Intern Blog

Welcome to the Woolman Intern Blog!

Hello! Welcome to the Woolman Intern blog where we post stories of our time here at the Woolman Semester. Come teach, cook, and farm with us! Find out more about our internship programs here!

Are you having a hard time deciding if you want to be a farmer, outdoor leader, cook, teacher, or builder? Do all of them on our 230 acre property in Northern California. The job includes working on the farm, in the kitchen, and with our high-school students. Interns are asked to take on responsibilities that are crucial to the functioning of the Woolman Semester School. If you are interested in living what you believe,working hard inside and out, and being a positive role model for high schoolers, apply here!

Photo taken by Community Intern & all around extraordinare Tom Vogt Image and video hosting by TinyPic
by Brianna Beyrooty, Admissions and Outreach Director - June 29, 2016

Welcome to our first interview in our new series! We hope to catch up with past interns and see what they are up to! Interns are magic-makers, dream builders, nutrient dense meal-makers, highly qualified homework helpers, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, and an irreplaceable part of the Woolman Community.  The community intern program is a 10 month experience of living, working, growing, and learning as part of the Woolman Educational Community.  For the past 20 semesters we have been so grateful for those who have worked here!  If you are interested in learning more please click here! If you are former intern and would like to share your experience you can fill out an intern questionnaire here! If you are a former student itching to let us know what's alive in your life, don't worry you can fill out an alumni questionnaire here!  If you'd like to reconnect in other ways please e-mail! We'd LOVE to hear from you.  Without further ado, Patrick Aguilar, Woolman Semester School Intern 15'-16'.

Name: Patrick Aguilar

Hometown: Grass Valley, CA

School: U.C. Santa Cruz-B.A. History


Why did you intern at the Woolman Semester?

I chose to take this internship because during my time working for Camp Woolman showed me my strongest part of myself. The community environment and emphasis on a holistic relationship with one's self piqued my interest. After my summers at Woolman, I had a deep sense that there was much more for me to experience from this place.

How did the internship help guide you in your interests?

The internship introduced me to cooking in a way that I had never experienced, and the creative nature of that aspect of the internship was something I fell in love with. Additionally, I found the Woolman internship to be an incredible guide in addressing and resolving many personal problems or parts of myself that I wasn't happy with.

Words of wisdom for new interns?


Make sure to enjoy all these new relationships you'll find yourself engaged in. Everyone you know will have something incredibly important to teach you, and opening yourself up to them will allow for some really powerful growth.

How do you find peace, justice, sustainability in your life today?

My time at Woolman has been so incredibly helpful in maintaining peace, justice, and sustainability in my life. Woolman has provided me with useful tools for addressing conflict (internal and external), and understanding the difference between my own needs and stressors and other people's needs and stressors. That differentiation allows me to live more peacefully in many of my interpersonal relationships.

by Marianthe Bickett, Farm to Table Apprentice - June 1, 2016

Just as I started my position as Farm to Table Apprentice at Woolman, the students began a unit on food access. First they watched the documentary A Place at the Table, about food insecurity in the United States. The documentary highlighted the lack of federal funding for the food stamp budget, as well as the subsidies the government provides for industrial agriculture that allow processed, sugar-laden food products to be so cheap and readily available. Families forced to survive on these services end up relying on refined carbohydrates and sugars, contributing to the prevalence of diet-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The students discussed the film afterwards, deciphering where their experiences fit in among the spectrum of food access. The film was powerful, and I could see the awareness and motivation it brought to the students.

In our next class, students got to put this newfound information into practice. The class was split into four groups, and each group was assigned an identity: farmer, college student, single parent or insurance broker. They were assigned a likely budget based on those identities, and then asked to prepare a snack for the class using that budget. We priced everything in our kitchen to match market prices, and gave each group different allowances – for example, the farmer had a very tight budget but eggs and produce were free for them!

I am always impressed with the students' skill in the kitchen and this class was no different. Every group managed to prepare something tasty and healthy, although the differences in what they could each afford were striking. All in all we had two different smoothies, two varieties of egg scramble, a big kale salad and popcorn made in coconut oil sprinkled with cinnamon and dark chocolate chips.

