Staff Blog

by Amy Cooke, director - November 26, 2017

I just came across these tenets while researching JWS curriculum for a new business plan:

-Be honest: be who you really are.
-Care for yourself.
-Treat others as you want to be treated.
-Don't make work for others.
-Challenge yourself to grow.
-Make a positive difference in the world.
-If you have a complaint, suggest and work towards a solution.

As timely as ever!

by Amy Cooke, Director - March 1, 2017

I was among the 100,000 who marched in San Francisco’s Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. While enthusiasm for the struggle seemed high, an important question was looming: What’s the strategic plan, as we head into the Trump era? Although there’s no simple answer, I offer this 10-point plan — fully open for discussion and debate.

-George Lakey

1. Recognize that we represent the majority, not Trump. 



Three times more people participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., than were present at the inauguration the day before. He lost the popular vote in the election. Many of his own voters admitted in exit polls that they consider him unqualified to be president. Furthermore, Trump plans to target progressive policies that polls find to be supported by solid majorities of Americans.

Trump does have strengths in addition to his brilliance in manipulating mainstream media. Key parts of the economic elite have decided that they can use him for their own goals. So, they will support him — as long as he can deliver acceleration of school privatization, for example, or the fossil fuel pipelining of America. His core voting base (the minority of a minority) may support him for a period, until his failure to deliver unrealistic promises becomes apparent.

Even before the inauguration, he alienated significant parts of the security state that he needs to depend on. He needs a vast professional bureaucracy to carry out his will, but it has many subtle ways of thwarting him. Harry Truman famously admitted, publicly, his frustration after he was repeatedly stymied by an uncooperative bureaucracy.

Trump’s bullying is both a strength and a weakness. His style alienates many, including among his own voters, and stirs opposition.

Stopping Trump is not a slam dunk, but it is possible when he is given his due as a cagey opponent. It also helps when we decide to be strategic rather than led by fear and moral outrage, jumping from whichever tactic feels good in the moment, but has little impact. Now is the time when we can identify his pillars of support and lay plans to undermine them.

2. Strengthen civic institutions and their connections with targeted populations.

Trump will continue to turn to the age-old weapon of scapegoating to shore up his working-class base, and he’ll feel more pressure to do that as his own programs for “making America great again” fail to deliver the goods to that base — even while enriching the economic elite.

Some sanctuary cities have already made a good start by declaring their resistance to anti-immigrant moves by the federal government. Activists can reinforce these initiatives with a range of civic and religious institutions, urging them to strengthen their connections with scapegoated groups like Jews, immigrants and African Americans. The civics may not by themselves always think of this, so it may take activists within or near them to alert them to their responsibility of solidarity.

Because we are the majority, we can make full use of Bill Moyer’s four roles of social change. Consider: How can advocates, helpers, organizers and rebels strengthen their solidarity impact? Training for Change organizer Daniel Hunter brainstormed some possible moves: Advocates persuade cities and states to give drivers licenses to undocumented people. Organizers create circles of solidarity in which citizens could physically intervene — when immigrants are in danger —and surround the vulnerable ones. (The New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia calls this “sanctuary in the streets.”) Helpers could insist that they provide food and healthcare to people in deportation centers, and if entry is refused, collaborate with rebels to break in with food and risk arrest.

3. Play offense, not defense.  

The last time progressives in the United States faced this degree of danger was when Ronald Reagan became president. One of Reagan’s first acts was to fire the air traffic controllers when they went on strike, putting into question national air safety. Strategically, he chose “shock and awe,” and it worked – most of the U.S. movements for change went on the defensive.

Gandhi and military generals agree: No one wins anything of consequence on the defensive. I define “defensive” as trying to maintain previous gains. U.S. movements in 1980 made many gains in the previous two decades. Understandably, they tried to defend them. As Gandhi and generals would predict, the movements instead lost ground to the “Reagan Revolution” and, for the most part, have lost ground ever since.

One exception stands out: the LGBT movement. Instead of defending, for example, local gains in city human relations commissions, LGBT people escalated in the 1980s with ACT-UP leading the way. They followed up with the campaign for equal marriage and escalated again with the demand for equality in the military.

LBGT people proved that Gandhi and the generals are right: The best defense is an offense.

