Community Blog

by Jim Anderson, Family Work Camp Coordinator - June 30, 2013


Family Workcamp 2013 brought together 75 or more people of varying sizes, ages, talents, and temperaments. For many who come every summer, the week is a reunion of sorts, and campers who first came as children now bring their own. Newcomers come from all around—this year Finland and Ireland were the most distant workcamper homes. Projects were wide ranging—painting the meetinghouse/library, building a mobile shower unit, shaping a small amphitheatre and stage, further improvements on the pond swimming area, clearing the irrigation ditch, working in the garden, building a cob bench…  there was something for everyone.  We worked, as usual, in intergenerational work groups during the morning, relaxed, swam, read, roamed in the afternoons, played soccer and sang in the evenings.  All shared in preparation and cleanup at meal times. Much was done, but the camp has an air of spaciousness, time for easy conversation, developing new and old friendships, enjoying kids, elders, the friendly cows, thebirds, the dark, dark nights, the quiet.

Once called the “best kept Quaker secret”, the family camp is now widely known and bursting at the seams. But it will continue, adjusting to growth, new patterns and new directions as needed, holding at the same time to what brings many of us back every year: a unique atmosphere of service in joint work, caring community, intergenerational learning, and fresh movement of the spirit. We all seem to discover something more of what we are, and might be.We left with gratitude to one another and to Sierra Friends Center, looking forward to our return next year.




by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - June 3, 2013

This semester's slideshow includes even more amazing shots than normal since quite a few students were photographers---watching this helps people outside Woolman get an authentic taste for the experience. Enjoy! Thanks to the students and staff that donated photos!

Click on the screen shot below!

by John Palmer, Volunteer - August 6, 2012


In the first week of August, Bonnie Madden started at Woolman as our new Operations Manager; handling the day to day nuts and bolts of the school office.

Bonnie's formative years were spent moving throughout the United States.  She spent a number of those years in Hawaii where her mother's family has deep roots. Her college years were spent at UC Long Beach, studying social welfare and dietetics.  She feels she has finally found a home in Nevada City when she moved here 13 years ago. She owned and operated a documentary/educational film business which produced films for public and private organizations for 30 years.  Inspired by the birth of her second son, she started the non-profit Touch the Future with the goal of changing the way adults view and relate to the developmental needs of children.  For the past eight years she has worked closely in her husband’s finish carpentry business, Redwing Woodworks.

Bonnie is looking forward to becoming a part of the Woolman family. Welcome aboard Bonnie!


Emily Wheeler has returned to Woolman to become the new Outreach Director. She arrived here in June from her home outside of Burlington, Vermont. She is a 2007 graduate of Middlebury College, also in Vermont, where she studied sociology and anthropology. Now, Emily is enrolled in a Masters program at Goddard College where she studies Community Education with a focus on Youth Programs—Woolman is a perfect place to base her studies in youth development and community transformation.

Emily’s no stranger to Woolman; in 2010 she was a Community Intern and has been figuring out a way to come back ever since.  She has a goal to one day start a Woolman-like school in Vermont; one that teaches similar values of peace, justice and sustainability. Welcome back, Emily!

by John Palmer, Volunteer - August 6, 2012


Twenty-five excited, enthusiastic youngsters are living, learning and playing at the Woolman School for two weeks at a time, led by an equally enthusiastic group of counselors.  I sat down with Brian Loo and Gavin Edgarton, two of the nine counselors, to get a sense of what the program was like.  Once they got started, they couldn’t say enough about it. The kids live in the cabins on campus and get an early start on the day after being awakened by the counselors serenading them with songs like “Good Morning  Sunshine”, which they admitted was quite a bit off key.  Every day is full of activities, from hiking to swimming, to working to playing. 

They went hiking and camping at the Sierra Buttes near Downieville for three days and two nights.  They had a “Theme Day” where the theme was “Time Travel”, and everyone had to stay in character all day, either as a cave man or a samurai.  They went swimming in the pond and then covered themselves with mud like elephants for the walk back to campus.  They went to the “Independence Trail” on the Yuba River (the first wheel-chair accessible trail in the United States) and hacked away at the brush that was encroaching on the trail. 

