Alum Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Sophia Mueller, Fall '15 student - December 21, 2015
I frequently hear people complaining about their work. Many people don’t want to work or dread having to. However, imagine work being inspiring for you. Fun. Creative. Something you are crazily passionate about. As I write this essay I am in residence at The Woolman Semester School where the mission is “to steward diverse learning communities and educational programs that weave together spirituality, peace, sustainability and social action.” One way these important themes are woven together is through our requirement to participate in shared work. A lot needs to be done around campus; whether it is gardening, stacking firewood, or cooking, there are always opportunities to help out.
Shared work is one of my favorite parts of Woolman because I usually get to work outside in the garden. I love to work closely with the earth. I also love shared work because the whole Woolman community works together to make a comfortable, sustainable, and happy home for us all. There is something powerful about working with other people: I get energy from their motivation, and I can inspire them to keep working by sharing my enthusiasm. When many people work together to do something they care about, it becomes even more meaningful.
I find shared work to be very satisfying. I get to see the results of my work. No, it is not instant gratification, but I can see that what I do matters and has a positive effect. I remember planting radishes one day. Each time I revisited I noticed them getting bigger and heartier, eventually becoming ready to provide us with healthy nutrition. Sure this was more work than going to the supermarket and buying vegetables straight from the shelves, but it was important. We all worked together and had a direct relationship with the earth and our food. Shared effort makes work more meaningful. It connects and motivates people. When I feel deeply inspired to serve a purpose, and when I experience the power of people achieving something important together, work means a lot to me. 
by Jasmine Rosalbo, a recent graduate of the Fall 2014 semester - December 16, 2014

When I think of intersectionality,

I see a venn diagram of overlapping social categories

I see colorful pasta intertwined to make mutually constructed identities

I see runners on a track

I see obstacles set in front of them

On the basis of their race

and gender

I see privilege and the power to oppress

I see multi layered oppression of people of color

I see gender, race, class, sexuality

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

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

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

I see politicians claiming neutral politics

That serve this fictional majority

I see a public space filled with institutions

That were built to serve the hegemonic masculinity

and oppress the other

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

Where are the people of color?

Where are the colonized?

Where are the disabled people?

Where are those who lie outside the recognized boundaries?

This is what needs to be seen

This is what needs to be made visible

These are the voices that need to be heard

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

Which can unmask the identity of the “neutral” citizen

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

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

More than a checklist of static identity categories

And instead something that is used to really take into account

The complex forms of discrimination

Shaped by history

And social structures

As a white middle class cisgendered woman

And a bearer of privilege,

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

So that i may be apart of deconstructing them

I am not humanity

I am not women

I am not objective

I am a standpoint in solidarity with,

and recognition of society's many unique and complex identities


In other words, I hope for solidarity.

I hope for understanding, gender starscapes and fluidity

I hope to bring compassion for the unknown

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

by Maria Doerr, Alum (Spring 2012) - January 12, 2013


It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since my first days in Nevada City. The following is a college application essay I wrote about a very dear Woolman experience. I am so thankful for the wholesome, enlightenment Woolman promotes and sustains. Best wishes to the incoming Spring 2013 class!


Washing Leeks

The sun sat heavily on the surrounding Sierra Nevada foothills. The acre garden spread out in all directions—to the east lay the tool shed followed by rows upon rows of lettuce, kale and spinach to the west. My classmates were dispersed through the garden, some weeding in the strawberry bed, others hoeing an area destined for tomatoes later in the spring. At the washbasins, constructed from old bathtubs on wooden stilts, I eyed my assigned task: a box heaped with dirty leeks to be stripped and cleaned before their final destination in the campus kitchen.

I dumped the leeks into the bathtub of cold water before me and began to swirl the leafy greens around until the water became a dusty brown. My forearms deep in the tub, I searched for my first target, pulled out a large leek and began to wipe away the grime.


This was food. Food that had come a long way to reach my hands. This plant was seeded in October, watered daily, protected from the cold and nurtured until February when someone plucked it from the ground and sent it to me for cleaning. From here, it would go to the kitchen where a group of students and faculty would use it in an edible masterpiece.

I shook the leek dry and sought my next victim. Pulling back the thin outer layer of skin along the stalk, I uncovered the tender white center. I reached for the knife to cut away the entangled roots and coarse, green tops. The box of clean leeks was growing steadily.

How many people did it take to grow this little plant?  Many. Behind each stage in this plant’s life was a different person with a different task who had invested time and effort in its cultivation. The seeders, weeders, waterers, harvesters and washers.

