Woolman Blog

by AJ Sonmonu, Spring 2013 student - March 29, 2013


The Pachamama Alliance is non profit organization based out of California. Their mission is to help indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their land while still recognizing and respecting their culture. In addition the knowledge acquired from that work is implemented to educating individuals to initiate a moral, thriving and sustaining world.

The Pachamama alliance partners with indigenous tribes to stop deforestation and other environmental atrocities. Specifically they advocate for these tribes and fundraise money to aid their efforts. Also they teach the tribes safe birth practices and have given them medicinal methods. Meanwhile Pachamama hold an “ awakening the dreamer” which helps individuals realize the calamities the world is facing and what we can do to stop this.

Before listening to Lindsey at The Pachamama Alliance office I always considered social issues to be more imperative than environmental issues, but going to Pachamama really showed how intertwined both issues are and the correlation between the two of them, and how you should not put either on the back burner and focus on both. For example some issues such as deforestation, not only negatively impact the environment but also displaces families and take away their means of living. Overall it was very interesting to see the progress they have made with indigenous tribe especially in Ecuador where nature now has rights.

by Charlotte Prud'homme, student Spring 2013 - March 29, 2013

Friday morning, the last day of our Great Turning Peace Studies Trip, we met with two lovely young ladies Hilary and Ellen from the Ruckus Society. The Ruckus Society is a nonprofit organization that facilitates training to environmental, human rights and social justice organizations that are seeking to take nonviolent direct action. Immediately I was intrigued by the name, and wanting to learn more. Although it didn't surprise me that an organization from the Bay Area had the word ruckus in it- I was wondering where exactly they were going when with the workshop when we started out by playing barefoot soccer on the front lawn with all the surrounding landscapers peering at us curiously. It turned out to be quite the metaphor, as one team was also deemed referee and made all the rules for the game. Not only was my team, the non ruling team, not allowed to kick the ball without first linking legs with another teamate, our goal posts were also much smaller and we had less touches on the ball. Inevitably, the ruling team won-and like what they were representing- corporations, made their own rules that benefited them and had very little sympathy for the weaker people who had less choice and option in society (the soccer game!). Now I was excited to begin. 


The most powerful things that struck me was witnessing the previous actions and campaigns of nonviolent direct action protests. Images of people hanging themselves in a harness off a bridge to block large scale corporate run fishing boats from passing under, and exploited farmers swimming to a WTO meeting with bright yellow life vests. People carrying huge handmade sunflower signs through a bustling city, and an enormous banner in a city center that blocked peoples paths and made them pay attention. These are the kinds of things I had been waiting for, visually, after a week of urging and prodding and digging to Wake Up! and realize we need change, and we need to disrupt the norm, we need to educate others, we need to be active citizens in disobedience, etc. It was nice, finally, to be reassured and comforted by images of people who were doing it-the real deal- they were taking their minds and uniting, their strength in numbers and uniting, and actually interacting in order to create change with their bodies. 
My hands on anxiousness was overflowing! Lastly, we watched a preview for a documentary coming out, called "Occupy the Farm" about a group of people occupying an unused university plot of land on Oakland to create a community garden space. Not only was it moving to see people work so hard for such a small space but also it was beautiful to see everybody united in one cause and able to firsthand change and interact with the soil they were advocating for in their own hands. Occupy the Farm made me wish that I was there! The people also seemed extremely experienced and confident in what they were doing. I think thats a huge part also of what I liked so much. Before I can morph into becoming a leader, I need to learn and observe those people already out there facilitating the change they want to see in the world, and powering the Great Turning. 
by Selena Wilkinson, student Spring 2013 - March 29, 2013

By going to the AVP workshop as the only person under 30, I realized how universal the issues I'm dealing with right now are.  I found a lot of solace and empathy in the discussions I was having with people, and some of the adults there told me it was inspiring to see someone so young interested in building their nonviolent communication skills before anything really violent or bad comes into their life. It was a really special experience for me to see the way people twice (or WAY more) my age, who have dealt with much more intense issues than I (i.e. kids in CPS, substance addiction, homicide, jailing etc) interacting with the very same material we are learning in NVC (nonviolent communications) class here at Woolman.

 I think before I attended this workshop, I was really disenchanted with the practice of NVC.  I didn't see the point, it felt really fake, and the way it was presented was not interactive/concrete enough for me to really grasp it.  But seeing people who had never been introduced to verbal communication of feelings, or any means of communication that wasn't inherently violent, was perspective-changing.  

I'm very grateful I got the opportunity to experience this kind of communication practice so early in my life, even if I don't fully believe in having such a constructed way to empathize.  