I hear many American progressives unconsciously talking about Trump defensively, preparing to make precisely the same mistake as an older generation did with Reagan. The LGBT’s lesson is obvious: heighten nonviolent direct action campaigns and start new ones. Instead of defending Obamacare, let’s push for an even more comprehensive health solution, like Medicare for all.

direct action campaign is defined by a pressing issue, a clear demand, and a target that can yield that demand. Powerful social movements, even those that overthrew military dictatorships, have often been built in exactly this way.

These days, campaign design needs to take account of the recent impact of social media. Because many people have allowed social media to draw them into an isolating bubble, activists need to design campaigns that deliberately increase their base through building relationships “beyond the choir.” Increased use of training may be necessary to maximize impact.

4. Link campaigns to build movements.

Standing Rock is a current example of the synergistic and expanding effect of linking campaigns. Pipeline fights, indigenous rights, and even the role of Veterans for Peace — in raising questions about the U.S. empire — were all amplified through linking to the ongoing campaign in North Dakota.

The classic American example of campaign linkage grew from the simple act of four college students in North Carolina on Feb. 1, 1960, starting their campaign to desegregate a lunch counter. Students in other towns followed the example, and the wave of sit-ins became a movement. The movement helped grow existing organizations — for example, the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, which then started a new kind of campaign, the Freedom Rides. Multiple freedom rides were linked and further built the strength of the civil rights movement.

These campaigns did not have the American majority on their side, nor did they win all their demands, but their cumulative value forced major changes and eventually changed public opinion as well. The civil rights movement illustrates the crucial difference in mode of operation between direct action campaigns and political parties’ campaigns.

Democrats, for example, are hugely about polls and focus groups. Their power rests on current public opinion and its manipulation through electioneering and political maneuver. Even for progressive-inclined Democrats, the ability to act is tightly limited by the narrow range of current opinion (not to mention by what the economic elite is willing to allow).

Social movements, by contrast, can take stands that go beyond current opinion and wage campaigns that have transformative impact, such as women’s right to vote, gay rights and stopping pipelines. This difference helps explain why progressive Democrats habitually fight defensively, while movements are free to stay on the offensive and win. Bernie Sanders, for example, is now defensively fighting to save Medicare. By contrast, a social movement is free to launch a fight for single-payer health care. Such a struggle could threaten to split off part of Trump’s working class base and — even if it failed to fully achieve its goal – save more of Medicare.

5. Link movements to create a movement of movements.

When times are out of joint, a successful movement around one issue inspires campaigns on other issues to link and become new movements. That’s what happened the last time the U.S. took major steps toward justice. The civil rights movement begat the Berkeley Free Speech campaign and the national student movement for university reform, the draft resistance campaign and the anti-Vietnam war movement, and so on — energizing seniors, people with disabilities, mental health consumers, women, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, auto workers and many more.

With so many movements developing, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin catalyzed the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, hoping to start linking movements into a movement of movements. They glimpsed an opportunity to amass so much power independent of the major parties that the United States could develop a counter-force to the economic elite and bring about democratic socialism. Creating an independent movement of movements was the successful path taken by the Scandinavians, and both Randolph and Rustin wanted it for the United States.

Substantial linkage, however, was not available at that time. For one thing, the U.S. economy was booming, and there wasn’t enough discontent in the white working class — let alone the burgeoning middle class — to create an opening. What’s more, racism was still too intense, although the United Auto Workers had successfully found a way forward by uniting black and white workers to fight employers in the auto industry. In the past half century, much has changed on both those dimensions.

My point is that multiple campaigns on the same or similar issues generates a movement, and that multiple movements provide the opportunity for a movement of movements. The closer we come to that point, the more pressure there is on the Democrats to co-opt us. The Republicans’ historic role is usually repression, while the Democrats’ job is to limit and control grassroots movements by pulling them into the party.

We saw that happen to the later stage of the civil rights movement and again with the Democrat-embraced health reform movement of 2007-9, when the single-payer option — and even the public option — was dropped to pass the medical industrial complex-friendly Affordable Care Act.

When a social movement is independent, it can force the Democrats to become allies instead of controllers. The civil rights movement did exactly that before 1965; we see what it can look like in the excellent film “Selma.” On a more micro level, Daniel Hunter — in his book “Strategy and Soul” — reveals how a neighborhood-based movement forced politicians to come to the campaigners, instead of the campaigners seeking help from the politicians.

