do so, and is a great way to live in a sustainable way within our garden walls. The more we can reflect and observe nature’s already complex system we can take from that system and mimic what we see to have a more sustainable, ecological, and well-rounded environment.  
In our Farm to Table course students can directly see the principles they are learning about take effect in their own campus garden! Here are some principles of Permaculture that we use every day in the Woolman Garden on campus:
Sheet Mulching!
This is our sheet mulching between our raspberries. Sheet Mulching is a way to emulate nature’s own forest floor, sheet mulching is done by laying cardboard sheets down, along with a composting a material then finishing with a layer of mulch on top. By sheet mulching we can eliminate the need for weeding as well as protecting and giving good nutrients to the soil as the cardboard and organic materials disintegrate over time. 
Forest Garden!
Our forest garden creates a native place for plants to naturally work together with each other. It’s low maintenance and gives the local flora and fauna a great place to interact. 
When we compost we take leftover food from our dining hall and let earth transform it into nutrient rich soil for our garden. This eliminates waste from our school and turns our food into our own usable treasure! 
We installed swale in our garden last Fall, we have two 75 foot swales that collect run off water from the soccer field. Otherwise this water was flooding our garden during rainfall, so now we can slow down the runoff and spread it so it will slowly sink deep into the soil. The swale is directed into a 100-foot French drain to maximize drainage, minimize erosion and prevent water from flooding our garden plots.
by Keithlee Spangler, Community Intern 2014-2015 - March 7, 2015

Each semester, the community interns plan a pretty rad trip to somewhere in California for the students to catch a break, get away from schoolwork, and let the campus rest for a few days. This semester, we took our students down the coast to Big Sur, California for a few days of beaching, hiking, swimming, resting, s’mores-making, and exploring.

Day One: We left Woolman at 8:00am (on time!) to start our day of driving. We stopped in Las Trampas Wilderness – it looked like the Shire! – for a picnic lunch and a chance to stretch our legs with a short hike up the grassy hills. We finished the drive around 3:00pm at Plaskett Creek Campground to set up camp and catch a beach sunset.

 photo by Pedro

Day Two: Six-mile round-trip hike up to some stunning views of the Pacific Ocean with a stop for lunch on the trail. We headed back to the campground to drop off gear, have a surprise snack (chips!), and head over to the beach to explore, swim, and play.

 photo by Pedro


Day Three: We packed up camp early in the morning and were on the road by 8:00am to drive North to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was driving the suburban on the winding and beautiful CA-1 byway, watching rainbows appear seemingly behind every turn, while Lily played an acoustic guitar and everyone sang along for the two-hour ride.



After the aquarium – where we saw jellyfish, stingrays, sea turtles, puffins and penguins, giant tunas, tiny sardines, octopi, and hammerhead sharks – we headed to Taqueria Santa Cruz for a taco dinner. We drove back to Woolman that night for pack-in and cozy cabin fires.


by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - March 7, 2015

For the past two weeks students have been researching different aspects of our campus and looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption. Yesterday students presented their energy audits to the class, and in the coming weeks we will be implementing the changes that they've recommended. The first group looked at our dish sanitizer and alternatives to it.

Based off their research they will be proposing to the community that we save energy by washing dishes by hand for a week. We will see how that method serves or does not serve the community.

The next group — Alex, Pedro, and Wade presented on our wood stoves and their efficiency. 

What was most interesting for them and the class was how inefficient space heaters are and the benefits of EPA certified wood stoves. We have written grants in the past, through the Strawberry Creek Meeting Dime-A-Gallon Grant, to replace old wood stoves with EPA certified ones, and this research supports doing so again.

We then heard about Woolman's vehicle use, and a proposal to buy a two-seater leaf car for short town trips, which we will be looking into. Finally, Lily and Luz presented on cabin lights. They looked into switching them to motion sensing lights and/or timer lights. Their data showed that switching the porch lights of all 8 cabins to motion sensing would cost about $100, but pay for itself in a year. They will be proposing this change to the community next Wednesday.

I am excited for the impact these students will have on the campus and for the understanding that they gained while doing these projects. Their knowledge will transfer to where ever they go when the leave Woolman, and will hopefully have a positive impact on those communities as well.

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - March 4, 2015

Happy March! It is hard to believe that the semester started almost six weeks ago. We have some updates for you from different aspects of Woolman life, written by various teachers.