I also got to have some beautiful conversations with adults thanks to this workshop, including Guari, who was incredibly reassuring about the path I've chosen to follow, and a woman who told me that she wants her 13 year old daughter to meet me/let me mentor her because she "needs more women like me in her life." Which was really touching.  

Overall, I'm really glad I used the entire weekend to do this instead of sleep (which I am in desperate need of!).

by Patrianna Anderson, Student Spring 2013 - March 28, 2013

Easter is right around the corner. Before shopping for egg fillers or chocolates for the kids, know what thousands of young children must endure to keep the stores stocked with cheap chocolates-- Hershey, Nestle, and Cadbury all use cocoa produced by slaves. Also know that there is an alternative to slave tainted chocolate: fair trade, equal exchange and organic.

Chocolate: a creamy, sweet and savory confection. Its dangerous temptingly seductive nature has entrapped many of us. It is said to be the key to a woman’s heart and an enemy to her figure.  But is the treats only crime it’s sinful attraction to your thighs? Take a look at the origin of those Hershey chocolate bars or Cadbury’s Crème filled chocolate eggs. The good old chocolate that has satisfied our sweet tooth for ages has a bitter side. Twelve to fourteen year old boys are tricked or sold into slavery everyday. They are forced to work 80 to 100 hours of hard manual labor per week—all for the harvesting of cocoa beans. 

Ivory Coast, a stretch of 600,000 cocoa farms on the western shores of Africa, is the world’s largest supplier of cocoa beans. They make up 43% of the world’s supply.  Hundreds of thousands of children are purchased or stolen to meet the output needs of Ivory Coast. Big name chocolate companies get their cocoa beans from the slave labor of those children.

These children are real, and the conditions they work in are below the standards we claim to be a human right. Picture a child, any that you know, being taken and forced to work as a slave. Can you afford to support slavery?

As I think of the hours that these children spend harvesting and producing the cocoa beans, the chocolates that fill the shelves of the grocery store come to mind. Chocolate bars range in price, some are a dollar while others are three or four dollars. For all the time those kids put in to supply us with chocolates not one could afford a chocolate bar. They are not paid—they are slaves. They are beaten for not moving fast enough, for doing something wrong. On the cocoa farms there is no room for error, all they care about is cheap labor and profits. Slavery is alive today in the chocolate industry.

This Easter, support companies that refuse to use slave labor cocoa beans by buying fair trade or equal exchange options. Look for “fair trade” or “Equal Exchange” printed on the packaging.

To find more information on fair trade or modern day slavery visit: www.fairtrade.org, www.radicalthought.org, and www.notforsalecampain.org

Patrianna Anderson

Student, Woolman Semester School


by Augie Brinker, Student Spring 2013 - March 28, 2013

During the Great Turning Trip, we visited lots of amazing organizations whose missions were inspiring and enlightening. The organization that stood out most to me was the Time Bank. It is a radical form of thinking that works like this: you post the services that you are willing to do and then people will contact you wanting your services. If my service is gardening, then I go garden for 3 hours and now have 3 hours in the bank to spend on services that I want. There two ways that the bank is different: one, all of the time, in hours is weighted the same no matter what work is being done. Two, if you have no hours or negative hours in your bank, then you can still get services even if you have none to spend.

These two ways make this bank a challenging and radical way to position your mind. They do not think of themselves as a regular bank because they don’t think of the hours as money in the traditional sense. They are really, an organized way to have gift economy with strangers. This turns them into a radical bank that is advocating for something that most people do every day. When you are with your family, you don’t trade hours of work, you just do what you feel like and know that next time you will do less or more. In conclusion, the Time Bank is pushing away from the money system and advocating for something more practical.

The biggest take away and challenge that I had, was noticing and realizing that everyone in the room was thinking of the bank as a traditional bank, not until they explained that the weight of hours is not the same as dollars did our minds shift. From that situation, I realized that everything that I know and chose to believe is based off of the system that we have in place today and in order to get out of that, thinking outside of the box is extremely important. For as long as I live, I won't forget the Time Bank and the way that they changed my thinking on systemic beliefs.


by Selena Wilkinson, student - March 28, 2013

On the second day of the trip, our group visited an intentional community called The Canticle Farm located in Oakland.  The point of this space was to “make sure that even after the systems we have in place fall (i.e. the money system, the political system, etc), people won’t turn on each other.”  It was a place meant to instill and share unconditional kindness, love, and wealth through a gift economy in a low income part of the Bay.  In other words, it was imagining the “life sustaining society” Joanna Macy and the believers in the Great Turning yearn for, but living it now.  The Canticle Farm was housing a practice of pre-formative politics on a person to person scale.  The community members didn’t believe in locks, or even closing the door for that matter, they didn’t eat meat out of kindness, befriended anyone that happened to walk by (or in), and many of them tried very hard to not interact with the money system.  A man living there even told us that “every time you feel the need to use a dollar, a relationship somewhere is broken.”  