Whatever our partisan sympathies, a quick look at political trends in the United States shows why movement independence is more crucial now than at any time in the last half-century.

Public alienation from the major parties – Republican or Democratic – has gone off the charts. Voters stay away from the polls, as if afraid of catching germs. The Tea Party gains more cred when it trashes the Republican Party. Donald Trump reassures his voter base by verbally attacking Congress – both parties, no less — in his inaugural address. Much of his voter base had long since left the Democratic Party because of its own betrayal of working-class interests. Black working-class voters also signaled their alienation by failing to give full support to Hillary Clinton, despite Barack and Michelle Obama’s entreaties.

Such a period of alienation is just the time for direct action campaigns that fight for progressive demands — like $15 per hour and Medicare for all — to signal independence from the politicians who bear so much responsibility for U.S. decline. Such independence appeals to the vast majority, including many Trump voters. A self-respecting movement of movements knows that the Democrats will then come to them and offer to be allies.

6. Avoid one-off demonstrations.

This political moment adds force to the sizable advantage of direct action campaigns over single demonstrations, however large. Protests are by their nature reactive. In these next years, predictably, Trump will act and progressives will react, then Trump will act again and progressives will react again. Trump, an accomplished fighter, knows that staying on the offensive is what enables him to win. Progressives, often led by people with a track record of loss, take the bait and react, over and over.

Simple protests, no matter what the issue, essentially signal to Trump that he is winning — he has manipulated us into reacting.

I realize that reactivity is a habit among many activists, and may take heroic self-discipline to avoid. An alternative is to organize a campaign, or join a campaign near you, even if the issue is not your favorite, and plunge in with full talent and energy.

7. Heighten the contrast in confrontations between the campaigners’ behavior and our right-wing opponents.

Many have noted Trump’s signals to his white supremacist and other allies that violence is an acceptable means to use against us.

This is an old story in the United States, and there’s no reason to let it throw us. Through clear nonviolent policy, like that of the Women’s March that urged against bringing anything that could be considered a weapon, we remain centered and able to attract large numbers. Some movements have made grave mistakes by responding to violent attacks in kind, losing ground on their goals as a result. Others have performed brilliantly, as did the civil rights campaigns that faced down the largest sustained terrorist organization in U.S. history, the KKK, often without protection from local law enforcement and even federal authorities.

The Global Nonviolent Action Database presents campaigns in almost 200 countries, including many nations where repressive violence was far worse than it has been in the United States. The database makes it possible to search for campaigns that faced repressive violence and to learn how they handled it. It is easy to find out, therefore, what worked and what didn’t, and to reinforce the lessons through training.

8. Aim to unite around a vision for justice, equality and freedom.

Individuals, campaigns, and movements all gain greater power and credibility through projecting a vision of what they want, as well as what they don’t want. They grow more easily, withstand attacks more easily, and have an easier time maintaining their boldness and creativity. “Protest movements” like Occupy are notoriously fragile and precarious; sustainable movements like the struggle for LGBT rights and equality have a liberating vision. The homophobes were right: We did have a “homosexual agenda!”

The good news is that on August 1, 2016, the Movement for Black Lives offered a visionthat can be a draft for dialogue for many campaigns and movements. Many groups have already endorsed it. The vision is bold, substantive and so different from the present that it is even in alignment with the best practices of the Nordic countries. In that sense, it is highly practical and backed by a half-century track record. Compared with the ever volatile and shifting Donald Trump act, a rough agreement on vision by a movement of movements could enhance our credibility and divide his base.

9. Make the vision more real by extending new economy institutions and coops.

These often fly under the radar in our highly politicized discourse, so two things need to happen. People who are active in campaigns and movement development need to honor the development of economic infrastructure that reflects the values of our united vision.

Second, the new economy institutions need to brand themselves as part of the justice movement, giving up the advantages of modesty. They may find new advantages and surprising opportunities for growth. After all, a majority of Americans polled have already said they like the concept of employee-owned companies.

10. See U.S. polarization as opportunity.

Donald Trump frames U.S. polarization in ways that benefit him, trying to increase the loyalty of his base. Many progressives decry the polarization, as if their upset at its ugly manifestations will make it go away. The reality is that the polarization is fundamentally linked to economic inequality and was growing for years before Trump came forward. It is not going away. The question is how to manage our fears and learn to navigate the stormy waters.