I looked around the garden at my classmates and teachers scattered among the rows of bounty doing their respective chores. In our small community, we worked, studied and played together. We had been brought from across the country to this small Quaker school in Northern California to learn about peace, justice and sustainability. We represented a range from New York City to the suburban Midwest, the incorporated areas of Los Angeles to rural Vermont. We came as pagans, Christians, Jews, atheists and Quakers. As bisexuals, heterosexuals and transsexuals. As mixed races and Caucasians. Our differences had brought us together in this place to learn and grow.

We had raised this. This leek. This meal-to-be. Our daily labor and individual tasks made the farm and community whole.

With a satisfying plop, the last leek dropped into the box. In the distance, I could hear the dinner bell ringing.

by Madeline Artibee, Student Fall 2011 - September 14, 2012


Someone before my semester stuck a star on the light over my bed. I don’t know what color the star sticker is because the light, along with the walls, is painted an off white. My room has been painted many times over; so many times there is a thick coating over the star, making its presence pretty prominent. In a place like Woolman, sometimes it is hard to find evidence of prior students. No doubt at the end of our semester here, we will have to paint the walls as well, deep clean the buildings, and move out.

The star reminds me that this place is more than just ours; I think about those who came before us, and who will come after, and respect that it is theirs as much as it is ours.  Woolman is a place where 50 years of passionate young people like my semester have slept, worked, and socialized.  They probably felt similarly to our semester, they probably had struggles like ours, and lived like us. After Hiwot, Anna, and I leave Cabin H will continue to host such folk, and the cycle of Woolman will continue. The star will remain, and maybe the next person who will sleep in this bed will think about the preceding students, like I do.

Realizing this is the most beautiful thing I have learned from Woolman.  This place is a building and thriving community of people who come and go, and create and maintain a space where students like us can come and change the atmosphere relative to our wants and needs, then leave and create the space for another group all over again. I feel sad about leaving this great school, but I am relieved to know that there will be more students feeling the same as I do right now next semester and the one after and so on. The legacy of the students lives on the stories that we will create, and maybe the stars we leave on the lights. 

by Hiwot Misker, Fall 2011 - September 14, 2012


Dear Woolman

I feel like I have just started to appreciate your beauty and wisdom, but I fear it may be too late. Four or five weeks ago when I went back home for our break, I had missed you. I was surrounded by the ugly, assimilated houses that had boxed backyards that didn’t enable a simple, natural life to flourish. I had been surrounded by technology, people, and the only nature I could see were the freshly cut, plastic grass. I had missed the tall pines and oaks that had shaded me from the hot, blazing sun. I had missed the breath-taking blue Yuba, and the “Do it or your Nothing!” phrases. I had missed the long talks and laughs with my roommates who kept me company as I fell asleep. I even missed that creepy spider above my bed. As I sit now writing this letter, I cannot help but wonder, how will I survive knowing the knowledge you have taught me?  How will I go back to the world, knowing that I might fall under oblivion? When I first came here I was skeptical of whether I would actually learn something. I thought I knew everything about global and peace issues because I was an immigrant who has experienced some of the injustice. I had thought I knew about agriculture and the food I was eating . But as the school progressed, I had started to acquire new knowledge and wisdom that are shadowed or ignored in regular schools. And as I begin to discover this new activist role I want to act in my life, I have began to appreciate a human's life, and the nature that sustains us. Thank you Woolman, I would never have been able to find a voice without you!

                                                                                                                Sincerely, Hiwot Misker

                                                                                                                                         Fall 2011


by Jenny Davis, Spring '12 - August 6, 2012


My solo spot was like Alcatraz. It was close enough to the dining hall to hear peals of laughter reverberating in the frigid air. Those peals were the interns, whom I thought of as chipper and giving rodents, constantly offering nutritional yeasty quinoa with bright smiles and eager questions. Those interns. They were warm and dry and probably playing Spit. I shook my fist at the thundering sky with spite, vowing that once I left this wretched place I would never be cold again. As I lay sobbing under my sleeping bag, rain drenching my food supply and clothes, I resolved to go home at once. I hated Woolman. I despised my roommates, from whom I sensed hostility and resentment. It was cold and I didn’t understand how to light a fire. I didn’t know how to get to the dining hall. I was terribly lonely. I missed my parents and my friends. I even missed my sister. This was the beginning of the semester.

If I’ve learned one thing at Woolman, it’s that, as spoken word poet Tanya Davis always says, lonely is healing if you make it. Being alone is often frowned upon in our culture: it implies shunning or ostracism. Instead of pariahs, though, loneliness turns out people who are aware of the boundaries between the self and the community. At a place like Woolman, when one is enveloped in the community constantly, we must learn to make room for physical aloneness as well as mental space. Here, we learn to create a cognitive realm that is wholly separate from the group. We are unique, it seems, but also a collective. The poet Maya Angelou professes that each person has his, her, or their own inviolate space. At Woolman, I learned to cherish my own inviolate space as well as the precious collective space of the community. These two spaces—my own and the group’s—coexist peacefully.