Here at Woolman, we have the luxury of a big garden that gives us fresh produce, herbs and fruit. We buy organic pantry ingredients, and we have talented staff that prepare healthy meals that accommodate many different dietary needs. We eat vegan cashew cheesecake, sweet potato fries, homemade kraut and huge fresh salads on the regular. So it is all the more important to learn about and recognize the food disparity that exists in our country, and for our students to be inspired to find creative solutions so that this kind of fresh, delicious healthy food becomes more accessible to everyone. 

Kale Salad getting thoroughly massaged by our farmers

by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff, Maya Horton, Farm to Table Intern - April 28, 2016

Woolman meals rival your local five star restaurant, and leave you wanting more, but luckily there is always more...

Living at Woolman has it perks, but if you ask where the real heart of the school is, it isn't hard to find; The kitchen is warm and enticing, overwhelming and easy, and over the stove and inside the oven, between stirs and blends, you cook with others, and this is where the magic happens. 

Here are a few photos of what a week of eating looks like at Woolman! Enjoy- and if you really want, stop by for a meal!

1.Sauteed Sesame Kale, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Local Grass Fed Beef with Red Sauce

2.  Shaksuka, Sauteed Cabbage and Kale, French Fries

3. Fresh Baked Bread (by our students!), Coconut Milk Corn Chowder, and Vegan Cashew Cheesecake

4. Vegan Gluten Free Black Bean Burger, Chickpea Salad with Sweet Potato and Mint

We are so grateful for access to organic and local food, sometimes even from our own garden and orchard!  Meals at the Woolman Semester School are made by us, the WHOLE community! Each meal has 3-4 designated community members (students, interns, and staff) to make a meal! We love learning about new recipes, ingredients, and food from different cultures, and as always, we are happy to take requests!

by Charlotte Lippincott, Farm to Table Intern '15-'16 - December 20, 2015
The garden doesn’t lie, but it is especially honest in winter. The dense foliage that a few months ago dressed the earth with life has since receded, revealing the backbone--its essential form. The hedgerows that teemed with colorful perennial flowers and their loyal pollinators when I arrived in August are now pruned back, focusing their energies inward as they bear down for winter. The last of the fall plot gleams each morning with frost, and the sturdy, determined garlic push their bright green sprouts upward. 
My first week working in the Woolman garden, when this whole place was still unfamiliar territory, I cleaned tomatoes with the renowned farm apprentice Brianna. I remember us slogging through the thick forest of tomato vines, cutting off the discolored sunburnt ones and piling them into our wheelbarrows in the sweltering afternoon sun. Sweat streaked through the substantial film of dirt that comfortably clung to my entire body. But Brianna and I fell into conversation easily, bringing a lightness that made the hours pass more quickly. By the time we finished, we were itchy, sticky, scratched up, exhausted, and satisfied. 
Now staring at the same field, unassuming cover crop grows where those proud tomatoes once reigned. Bri has since gone on to Portland, to do amazing and important things. August in my memory feels distant, because of the abundance of experiences that have happened, and continue to unfold each day. I am constantly learning from the garden and the connections that are made within its fences. I covet the hours spent by myself rocking back and forth on a broadfork, exploring my thoughts and admiring the subtle, graceful systems happening below my feet. I am equally, forever grateful for the mornings spent with the intern work crews, cleaning carrots and picking beets and spilling our souls to each other, or reframing my entire worldview with Maggie as we bunch chard.  The garden extends an invitation to embrace change, and seek continuity and meaning within these cycles of growth. It is not hard to find metaphors that apply to your own life.
As the semester draws to a close, the air is heavy with nostalgia for the present moment, while stirring with anticipation for a winter of rest, reflection and going home. It feels fitting that the garden is slowing down, drawing itself inward, as if to mirror this introspection and reconnection with roots. I hope this winter presents for us all an opportunity to rest, heal and reflect with honesty, and prepare for another vibrant season. 
by Kat Globerson, Community Intern '14-'15 - April 1, 2015
When I first learned about the Woolman internship, one component that piqued my curiosity was the mentorship program. The idea of being a mentor for a group of teens was intriguing but also nebulous—what exactly does being a mentor look like? Is there some particular way one acts as a mentor? Throughout my time here, I have been delightfully surprised by the many ways that mentorship exists here at Woolman. I have also come to realize that the richness of the mentorship program lies in the mutual growth that comes from mentoring relationships—it turns out that Woolman students are in many ways just as much mentors as are Woolman interns. For me, at the heart of mentorship is a willingness to listen deeply and to give joyfully in order to make life more wonderful, as we say in Non-Violent Communication. Mentorship at Woolman is about being medicine for others when we are able, and allowing others to be medicine for us when we need it, whether in matters of academic obstacles, relationships in and outside of Woolman or grief for the hardships we see in our world. Of course, mentorship here is also about fun and celebration. From working through college essays, kitchen baking and dance parties, trips to the Yuba River, and long one-on-ones over lunch or on the hammocks, mentorship has proven to be a hard to define yet central component of what makes our community so strong here. I am grateful for the variety of ways that I have been able to foster relationships that inspire growth, understanding and straight up gratitude for the chance to share this life with so many lovely humans.  
Mentor & Mentee, Emily Spognardi and Jasmine Rosalbo, Fall 2014