The good news is that the greatest polarization in Scandinavian history — Nazis vs. Communists in the 1920s and ‘30s — was also the time when broad people’s movements made their breakthrough, pushed the domination of their economic elites aside and invented a new model of economic justice. The polarization did not stop them — if anything, the movements used the opportunity.

Yes, polarization is dangerous. Germany and Italy polarized when Sweden and Norway did, but went fascist. Their movements made huge mistakes, mistakes avoided by the Swedes and Norwegians. Our most recent period of great polarization in the United States was also dangerous, but the 1960s and ‘70s was our period of greatest progress since the polarized 1930s.

In short, there’s good reason to see the Trump era as an opportunity not only to stop him, but to make major gains in justice and equality. It will help to learn to turn our fear into power. We’ll also need strategy, and the humility to learn from successes of other movements that have come out ahead during hard times. It is not rocket science. If we’re willing to shift personal habits and priorities, support each other through hardship, and come together on a plan, we can win. That is our opportunity.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Admissions and Outreach Director - July 5, 2016

Welcome to our first interview in our new series! We hope to catch up with past students and see what they are up to! We like to say the magic happens once the students leave Woolman, we are continually amazed by the work that they are doing in the world, from farmers to trail blazers to social change makers! Alumni, you are the reason why Woolman exsists! If you are interested in learning more about student life click hereIf you are a former student wanting to share about your life you can fill out an alumni questionnaire here!  If you'd like to reconnect in other ways please e-mail admissions@woolman.org! We'd LOVE to hear from you.  Without further ado, Kelly Flanary, Woolman Semester School Student Fall 2013.

Name: Kelly Flanary 

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Semester: Fall 2014

School/Job: Sterling College, Camp Cook,

Oregon College of Art and Craft

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What are you doing now that you wouldn't have done without Woolman?


Well, I first came to Woolman the summer after my freshman year of highschool in Teen Leadership Camp. That summer completely changed my life. In the short two weeks I was here I learned more about myself than I ever had before. Camp and the semester program carry a lot of the same themes and are rooted in the same Quaker philosophy. I found myself being immersed in a culture I never had before. Things that I had once been self conscious about or thought to be socially unacceptable, were celebrated and a complete social norm. Everyone in my group including the counselors, became the greatest friends I had ever had. They taught me the limits of my body while backpacking and the immense love that can come from the hearts of the members in a community. I started on a whole new path in life. After I came home I became immensely depressed. The world was nothing like the one I had lived in before. It was different. I had a new perspective on people and society. I craved to go back to Woolman. As I came back through the summers Woolman taught me who I was and how to be the person I am today. The people and the land are constantly pushing me to transform myself into a better shiner self. In a lot of ways Woolman has raised me.

 

 

Memorable Woolman moment?


One of favorite moments was during my first summer here in TLC. We had just bike down on the American River Bike Trail to Soil Born Farms in Ranch Cordova, CA.  Soil Born is a biodynamic begat me farm right off the bike trail. (Which I later worked at) We were going to be spending the night there and helping out with farm work in the morning. It was really my first introduction to farming of any kind. I had visited farms and seen animals on the side of the freeway. But I never worked or done any farm work of any sort. It was all SO magical to me! We went swimming in the American river around dusk and as we walked back up through the farm to where we were staying me and my friend Sophie stayed back to watch the sheep in the pasture. There was around 10 ewes with there small little lambs. The sun was setting behind them and the summer bugs and crickets were busy chirping. The little lambs all played and hopped around jumping straight off the ground, into the air. Sophie and I laughed and laughed. The little lambs were putting on quite the show. Everything just felt still and the world was so quiet and so right. The long day biking, eating yummy food, swimming in a river, and the sweet sweet sheep all mixed together created this effortless moment. I had never experienced life like that. Ever. Since then sheep and farming have become apart of everyday life. But I always think back to that moment. That moment made me want to farm. To be surrounded by life is the sweetest of gifts.


Words of wisdom for prospective students?