“Woolman is really about (dramatic pause) love,” Jane said before drifting off to sleep one night a couple of weeks ago. She was out like a light, but I lay awake considering her words. Woolman is about love? It seemed so far-fetched and absurd. Sure, I LOVE Woolman, but how is Woolman ABOUT love?

But when I thought about it more, I realized that Jane had spoken sage, if delirious, words. At Woolman, everything we do is centered around love, for both our own inviolate space and that of the community. It can really be that simple. We are encouraged to love, and not judge, each other and ourselves. That’s NVC in a nutshell. We are invited to love what we do, from homework assignments to goat herding to pottery. We are urged to love Earth and people and medicine, and appreciate all of these things on Thursday night dinners. It’s about taking the time to love the intersections of many selves, and finding the space to love yourself. Such is the stuff of Woolman.

On that first fifth Sunday when we were all required to go to meeting for worship, Karen Olsen said, “You don’t have to be perfect, you only have to be whole.” It was the moral of a story about a mouse, but these words stuck with me throughout the semester. I thought about these words on my solo, while crying under my increasingly sopping sleeping bag, and later here and there—on the global issues trip; in environmental science class; in NVC. Another tidbit that I’ve picked up at Woolman is that we can’t get to be whole by making achievements, be they academic, athletic, or artistic. We can’t get to be whole if we focus on only what we DO. The only thing we can do, really, is love. If we love ourselves, if we love each other, if we love what we do and if we love what surrounds us, the pieces come together. If we love our personal realms and our group realm, we are bound for success in all senses of the word. Jane was right: Woolman is about love. Once you open yourself up to it, it’s easy to find the love. Right now, standing here, I can confidently say that I love all of you and have complete faith in the combined power of our separate mental realms. Because although lonely is healing if you make it, community—the collection of many lonelies—is unstoppable.  

by John Malcomson, alumni class of '86 - May 15, 2012


Dear Woolman,


I would like to share about my experience of going to Woolman to visit with current students and staff in the spring of 2010.


I had a great chance to share my experience of being a student at John Woolman School in May of 2010 on location at Woolman during their Spring Semester. 


I had a positive life-changing experience as a student at Woolman and I thought it would be great to give an idea of what it was like when I was a student to the current students in the one semester program.  It was also a great time to introduce my wife Heidi to Woolman, which she had certainly heard a lot about :o)


Once I got on campus 24 years after graduating, I realized that so much was the same though some things were different.  The environment was still beautiful and well-kept.  Walking out in the meadow was great.  I did wander through the Manzanita to the location of the student-built "Treehouse" and found it lying in a pile on the ground.  Close by was a fire circle with fresh wood and was obviously lovingly maintained by someone. ( I am not recommending open fires in a CA grassland.)  Years had passed and some things were different, but the energy of the place was still about learning how to be in a world that needs your help.


I was invited to speak after the silent meeting which happens in the middle of the week.  This part of the day is controlled by students and is also a community meeting addressing various needs, like scheduling and keeping aware of upcoming events or responsibilities of students and staff.  In addition to staff, students, and interns-Ted Menmuir, current pottery teacher and occasional principal and teacher over the years was there.  He was the only contemporary of my time at Woolman who was present.


I spoke about the expectations that Woolmanites had of each other when I attended and of the traditions we honored.  I spoke of how much we learned to respect each other and develop healthy relationships with the staff, animals, and environment around us.  I talked about how each student experienced being valued as an individual at Woolman, and was empowered to follow his or her own way of being in the world.  That we had these ideals made for a unique environment.  I shared that student conduct at Woolman was not so much about rules as understandings about how one lived in community and took advantage of the opportunities of being in the community.  While we were students after every break or vacation we would hug each member of the community the first time we saw him or her when we returned to campus.


Mostly, I talked about being encouraged to follow my heart and take responsibility for my life.  About taking my studies seriously, working hard in the Woolman community (workjobs), and being an activist in the larger community as I was led to do so.  The work for peace, social and environmental justice just naturally grew out of that.


I also talked about being at Woolman and having the experience of community was something one did as an individual, but it was also in the presence and tradition or lineage of others as well.  I compared it to the Native American/First Nations tradition of being in a sacred space with "all my relations."  Though the students were there now, the energy of those who had been students and staff before, and even by extension the families of the students who had been touched by the Woolman experience, are present on that land and in that community.  Especially at Silent Meeting and graduation, it is clear to me that students take their place in relation to all those who have gone before and even into the future.  Such a precious time it was for me at Woolman and speaking there with the students and staff I felt that they knew this preciousness too.  They did not have the luxury to experience it for three years as I did, but they clearly appreciated their time at Woolman.  I encouraged them to use it well and not get too distracted by the actions which could get them in trouble or out of harmony with the community.