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

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

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

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

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

by Keithlee Spangler, Community Intern 2014-2015 - March 7, 2015

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

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

 photo by Pedro

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

 photo by Pedro


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



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


by Danya Morris, Community Intern - May 5, 2014

I don’t always wake up before 6 AM—but when I do, it’s probably Monday, when I make breakfast. Monday is special because we all try to show up and eat together. There are announcements, games, and appreciations, read out of the appreciation jar handcrafted by none other than Aria, a fellow community intern. All in all I’d say I have a great reason to be up before the sun (especially since I only have to do it once a week). This is what happened two Mondays ago—an ordinary Monday, the second to last of the semester.

Monday, April 21, 2014

5:30am: Wake up. Stumble out of bed and brush my teeth on the porch of my A-frame, marveling at all the yellow flowers that have appeared as if by magic in the last two days—they’re all over everything. I try not to get toothpaste on any flowers (with only marginal success), put on two sweatshirts and head up the hill to the dining hall.

5:41am: Interrupted by the quail (rushing intently about, as always). Look for a moment at the moon, still seated high in the lightening sky.

5:45am:  Reluctantly turn on the lights in the kitchen, squint a little, and start making breakfast. Whole wheat ginger pancakes today, with fried eggs and homemade ricotta cheese. Food processor not working again (or I’m not asking it politely enough, this early in the morning who can really tell?), so I chop candied ginger for what feels like forever and a day. It’s peaceful in the kitchen in the morning, though—it’s one of my favorite things, a space that’s usually so chaotic getting to rest a little—so I don’t really mind. I don’t like cooking with machines, anyway.

7:23am: Some students wander into the DH and start making coffee. We talk about their Peace Studies homework, a paper about different people from Assata Shakur’s autobiography. They sit in the kitchen and listen to Devil Makes Three with me while I scramble to finish frying the gluten-free vegan version of the pancakes while also not burning the ricotta, which isn’t setting as quickly as I might have hoped…

7:50am: 10-minute bell for Monday morning breakfast and homeroom. A student is leading it this week, so she rings the bell and sets up a sheet to collect announcements, fretting about the activity she’s planned to lead (it goes amazingly well, so she needn’t have worried). I set the last round of eggs on the griddle and shuttle some willing students in and out of the kitchen with pancakes and condiments. The ricotta looks surprisingly good, especially with some cinnamon sprinkled on top.

8:04am: We circle and hold a moment of silence before breakfast. Morning meeting takes off, and I hide in the pantry and drink coffee for a few minutes before sitting down to make the weekly food order.

9:10am: Walk to the office and call the local co-op to order our produce and cheese for the week. The order is uneventful, save a small mix up regarding the color of our potatoes. I hang up and head back to the kitchen to do inventory in the pantry and walk-in, then back to the office to order from our distributor. Camilla and Heather, two fellow community interns, are making burritos for lunch and I have a very hard time not sneaking some of the cheese they have painstakingly shredded as I pass through the kitchen. By now it’s close to lunch time, so I work on spreadsheets and do food research until the burrito bar is ready.

I’ll spend the afternoon first in the garden—it’s crunch time, and we’re bed shaping and planting today—then at student updates meeting, and then hanging out with one of my mentees on the couch in the dining hall.

All in all, a beautiful and typical (if I dare to call anything at Woolman typical…) Monday.

