Woolman Blog

by Jena Brooker, student - March 30, 2014

     Woolman has a partnership with MetWest, an alternative public high school in Oakland, CA. We visited this sister school on a recent trip to the Bay Area to explore prison and education systems and how they tie together.

    As we drove up to the school, Dontae (a student of MetWest and Woolman), was yelling and whooping with excitement and begged for the windows to be opened so he could yell out to his friends. There was great excitement from everyone to learn more about MetWest by vistiting the school.

     The Woolman crew, along with MetWest’s school counselor, restorative justice leader, and students of MetWest, gathered in a circle and introduced themselves. Then, instead of saying, “Hi, I’m Jena from Michigan and my favorite color is purple.” we said our name, where we were from, and a recent conflict we had resolved. That felt different in a really good way.

     Current MetWest students whom were considering attending Woolman had the opportunity to ask us questions about our school. One question we got was, “Are there showers?” A Woolman student answered yes, but how often people utilize them is variable from everyday to once a week.

     Next, we asked them questions about their Restorative Justice class and practices. MetWest believes in healing wounds, and not punishment. For students who find themselves involved in a fight, they are given the option to do a restorative justice circle, or suspension. Most students at MetWest are open to restorative justice, and see the value in it. The Restorative Justice teacher (Malik) said most of the circles they do are because students come to the teachers with an issue, and request the practice.

     During the visit we learned Malik was trained by Marshall Rosenberg in NVC, a class we have here at Woolman! We hope to learn more from MetWest about their restorative justice practices among other things, and further develop our relationship with them. The weekend following spring break, some MetWest students are coming up here to visit us!



by Jena Brooker, student - March 30, 2014

     After a long day we students were excited the next activity would be in the home we were staying at for the week. We migrated to the comfy basement for a workshop with LJ.

    All us sprawled out on the couches and carpet to watch a video about At The Crossroads. At The Crossroads is an organization LJ works for by doing outreach for to homeless youth and young adults. At The Crossroads provides various services such as handing out food/condoms/toothbrushes, counseling, helping set up interviews, etc.

      When the video ended we partnered up and considered all of the different situations real people are in that would prevent them from getting a job. It was surprising to me how many obstacles a homeless youth would need to overcome such as: no internet access to learn about the job, not having the correct documents, being recently incarcerated or accused, and avoiding notification of truancy to authorities.

     It really resonated with me that At The Crossroads meets people where they are, and as an organization does not try to persuade people to stop living the life they are living. I think giving people agency is so important in trying to help them.

     My heart aches every time I encounter someone who I perceive as homeless. I am filled with sadness, curiosity, and a longing to help that person. However, I don’t know which strategy or approach is the best in helping them. Especially after LJ’s presentation I am interested in exploring a job in homeless outreach, enabling me to know how to help in the desired way. 

by Cait Corrigan-Orosco, student - March 28, 2014

“Igniting a generation of young people to bring forth a thriving, just, sustainable world” This is the mission statement of Generation Waking Up, an organization that Students of the Woolman Spring 2014 Semester were introduced to during the Global Issues Peace Studies Trip last week.

We met with two ambassadors for the organization, Barbara and Mary, whose goal was to first AWAKEN, second EMPOWER, and lastly MOBILIZE the public.

We watched inspiring videos, danced to calming yet energizing music, and discussed the issues in the world and (when I didn’t think things could be any better) we thought of ideas about how to create positive change for the negative issues.

After a week of learning about the injustices of the prison system it was a great and inspiring refresher to think, hear and discuss positive change in our hometowns that we can facilitate ourselves. I came up with the idea of helping make NYC a greener atmosphere by planting grass, trees, gardens ect… on the roofs of the NYC skyline!

Even though I’m not too excited about leaving Woolman in about a month and a half, I am extremely motivated to go back home and be a leader and organize positive change.

by Imani Sherley, student - March 28, 2014

As I walked into the room at the Berkeley Battle of the Bay Poetry Slam, I was instantly filled with excitement. The Dion was covered with dark red, blue, and purple light, while the space itself burst with people and food and conversation. Everyone at Woolman was pumped to be there, and extremely impatient for the show to start. Not only were we about to see a real poetry slam, but this slam was the qualifying round for the National Poetry Slam, so the teams were really going to throw down. I was especially antsy because I was performing in between rounds, along with other teens from a big group of students who came with their teacher.