While there, we spent most the day with an incredible (and locally famous for Occupy Oakland non violent direct action) man named Pancho, and his friend Adalija, both of whom helped start the project.  Their home consisted of six houses on a block where the community members tore down fences in favor of a food forest, chicken coop, garden, and beehives.  They spend their days tending to all of these things and interacting kindly with the community around them.  The residents practice non violent communication skills, use restorative justice, and play music, practice yoga and meditate regularly.  Every Friday, the group hosts free dinners for whoever wants to attend, and the food they grow that they know is more than they’ll need is given away free to neighbors and people who visit the farm.

We began our visit to their home with a half an hour of silent meditation in “La Casa de Paz” (the house of peace), and then broke into pairs to discuss “open ended sentences.”  My partner would speak for approximately 2 minutes to complete the sentence “something that lifts my heart is. . .” while I silently, but actively, listened.  Then it would be my turn to speak and hers to listen.  We answered about five questions in this fashion, including “something that breaks my heart is. . .” and “something that I want to become is. . .”  A lot of people, myself included, became instantly emotional during this exercise.  I think it was incredibly validating to simply be listened to for a long time about such serious topics.  After this, we were set free to explore the space with only “come back with questions about the things you find” as guidance.

What I found was a cat and a tiny dog, a lending library full of books already on my “to read” list, a few Apple computers and some paint samples from a sustainable paint company (to paint the new house they’ve just acquired), an explanation of why the kitchen was kept vegan and as “company-label free” as possible, a top-bar beehive very similar to the one I’m planning to build for my sustainability project, and a long list of the projects the people living there were working on in the community.  It was wonderful.  It reminded me of the place I’d pictured myself living once I completed high school.

After this, questions were asked and answered and an enormous salad was harvested from the garden.  Everyone from our group and some members of the community helped make lunch and then we all ate together.  The day ended in song and a sincere promise that Pancho loved every single one of us very much.

After this, I considered heavily what it was I had liked so much about this space.  I wondered what aspects of it were things I hoped to see in my future, and came to the realization that I have a yearning for intentional community life.  It brought me out of traditional school in 8th grade, in favor of more sincere community building, it brought me to every summer camp I went to and into the Ethical Humanist community, it brought me to Conserve school last winter, and plopped me straight into the hands of Woolman this past January.  I had fooled myself into thinking that living alone in a house with a cat was the life I desired having, but Canticle Farm helped me discover that tending a garden isn’t nearly as fun when no one else is going to be eating the carrots you’ve loved, and singing simply doesn’t sound as good without someone else’s harmonies layered in.

After sitting with this experience, I came to the conclusion of which college I’ll be attending in the fall: the one that’s smaller than 200, all of the food is local or sustainable, there’s a garden and bees and active composting that the students can choose to help with, and there is a consent policy that’s truly respected.  I also concluded that I’m still confused about what kind of grown-up I want to be, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be the kind that never feels disconnected from the physically community I’m living in.  I’m still sitting with my thoughts on how much I believe in the Great Turning, but I’m excited that places like the Canticle Farm even exist.  I’m excited that the concept of a better, more loving and supportive world is not only being presented to people who can afford to leave good colleges and jobs to Occupy, but also being brought into low income communities where the people, and the movement, can be just as powerful, maybe even more so.

by Patrianna Anderson, Student Spring 2013 - March 28, 2013

Sunday night, after a quiet dinner, I walked through the cow pasture to my sit spot. The sun still high in the sky—I would have about half an hour of light to sit and observe the nature surrounding our community. I felt peaceful in this space. My mind filled with the whirling messes of have tos and the ever-growing list of to dos. Sitting here I realized I needed some time to myself to reconnect. The night air chilling as it brushes across my face but I felt so warm. Drifting off slowly I close my eyes and I start to dream.

My dream consisted of time lapses of the very spot where I lay—grass and trees growing and dying, water rising and sinking, the ground eroding with time. I saw the community flourish and the garden produce bountifully through the seasons. This brought back the events of the past few weeks at Woolman.

It seems like we (the students at Woolman) are constantly asked to envision the community/place we would like to see for future generations.  We addressed this in our very first community meeting as well as in all three of our main curricular courses. My dream was a time lapse of the earth replenishing itself while remaining connected with human beings. It is this connection that we built our future communities off of. That is the goal I have resonated with most while at Woolman.

I awakened at peace with these thoughts yet not quite knowing where I was. 3 hours had passed and the moon shined brightly overhead. I had not felt the connection that fellow students had had with their sit spots until this moment. It is clear to me that this experience was an important one.    