GINGER PANCAKES (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten free flour)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (brown sugar or honey are awesome, I usually reduce the sugar by almost half)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted) or oil
  • 2 large eggs (vegan option: 2 tablespoons ground flax + 2 tablespoons water)
  • 1 healthy splash vanilla extract
  • two pinches (about a teaspoon) ground ginger
  • some cinnamon, allspice, and cloves (ground)
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

Mix the dry ingredients together (sifting optional). Make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients, and the candied ginger. Mix well, and fry in a little more butter than you think is really necessary. Enjoy!

by Heather Livingston, Community Intern - April 5, 2014

On Friday, March 28, Woolman students, teachers, and interns attended the fourth annual Green Schools National Conference thanks to a generous donation from Conserve, a semester school in beautiful Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. Although in past years the conference has been in Florida, Colorado, and Minnesota, this year the conference was conveniently located only an hour and a half away from us in the heart of Sacramento. Woolman students and staff were excited to have the chance to sneak away from the woods for the day to learn how corporations, politicians, educators, and students across the nation define what “green” means.

Our students had the opportunity to attend workshops with high school and middle school students from all around the country. Staff and interns also attended a wide variety of workshops that discussed sustainability and wellness in schools. During the breakout sessions all of the Woolman participants scurried back to their table in the main hall to chat it up with prospective students and curious adults.

Sustainability is one of Woolman’s buzzwords. Although we often do use this word in reference to ecological sustainability, we also extend this definition to cover the sustainability of societal, community, and individual prosperity for this generation and generations to come. The conference mainly focused on the ecological aspect, sparking the attention of Woolman students to analyze the pros and cons of this limited definition. After a debrief of the conference, Woolmanites agreed that attending the conference was valuable because it not only gave them an opportunity to talk to other people about their Woolman experience, but also allowed them to witness a range of groups coming together to discuss a single topic that has infinite interpretations. 

Global Issues teacher, Amelia Nebenzal, with S14 students Imani Shirley, Aria Khan, and Jena Brooker wearing their new Woolman sweatshirts at the Green Schools National Conference!

by Tom Vogt, Community Intern - March 9, 2014

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

by Tom Vogt, Community Intern - March 6, 2014


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














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

Student Dontae took this one: 

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

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

Submit your ideas here and join the conversation! 

by Carl Sigmond, Media and Technology Intern - November 1, 2013
Mia Mingus describes herself as a "queer physically disabled Korean woman transracial and transnational adoptee,… [working] for community, interdependency and home for all of us, not just some of us, and [longing] for a world where disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love." She focuses her work and activism in two areas: 1) She is an active member of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, an organization that supports transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. 2) She works to raise awareness of physical access and ablism issues.
We invited Mia to speak to our students during our recent Peace Studies and Global Issues Trip to the Bay Area. We asked her to facilitate a conversation based on her essay, "Access Intimacy: The Missing Link." In it, she presents access intimacy alongside other forms of intimacy - intellectual, emotional, sexual, etc.. For her, access intimacy is the "feeling when someone else 'gets' your access needs.  The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level.  Sometimes it can happen with complete strangers, disabled or not, or sometimes it can be built over years.  It could also be the way your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met."
We had a vibrant conversation about access in our society. She shared with us some of what she goes through as she lives with a physical disability. In fact, she identifies herself as a politically disabled person. As someone who has a physical disability but who doesn't identify myself as disabled, I questioned her on this. She responded by noting that women or people of color identify themselves as such, so she does the same, in an effort to own her disability and to fully acknowledge the discrimination she faces so frequently. For me, my disability is a part of who I am - it doesn't (and I don't let it) define who I am and/or how I interact with others. This dichotomy sparked interest among the students for a conversation about my own disability and what I face as I go through life. You can read about that conversation here.
by Yasha Magarik, Community Intern - June 28, 2013

The Woolman Farm is in the lull of midsummer, after the annual crops have been planted but before most of them are ready for harvest. Besides trellising tomatoes, monitoring irrigation systems, and regular weeding, the newer parts of the garden are mostly waiting. Meanwhile, we find ourselves with time to catch up on other garden projects. The two days of rain earlier this week not only invigorated our parched land; it also gave us the opportunity to help Maggie, our Garden Manager, begin planning curricula for the fall and to start many of the seedlings for later season crops, like fennel, leeks and millet. On Tuesday interns researched the viability of laying hens, identified new tools to buy with money from our recent Whole Foods grant, and reorganized our seed storage system.