I sat with Woolman campers Gabe, Nina and Didi at lunch and asked them what they liked about camp.  Their replies:  “The food is Awesome.”  “I love the counselors.”  “We learned how to swing dance.”  “We got to see tadpoles in the pond in every stage of development.”  “I’ve made six new, wonderful friends.” Mark Runyan, another counselor, who came to Woolman with his parents to a work camp at the ripe old age of two, was a camper for two summers, and a semester student in 2009, told me being a camp counselor wasn’t really a job, it was more like playing. 

All in all camp has been a rousing success and a lot of fun for both campers and counselors.   All of them have acquired memories that will be with them for a lifetime.

by John Palmer, Volunteer - August 6, 2012

I was a student at John Woolman School from 1974-1976. My experience at JWS enriched me, brought out the shy young woman, encouraged a nurturing side. My first love of plants came from the beauty of campus and the surrounding Sierras. We got to sleep under the stars in the meadow. We swam in the Yuba River and baked in the sun in one of the most lovely places I know.The friendships that I made at Woolman are like no other. Sometimes they ebb and flow, but there is always a special pocket in my heart for my old pals. With the advent of Facebook and a reunion of folks from the late 70s, many friendships have been restored. I regard these as precious and irreplaceable friendships. Some of my first friendships with adults occurred at Woolman; the teacher that recognized something and encouraged me to think about a career in health care. I have taught childbirth education, health education and am now a neurodiagnostic technologist. I also felt a sense of respect from some of the staff. I was honored when then principal, Ted, asked if I would serve on a group that traveled to let people know about the school. And Meeting for Worship, a precious quiet, shared by students and staff, rounding the week out, evening the play. It was 2 years of life, but full of richness. 

 –Blair Gardner, '76

by Lulu Dewey, student - August 1, 2012


I did a lot of dish crews here at Woolman.  I started out with two per week, one on Wednesday night and one on Friday after lunch.  When I did a trade with Lucy, I ended up with a dish crew Thursday after lunch too.   I thought I had stumbled upon a genius bargaining currency and I didn’t hesitate to trade with Daniel so that he took my bathroom cleaning and I took his lunch cleanup on Tuesdays and his Sunday night dish crew.  Then I started doing spur of the moment trades when I needed some free time.  My token line was “if you do my dish crew today, I’ll do two of yours next week.” 

Soon my life was in shambles.  I was doing up to nine dish crews every week... that sounds hard. 

Somehow, though, I managed to scrape by.  I realized the value of each task on dish crew.  When I wanted to be out and about I was on general tidiness patrol, putting away leftovers and wiping down counters and tables.  When I wanted to be fully immersed in my work I was at the sink, washing an endless stream of pans and trays and ladles.  When I wanted solitude I worked the sanitizer.  I’m going to miss the kitchen and the endless drudgery of cleaning up, and our group high fives at the end and how we sang as we worked.  I am profoundly grateful for all of these dish crews.

As Joanna Macy describes, we have reached a great turning— the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.   Now is when we choose to sit and watch the world unravel, dirty pots in the sinks, or whether it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  Woolman has given me the tools, the knowledge, helped me to explore my interests and explore my beliefs and question everything. The world needs all of us: the countertop scrubbers, the pot scrapers, the sanitizers, the moppers and sweepers.  We can sing while we work, we can be joyful in the knowledge that when it comes time for us to eat that we are reaping the fruits of our labour.  

We are not invincible by any means, but here we have learned to know and embrace our innate potential to create a better world.  We are beautiful people precisely because we care so deeply.

by Cece, community intern - May 30, 2012


Check out the slideshow from this semester:  Woolman Spring 2012 Slideshow

by Dustin Jensen, Cow-op Intern - March 28, 2012
by Pond Crew, Campus Improvement - March 27, 2012

Pond Crew

by Brylie Oxley - November 15, 2011

Photos taken during Permaculture class. Sammi, Graeme, William, and Doug plant Oak seeds.

Holding seeds.

William Armstrong

Sammi Dandelions

Graeme Waring-Crane

Doug Hamm

by Danielle Tsi, (Submitted by Ariel Fisher, Student for Spring 2012) - September 13, 2011

How cool! A prospective student made an account and shared this wonderful piece on raw milk with us. So aligned with our community cow-operative and even our food intensive this week. Thanks, Ariel! We look forward to seeing you here!  --Woolman


I just wanted to share this with everybody