So there we all were, seated in the first three rows of a crowded room in the dark evening, listening to people laugh and poets prepare, watching the musicians tune their Instruments on stage waiting for the MC to arrive. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he came running onto the stage fill of energy and enthusiasm. What came to follow was amazing. 

If anyone reading this has never been to a poetry slam, you ought to turn off your computer right now and go. It was amazing. There were poems about Black Kids and Dinosaurs, Love, Pain, Oppression, Race, Chess, Youth, and Parking Tickets. There were four teams total, and they were all great. The judges were random audience members, and our own Rob The Intern was one of them. He did a pretty good job (even though he refused to give higher than a 9.1). One team was called New Sh*t and some of their poems were only minutes old! As an audience member, it was amazing to feel what, and just go where, the poet wanted us to, and to be so intimately a part of their art and performance. We all has a great time, and at the end if the night, it really didn't matter which team won. 

Obviously the other really amazing part of going to the slam was performing at it myself. I was the last student to go after a long line of other teens who performed pieces that, in all honesty, were very clearly not meant for performance. The audience was supportive and kind but these were no up and coming slam gods or goddesses. Then it was my turn. Somehow that day I has managed to write a poem that was close to my heart, and decided to perform it. I had never done slam before, but I was well versed in theater. To be blunt, I killed it on that stage. Somehow I felt so safe and seen that spilling my ink heart to strangers felt freeing and natural. It was an amazing experience, and I loved it. After the show I was interviewed by a college show and I talked to a bunch of the competing poets. As proud as I am it was also a humbling experience. The poets I spoke to were amazing and extremely skilled, so their encouragement made me want to work harder to get to their level, rather than give me a big head. All in all, it was a great night.


by Sharon Stewart, Clerk of the Board - March 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

We are writing to share that Marjorie Fox has resigned as Head of School at The Woolman Semester School and Sierra Friends Center. She served as Head of School from January 2013 to March 15, 2014. Our former Head of School, Dorothy Henderson, has returned as Interim Head of School, beginning March 16, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

In her resignation, Marjorie stated: “It is with my deepest respect for Woolman’s founders, supporters and those who have worked long and hard over the past 50 years to guide youngsters toward a peaceful and sustainable future, that I submit my resignation.”

We are grateful to Marjorie for her hard work, dedication, great care and concern. We appreciate all that she did to undergird the stability of the Center, especially her focus on improving administrative and financial accounting practices. We wish Marjorie a smooth transition as she moves on to the next chapter of her life.

After a careful discernment process, in which she sought spiritual and practical guidance, Dorothy Henderson embraced the opportunity to return to Woolman as Interim Head of School. We are very grateful to Dorothy for her willingness to return now, so that the Board has time to conduct a robust search for a new Head of School.

Members of the Board met with staff and faculty on March 9th to share the news of the leadership transition. We left deeply inspired by the love, creativity and resourcefulness that characterizes the Woolman community. There was a shared sense of hope and a commitment to working together, with Dorothy, to move positively into the future. We ask you to hold the students, staff, Dorothy and the broader community in your hearts as we move through this transition and continue to empower young people to find their path and help create much-needed change in the world.


Sharon Stewart, Clerk
College Park Friends Educational Association,
governing body of the Sierra Friends Center,
​The Woolman Semester School and Camp Woolman

by Tom Vogt, Community Intern - March 9, 2014

This semester, we decided to stay right here at Woolman for our service day and work on our own land. We widened and flattened the Pottery Trail, making it more accessible to people with a range of physical abilities. Once we work on the two bridges on the trail, we will have an accessible loop, connecting the Art (Pottery) Barn to the Fire Road, to Mel's Pond, to Woolman Lane, and back down to main campus. Thanks to our wonderful community intern Tom for these photos!

by Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies Teacher - March 9, 2014

One of my favorite parts of teaching Peace Studies is the opportunity to read and discuss Assata, the autobiography of Assata Shakur. The book raises critical questions about race and racism, prisons, violence, social change, and resiliency and hope in the midst of tremendous injustice—themes that unfortunately are all too relevant today. Here, students Imani Sherley and Sophie Tuchel share some of their first impressions:

“It was amazing the number of people who said they were too Black already” (Assata, 25).