I thanked them for coming to Woolman and taking the time to learn and use their study to help others as well as themselves.  I thanked them for the projects of education and activism that they are involved in.  I thanked them for listening and half-heartedly apologized for being so emotional.


It is a memory I shall not soon forget.


Love, Peace, and Granola,

John Malcomson '86

by Tashi Atlman-Berger, student Fall 2011 - May 15, 2012

Dear Woolman,

I can’t say this about any other time in my life but I honestly believe that anything I do here is somehow productive.  When I eat a meal here I know I am nourishing my body, when I build a fire I know my cabin will be heated for the night, when I laugh with friends about a joke someone said I know I am happy.  Here I have learned to live in the moment and that being silly and having fun can be meaningful.  

I have never before felt so supported and loved while feeling supportive and loving.    Here at Woolman everything is mutual as we truly live by the golden rule.  I see teachers,  interns, fellow students, and community members as friends and family and I feel personally connected to each and every one of them.  That is incredibly unique.  I try not to take for granted the fact that everyone here is so accepting that anyone can be themselves and be appreciated because of their differences.  Sometimes I wish the whole world could be like Woolman. 

Oh what I would give to have more time here.  Time to explore each of the 230 acres of land, to learn all the Woolman recipes, to see the seeds I planted grow, to learn even more from my teachers, to carry out all the plans I have made, and just to spend more time with these lovely people.  But I know my time here will soon come to a close and when that day comes I will be happy.  Happy because I know that when I leave another person will have the opportunity to take my place and experience this wonderful place I have been lucky enough to call home. 


Tashi Altman-Berger (Fall 2011)

by Colman Lee, Student Fall '11 - May 15, 2012

Dear Woolman,

You weren’t what I expected. I guess I don’t really know what I expected. I didn’t expect manzanita. I didn’t expect it to be so dry and lacking of mushrooms, at least in the beginning. I thought that by the end I would feel all experienced and knowledgeable, and confident in my beliefs and opinions, knowing exactly what to do next. Well, here I am with three weeks to go, and maybe those things are true, but I still don’t feel the way I expected.

Maybe it’s because I can’t wait to go home, and my homesickness is obscuring my feelings towards the last few months. I bet once I go home I’m sure I’ll really begin to see how valuable this experience was. I really did have a lot of good times. Going for adventures in the woods, finding a huge variety of beautiful mushrooms, then coming back and making spore prints galore. Eating a delicious shaggy mane cooked up in coconut oil. Climbing every climbable tree on campus. Climbing that one tree with the rope in it, and swinging out off the branches. Playing with Brosenberg at a much more legit than expected high school auditorium, opening for Michael Moore. THE YUBA, the wilderness trip, watching a snake swallow a fish, then seeing it happen again a couple weeks later. Man, I went swimming in the Yuba every weekend until October. I loved visiting the cows and the obelisk, listening to it hum. I had so many great times avoiding my homework, probably the best. I can’t wait to come back in a few years and see how Woolman has changed. The forest garden will be so wonderful, and hopefully with mushrooms from my project among the rest. Right now I can’t wait to go home, but I’m sure eventually I’ll feel the same way about coming back.


With love,

Colman Lee

by Shayne Mott, Friend was a student here, thought I would Contribute. - March 3, 2012

Recently i cam across a site which involves wind energy facts. I read this article ---> Homemade Wind Energy <---- . Instead of re-writing the article, I will let you view it there. Anyways, so I read this article as I have been re-searching ways to make my cottage self sustainable. On the site they sell a Do it yourself guide to making and setting up your own home wind generation turbine. 

I was skeptical, but it actually worked out and now our, fridge, lights, and utilities all run off a combination of solar/wind energy! 

Check out the article, its better then my post here hehe.

by Charles Dorfan, Alumni - November 23, 2011

 I write this for the Woolman blog because my Woolman Semester has led me to this point of my life. I am married to a wonderful woman and I am happy. I never could have expected to be here now, though I am. I think of life as an expanding mathematical equation. Each aspect, each interaction is a number multiplied or added unto each other to create an equation, but the equation is ever changing and if any one number were to be changed, the equation would be vastly different. Such has been my experience at the Sierra Friends Center. It was by chance that I elected to leave high-school and travel North to live in the woods for four months and learn about the world. 