One of the visioning exercises that we did with The Ruckus Society on the Global Issues Trip

by Jack Walsh, student Spring 2013 - March 28, 2013

The purpose of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights is to advance racial and economic justice in order to ensure dignity and opportunity for low-income people and people of color.  During the Great Turning trip, the Ella Baker Center kindly hosted us and gave us their time to inform this semester of the work which the Center has done, as well as its future projects and goals.  In an information-packed afternoon, the energetic people who have dedicated their lives to fighting for social justice, elaborated on the problems with our current prison-industrial complex and the solutions for which the Ella Baker Center advocates.

Our session with the Ella Baker Center was eye-opening for me not just for the glimpse into the world of non-profit organizations, but also for the informative lecture about the archaic American prison system, and how little the system has been pressured to change.  Today, there are more people in the United States in prison than there ever were in the Soviet gulags, and those imprisoned are disproportionately more likely to be a person of color.  We only spent two hours there, but we left with a strong sense that the legacy which the unsung civil rights activist Ella J. Baker fought for is not just remembered in history books, but is also carried into today’s world and the fight against modern inequality.

Like Miss Baker, when people have the knowledge, inspiration and solutions they need to address the challenges they face, they can make a huge difference.

by Mariana Lachiusa, student spring 2013 - March 27, 2013

One of the many organizations we visited on our Global Issues trip to the bay area was the Pachamama Alliance in Berkeley. The Pachamama Alliance is a group that helps preserve the forests and ways of the indigenous Achuar people of South America. This organization started when the Achuar dreamed that something was coming to destroy their land, so they made contact with the outside world. When people first came to their small village the villagers told them the best way they could help was to go back to their world and change laws and awaken people out of their dream world.

Nowadays the organization works with the tribes to spread awareness of sustainability and help preserve their cultures and land for future generations. “We have supported the Achuar in gaining full title to nearly 1.8 million acres of rainforest.” (http://www.pachamama.org/) They set up symposiums all over the world that awaken people to the problems that are going on in South America’s rainforests. Something that particularly struck me about their mission was the story Gremily told of one of the founders of the alliance. The story was about how the co-founder did not accept blood money from a wealthy CEO because she didn’t think it was right, which taught me it’s not just the intention but also the source of things that matters.

What I took away from this experience was how much work is being done to protect such beautiful wild places that are slowly dwindling that I didn’t even know about. I am even more inspired to go out into the world to do good, and I would love to do that through this organization.

by Charlotte Prud'homme, student Spring 2013 - March 26, 2013

Surprisingly enough, I didn't know much about the Zapatista movement before watching the documentary here at Woolman. Although having been to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru and hearing about many political uprisings I had never before been fully immersed in the powerful story of the Zapatista's. I thought it was interesting that the Italian anarchists called themselves Ya Basta! (meaning "Enough is enough!", after the Zapatista declaration of war. The second thing that stuck out to me was the story of Marcos and how he went to the mountains to convert the poor indigenous masses to his cause, surely to gain strength in numbers. Also powerful enough that I reread it, twice, was that "a Zapatista is anyone anywhere fighting injustice, that "We are you". He once said, "Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains." 

The other thing that I could relate to the Zapatista's with, based on the Naomi Klein article, was that their word is their weapon. As young emerging voices in the activist community, I often feel like we are severely detached from those making the decisions, those in power, and our only way of communicating is our word, and our will behind that word. Marco's "long meditative letters" also remind me of our friend Pancho (that we met on our Global Issues Trip) and how he was while arrested meditating during occupy, using his physical self, his body as a vessel of peace, to speak his word in the most powerful way. In 1994, when the Zapatistas were born into the war movement, I was born in Canada. 

by Selena Wilkinson, student Spring 2013 - March 26, 2013

Tonight I performed a poem I wrote.

It was the first time I’ve ever performed in front of any crowd larger than ten that was mostly made up of people I’ve never seen before. I didn’t forget the words. I didnt pee my pants. I didnt even have shaky knees. I just did it. And I performed the s&#t out of it according to my roommate.

It was “one of those poems I’ll remember for the rest of my life” said someone else. It “made me cry” said somebody else. Someone said it seemed like I’d been performing for years. The featured poet who’s alma mater semester school I’m currently attending who also happens to be the #6 youth poet in the nation told me it was “incredible and beautiful” and I “better keep writing.”

I want to cry and laugh and hug everyone and I am so in love with the feeling I got up there on the stage. I want to feel that out of body adrenaline and scream words that I’ve read to the showerhead so many times they’re ingrained in my brain every chance I get for the rest of my life.