This part of the book and this quote in particular resonated with me in a myriad of ways. Even today, years after this book was written, there is still a huge divide within the black community along color lines. People still value European features over our own, and they especially value light skin over dark. I know for a fact that I have received better treatment from people in my life because of my lighter skin. Darkness then and now is seen as a burden, and both white and black people treat it as such. The lighter you are, the more others will associate you with something other than black, which unfortunately can give you privileges over other black people. Skin whitening is still a huge industry, and even Dove sells skin bleaching products in Asia and Africa. The crazy thing about this quote from Assata though isn’t the cultural ideal she is introducing, it’s the fact that these people are on the beach! That is how deep this runs.

“I was supposed to be a child version of a goodwill ambassador, out to prove that Black people were not stupid or dirty or smelly or uncultured” (Assata, 37).           

Code Switching! Respectability politics! This quote has it all. Assata is referencing something so real here I couldn’t help but start snapping when I read it. The way that she describes her middle school experience and the attitudes of her teachers and the black community was some of the best writing thus far in the book. In this chapter she basically tells her story in a way that defines some key concepts in black survival. The need and expectation of talking, walking, and looking like white people is a form of code switching, or learning how to function in one part of society while still maintaining your authentic identity elsewhere. Use your slang on the porch, but cross your t’s and dot your i’s in the classroom. This way of thinking which her grandparents presented her with is also known as respectability politics. It is the expectation that those black people who are often in white owned spaces ought to act a certain way in order to preserve the respectability of the race a whole. Assata was definitely not down with that plan. This is because respectability politics take away the individual’s right to self-authenticity for the sake of being  “acceptable” and uniform. Nevertheless, respectability politics are still a huge part of black survival today, just like code switching. I code switch. Other black kids at my school constantly either rebel against or expect others to perpetuate respectability politics. I didn’t realize how much I had in common with Assata, or how much has not changed within the black community and the American School System.  

- Imani Sherley

It is so crazy to me that so many people grew up thinking that white, straight-haired, and thin-lipped was the most beautiful way to be. Sure, most children, teens, and even adults have insecurities and long for different features; that’s not at all uncommon. But to grow up thinking that the color of your skin is less beautiful than another race’s? Or putting a clothespin on your nose to make it thinner? I think it was that part that made me realize how privileged I have been in my growing up. Like I mentioned earlier, most kids have insecurities; I wished that I was taller, blonder, and better at sports, amongst other things. The differences between my insecurities and Assata’s are that mine were more or less something that I could make happen. I was going to grow, I could always dye my hair, and if I really wanted to get better at sports I could have practiced my butt off. But you can’t change the color of your skin or the texture of your hair (very easily). That, my friend, is called privilege.

I could relate to a surprisingly large number of Assata’s experiences as a child, such as teachers who gave homework as punishment, and watching T.V. shows depicting what families are ‘supposed’ to be like. I think that is why I loved this book so much; everyone has a little piece of Assata inside of them, and reading some parts of this story felt like reading an entry in a diary from my younger self.

This book is so emotional, and it just makes me feel so many overwhelming emotions all at the same time. I felt joy and love for Assata when she was happy or even being stubborn, and I loved anyone who helped her succeed. I felt an extreme amount of sympathy for Assata, and I was amazed at how resilient she was throughout all of the challenges she faced. I felt as though she was a good friend of mine, and I wanted her to win every battle and just be happy and carefree. I am, and always will be rooting for her.

-Sophie Tuchel

by Tom Vogt, Community Intern - March 6, 2014


Ahead, the suburban ribbon of I-80 stretched uninterrupted towards the Sierra foothills-- behind, low clouds and a pale sunset hung over Sonoma and San Paulo Bay. Driving home to Woolman marked the end of three days camping at Point Reyes National Seashore in the company of redwoods, sprawling pines, green hills, and a gray sea. Despite challenges ranging from persistent drizzle to marauding raccoons, our crew of students and interns embraced the adventure. Here are a few of the pictures I grabbed on my phone along the way.














And here are some more photos taken by our student Elena:

Student Dontae took this one: 

by Imani Sherley, student - March 4, 2014

Here at Woolman there is a lot going on in the way of classes and community life, but what really has me excited is my sustainability project! I will be building a miniature house out of pallets, which will then be filled with plants and used for farm education. This week the pallets came! We were lucky enough to get them for free from the guy who delivers our food, which was so cool! I chose this project because I wanted to build something impermanent that could bring long lasting knowledge and experience. I think this project will be a great way of helping people get in touch with the local ecosystem through learning more about soil, plant structure, and living sustainably with nature.