Sharon and her husband had gone to the John Woolman School. They married and had children and their son named Nate had gone to school with me. He is a very close friend and he’s taught me a lot. For that I’m grateful. One day Sharon and my mom were in our backyard picking persimmons with a long device invented for exactly that purpose. I walked outside and watched them take the winter fruits off the branches and it was there and in that space of time that Sharon told me about Woolman. It is to say, that had I not come outside that day, I may not have attended the semester and I probably wouldn’t now be living in Colorado with my wife, Viktorija. 

I lived with Rowan at Woolman and afterwards he went to University in Scotland and I went to college in my home town. I lived without much purpose or intention, but every so often, a seed of knowledge would bloom forth, planted by the hands of those four months. I visited an old Woolman teacher, Ben, in Lara’s cabin, up in the haunted hills North of Shasta. Ben showed me around the woods, told me to watch the deer and the rabbits and the birds. I saw an eagle fly over my head, I saw two birds, for love. Lara’s dog Eva brought me comfort, an escort on my walks. Each evening Ben and I ate with little conversation and then conversation trickled into us and we talked late into the darkness. The great mother Shasta gathered herself against the wind to the South, and Easterly were the Sierras, a foreboding range, though I cannot say for why.  I went because I had to, I had no choice. I drove myself there in search of a purpose and I returned home without.

The next week I left for Scotland and a job I found through WWOOF. I visited Rowan in St. Andrews and I drove a tractor in the Scottish country side. I left for Ireland to sit in meditation and learn Vipassana for ten days of silence. I came back to Scotland in anguish after sitting the course. Something in me was jolted, my axioms unhinged. I met new friends on the farm and for another month we lived in our small reality. But something pulled me North. A discontentment smoldered in my heart, so I ran from it. I had a friend in Norway and I decided to find another farm to work for there. 

Traveling it does one well to find little while friends. I met many with whom I talked to, embraced and I left or they left and I knew them no longer. My friends in Bjorkelangen, Norway taught me how to play volleyball, how to milk a cow and tend to naughty roosters and I thank them and think fondly of them. 

I met my wife in Oslo, Norway, but that’s a story for a different time. I love her more each day, each second, really. Our lives grow into each other as two trees conjoin. I haven’t found my purpose yet, or contentment with myself or the world. I appreciate the things I have, but maybe not enough. Appreciation gives me happiness, so I strive to appreciate my health and wealth, the bed in which I sleep, the car that I drive. I appreciate more the blessings of my parents, the love as big as the sea they have for me, the affection of my wife. I live near my brother again, we’re both in Boulder and seeing him gives me satisfaction. My wife and I and him are the Colorado family core, our parents Westwards and Eastwards. I write this because I’m grateful for the coincidences of my life, the numbers in my equation that bring me forth each day. 

by Chlöe Grubbs-Saleem, Student Fall 2010 - November 21, 2011

About a month ago I went to Wall Street with a friend of mine, not knowing anything about the Occupy movement. I found myself in Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Square) with thousands of others who did not agree with the fundamental political and social system to which we have been forced to live in. This is the revolution that the Woolman Semester teaches every day. There were people there of all colors, ethnicities, classes, ages, and backgrounds, working together to educate the people of what the government has been hiding from us for so long. “The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” (

The park was incredibly well organized. There was a free library with thousands of books that anyone could take to read, based on a trust system. There was the kitchen supplying food to anyone (all donations). They even had a compost! :) The General Assembly resembled Quaker process, with a strong focus on finding consensus within the community before moving forward. There were many different committees, all of which you can see and even take part in here: 

Every day they would have an Assembly. Everything that was said was simultaneously being filmed and put on livestream online, typed and projected on a screen, being amplified by the people's voices (through mic check), and was being signed in sign language.

I saw issues of all kinds being addressed at the park. I listened to a woman give a speech on the Zapatistas being forced out of their land in Mexico, another man talked about climate change, there was non stop music and drumming, chanting, and the forming of a great expanding community.

Just this weekend I returned to Zuccotti Park for another completely different, yet enlightening experience. Last Tuesday at about 1am, the NYPD raided Liberty Square and drove everyone out with tear gas, beatings, and arrests. They took everything. They threw out the People's Library. Thousands of books went in the dumpster. Many had been living there for weeks with all of their possessions. The kitchen was destroyed, tents, structures, etc.

But did this stop the people? Hell no.