I want to do this forever.

by Nicole Mitchell, Student Spring 2013 - March 26, 2013

Sustainability isn't a new concept to me. I went to an environmental charter school from kindergarten to eighth grade, attended Conserve School my junior year, and participated in a conservation leadership program in between. I've been wearing green-tinted lenses since I was five years old.

What is new to me is the concept of interconnectedness that has been coming up in all my classes here at Woolman. It's Sustainability 2.0, a version that takes humanitarian concerns into account as well as environmental ones, a school of thought that says there is no difference between the two because humans are as much a part of the environment as birds and trees and air and water.

To me, this feels revolutionary. I saw Eboo Patel, an interfaith leader in Chicago, speak about a month before I left home for Woolman. He made a point of saying that all oppression is connected, declaring that his stake in the dignity of a queer teenager was the same as his stake in the dignity of Muslim-Americans because until all people are free, none can be. This rang true, but it never occurred to me that Mother Earth might be one of the people he was talking about.

Operating under this new version of sustainability, I'm coming to terms with the fact that reduce, reuse, recycle-ing waste really isn't enough. Sustainability 2.0 demands products that are waste -free, that don't simply not harm the environment at the end of their life, but actually contribute to making it healthier.

I'm starting to see that employing sustainable practices does not have to come at the cost of economic or humanitarian interests. To say a practice is sustainable is to say it benefits all three areas without privileging the economy over human rights, or human rights over Earth rights. Under the model of sustainability I was taught up until now, this seemed an unattainable goal at best and an impractical burden at worst. Now I'm beginning to see it as an opportunity. Likewise, the model of sustainability I was previously familiar with sometimes felt like a chore, something one did because it was “the right thing to do” or because if one didn't, the planet was going to die. Sustainability 2.0 is something one strives for because it will make life more wonderful.

I've struggled with some of the concepts presented to me here at Woolman—accepting that capitalism is an inherently flawed system, deciding whether or not I buy into the idea of the Great Turning, swallowing portions of nonviolent communication that feel like they invalidate what I consider to be very valid feelings and reactions—but Sustainability 2.0 is not one of them. It's gone down smooth and easy, better than the first version of sustainability ever did for me. 


by Yasha Magarik, intern - March 16, 2013

One of my recent projects at Woolman was fig-tending. We have one fully established Kadota fig tree near the dining hall, which I’ve dated back to the early 1960s by counting tree rings. The tree was severely cut back when the dining hall’s solar panels were installed and has been neglected ever since. Like all figs that have lost their central trunks, this one sacrificed numerous dead branches and sprouted dozens of lanky runners from the base, resulting in a fig pandemonium. Both dead and even potentially diseased branches and vibrant new growth crowded the plant, scattering scarce resources and increasing the risk of further disease. Although some faculty remember a time when the golden-green figs were large and delicious, by this summer they had become small and rather tasteless. The tree was clearly stressed out.

My fig project consisted of two parts. First, I collected twenty varieties of fig cuttings from five different sources: my parents’ tree in Brooklyn, two fig trees at Dinner Bell Farm in Grass Valley, a California Rare Fruit Growers’ Association scion exchange at UC Davis, Woolman’s dining hall fig tree, and a random but extremely healthy fig tree in Berkeley that I passed during the Peace Studies Storytelling Trip. (I asked permission of the owner before taking scions.) I potted these cuttings (in total, 144) and am waiting for some of them to root; those that do we can transplant to larger pots and eventually into the ground.

The varieties range from the cold-hardy Brown Turkey (from Brooklyn) to the tiger-striped Panachee candy-like fig (an expensive delicacy in American supermarkets), and include many that no commercial grower would use. As our climate changes in the coming years, it’s important to have as much biodiversity on our land as possible; many species will perish in the new, increasingly volatile climate, but some will thrive.



The second part of the project involved far less rooting hormone and no pots. First, I cut out the dead and possibly diseased branches on the dining hall fig tree, making sure to dispose of them far away from the original. Second, I chose dozens of new spots for fig trees all over campus, prioritizing spaces that might need more organic matter, shade, erosion protection, or other benefits that figs could provide. And I made them all accessible from central campus, ensuring that all who use our land could enjoy them without an arduous trek through the woods.

Some spots are on slopes, consciously mimicking the terraced fig garden of Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci.           

Other spots are near the students’ cabins and community residents’ homes, in the sun-dappled nooks between pine, oak and manzanita; the fungal composition of the soil might help the figs more than the loss of direct sun would hurt them. And still others are along the driveway leading past cow pastures, in the old orchard planted by conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War, and in a dry, otherwise empty yard near the Arbor House that has just become our new classroom. In some cases the figs must take care of themselves; in others, they will link up with students’ current sustainability projects, such as a grey-water system for our Meeting House and an outdoor classroom for the Arbor House and Garden.