The best thing about this project is that not only will people learn about Woolman’s ecosystem by gaining more knowledge about plant life, but the house itself will interact with the local environment. Some of the flowers I plan to plant (with our garden manager’s help) are favorites of local bees. The house will be a part of their pollination cycle and the more flowers the bees have to pollinate, the better for the bees and for Woolman’s flower population. The house will also be home to tomatoes, strawberries, and various types of tasty herbs, which will be all ready to eat by the summer.


by Estrella Acosta, Staff - February 4, 2014

How does what we eat contribute to using the earth’s resources sustainably? This is a hotly debated topic on the Woolman campus. Merriam Webster defines sustainability as “being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Buying local, buying organic, going vegan, going vegetarian, freeganism (using what others throw away), growing your own—these are all food choices individual Woolman community members have made as ways to lessen their personal carbon footprint. Here is what Woolman is currently doing to eat sustainably:

We buy organic whenever possible. Why organic? When done right, organic usually means more vitamins and minerals than conventionally produced food, no carcinogenic herbicides and pesticides in the food or in the soil, better working conditions for farm-workers, and humane conditions for animals. These are some of the many reasons cited by people choosing to buy organic as a way of eating sustainably. “Organic is something we can all partake of and benefit from. When we demand organic, we are demanding poison-free food,” says Maria Rodale, granddaughter of Jerome Irving Rodale, one of the first advocates of organic farming in the United States. “We are demanding clean air. We are demanding pure, fresh water. We are demanding soil that is free to do its job and seeds that are free of toxins. We are demanding that our children be protected from harm. We all need to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done—buy organic whenever we can, insist on organic, fight for organic and work to make it the norm. We must make organic the conventional choice and not the exception available only to the rich and educated.”

We buy local whenever possible. How sustainable is organic olive oil shipped on a diesel-burning ship from Australia, then trucked from the port in Oakland to the UNFI distribution center in Rocklin and then up the hill to Woolman? Amelia Nebenzahl, the kitchen manager for Woolman and Global Issues teacher, is committed to buying locally whenever possible. "My colleague Gray Horwitz, Woolman’s environmental science teacher, helps me do extensive research to make sure our food is organic, comes from farms and companies with sustainable and humane practices whenever possible, and is produced close to home. Our eggs, butter, much of our produce, and other key kitchen staples are from right here in Northern California."

We grow our own. The Woolman garden is the best of all possible worlds. It is extremely local—300 yards from the dining hall!—organic, grown with love by student and faculty hands, and often harvested hours before mealtime, still brimming with the enzymes and nutrients only found in fresh food.

Maggie McProud, Woolman’s garden manager and Woolman’s Farm to Table teacher, comes from a local family of organic farmers (Riverhill Farm) and is proud to be carrying on the tradition at Woolman. She is passionate about food and cares deeply about where our food comes from. “Organic is great! But, it doesn't solve all our problems especially environmentally. Organic Agriculture can be another form of ‘big ag’ with all the same problems as conventional. The industry is growing fast enough that it’s hard to regulate practices and there is a lot of misleading marketing. For lots of crops this is the most practical way to grow them for big populations, but for veggies and any animal products, it is safest for you, your family, and the environment to support a local farmer who has a good reputation for land stewardship and clean food and water.”

What else can we do to eat sustainably? Maggie says, “Shop at co-ops that sell local produce. Shop at the farmers' markets, and the money that would normally go to the middle man goes to the farmer. You also get fresher food! By supporting them you are also supporting the culture, economics, and vitality of your community.”  

And, of course, Maggie fully supports growing your own: “Growing and preparing your own foods is one of the most politically, socially, and environmentally radical things you can do today. There is little else that we as a culture do so regularly that is bogged down with gross resource consumption, social inequity, and economic/political influence than our daily consumption of processed and industrialized foods.” Go Maggie!  

We don’t currently grow all the food we need at Woolman, so every Tuesday morning Amelia and community intern, Chloe Jacobson, meet the UNFI truck and potentially the most cheerful delivery driver in the world, Darrell Echols. UNFI is the largest organic and natural food (yes, not always organic, but at least not filled with additives and preservatives!) distributor in the world and was founded right here in Nevada City. The company was started in 1976, out of the back of the founder’s Volkswagon van. Then called “Mountain People’s Warehouse,” the company still uses the slogan “to boldly go where no distributor has gone before.”