I got there on Saturday to find that the NYPD had completely fenced in the park, with only two small entranced for going in and out with about 4 cops guarding each one. The kitchen was now a small table of donated food and the library was restarted in a plastic container. What was still present was the inspiration and action of the people. While I was there I witnessed (and/or took part in) the following:

    • the first gay wedding at Wall Street

    • Michael Moore

    • the interfaith service. I sat with the Quakers :)

    • a march to Judson Church, with about 20 policemen following us on motorcycles and vans

    • The Council of Elders spoke at Judson Church ( ) It was incredibly inspiring. These civil rights activists from the twentieth century gave this movement a step forward with advice and wisdom. They were so proud of us.. :) They spoke of overcoming racism, finding space to “occupy”, and not letting religion stop our spirituality. We need to learn from past movements and work together with all groups of people to make standing change.

    • A speech from a leader of Occupy Harlem

    • Candlelit march to the Juan Pablo Duarte Square, with music and singing all the way

    • More singing, with a lovely band

    • A paper covered wall on which were were told to write what space means to us. I drew a person shouting “Live what you believe!” :D

    • Coffee and donuts

   The Occupy Movement is an idea which can't be stopped. There are protests going on ALL OVER THE WORLD. Occupy Tokyo. Occupy Paris. Occupy Melbourne. Occupy Honolulu. Occupy Istanbul. Occupy the WORLD. ( go to to see more occupy movements and find one in your area).

 I feel like I can finally be proud of my generation. But this is not just my generation's movement. This is about bringing EVERYONE together and getting back what's ours.

Here's some more links and information I've found:

The Occupy Wall St. official page:

The New York General Assembly:

Occupy Together:

The Council of Elders:

The 1% fighting back:

Incredible video of the police pepper-spraying protesters at UC Davis. Notice how NO ONE resorts to violence. They drive off the cops using only the power of speech:

Some pictures from around the world:

Facts about OWS:

Philadelphia Police Capt Ray Lewis Joins OWS Protest:

Another great more recent video:

by Joseph Price, Attended in '88-'89 - November 14, 2011

I just wanted to share my family's new blog dedicated to making the world a better place. Our latest post includes photographs we took at the Occupy Oakland General Strike on Wednesday, which was a magnificently beautiful thing to behold and participate in!

Please stop by!

I still marvel daily at the positive impact my Woolman experience had on me at such a young age. I'm so excited to know that it is still happening!

I am amazed at how the Woolman experience has morphed since it was a high school in my day into a form where the beauty and power of my experience has been distilled in a way that it can transform the lives of so many more! You are changing the world!

In solidarity forever...

Joseph, Catherine, Seymour and Daisy Price

San Jose, CA

by anonymous, former student - November 7, 2011

This poem was written by an alumna's mother about sending her off to Woolman.


Surrounded by peace and peaceful spirits

I found myself void of thought

The Woolman Semester giving rise to greats unknown


I shiver in the excitement of morrow


Her spirit flows with oscillating anticipation and wonder

Words could penetrate so deeply


Rivers of love ebb and flow

Creation fills the air

Standing still and heavy

Drinking in the silence and the dew of prospects to come


I am still and void of self

Yet abundance completes me


My daughter almost a grown woman

My love for her spirit and infinite wisdom

Her prophecy of greatness comming

Fervor, sincerity and holiness

She and it and they encompass me

I am still bound by spirit and awe

Peace and tranquility

No thoughts

No words


Just my daughter

by Rebecca Levine, Student Spring 2011 - July 29, 2011

In his essay, "Spectatoritis", Smith had a point. People want to watch the news, liberal or conservative, to be told what they should think.

They want to seem informed in conversation and feel good about their knowledge of the issues when Election Day rolls around.

However, it is increasingly rare to find people who search for factual current events and participate in supporting their beliefs.

Smith has a valid point, but fails to examine the different types of spectatoritis victims: actual spectators and frustrated global citizens.

Spectators are the polar opposite of global citizens. They make a choice to be lazy and a choice not to participate. We have so many privileges in the United States, including the ability to get involved in politics, that it is infuriating to be around these spectators. These people use current events as entertainment, not as a source of knowledge: taking for granted the building blocks of our government.

There is one valid explanation for this laziness: global citizens have lost hope in the system. These people did care, but now are constantly bombarded with the frustration of modern times. It is difficult to participate in a government that allows toxic waste to be dumped on farms and corporations to have more rights than individuals.

Many so called “spectators” are really just aggravated global citizens, tired of trying to create change in a system that will not allow for it.

Other than his oversight of this possibility, Smith raises an extremely important issue: we have a growing epidemic in the United States. Citizens take their freedoms for granted; therefore they see no need to be informed and active. Those that are uninterested in government prevent it from serving the people. This, in turn, frustrates global citizens, causing them to retreat and become spectators as well. Spectatoritis is now a pattern we must break away from.

by William Reich, Student Spring 2011 - July 19, 2011

Sustainability has been an ongoing theme over the course of the Woolman Semester. To me, sustainability means:

finding equilibrium with the surrounding environment that makes continuous, harmonious living with the environment and your community possible.