Students and interns had a gorgeous 3 days on Staycation last weekend! They headed down the coast to the Big Sur region, camping at Plaskett Creek campground which bore a lovely resemblance to Frodo and Bilbo’s shire. A 6 mile hike up the switchbacks of the Cruickshank Trail was well worth the trek when met with epic oceanic views at the summit and a West Coast sunset at the shore in the evening. Saturday morning started early to get down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While the tentacle exhibit was incredible, the simple pleasures of double rainbows, tacos, and accoustic melodies of fellow students were a wonderful completion to a weekend away. 

In Peace Studies students just finished a unit on oppression, power, privilege, and allyship. This week they started learning about US empire, militarism and native sovereignty. Here is a link to one of their readings by feminist activist Andrea Smith. In Peace Projects class the students came to a consensus that for their collective action organizing project they want to focus on three issues: Pro-Choice, Immigration Rights and Islamophobia. In groups they have been researching each issue and will present this week on the root causes and effects of injustices and articulate their own visions for social change on their issue. We will then as a class look at the intersectionality of each issue and dream up an action to implement that will address all three.
Woolman’s Technology Committee is organizing Tech Free Day challenges for the campus. These are opportunities for us to explore our relationship to and dependency on the various forms of technology in our lives. All community members will be encouraged to leave their cell phones behind and be intentional about using as little electricity as possible. Our first challenge will take place next Wednesday, March 11 on the five-year anniversary of the tsunami and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. We will be joining forces with efforts around the world to take a stand for clean, safe, and sustainable power by unplugging from the grid.
The attached pictures show Lily playing with the bluegrass Fruit Jar Pickers in Rough and Ready, CA, gnocchi and quiche meals, students working on EnviSci energy audits, and pruning in the orchard.
by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Thinking Teacher - March 2, 2015

In one of our first units in Global Thinking, we examined how each of us views the world. What parts of our identity, backgrounds, experiences, and other aspects of our selves influence our perspectives? Where do our biases and opinions come from? Multiple perspectives is a key theme that we will explore throughout the semester, and students began by digging deep within themselves and shared what makes up their unique worldview.




by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - February 12, 2015

The semester is in full swing! After a week of orientation, and a hectic first week of classes, people are starting to find their rhythm. Each of the teachers have written about their classes for this update.


The students hit the ground running in terms of being introduced to and grasping the basic concepts of NVC.  On their second day here in orientation week we identified what values/life qualities would be present in their ideal community and what we were willing to do to live into or out of those values. In our first NVC class we looked at what gets in the way of us living like this all the time. This led us to exploring right/wrong, good/bad thinking and how that naturally flows into a system of punishments and rewards and named that way of living as a "power over" culture. The whole process and consciousness of NVC was presented as a choice to explore a "power with" culture instead. Next class we will continue to explore what it means to embody a value that we deeply care about so we may better meet hard and challenging moments from a place of fullness, without judgements or blame.


In Environmental Science, we began the semester hiking around Woolman’s campus, learning about the land and what we will be covering. We then shared our experiences with science and our dreams for this class. We are now studying global warming and the biases commonly associated with both sides of the issue. From here we will delve into energy, and groups of students will be doing an energy audit of different aspects of Woolman’s campus.


In Peace Studies we began by sharing our hopes and fears and envisioning the world in which we want to live. We also made collective agreements with the goal of creating a safer space for learners who support, challenge, and affirm each other. In this introductory unit we are building a theoretical foundation drawing on concepts of peace, violence, power and interconnection. We are exploring the power of voicing our truths and transforming our silences in to action for peace and justice. This week students wrote and shared powerful “Where I’m From” poems.


In Global Thinking, we began by exploring what it means to be a global citizen, working off the idea that we are all interconnected to each other and thus in order to be agents of change we must start by changing our own lifestyles. We have examined our individual worldviews and what parts of our identities and experiences help shape our perspectives. This week we began our unit on media literacy with a TED Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi


In Farm to Table, we started with a class on fruit tree pruning, which we will be practicing all spring as we maintain our orchard. During shared work, several students learned to create trays of seedlings, which will be transplanted to the fields in April. This week we are talking about why growing, preparing, and consuming our own foods is a form of activism.