Darrell Echols, who has been a driver at UNFI for 15 years, says he loves his job: “They are a great company. They take care of their workers and really walk their talk—trying to be sustainable and all of that. They are constantly reviewing how they can reduce their carbon footprint—like having fewer trucks on the road, loading more into each truck. Things like that. It makes more work for the drivers, but I get paid by the hour, so it works for me!”


Can’t get enough of this topic? Are any of the following missing from that stack next to your bed?


Wendell Berry, "The Pleasure of Eating"
Sacramento Food Co-op, "Organic Heros, Amigo Bob Cantisano" 
Orion Magazine, Sandra Steingraber, "The Fracking of Rachel Carson"


Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma
Eric Herm, Son of A Farmer Child of the Earth


Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
United Natural Foods
Organic Consumers Association
Briar Patch Co-op--Eat Local

by Estrella Acosta, Admissions & Outreach Director - January 7, 2014

Woolman is a magical place. We often hear from students of the Semester School that coming to Woolman is a transformative experience. The land, the community, the curriculum, and the people all contribute to Woolman being a place where students discover themselves in new ways, fall in love with learning, learn to live in community, form life-long friendships, and connect deeply with the land. In fact the "Woolman bubble" can be so nurturing and healing that it can be hard to return home to “the real world!” We are looking for ways to support our alumni as they transition back home. Parents, students, and friends: we’d love to hear your ideas and tips for how to carry the Woolman magic back home with you. If you could give new alum students or parents a piece of advice what would it be?

Submit your ideas here and join the conversation! 

by Estrella Acosta, Admissions & Outreach Director - January 7, 2014
Staff, faculty, and interns are gearing up to welcome Woolman’s 21st semester class. We have new teachers that are excited about their second semester and plan to hit the ground running. Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies teacher, says,“I cannot wait for the spring semester to begin! I've been revising and adding to Peace Studies curriculum over break, and am so excited to learn from and with our new group of students.” 
On January 20th, Woolman’s Global Issues teacher, Amelia Nebenzahl, will be joining Bill Drake from Beyond Bias on the local award-winning community radio station, KVMR. “We are lucky to be able to work with Bill and his colleagues who host 'unlearning prejudice' workshops for Woolman students. We are going on the air to talk about the Woolman social justice curriculum and how we explore social divisions such as race, which are woven into all aspects of society and how they can be found in our own lives as well." 
As usual, the spring 2014 student body will be bringing much diversity and talent to campus. We have students coming from public schools, private schools, boarding schools and homeschoolers. We have students that have never left their neighborhoods and students that are seasoned world travelers. To get an idea of their talents and interests, here are just a few of the clubs and groups our students belong to: Meditation Club, Speech Club, Earthology, Lacrosse club, National Honors Society, Jam Club, Gay/Straight Alliance, Human Rights Club, Jazz Band, marching band, Library Teen Advisory Board, Wellness Club, Interact club, environmental club, cross country team, Chamber Choir, Youth Climate Action Network, Ultimate Frisbee team, Junior Classics League (reading Latin for fun!), swim team, football team, TRUST, Greater Philadelphia Center for Spiritual Living, and the Unitarian Univeralist Youth Group.

Part of the beauty of Woolman is that students get to bump up against so much diversity. We look forward to seeing all that the Spring 2014 class will accomplish while here at Woolman!

by Maggie McProud, Garden Manager and Farm to Table Teacher - January 6, 2014

The garden is tucked in and resting for the winter season.  Our cover crop survived the cold snap in December and is waiting patiently under its protective straw quilt for longer days to come.  In the Woolman hoop house we have spinach, salad mix, kale, cilantro and radishes eagerly waiting for Wombats to return to campus.  We are so lucky to have the hoop house—most farms in our area are not able to harvest these crops this time of year!

The crop plan is coming together and I am fine-tuning our seeding schedule.  Between the 45-plus crops we grow, multiple successions and varieties, crop rotation from season to season and direct seeding dates vs. transplanting dates you can imagine how complicated our garden becomes.  It’s been very pleasant to have the peace and quite to focus on planning and improving our garden program.

In the coming year I will be focusing on simplifying the Farm to Table program at Woolman.  My dream is that Woolman will be a place where people of all types can fall in love with food and become inspired to grow and prepare their own nutritious, fresh and sustainable sustenance.  It’s a challenge to carve out time for the garden amidst the hustle and bustle of all the other AMAZING things that we do here.  Thus, it seems even more important that we accomplish what matters most and do it very well.  One improvement that will help this effort tremendously will be a new green house!!!!!