Renewable, on the other hand, is harder to define. The dictionary defines a renewable resource as:

one that is capable of being replaced by natural ecological cycles or sound management practices.

I think often times the term "renewable" is misused in modern society. Even if a resource is renewable, if humans are taking more from the earth than it can replenish, these resources are no longer renewable. This statement is simple enough, but it seems to not be taken into account when we are dealing with resources we consider renewable.

Water is a renewable resource, but we continue to mismanage and waste it, so water has become a problem in the world.

Soil is a renewable resource, but we choose to extract as much as possible from it instead of managing it so it can keep producing.

Forests are renewable resources, but we log them too heavily so they do not grow back.

These are just a few examples of renewable resources that we are slowly turning into non-renewable resources by extracting too much from them and mismanagement of them. I believe one of the most important adjustments we must make in the way we live is to manage these renewable resources in a sustainable fashion in order to create prosperity for our and future generations

by Marie Vastola, Student Fall 2010 - July 15, 2011

After returning from Woolman and entering back into junior year at Pacific Grove High School in January of 2011, there was one thing on my mind. Woolman. So naturally, when my English teacher asked the class to write a sonnet I wrote one about Woolman. Here it is, and I hope you enjoy it. 



Sprawling meadows dotted with grazing cows,

gently worn dirt paths invaded with quails,

a flock of turkeys feeding under plows,

glowing kids gathering berries with pails.

Clustered cabins create a family,

their chimneys setting smoke from wood stoves free.

Awoken by the kind sun merrily,

the birds begin to sing in their nesting tree.

We rise too, ready for another day,

hours filled with nothing but smiles, and a song.

As the stars break through their cover, we say

goodnight, ready for the day before long.

This is Woolman, which I no longer see

yet there is no place I would rather be.

by Lily Elder, Alum Fall 2009 - July 9, 2011

If you don't already know her, let me introduce to you: Lily Elder. Lily attended Quaker gatherings at Woolman for years before becoming a Woolman Semester student. No doubt about it, Lily is a Woolmanite for life! When she was a student, it was incredibly rewarding to be her teacher as you could almost visibly watch the way in which she took the Woolman curriculum to heart and saw the world through newly opened eyes. It was clear that she was not going to sit idle with this education, but take it out into the world as we all hope that our students will.

During her semester, Lily bonded with students, staff, and also the chickens and cows! The Woolman Community was more than excited when she returned early this year to spend several months interning at the Cow-Op (our dairy cooperative on the land). Rarely have I seen youth at her age do such intense manual labor, while clearly enjoying it! Her compassion with animals, intelligence, and strong work ethic will surely lead to her dream coming true of becoming a large animal veternarian.

In May, it was time for Lily to leave. Her first engagement was to go home and present the following speech as valedictorian at her home school. Did I mention that she allowed her Woolman experience to change her life? Well, she sent this speech to me to share with Woolman friends because it was taken almost word for word from a Woolman Environmental Studies assignment!

Congratulations, Lily!

(Emily, Global Issues Teacher 2009-present)


By this time in our lives, hopefully we have learned what is right and wrong, what is okay to do and what is not.  In a word, we have learned ethics.  Most ethics relate to other people.  Our ethics tell us it is bad to cause other people pain and we feel bad when we do.  Our ethics are born of years of evolutionary history when species, tribes, and families had to take care of each other to survive.

But we humans cannot survive exclusively on our own.  Every molecule of the food we eat and the air we breathe came from nonhuman sources.  We are dependant on things like the water cycle and photosynthesis.  All life on earth is codependent.  Therefore it is not enough that we humans have ethics of how to treat one another.  We need ethics governing our interactions with the plants, animals, soil, air, and water that we depend on.  We need ethics for the LAND. 

For eons humans have regarded land as property, a commodity to be disposed of as we wish.  Land has been used and manipulated for maximum economic benefit for its owner.  However we are now seeing the effects of this mindset in such tragedies as topsoil erosion, groundwater depletion, and, the hot topic of our time, global warming.  In the words of Aldo Leopold from his book A Sand County Almanac: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” 

Think about it.  What if just as most people know it is morally wrong to hurt another human being we felt in our gut it was wrong to clear cut a forest, pollute a river, or drain a wetland.  What if we equated mountaintop removal and species extinction with atrocities like war and genocide. 