Sorry, we don’t have many pictures from class… yet! But here are some from the Contra dance we took students to this past weekend, shared work, and community meeting. Oh, and a Valentine’s Day gift Eli and Andrew gave to Wade!


by Jasmine Rosalbo, a recent graduate of the Fall 2014 semester - December 16, 2014

When I think of intersectionality,

I see a venn diagram of overlapping social categories

I see colorful pasta intertwined to make mutually constructed identities

I see runners on a track

I see obstacles set in front of them

On the basis of their race

and gender

I see privilege and the power to oppress

I see multi layered oppression of people of color

I see gender, race, class, sexuality

a checklist of categories that place us within the patriarchal hierarchy we call our world

But when I translate this to to world around me, and to feminism

I see a huge part of the media portraying white middle class heterosexual cisgendered ablebodied men and women as humanity

I see politicians claiming neutral politics

That serve this fictional majority

I see a public space filled with institutions

That were built to serve the hegemonic masculinity

and oppress the other

I see the center of knowledge production operated by white men claiming objectivity

Where are the people of color?

Where are the colonized?

Where are the disabled people?

Where are those who lie outside the recognized boundaries?

This is what needs to be seen

This is what needs to be made visible

These are the voices that need to be heard

This is the call that can reshape economic structures of oppression and exclusion

Which can unmask the identity of the “neutral” citizen

Which will show that his privilege is built upon the exploitation and discrimination of the marginalized

But how can the concept of intersectionality be more than just a buzzword?

More than a checklist of static identity categories

And instead something that is used to really take into account

The complex forms of discrimination

Shaped by history

And social structures

As a white middle class cisgendered woman

And a bearer of privilege,

I am trying to understand the ways i reproduce systems of oppression

So that i may be apart of deconstructing them

I am not humanity

I am not women

I am not objective

I am a standpoint in solidarity with,

and recognition of society's many unique and complex identities


In other words, I hope for solidarity.

I hope for understanding, gender starscapes and fluidity

I hope to bring compassion for the unknown

And recognition of the need to listen, I hope for humility.

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - December 4, 2014
Another semester has sped past all too quickly, and I wanted to take this chance to share some highlights from Environmental Science.

    Food Intensive

Learning about grafting at Wolfskill Experimental Orchard & Picking strawberries at Swanton Berry Farms

What seems like forever ago — late September — the students journeyed to the Bay Area and Santa Cruz to learn more about the unseen sides of agriculture.  We toured Swanton Berry Farm and learned about socially just farming, Bi-valve Clover Dairy and saw the inner workings of a 600-cow operation, and UC Davis’s Feedlot and GMO Seed Lab. Spencer Wollan, a current Woolman student, says, “Until I went on the food trip, I never realized the complexity surrounding the issue of GMOs.” All of our stops, from distribution centers to living plant libraries and even a Jelly Belly factory tour provided us with new information, perspectives, and questions to pursue.


Ecology Research Presentations

Wild Turkey Jeopardy & Thistle on thistles
Delving into the wilderness surrounding Woolman, students chose one organism to research and present to the class. Through these spotlights on individual species, we gathered a larger sense of the ecology of the land. Emily Spognardi, a community intern and environmental science class T.A. says, “Turkey Jeopardy was a refreshing way to connect and learn about local wildlife!”




Sustainability Projects

Woolman well data for this semester & Ceramic coffee filters to replace plastic ones

Students have been working hard throughout the semester on their Sustainability Projects. Some projects include creating a student library, plastic awareness, well water monitoring and awareness, cataloging what is grown in the Woolman garden, a chicken guide, and fire circle renovation. Come see our presentations December 6th at 2:00 pm!
by Dorothy Henderson, Interim Head of School - December 3, 2014
As I write this, I am warmed by the fire in my wood stove, awaiting the warmth of the almost-winter sun to take the chill off the day.  On these clear cold mornings it is easy to feel grateful for the simplicity of a full stack of wood and kindling, for the pink and azure sunrise, for the quiet of an early morning at Woolman. Gratitude fills the space.
This morning I am grateful for the young people who take the risk of leaving home to come to Woolman. Some travel across the country, some leave the inner city, some leave suburban prep schools. All of them leave what is known, what is familiar, and their time at Woolman becomes a living laboratory of what it really means to practice equality and peace, to try to live in harmony and understanding with others. 
This morning I am grateful for this living laboratory, this container that we are trying to create to hold these young people as they find their way. Within this container, we have deepened our roots in Friends faith and practice, strengthened our teaching and learning of Nonviolent Communication and instituted restorative justice circles as part of our response to community discord. 
This morning I am grateful for the abundant community discord that has emerged as we endeavor to live these practices, to create this container. We have described our effort as an experiment and within this experiment we struggle. Again and again, we need to remind ourselves and each other to come back to our faith that it is possible to find that of God, that of Truth, in all. That we can bring the core of nonviolence to all that we do and say. That love is an action, not just a feeling. 
This morning I am grateful to be a part of a Quaker school.  As the only Quaker semester school, we are held in the larger container of a 325-year history of Friends education in this country that prepares young people to live lives of integrity and meaning.  We draw strength and support from this history and community.
Finally this morning I am grateful for you, the reader of this newsletter and blog, for taking the time to share this moment. I hope that this message inspires you to stop and reflect on what in your life fills you with gratitude.
by Maggie McProud, Farm-to-Table Coordinator - December 2, 2014