For those of you who don’t know I am fundraising for a 12’ x 24’ green house.  I am excited to make propagation, one of the key components of farming, into a successful, inviting and educational experience for years to come!  We have been having a very hard time with our transplant production, which has left students, interns and myself very discouraged and intimidated.  Our current green house is not hot enough to start transplants early in the spring so we use a heated incubator. We cannot start our next round of transplants until the first batch is mature enough to survive under the cooler temperatures in the green house.  This creates a bottle-neck and delays our entire production schedule.

Using a proper green house, Woolman will be able to plant/harvest crops earlier in the year, creating a longer season with greater yields. We will also be able to grow sprouts and shoots through the winter and have room to grow more transplants to donate to The Yuba River Charter School.  Most importantly, the new green house will allow us to produce transplants that are nice enough to sell.  My goal is to have at least one annual plant sale to raise money for the garden and do outreach for our amazing program at Woolman.  Thank you so much to those of you who are helping making this dream a reality!

by Estrella Acosta, Admissions & Outreach Director - December 11, 2013

On November 8th, Johnny Woolman and the Wombats—an eclectic mix of musically talented Fall 2013 students, interns, and faculty—had the rare opportunity to take the stage before renowned author Michael Pollan spoke to an audience of over 1,000 in Grass Valley. Pollan is a long-time hero at Woolman and his book,  The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is part of the school's Environmental Science curriculum. Pollan's work is believed by many to have created a tipping point that brought organic farming, food justice, and sustainability into mainstream popular culture. Many Woolman students and families have read his books and are thrilled to learn that his thinking is reflected in the Woolman experience—both in the classroom and in the field. The entire Woolman student body and staff were in the audience to cheer for their friends in the band and to listen to Michael Pollan speak.

The Center of the Arts, who hosted Pollan, is celebrated in the local community for its support of youth arts and giving young talent the opportunity to feel like “real artists.” The Wombats were given the same red carpet treatment that the Center gives to all the big name talent they bring to town—including greats like Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Lyle Lovett. They were treated to VIP parking, their own green room, backstage photos, professional stage direction, and sound engineering by a master sound team.

After the event, Pamela Roberts,  Marketing Director for the Center of the Arts, stated, "I heard so many compliments on behalf of the band!  We received kudos from many of our patrons for booking just the right opener." 

And what an audience to play for! Despite it’s small population, Nevada County is home to a large number of organizations and activists working on sustainability solutions.  At the end of their show, Johnny Woolman and the Wombats received a standing ovation from this community of movers and shakers in the environmental and food-justice movements. Students in the band definitely have something to write home about!


by Estrella Acosta, Admissions & Outreach Director - December 11, 2013

The Global Issues Project Presentations were a smashing success! Students truly rose to the occasion Friday night, exhibiting the hard work they've put into preparing their projects for change in their community that they plan implement when they get home. It was great to see so many members of the local and extended Woolman family in attendance. Some highlights include Cait Mazarella's documentary and workshop on sexual abuse awareness, Devin Wirgart's community craft fair, Lily Roach's rebuilding of trails and community gardens after the recent floods in Colorado, and Valentine Purell's design for a photovoltaic solar powered energy system for our very own Woolman campus. All were thrilled to see the potential students have to create positive change in their home communities! Watch videos of the presentations here!

The Sustainability Projects Tour is an enjoyable end of semester festivity at Woolman. The completion and presentation of these projects is the final piece of our Environmental Science curriculum. Projects included hammocks for the campus, a composting toilet, a grant proposal for solar panels, outreach sessions to students at local high schools, a student lounge made out of an old school bus, and an archival project of old Woolman photographs. Take the tour online!

The Peace Studies Documentary Screening mark the end of students' Peace Studies class. Students work in teams to produce, direct, and edit their own documentary shorts that highlight a social justice issue they are passionate about. The docs were truly compelling this semester with films inlcuding The G Word: A Story of Gender, Body Image and the Media, Woolman: An Interconnected Experience, Family and the Impact of Drug Abuse, Forest Fires: The Story of Frank Domingues, A Documentary on Sexual Abuse Awareness, Marijuana: An Exploration with Woolman, and The Story of Woolman. Watch individual docs or view the complete December 7, 2013 premiere here!