The third and most labor-intensive step was replanting all these fig stalks. For some stalks, I clipped as near the main root ball as I could and simply stuck them in shovel-dug holes which I then refilled, trusting to the relatively high levels of natural rooting hormone in fig trees. For other runner-stalks that had rooted along the ground, I dug up as much of the root system as possible without disturbing the main root ball and replanted these, knowing that the success rate for such plants should be very high. To protect the young trees from vast temperature swings, trap moisture in the dry season, suppress rival weeds, and above all, to foster beneficial fungal growth in otherwise bacteria-dominated grassland, I mulched each young tree and the entire original fig tree (for which I also built a retaining stone wall). In all, I planted sixty-two new Kadota fig trees for the campus to enjoy in the years to come.

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - March 15, 2013

“By what name will future generations know our time?

Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth's capacity to sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet's resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population?

 Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and Earth?” -David Korten

Activists, authors, indigenous elders, and philosophers from many countries and backgrounds describe this point in human and natural history as The Great Turning. Essentially, it is a term that recognizes that we are at a crossroads and continuing the path that we have been on for the last 100 years will lead to unmatched devastation of human and natural life. However, there are actions, alternatives, and solutions springing up in areas of human rights, economics, the environment, (and so much more!) that are actively combating these crises and the best part is that the folks participating in them are having fun in the meanwhile!

The Great Turning Trip’s goals will be two-fold. Part of the experience will include a tour of some of these fantastic organizations located in the San Francisco Bay--a kind of vortex of visionaries working and playing for a more just and sustainable future. Much of the time will also be spent in interactive workshops with leading activists, using internationally acclaimed methodology for helping us to get in touch with our own individual roles in The Great Turning. Being an activist means something different to each of us and the hope is that through experiencing and being introduced to a range of change-makers, activism and alternative systems, we will be able to see how we might each use what makes us happy in life to make the world a better place!

If you would like to learn more about The Great Turning, here is an article by David Korten:



The Catalyst project:

What: Catalyst Project is a center for political education and movement building. We work to create a world where all people are free from oppression and exploitation. Catalyst Project works in majority white communities with the goal of deepening anti-racist commitment and building multiracial movements for liberation. We create spaces for organizers to develop and share analysis, visions and strategies to build movements for racial, economic, gender and ecological justice. Catalyst programs prioritize leadership development, supporting grassroots organizations and multiracial alliance building.

Website: http://collectiveliberation.org


The Canticle Farm: 9-2

What: The Canticle Farm is an intentional community based off of the values of The Great Turning, including service and nonviolence. The community and its urban garden are located in downtown Oakland. Please click link to read an article about the community:http://www.johndear.org/articles/making-peace-in-inner-city-oakland.html

The Canticle Farm: http://canticlefarm.wikispaces.com/Mission and http://www.servicespace.org/join/?pg=why

o   At the Canticle Farm we will talk to Pancho: http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=127

o   And Adelaja: http://www.awakin.org/forest/index.php?pg=profile&cid=48&sid=12302

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: 3-4:30

What: We will learn about their wonderful projects helping people to speak out for justice, build a green economy, empower voters, build community and invest in young leaders.



Generation Waking Up: 9-5:30

What: The Generation Waking Up Experience - called a “WakeUp” for short - is an interactive, multimedia workshop about the challenges & opportunities of our time, and inspires participants to take meaningful action toward a thriving, just, sustainable world. Whether it be social entrepreneurship ventures, community service projects, or hard-hitting advocacy campaigns, the WakeUp has inspired collaborative action by young people around the globe. Since its launch in 2010, young people have brought the WakeUp to at least 12 countries including the United States, China, Mexico, India, Kenya, Australia, Egypt, Germany, and Brazil.  Thousands have experienced it and over 150 are now trained as WakeUp Facilitators.

Website: www.genup.net


Global Exchange: 9-11

What: Global Exchange is an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world. We will have the opportunity to talk with amazing activists who are in the front lines of the community rights movement, as well as meet a former sweatshop worker who exposed the factory to the ABC 20/20---and more!

Website: www.globalexchange.org

Pachamama Alliance: 1:00-2:30

What: ThePachamama Alliance empowers indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture and, using insights gained from that work, educate and inspire individuals everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world.

Website: www.pachamama.org

Time Bank at Noisebridge Hackerspace 3:30-4:30

What: Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) a collaborative network that supports the development of alternative means of exchange in the San Francisco Bay Area, will host the event. They will introduce us to the Gift Economy concept and the idea of the Time Bank. The Happiness Institute is a space where community members collaborate and work on social projects.