It’s been a very busy season in the garden this year!  The fields have been put to bed and are bursting with a think blanket of cover crop spouts.  Our community has been working hard all year to tend and celebrate the little sweet spot on our campus that provides such bounty.  Since January we built a new and very nice green house, remodeled our beehive, installed a huge drainage system as well as three water catchment elements to preserve our soils, reduce run- off and increase the water holding capacity on site.  All the while, we're pumping out hundreds of pounds of the freshest of foods, rich in nutrients for our community in as well as inspiring young people through garden education.  We had a wonderful season with our small and loyal CSA members.  Woolman has also been selling produce to Summerthyme’s Bakery, where we are featured in their weekly specials. Wow, no wonder we're tired! A huge THANK YOU to the students, interns, staff, visiting students and volunteers who all played a part in making this season a success!

In the Intern Garden Class and Farm to Table, we've started exploring the ethics and principles of Permaculture.  Permaculture is best described as "a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all it’s forms. It seeks to provide a sustainable and secure place for living things on this earth."  It's been a wonderful and interesting opportunity to brainstorm ways we might design our lives to be more ecologically and socially resilient in this time of globalization. In the Woolman garden, we hope to inspire mutually beneficial approaches to life though observation, careful thought, smart work and cooperation, leaving plenty of room for imagination and enjoyment. As Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them."

by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator - December 2, 2014

The Woolman Community Intern Program forms an essential thread that helps to weave together the fabric of life here at Woolman. On any given day, you will find these magic-makers creating beautiful meals, planting seeds, harvesting roots, connecting with students, hugging, laughing, crying, supporting – doing the invaluable work of the heart – an organ that doesn't just pump blood through the body, but synergizes all of its cells, organs and systems. Indeed the interns here combine really hard work and deep heart-work, in a way that allows unique and emergent life to flow through the veins of this community. 

The classes we teach here deal a lot with how to live in a time of great change, and how to hold oneself and each other lovingly as beings who are constantly changing and growing.  I am excited to teach Cooking & Nutrition Class to the interns this semester, as I see it as an opportunity to look at this truth through a different window.  What are the interconnected systems inside our physical bodies that inspire our one emotional, mental, spiritual dynamic life?  What do we know about these physiological systems, and how do we know it?  How do our bodies relate to the Earth, and what role does food play in this relationship?  Every Thursday morning, interns come to prepare a meal for the community together and spend time considering the story of food as it moves through ecosystems and human hands, and the stories we tell ourselves that shape what the food does when it gets to our body.

Intern Seminar is a time to gather skills to celebrate and support life.  Thus far, we have had classes on: The Art of Live-Culture Fermentation, The Great Toilet Challenge (Plumbing 101), Woodworking I and II, Craniosacral Therapy Introduction – an example of the art of hands-on healing, and The Acorn Model:  A Nature-based Model for Mentoring and Community Building. This semester the interns are also taking a weekly Garden Seminar and a Non-violent Communication class, to widen and deepen their skill set as change-makers in the world.  

by Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher - December 2, 2014

“All Oppression is Connected” –Staceyann Chin

One of the most inspirational and exciting experiences for me all semester was co-organizing and co-facilitating the Global Issues and Peace Studies (GIPS) trip.  Our goal in designing the trip was to give our students the opportunity to see models of activism and social change in action in order to empower them to see themselves as agents of change.  We have been studying themes of peace, violence, and systemic oppression and wanted to present students with examples in the Bay Area of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts to challenge the status-quo and create just communities.  Being from the Bay Area, I was excited to collaborate with many friends and organizations whose work I admire and respect. 