We also have a short window of time to care for our perennials and the sections of the garden associated with them. Last week, with help from Family Work Camp, significant progress was made on finishing the cob bench in our Edible Forest Garden. Speaking of the EFG (as we’ve affectionately dubbed it), the edible plants are out in force. Berries both familiar (strawberries and alpine strawberries) and strange (gooseberries, mulberries, and black raspberries) have popped out all over the garden; the grapes seem to have benefited from extreme pruning and even the Lappin cherries that we grafted in March have taken off. Now is a time of both bounty and expectation; it’s exciting to ponder how much progress our garden makes in a single year--and also comforting how firmly the cycles within each year assert themselves.

by Laura Markstein, Community Intern - May 15, 2013


Check out our Press Release for the upcoming weekend's events!

Students from the local Woolman Semester School come to the end of their four month educational program spent studying peace, justice, and sustainability. The public is invited to come see the students present their culminating projects for their Peace Studies and Environmental Science classes the weekend of May 17th.

A semester program for high school juniors, seniors, and gap year students, who hail from all over the country, Woolman offers the opportunity to learn first hand about social and environmental justice. Three core classes of Global Issues, Peace Studies, and Environmental Studies explorethe interdependence of the political, historical, cultural, and environmental forces that shape the problems our world is facing today.

In each core class students design and carry out a project throughout the semester. “Class projects allow students to engage fully with classroom material and enable them to carry on their activism beyond Woolman,” explains admissions director Emily Wheeler. In addition, class projects embody Woolman’s educational philosophy of teaching through experience and are the main way students take ownership of their education.

On Friday May 17th at 7pm there will be a screening of peace documentaries, the culminating project for the Peace Studies Class, at the UU Community of the Mountains. The Peace Studies class “examines how we tell stories as a culture and why it matters. We particularly explore how our common cultural narratives can contribute to a climate of violence,” says Peace Studies teacher Grace Oedel. Their ten-minute documentaries enable students to tell stories about our culture in a way that counteracts that climate of violence and builds one of peace.

Documentaries this semester include one on the role of police in our society and another on the Steubenville High School Rape Case. Each documentary incorporate interviews from national and local experts to deepen the audience’s understanding of the issues. All are invited to come see these four thought provoking student-filmed, edited, and directed films!

OnSaturday May 18th at 9am all are welcome for a tour of the student’s Sustainability projects at the Woolman campus, located off of Jones Bar Road. Throughout the semester the Environmental Science class looks at different environmental issues in today’s world and explores ways to solve them.  The sustainability projects are a way for students to try creative solutions for pressing needs at Woolman.

“Completing their sustainability projects gives students the opportunity to not only leave the legacy of their commitment to the earth for future students but to also learn practical skills that they can implement beyond Woolman,” explains Environmental Studies teacher Jacob Holzberg-Pill. This semester’s projects include a natural dye garden, a solar dehydrator, and a methane bio-digester!

Both events are free and open to the public. Come see Woolman’s unique education at work and what this semester’s students are doing to make a difference! Visit for more information.

by Laura Markstein, Community Intern - April 17, 2013


Check out our Press Release for the upcoming Spring Work Party!

Nevada City (April 15, 2013)- This Saturday, April 20th, students, staff, and community members of the Woolman Semester School support Earth Day by joining together for a day of work on the 230-acre campus. All are invited to come help out!

A semester program for high school juniors, seniors, and gap year students who hail from all over the country, Woolman offers the opportunity to learn first hand about social and environmental justice. Interacting with the land is a crucial component of their time spent at Woolman and has become an even larger part with the introduction of the Farm to Forest educational program in the spring of 2011.

The Farm to Forest program offers a new way of stewarding land. Instead of managing the garden, orchard, pasture, campus, and forest separately, all units are seen as part of the whole environment that we as individuals are constantly impacting with every choice we make. Now, the care for the land is not left to just the maintenance crew but is taught through the academics to the students as well. One of the main ways the students participate in caring for the land is through two-hour bi-weekly shared work crews.

This Saturday will demonstrate this new holistic approach to land stewardship. Similar to shared work there will be work crews in the garden, orchard, and in the forest. The forest crew this year has been working on an exciting new project that was started by the Environmental Studies teacher Jacob Holzberg-Pill.   