Website: http://timebank.sfbace.org

Food Not Bombs in the mission district 4:30-?

Website: www.foodnotbombs.net

Going out to dinner in china town!


Mission District Mural Tour 9-12 

We will spend the morning touring and engaging in activities related to the various alleyways of the Mission District that are painted from floor to ceiling with graffiti which is often very current and political.

HOME AGAIN by dinner!!!

by Laura Markstein and Sophie Brinker, Community Interns - March 15, 2013

This semester we (Laura Markstein and Sophie Brinker, community interns) have had the pleasure of teaching an elective called Democracy Wow! Each week we watch a movie during our Wednesday class and on Friday discuss the movie in the context of our political system, read excerpts from diverse voices critiquing and commenting on the role of government and democracy, and hold interactive activities exploring the student’s opinions about government and politicians. Throughout the semester some of the big questions we will be grappling with are; what is theoretical democracy in relation to how it is applied in reality? Is democracy always the best kind of government? Why do people oppose it?

It has been a whirlwind so far! Starting with basic definitions of democracy and its roots in the Greek world, we have quickly moved through the structures of our U.S. democratic government to the way democracy influences our personal lives. Some of our most interesting discussions have included debating what role the government should have in people’s lives, the complexities of the relationship between politicians and their constituents, and what choice looks like in the context of our current democracy.

Movies have ranged from Milk to Frost/Nixon and have all had a unique way of informing the topic for the week. It is always exciting to hear what stands out and engages each student. This week we are looking forward to watching Thank You for Smoking and talking about the complex relationship between capitalism and democracy! 

by Nicole Mitchell, Student Spring 2013 - March 6, 2013

One thing that's been coming up a lot for me in the past month here at Woolman is the definition of activism.  What makes one an activist?  What counts as activism? Does volunteering?  What about simple living?  Making a documentary about child slaves on the Ivory Coast certainly counts. (Doesn't it?)  But what about distributing said documentary?  What about just watching it?  I'm not sure yet, but last night I met somebody and had a conversation that felt like another little step towards figuring it all out. 

We were sitting on a beach near Point Reyes, cooking dinner when Joseph rode in.  There was a puppy in the basket of his bike, a trailer full of gear hitched to the back.  We offered him some of our rice and sat down to talk while he ate.

He's riding down the coast, he told us, for awhile.  He worked 8 months at an office job, got fed up with capitalist bullshit, and took off. 

As the sun sank lower our new friend waxed poetic, calling himself a trailblazer, explaining that he hopes in a few years there will be more people doing what he's doing- opting out of the capitalist money system and living un-materialistically.   

We all sat and listened, petting the puppy occasionally.  Wow, we murmured.  That's awesome, Charlotte said.  You changed your whole lifestyle, that's the most you can do.

To a certain extent, I agree.  It's important and admirable to live what you believe.  But is that the limit of activism?  When people see Joseph pedaling along, when they stop to talk with him, is he acting as an activist?    

For me, I think a big part of defining activism is about intent.  Joseph seemed happy that he was modeling the life style he believed in, but I also got the sense that any awareness he raised was just an added bonus to the adventure he was having.  Maybe I'd feel differently if he was distributing literature about his life style as he rode, or if he was giving more organized talks and lectures.

Still, who am I to judge?  The hour we spent talking didn't convince me to abandon capitalism as a broken system, but it did get me thinking about ways I might work as an activist.  That's something.   

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher, Blog Manager - March 3, 2013

The essence of The Woolman Semester School as illustrated by Wordle!

by Berenice Thompkins, Student Spring 2013 - March 3, 2013

(Warning: For the sake of authentic representation in art, the following poem has not been edited for language)