The Fall 2013 Woolman Semester Graduation Woolman graduations are a time for reflection and celebration. We do not have commencement speakers. Rather, each student gives a speech, remembering their time at Woolman. Watch the graduation ceremony here!

Students discussing their documentary projects after the screening.

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - December 1, 2013

For the Environmental Science service project, Chris, Valentine, Lily, and Ethan worked with me to clear a large area of scotch broom.  Although we cleared a sizable area, there is still plenty back there! As we worked, we discussed the right for scotch broom to thrive, as all plants at some point in history are invasive species, vs. the idea that because we have so quickly and vastly changed the world and have taken stewardship over it, humans should keep it in balance as opposed to letting evolution take its course. We also talked about the idea that plants feel pain, which we ignore through antropic bias. Stimulating work & stimulating conversation!

Here is a time lapse video of our restoration work: http://youtu.be/qB_eymuvfYE

by Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies teacher - December 1, 2013

This semester, students had the option to choose one of three service projects, each connected to a core class. The Peace Studies service project was a collaboration with the Nevada City-based art and activist collective Radical Art for these Times (RAFTT). In just three days, students became familiar with art and activism theory and models, chose to do a banner drop raising awareness about privilege, painted the giant banner and smaller signs, recorded a radio piece,  and held a demonstration over highway 49! Student Genna Kules wrote the following press release about our work:

Students from the Woolman Semester School team up with RAFTT to call attention to the invisibility of inequality and how privilege is easily taken for granted
“Privilege is The Ability to Not Notice Inequality” reads the the large pink banner hanging on the Broad Street bridge. Smaller signs scattered along the highway compliment it with the words: “Take Time. Notice.”
Students at the Woolman Semester School study Peace, Justice, and Sustainability on a daily basis. With the banner drop, they are bringing their studies outside the confines of Woolman Lane. They are using this action as a learning experience in the practice of activism.
When people driving down Highway 49 see this sign, “I want them to think about their daily lives and how this affects them,” says Ky Biswell, grade 12. Jasmyn Atsalis-Gogel, grade 11, agrees saying her goal is “to make people think.”
“You can’t understand the world until you become aware of your own privileges” says Anna Scott, grade 12. She believes one must get past the feeling of guilt for their own privileges before they can affect change around inequality.
Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies teacher, describes the process of realization of privilege: When people of privilege learn about their privilege they move into a state of guilt. Guilt is an important stage but there is a danger of getting stuck in it. One can either move through the guilt and into change-making or move into a state of blaming the oppressed minority groups.
Jennifer says, “sometimes the most radical thing you can do is to say something obvious.” Woolman Semester intern, Danya Morris, follows with “It’s radical to tell the truth. It’s radical to ask for truth— to question.”
Students believe they will go back to their hometowns more aware and able to affect change in their own communities.


by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Issues teacher - December 1, 2013
The Global Issues community service project was a great success! We worked in conjunction with Reinette Senum, a friend, former mayor of Nevada City, and enthusiastic community organizer, refurbishing the town square boardwalk. The boardwalk is a place that the community has reclaimed as a communal space to gather since their town plaza was plowed through by a highway. As we planted bulbs and cleaned up the patio, Reinette gave us a brief history of Nevada City since its thriving gold rush period (fun fact: Nevada City was on the list for becoming the capital of California back in the day!) and explained the amazing advantages of having the boardwalk and also the challenges that come with it. 

We also worked with a Shea, the owner of our local herbal remedies store Haalo, to help prepare bags for alternative medical kits for homeless folk in the area. Nevada City has a substantial amount of homeless residents and a group of concerned citizens created a community organization called Sierra Roots to address the root causes of homelessness here and cater to the needs of folks without a roof over their heads. Alternative medical kits with natural remedies for ailments specific to those encountered by the homeless are a great example. We even got the chance to sit in on a Sierra Roots meeting to get a glimpse of the organizational side of these projects! 