This past June Holzberg-Pill received the TogetherGreen Fellowship Grant from the National Audubon Society and Toyota to begin restoring an old mining ditch that circles Woolman’s property. The immediate goal is to create an active swale as well as a road that together will reduce erosion by increasing water recharge into the ground and encourage people to use the forest recreationally. The long-term project will ultimately restore the land damaged by mining.

On Saturday the forest crew will focus on removing Scotch Broom, an invasive species that has spread along the swale. “This day would not be possible without our partnership with the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, donations from the National Wildlife Federation, and the hard work of our local community members,” says Holzberg-Pill.

Come join the Woolman community this Saturday and see first hand their experiential education at work! Beginning at 9am on the Woolman Campus, located off Jones Bar Road, there will be work crews until noon and all are welcome to stay for lunch! If interested, please RSVP at   

by Yasha Magarik, Community Intern - April 12, 2013

Last weekend we had a wedding here. With a helpful guest, I mulched a path between the dining hall and the tent, just in case it started raining. Then the tent was taken down, leaving a path to nowhere. So two of our students, Sonja Feinberg and Nicole Mitchell, turned it a path to somewhere with an art installation they've dubbed "Julius." Sonja's poem explains the artwork:

Which door?
That door.
This door?
No, that door.
Plane door, cab door, train door, your door.
Slabs of woods, slates of metal, flapping plastic, stone,
If you can open a door you’ll never be alone.
Doors to the skies, that door to your eyes,
An open door will tell you no lies.
Doors are my veins, my paths and my trails,
They lead to my heart, they move me like sails.
Do I need a key?
Do you have a key?
Which key is right?
It depends on which door is wrong.
Handles and knobs, slots and slides,
Hinges that creek are what keep me alive.
The door to my mind opens with wind,
The one to yours is stuck with summer sin.
Hallways and foyers, patio or deck, it’s not the destination,
But still, are we there yet?
How about the frame, the soulless wood square,
Does that count as a door?
Do your lungs count the air?
If I open this door will I like what I find?
It doesn’t really matter if it’s all in your mind.
But what if one day we run out of doors?
Crocked blocked walls, steps, and smooth floors.
We can always go back though the door which we came,
You’ll find that a backward path is never the same.
If I was a door would you open me too?
Even if behind me was a place you already knew?
I can’t give you an answer, a reason, a why,
I just open doors like I swing to the sky.
Put it in front of me and I’ll never resist,
Doors are my hugs, my hands, and my kiss.

by Yasha Magarik, Community Intern - April 10, 2013

It’s common wisdom that the West lacks water. Droughts are increasingly frequent and every summer fires sweep through California, destroying millions of acres of trees, brush, and homes.

But the truth is more complicated; the Sierra foothills, for instance, receive about sixty inches of rain in an average year. It’s just that this rain arrives in just six months out of the year and rushes right through our property, eroding topsoil and rocketing through the Los Angeles watershed. The other six months we have a dry season, an accompanying fire ban, and a mandate from our local fire board to irrigate at least fifty of our property’s 230 acres.

This imbalance is worsened by the effects of human industry. For years gold miners dug our creeks deeper and narrower, purposely increasing erosion in an effort to extract precious metals. More recently, climate change, by melting the snowpack on nearby mountains to far below average levels, deprives our watershed of an efficient, free, natural method of slow-release water storage; instead of having snow gradually melt throughout the summer, we now get short, enormous bursts of winter rain that our land cannot absorb. Although there are indeed regions of the West with very little water, the problem for many land stewards like us is one of water storage. The solution, then, is to trap more water on our property during the winter months, thereby reducing topsoil erosion, mitigating summer droughts, and encouraging biodiverse riparian zones.

Especially after Permaculture Design classes on hydrology with Grace, Jacob, and Doug, we have many options for achieving those goals, but the one that we interns have experimented with so far has been building check dams across eroded creek beds. The EPA has this useful definition of check dams on its web site

“Check dams are relatively small, temporary structures constructed across a swale or channel. They are used to slow the velocity of concentrated water flows, a practice that helps reduce erosion. As stormwater runoff flows through the structure, the check dam  catches sediment from the channel itself or from the contributing drainage area.”

First, note that check dams do not attempt to stop water flow---only to slow it. Because when water slows, it spreads, and when it spreads, it sinks. Second, the middle of the dam should remain lower than the sides---to funnel the moving water through the center, and not where it would further erode the banks. And third, check dams are not a solution to all of our water problems---just some.