The theme of our trip this fall was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech in which he states:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered”

We wanted to highlight the intersectionality of systemic oppression and violence as it manifests through the giant triplets of racism, capitalism, and militarism.  In class this semester we have been working with students to not only develop a critical consciousness of these intersecting oppressions in their daily lives but to envision, discuss, and act upon the change they want to see in the world.  From community murals and gardens to meditation circles to FOIA requests to nonviolent protest to creating alternative institutions, we wanted to provoke thoughts on different organizing styles and challenge students to examine which models of change resonate most with their own passions and communities.  Below you will find the schedule of activities from the week and a reflection piece by one of our students, Flannery Raabe. 








- Tri Valley CAREs presentation & perimeter tour of nuclear weapons lab

- Oscar Grant mural at Fruitvale Station

-Visit Canticle Farm

- Generation Waking Up workshop

-Political activism talk at Oakland City Hall

-AFSC presentation on the prison industry


-LLNL presentation at Discovery Center with weapons researcher

-Lunch and mural tour with 67 Sueños

-AORTA Solidarity Economics workshop

-Iraq Vets Against the War presentation

-Beehive Collective workshop/exhibition


-Watch Fruitvale Station


- Berkeley Poetry Slam

-Open house dinner

-East Point Peace Academy Nonviolence training & exchange w/ Youth Spirit Artworks


The GIPS trip was inspiring and educational. I was constantly considering the theme of our trip, the giant triplets of militarism, capitalism, and racism, and the idea that fear could be the root of all of them. One of the coolest parts of the trip, for me, was the nuclear and anti-nuclear places because they combined both environmental issues and human issues. On Monday, we talked to a group called Tri-Valley CAREs, an anti-nuclear community watchdog. Marylia Kelley, one of the two staff that the organization has, talked to us about the work her organization has done and about the work done in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She told us that as part of Tri-Valley CAREs, she has helped workers from Lawrence Livermore get compensation for injuries from a variety of things, especially exposure to radiation. Marylia’s organization helps provide the community an alternative to the militaristic nuclear lab through their work to expose the negative effects of the lab and provide paths of resistance. What really struck me about this organization was their willingness to work with the community, rather than hiding things from the community like the lab seemed to do. The collaboration seemed to be an important tool in community organizing.

After talking to Marylia, we talked to a few people who have spent almost 30 years working as part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Our group asked questions that were perhaps a little too attacking, but we were straight to the point and asked what we wanted to know. However, she seemed to evade most of our questions. Her answers were vague, and it seemed like she was often just repeating the question. We asked follow up questions in some cases to try to get a clearer answer, but she dodged even those. Overall, I left the lab feeling disappointed and suspicious of what she wasn’t saying when she avoided our questions. Maybe she just didn’t know the answers, but even that would cause me to worry a little bit. It’s also possible that she wasn’t allowed to disclose the answers and was trying to appease us best she could, but that would mean there is something to hide. Either way, the way the talk went made me suspicious, or at least uncomfortable. I’m wondering now how I would have felt if we had gone to the lab first and to Tri-Valley CAREs second, but, honestly, I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.

When we were visiting the lab, I felt like militarism and capitalism definitely influenced the work they do. Without the militaristic society we live in, we wouldn’t need the lab to keep the nuclear weapons we have fully functional. The tour guide admitted to being motivated by fear and it seemed to me that the whole lab’s militaristic ideology is motivated by fear and capitalistic values.  A lot of the values of capitalism we talked about in the AORTA workshop on Wednesday were present in the work of the lab. They seemed more interested in self preservation than things that are beneficial to the whole.

On Monday night, we watched the movie Fruitvale Station. This movie documented the last day of Oscar Grant’s life. Oscar was a young, black male living in Oakland, California. He had a girlfriend and they wereraising a daughter together. On the night he was murdered, he was taking the BART subway home from a New Year’s celebration. He was stopped by the police and ended up being shot. The inherent racism in our police system was clearly at play here and after hearing so much about police brutality in class and in the news, it was powerful to see a real story of the affects of racism in our police system. In addition, it seems to me that the “security” of the community is similar to the “security” of the nation through nuclear weapons — motivated by fear. Both nuclear weapons use and Oscar Grant’s murder were horrendous side effects of fear.        