The great California hero John Muir said: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

I believe that a collective failure to understand, or unwillingness to acknowledge, this truth has led us to our current state of global environmental crisis.  The next step for us as a species is to take this truth to heart, see the far-reaching effects of our actions on the biotic community and realize that only a small fraction of our life sustaining family is actually human.  As we graduates go out into the world as adults let us strive to see the threads tying everything in the universe to everything else in the universe.  Let us look upon plants, animals, soil, and water as our most precious treasures, deserving of great care.  And, most of all, let us cherish the land as our life-giving family.  

Lily Elder, May 2011



by Chloe Grubbs-Saleem, Alum Fall 2010 - May 2, 2011

Prior to Woolman, I was asked again and again what I would be doing after I graduated High School. I was so grateful to have had an answer to give them.

“I’m going to the Woolman Semester!”

“The Woman Semester?” They would ask, because no matter how hard I tried to pronounce the “L” in Woolman, they could never hear me.

“No, the Woollllman Semester. It’s a semester program in Northern California that has classes based on Peace, Social Justice, and Sustainability.”

“Oh, that sounds cool.” And that was usually it.


I remember imagining myself biking to Nevada City on rolling hills, and perhaps babysitting for the neighbors. I would practice my bass, and learn French. I would go to the library, and read all those books I’ve been meaning to. Of course I had no time for any of this.


No, my time at the Woolman Semester was spent doing activities I could never have predicted. If I combined all of those events into one single event, it would be something like this:

...rapping Harry Potter while hiking on a giant garden map in the Salvation Army as I peel mangoes and play guitar but oh wait it’s raining and my feet are cold and soaked, but I have to sit still because I’m modeling for drawing but all I really want to do is pour goddess dressing on everything and go to sleep but I can’t because I have to write that paper and finish that project and work on my dreads and call back home, so I make some coffee and stay up all night, but my computer decides that its life is not worth living and no matter how much I try to persuade it the internet never works, so I go for a walk with Banjo and get lost on deer trails, and end up at the Crystal tree, and leave my soul, but I don’t have enough copies for each branch so I draw a picture with Althea and lie in the grass and watch a baby calf stand for the first time, as I make a card for the new cow intern, and then the bell rings and it’s time for dinner and I don’t understand how they managed to make the best meal everagain, and I need to finish that reading but I have dish crew so I scrub pots and pans and jars, and wonder if the cheesy scones were worth the burnt cheese stuck to the tray, so I walk to my cabin and run into a deer, and then it’s finally check in and I go to sleep and spend the next few hours dreaming of Woolman.


So, that may have been more than one event, but you get the picture. Woolman is a magic wonderful land filled with the loveliest of people. You really don’t need to leave, because everything you need is right there. Got a headache? Just go talk to Kai the medicine man. He’ll prescribe you an herbal concoction as he virtually saves the world from Goombas and Wario and Bowser. Wondering which God or Goddess would be best to care for your chickens? I ask myself that every day. But instead of asking me, you ask Megan, who would give you a ridiculously elaborate response describing exactly what offering to leave out, and the best ways of teaching your chickens to listen to their new caretaker. Having trouble relaxing? Well look no further than Sage, who will melt your heart with her harp strings. Looking to cast just the right actor for your newest hit? Ask Patricia to stand in on the tryouts! She’ll tell you exactly if their looks are movie worthy or not. Want to know if your movie was a hit? Ask Dennis, the behind the scenes movie connoisseur. He might even make you a movie poster if he feels so inclined. Is that bully down the block giving you trouble? After Keith shows him his martial arts skillz he won’t bother you again. Having trouble sleeping are you? Anna will give you her secret as to how she can sleep through anything! She might even throw in a witty antic dote for a nominal fee. What’s that? You’re hungry? Aren’t you lucky, as Max has just made a cheesecake! Wondering which actress it was that you saw on TV last week? Don’t ask Marijke, she won’t know. Ask her instead which kind of tree it was that you saw last week. Find yourself in a lawsuit? Hire Annabelle to be your lawyer. Her debating skills are so good she could convince a penguin that it could fly. Are you getting sick of everyone’s sarcastic answers to your questions? Try asking Marie a question! I guarantee you her answer will be cheerful and honest and not have one drop of sarcasm in it.


In all possibly nonexistent seriousness, Woolman has been a life changer for me. I have grown so much more aware of the world around me, have boosted my self-confidence, and am leaving with many long lasting friendships. Woolman is an overwhelmingly supportive community that you want to cling on to for life, but you can’t because you have to let go and go out and spread newfound enlightenment. I’ve loved my time here deeply, and I’m sure gonna miss it. Thank you.





Fall 2010 Students and Interns simultaneously singing and crying after the graduation ceremony

"Home is whenever I'm with you..."



To see the video:!/video/video.php?v=1820504520599&comments&set=t.315449&type=1