Yet the EPA also suggests building them out of logs, stones, sandbags, gravel or straw, estimates their installation costs at between $60 and $100, and asserts that they are only temporary flood-control measures. The check dams we’ve been building are nothing like these. They’re made of willow stalks cut from our own trees, stuck into the gravel creek beds and secured with rocks, and with thinner willow branches woven across for support.

They each cost nothing and take only thirty minutes to install. Furthermore, the willows, which have rather high levels of natural rooting hormone, will hopefully root in the creek bed---meaning that not only will the dams require no maintenance; they may grow us the materials for yet more check dams.

A very large storm last week confirmed our wildest hopes. In this picture, you can see the difference between the slow-moving, muddy water before the dam and clearer water trickling out of the dam. And the sediment gradually building up on the dam provides the willows with topsoil. Together with other hydraulic engineering techniques, willow check dams can help us regenerate the land and its water system.


by Laura Markstein, Community Intern - April 5, 2013


Check out this great article that Laura Markstein submitted to the news regarding Peacebuilding!

Nevada City, CA (March, 18)- As our federal government currently debates the passage of the H.R. 808 bill to build a Department of Peacebuilding, the Woolman Semester School, a non-profit educational organization located in Nevada City, CA, has been committed to peacebuilding since its inception in 1963.

Each semester high school juniors, seniors, and gap year students come from all over the country to live, work, and learn together in community.Founded on Quaker principles of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality, these values are woven through every aspect of life at Woolman.

The congressional bill, written by California Representative Barbara Lee, was introduced to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform February 25th and is awaiting approval before moving to the Senate. The new Peacebuilding Department will be “dedicated to peacebuilding, peacemaking, and the study and promotion of conditions conducive to both domestic and international peace and a culture of peace” (H.R. 808 bill, Section 101).

“We would be thrilled to see a Department of Peacebuilding at the national level, because that is what we try to model here at Woolman,” says Peace Studies teacher Grace Oedel. Woolman teaches that conflict is a normal and healthy part of life. How we react to conflict is what can make the difference between an opportunity for growth and a violent interaction. The Woolman community is built on the belief that once basic human needs are met, people can use tools of communication to come to mutual understanding and live together peacefully.

Non-violent communication (NVC), a communication practice developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., is one of the main tools used by both students and staff. Based on the recognition that deep listening and understanding can lead to compassion and connection, NVC is applied to intra and interpersonal issues in the community and to many of the topics that are examined in the core classes of Peace Studies, Global Issues and Environmental Science.

“At the Woolman Semester School student’s studies are linked locally to global issues. They are a generation of enthusiastic change agents who are equipped with the tools to instill peace and social justice wherever they journey through life. We are hopeful that Congress will also accept the responsibility for instilling peace throughout our country and the world through nonviolent activities and by creating a Department of Peacebuilding,” explains Marjorie Fox, Head of School. 

by Sophie Brinker, intern and former student - March 29, 2013

As I am woken by the soft beep of my 6 AM alarm, I look out the window to see the beginning of the sun stretching its arms over the grey pines, and I see that I am not the only one waking up. I pull on my jacket and boots with a yawn and walk over the two bridges and soccer field to the kitchen, the sky is beginning to wake up with bursts of pink and purple and yellow. It is slightly misty today; I startle a family of deer as I reach the dining hall and smile as they bound so beautifully into the blackberry patch. 

Today is my breakfast making day, an integral part of the Woolman intern experience. 

A fellow intern meets me in the kitchen- we put on ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ as well as hot water for tea and coffee to wake us up as well as the silence of the kitchen. There is bagel dough left from lunch the day before that has somehow risen overnight in the walk-in fridge, and with the oven pre-heated we begin shaping and boiling the dough. After a few choruses of 'Guantanamera' and half a cup of tea, the bagels are in the oven and getting warm and comfy. 

Soon enough we smell the rosemary and garlic we had sprinkled on the tops of the bagels and peek inside- they are so beautiful and rising fast! I feel so happy to create something that before I only imagined buying from a store- if I am ever cut off from the world and magically have endless flour it is comforting to know I will not be bagel-less. We ring the meal bell and see the students walking over from their cabins, ready for a day of classes and today, shared work. The sun has risen fully and the bagels are calling me from their baking sheet. I am ready for another beautiful day at Woolman.