Reflection by Flannery Raabe
Photos by Gray Horwitz

by Benjamin Hofvendahl, Student - November 30, 2014

Friday, Nobember 14th, marked the 124th firing of the oldest noborigama kiln in the U.S., built on Woolman soil in 1971 by a large crew, including Dick Hotchkiss, who runs it currently. Woolman students, local potters, and some from as far off as North Carolina came to our campus for this three-day event.

A noborigama is a Japanese style of kiln dating back to the 17th century. It features a large clay structure with multiple connected chambers situated on a slope.

Day 1:

We split rounds of cedar into massive rows of kindling.

We glazed our pieces together, and stacked them on shelves next to the kiln.

It was strange to see over 2,000 ceramic pieces, each individually and carefully crafted by so many different potters and sculptors, all fit into a single kiln.

The kiln doors were sealed shut late at night. A fire was built at the top to create suction, and another fire was built at the bottom. We stoked it until the fire glowed yellow-white and a searing kiln wind pulled from the bottom chamber out through the chimney.

Day 2:

We stoked the kiln all morning, all day, and into the night, in shifts.

One person pulls the stopper out, one throws the wood in, then shuts the stopper, all in one quick motion. It’s so hot that the wood explodes rather than burns.

The heat is intense, but it’s much more exciting than unpleasant. Except by the end of your shift, that is.

Day 3:

This is the time we'd been referring to as "Christmas morning."

We opened up the doors, and assembly-line passed thousands of hot ceramics into the open.

“No oggling. Keep the line moving.”

We oggled. I oggled quickly, caressed each piece with my hands as I passed it to the lady on my right, who was beaming back at me. Honestly, my heart was pounding with joy and excitement. I cannot overstate the emotional effect of watching all of these transformed pieces, hot out of the kiln and baked dark and smooth and vibrant, being passed out into the open. I saw each piece individually, and was briefly elated by its elegant form, its weight, the way its heat lingered on my hands, the rich dark interior or the the way the glazes interplay on the rim, before passing it to my right and taking the next on my left.

And finally, every piece was layed out together in the open, and all the artists walked among them, collecting their own, admiring others’, and talking.

There’s an element of unpredictability in the process that is fascinating. The upper chambers were hotter than the lower; the bottom one was more prone to scorching; reduction and oxidation work in mysterious ways, making the same glaze turn different colors on different pots, different colors on the same pot, or different colors on different sides of a pot; some unfortunate pieces (unless you’re into that) had pieces of the kiln roof fall into them. The number of variables that play into how a piece turns out is dizzying. It’s an exercise in acceptance.


I think I may be a little bit in love with ceramics. There were pieces so finely crafted that I could feel the sculptors hands poring over every curve and surface, and, though I’m blushing as I write this, there were pieces that were so beautiful, or so shapely that they made my heart flutter in a way that I can really only compare to meeting the gaze of someone I have a crush on.


One of the greatest things about ceramics, as Giovanna noted to me, is the community it creates. All these potters and sculptors rely on each other, and come together here for this kiln firing. Thank you all the people who built the dragon kiln, all the people who kept it running, the people who split the wood, the people who stacked, the people who stoked, the people who piled, the people who passed, the people who brought food, the people who explained to me the nuances of how the whole confounded thing works, the people who contributed works of ceramic to the kiln, the people who contributed their knowledge, the people who contributed their work and their love, and all the people who shared the joy of the whole process.

Thank you all,


(First photo by Maggie Jones. Subsequent photos by Gray and Nomi)

by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator and Kitchen Manager - November 25, 2014


We shared a beautiful meal together (prepared by the magic-making interns - thank you) before our Woolman community members went off in different directions for the holiday. It was an occasion to let our attention take root in the land here for a moment, to feel the feet that have walked upon it, all the movement and movements, fierceness and stillness, light and shadow … to acknowledge the various lives and forms of life that have found a home here, felt lost here, felt found, and are still searching.  So much gratitude for YOU.



photo credit to Gray Horwitz.  Thank you!