Our third project was to help deliver a micro house to Sonia, a homeless resident who now maintains the conservation land where she lives. A micro house is a wooden structure with a roof, just big enough to fit a person or their things when it rains. Delivering Sonia's house and hearing her personal story gave us an invaluable perspective and insight into the struggles of poverty and the causes of homelessness here in Nevada City. 
Reinette, Shea, and Sonia were amazing inspirations for bringing their ideas for change in the community into fruition, particularly as we get ready to bring our own Global Issues projects into our home communities!
by Genna Kules and Samara Rosen, students - November 18, 2013

As I reviewed “13 Lessons about Social Justice from Harry Potter” in Peace Studies class, I found that all of them rang true for me. But I think my favorite one is number 10: “Injustices operate within systems.” The “system” is something I have been struggling with recently. I want to fight it but at the same time I don’t want to spend all of my energy fighting something that I don’t know if I will ever conquer. I need to learn to work within the system, but learning how to do that without perpetuating the injustices that embody the system is a fine balance that I have yet to find.

One of the things I want to do in life is break down social structures, because the only thing they seem to do is perpetuate stereotypes and continue discrimination. Systems that are aimed at helping all too often end in harm, so much so that one begins to think their intention was to harm in the first place. We watched a TED talk in Global Issues of a man who told us to stop sending aid to Africa because it is harming the people there more than helping them. The only reason we send aid is because the media (a social structure) portrays all of Africa as a place of poverty and civil war. He asked the question, have you ever see wealth grow out of charity? To which Bono yelled something from the audience in response. But I agree with him, charity does not create prosperity, it is simply a band-aid that ends up irritating far more skin than it was there to help in the first place.

-Genna Kules


The social justice lesion from Harry Potter that stands out to me the most was “Injustice operates within systems.” When I think about a cause I want to be fighting for, I want to understand the problem— and treat not its symptoms, but treat the actual problem. This means really going in and understanding the problem instead of being a powerful clueless leader from the outside, or promoting international development as we learned in Amelia’s class. Once the problem is understood, it’s easier not to target the ones who fall victim to or perpetuate the system, but merely help them to help you end the cycle.

This is really important to me in my own life because I’ve been thinking about the message on the banner we dropped last week: “privilege is the inability to notice inequality.” I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact I live apart from issues many of my friends and acquaintances experience or battle everyday. It’s becoming evident to me that because of a system that traps my friends and keeps me naïve, I am keeping this cycle alive, and therefore it is my responsibility to become aware of these systems and act against them.

-Samara Rosen
by Jennifer Stone and David Dean - November 3, 2013

For our combined Peace Studies and Global Issues trip, students spent a week in the Bay Area exploring social justice issues and activism—focusing especially on education, race, the prison system, and global interconnection. Highlights of the trip included a "Wake Up" with Generation Waking Up, in which students discussed the unique challenges and opportunities facing their generation; a presentation by Laura Magnani, author of Beyond Prisons and director of the American Friends Service Committee's Bay Area Healing Justice Program; and an incredible conversation with Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a veteran public school teacher and founder of the initiative "Roses In Concrete." In addition to discussions and presentations, students saw the movie Fruitvale Station, attended and performed in a slam poetry performance, and participated in Canticle Farm's East Oakland community meditation. Magnolia Neel, a Woolman student, remarked, "This trip was so inspiring—I have so many new ideas about what I want to pursue in my future and how I want to live my life."

For more on this wonderful trip see the photos below that were captured by Woolman student Izak Lederman-Beach, or read blog posts from our students and staff about our shared experiences and new friends.

Wait a minute, white people can help solve racism? - By Izak Lederman-Beach
A frank conversation about disability with our own intern, Carl - By Valentine Purell

An inspiring afternoon with Mia Mingus - By Carl Sigmond, Media & Technology Intern

Waking Up to a Wake-Up - By Genna Kules

The Starry Plough - By Emily DePol

Jeff Duncan-Andrade - By Cait Mazzarella

Fighting for Justice Beyond Prisons - Samara Rosen

Reflections from the Peace Studies/Global Issues Trip - By Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies Teacher

The Generation Waking Up Experience - By Holland Bressler

Our Talk with Jeff Duncan-Andrade - By Jasmyn Atsalis-Gogel

Beyond Prisons - By Jordan Newhof


Students read Assata, the autobiography of activist Assata Shakur, in an Oakland park.


Woolman student Ethan Bronstein described listening to Jeff Duncan-Andrade as "being in the presence of greatness."


Veteran urban educator and community activist Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade speaks to Woolman students about rethinking the purpose of education in our communities.


Pancho Ramos-Stierle tells Woolman students about Canticle Farm and La Casa De Paz, a hub of urban farming, community revitalization, and spirituality in East Oakland.