Peel open their crinkly silver petals and suck on them, crumple and shred the wrappers to form little nubs that gather at the corners of your coat pockets and make you smell like chocolate
The little chocolate-smell kisses are cheap
The same way it’s easier to bring in the rat exterminator guy than
Invest in a Have-a-Heart trap the rat might get out of
And end up in the rafters above your fucking bedroom again
The way it’s easier to stomp on the manic, scuttling roach, somewhere where the guts won’t have to be noticed or mopped up
Then to trap all those writhing legs in a cup, be sure none get stuck on the rim,
Still twitching slowly as you take the cup to the sink to rinse it
Because paying in the dark, chasmic negatives,
Paying thirteen-year-olds witch-boils on their shoulder blades and starved legs the width of half a clothespin,
Backs that look like landmine-scarred terrain
Is better than another dollar for a Valentine,
You have to fish around in your pocket for all the quarters
And it’s not quite so sweet  –
You can’t spell her middle name in candy, can’t get the caramel kind you can picture her licking off her fingers
This child-labor shit is like when you really found out what meat was
Sitting on the grass surrounded by friends with a dear head, horns, soft eyelashes and soft cheeks separating, peeling back --
Hearing the grind of the saw, then the squishing sound, the soft-meeting sound as we found
“I think its tongue’s there!”
The vivid crimson tie-dye of a blood clot, spreading out in veins
The sea-anemone whiskers on the inside of a fleshy pink and white cheek
The bare flesh, all the pink and sinew wasn’t so bad, the teeth baring like a Halloween skull
Nearing the beautiful eyelashes makes you understand why in horror movies
The skin is always half on, allowing you to conjure the thing alive, those eyelashes Batting in the sun through dappled leafy branches
It’s hard to conjure the thing alive,
Or dead
When it’s wrapped in all that shiny kiss mythology
Mythology about caramel licking off long, sultry fingers on too-warm, humid winter days
Drawing by: Lily Bell, Student Spring 2013
by Emily Wheeler, Admissions and Outreach Director - March 2, 2013

Dorothy Henderson and Doug Hamm retired on January 31, 2013, after faithfully serving the Woolman community for over 12 years.  We are very grateful to Dorothy for her leadership as Head of School since June 2008, and to Doug for his care of the buildings and grounds as Maintenance Supervisor since June 2000, and to both of them for the myriad ways in which they grounded, nurtured and led the Woolman community over the years. 

Friends and supporters gathered to celebrate Doug and Dorothy’s many contributions to Woolman on February 2 by sharing a delicious Thai-themed dinner, and contributing gifts, readings, and original songs.  The Henderson Hamm Scholarship Fund has also been created in honor of Dorothy and Doug, and offers a $20,000 match for contributions.  

As Head of School, Dorothy poured her heart and soul into the development and stewardship of Woolman’s educational and camp programs, particularly the flagship Woolman Semester program.  She leaves behind highly effective programs that transform the lives of students, interns, and campers.  During her tenure at Woolman, Dorothy hired enthusiastic, motivated staff, presided over the creation of the Farm to Table program and the expansion of the summer camp program, and forged strong bonds with organizations and individuals in the Nevada City community. Dorothy was an avid practitioner and trainer of Non-Violent Communication, and was instrumental in integrating NVC practices into the Woolman community. Dorothy and Doug also led the expansion of sustainability principles in a manner that has interwoven green practices into the daily routine of life at Woolman.

In June, Dorothy and Doug will move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take care of family matters.  We are happy to report, however, that they will be returning in a few years to live near campus in a home they will build on Woolman Lane.

The Board of Directors has created the Henderson-Hamm Scholarship Fund to express gratitude to Dorothy Henderson and Doug Hamm for their leadership and many contributions to Woolman, and to Dorothy’s mother, Lynne Henderson, who has been a steadfast and generous Woolman community member for many years. We invite you to give to the Henderson-Hamm Scholarship Fund which will provide financial aid for Woolman Semester students this spring and into the future through ongoing donations. Donations and pledges will be matched dollar-for-dollar from a $20,000 matching fund. Donations can be made online at this donation link or sent to the Woolman Semester School, 13075 Woolman Lane, Nevada City, CA 95959.

by Charlotte Prud'homme, student Spring 2013 - March 2, 2013

There were 2 minutes left on the clock of Global Issues class when our teacher Emily told us she wanted to show us a video. One Billion Rising, she said it was called, and when we all looked at each other with arched eyebrows and wrinkly foreheads and explained to us what it was. A movement os singing, dancing, celebrating, just getting up and about and moving for and WITH one billion women across the globe for womens rights, equality, peace and justice. "Why wouldn't any women support this?", I thought. We watched the video and after those three minutes were through I felt a turmoil of emotions rise up inside me. I wasn't sure wether to smile, cry, respond, be silent, get up, stay sitting down. I just rested my chin in my hands for a good silent minute or two, and Emily let us, as the waves of shock pulsated off the projector screen and onto our bodies, pushing us back into our chairs everytime we wanted to get up to leave the classroom.

Eventually we did leave the classroom, and left campus that night to go to a gathering in Grass Valley. It met and surpassed my expectations, and was probably the biggest rally I've ever been to. There were women, men, boys, girls, couples, families, and dogs. There was music, dancing, art, poetry, food, banners, signs, tshirts, stickers, you name it you could find it. I was ultimately impressed by the community's ability to organize and gather, and it gave me hope for the future of women and their strength as one unit, in any place, at any time, across the globe. 
If Gangam Style, a video of a Korean man dancing (?), could go viral on the internet, so should this video. I think that every women on the planet should watch the One Billion Rising video.
Click the screenshot below to see it!