by Hannah Mackinney a.k.a. Thistle, Student - November 17, 2014
Clive Hamilton’s book Requiem for a Species is all about climate change. The book explains the science behind climate change, but also goes into the root causes of our excessive energy consumption. We live in a society where “success” is often measured in Gross Domestic Product, a scale which perpetuates the idea that wealth equals happiness. The book points out that studies have shown that once a certain level of wealth is achieved, happiness levels no longer rise with income, however, carbon emissions do. When we put excessive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, we create a positive feedback loop where “increases of atmospheric greenhouse gases raise the heat-trapping potential of the atmosphere, which in turn interferes with the natural carbon cycle in ways than tend to amplify the greenhouse effect.”[1] (The greenhouse effect is greenhouse gases absorbing thermal radiation from the planet’s surface and re-radiates it in all directions. The greenhouse effect is responsible for creating livable temperatures on Earth, but human emissions of fossil fuels have increased it to the point where it causes global warming.)
        As we learn from the IPAT equation, (Impact = Population × Affluence × Technology), “the level of environmental Impact depends on the Population, the level of Affluence (measured by GDP per person) and Technology.”[2] Since all of these factors are currently on the rise globally, our levels of carbon emissions have reached irreversible heights. We can no longer prevent climate change, and the window in which we have any power to abate it is shrinking rapidly. Yet on a large scale, humans still aren’t doing anything about it. Why?
        One of the main reasons is that as a society, we are dependent on burning fossil fuels for energy. The way our economy functions, we won’t have an incentive to start looking for clean energy until what we are currently using stops being profitable.[3] We don’t look at the big picture, and what will be good for the future of our species because capitalism and the advertising that targets us tells us that gratification only matters if it’s instant. We are told that it’s “modern” and “sophisticated” to “spend more, borrow more and save less;”[4] we’re told that economic growth is inherently good, patriotic, even. Most people who are skeptical of, or in denial about climate change feel this way because the idea that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions threatens the GDP-oriented idea of success which we hold so dearly. 
        If we really want to decrease our carbon emissions, we have to stop the cycle of growth for the sake of growth, and while this inspires fear in a large percentage of the population, as Hamilton argues, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He points out that  “in the consumption society economic growth can be sustained only as long as people remain disconnected. Economic growth no longer creates happiness: unhappiness sustains economic growth.”[5] Advertising has shaped our society so dramatically that people’s identities are directly linked to their status as consumers. We are told that we are not worthy or good enough until we buy the newest, hottest thing.[6] There are entire industries that feed off our insecurity and tell us what we need in order to feel good, but when we buy it, we don’t and we try to buy more crap to fill the holes in our lives.[7] What we really need is love and validation and a sense of self. When we have those things in our lives, we no longer feel as attached to our possessions, but the economy works hard to perpetuate a culture of scarcity, to keep us so busy wanting that we forget what we really need.[8] 
        When people are told that if we really want to reduce our carbon emissions, we have to stop consuming so much, they get scared because it feels like an attack at their very being, not simply their behavior. In order to do anything to prevent climate change, we must dismantle the concept of the consumer self. This is extremely difficult, because if we want our actions to dramatically affect climate change, we need to move fast, and at this point most people are unaware of how deeply their identities are linked to consumption, let alone ready to change their behavior so dramatically.
[1] Hamilton, Clive. "No Escaping the Science." Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. London: Earthscan, 2010. 9. Print.
[2] Hamilton, Clive. "Growth Fetishism." Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. London: Earthscan, 2010. 42. Print.
[3] Muller, Richard A. "Climate Change." Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2010. 383-87. Print.
[4] Hamilton, Clive. "The Consumer Self." Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. London: Earthscan, 2010. 93. Print.
[5] Hamilton, Clive. "The Consumer Self." Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. London: Earthscan, 2010. 71. Print.
[6] Susan is telling me about a movie called The Joneses where actors infiltrate a wealthy neighborhood in order to sell things to their community, which isn’t exactly how things work, but it’s a similar idea.
[7] Susan is telling me about another movie that explains that if you’re naked in a thunderstorm and someone offers you a warm cabin, your problems can be solved by material things, but that isn’t applicable to most of life.
[8] I live in a warm cabin. I have tea and instant oatmeal and a safe place to sleep and all my physical needs are met. But having a roommate who cares about me feels at least as important as those things. If I didn’t have Susan here, I might feel like something was missing in my life, and perhaps I would fill that void by ordering copious numbers of toasters over the internet.
by Mishel Ramos, Student - November 9, 2014

This poem was performed Wednesday night in Berkeley at a Slam Poetry event. (Click on the image to see the Video).