Woolman comes to people exactly when they need it most. It's not easy, it's not always rainbows and sunshine. Living in community is hard. Talking about the world is hard. But hard work is the most rewarding and transformative work there is. You will have the opportunity to live like you never have before. So many people have come before you. We are all welcoming you with the biggest open arms there are. Prepare to have the greatest love affair you have ever had.

by Emily Wheeler, Program Director - June 14, 2016

In April of 2012, I returned to Woolman for the first time since my Community Internship ended two years prior. I am not a Quaker and I rarely attended the Sunday Meeting during my time as an intern, but when Sunday arrived, I decided to go. I will never forget this Meeting, as I sat sandwiched between two women in their 90’s whom I will forever consider my elders and mentors: Lynne Henderson and Mary Jorgenson. Mary was undoubtedly wearing pink, the brightest shade of it, or perhaps that is just how she is permanently held in my memory. In the 60’s, Mary had been part of a group of activists who moved to Nevada City, California with the vision of creating a residential program for young people to commit to and grapple with their commitment to the values of peace, justice and sustainability – the vision of Woolman.

During Worship that Sunday, Mary stood to share about her value of non-violence. She began by reflecting on her history of organizing for racial justice and her many experiences being arrested while participating in peaceful demonstrations during the civil rights era – a time that people often recall when speaking about Mary’s life – but the ministry that day was not about her past, it was about her present. She spoke of non-violence and how difficult it is for her to truly live non-violently, to do so in her thoughts, words and actions. She noticed this most acutely, she said, in her own home, with her husband and family. Her ability to self-examine and self-reflect was inspiring and I believe her willingness to do so and share with others was one of Mary’s greatest gifts.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet up with the Director of my graduate program at Goddard College – another small academic institution, much like Woolman, working for peace, justice and sustainability. We met up for a walk along the Cape Cod National Seashore, where I am currently visiting old friends, and immediately started sharing about the past year, both at Woolman and Goddard. “It’s really hard work”, she stated, “to be constantly walking the line between our values and our actions”.

To this day, these values are central to the Woolman community: they adorn our marketing materials and the banners that we hang on stage at Graduation, but more importantly, the values guide our curriculum, they are the underpinning of our restorative practices and they inspire our commitment to land stewardship, producing organic food and providing high-quality, nutrient dense foods for all diets present at any given meal. These are just a few of the manifestations of peace, justice and sustainability on our campus.

This year, to a greater extent than I’d seen before, Woolman’s core values came under scrutiny. And the examination came from within our own community – staff, interns, students – with a strong critique of the ways our institution is not living up to its own vision for world based on principles of equity and social justice. Questions were asked: How can our campus become safer for marginalized identities? How can our staff and board explore topics of oppression and privilege to the extent that our students do in their classes? How can we become more comfortable addressing microaggressions in the moment and fostering dialogue that is both calling out and calling in when members of our community unconsciously perpetuate forms of oppression? We seek answers to these questions in order move through our challenges and into a more just, equitable and peaceful coexistence where all members of the community can thrive.

Throughout the Spring, I had been keeping up with some of the conversations happening on college campuses like Yale and Middlebury, and most recently a more nuanced illustration of this dialogue was published in the New Yorker about Oberlin College highlighting the paradox of institutions that are both welcoming (if not trailblazing) conversations around the greatest injustices of humanity today while simultaneously not fully acknowledging the manifestation of those injustices throughout the campus community. Upon reading this, I realized that I had been so immersed in the lives of the 50 some-odd individuals on the Woolman campus, that I had not paused to see where the conversations at Woolman were located in the larger context of activism in 2016. With a little space and time for my own reflection, it all makes a lot more sense to me now.

When I come back to the message that Mary shared that day back in 2012, I feel gratitude for the Woolman community, for the people who have created and will continue to create a space for deep reflection and discernment around our values. And whether the dialogue continues in Quaker schools, high school semester programs, liberal arts college campuses or even in our own families, I feel confident that the collective consciousness is shifting. “Student movements have an odd habit of ending up on the right side of history,” writes Nathan Heller in his article about activism at Oberlin, and this, I believe, no matter how difficult or painful the work is in the moment, is reason to continue.

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 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 Andrew Sellery, Ceramics Teacher - March 21, 2016

Greetings from the clay room!

It has been quite the journey this Semester as students searched their own way in expressing themselves in clay. Students always excited in the beginning to explore something fun, soon arrive at the reality that new things have there own very challenging aspects in the learning curve. All students have indeed found their way through this process and are really ready to blossom in the journey of self expression.
 
We have arrived at the mid point of our Semester in Ceramics, and it was shared in a magical night of Raku! So wonderful to watch a student body so boldly step up to the challenges Raku demands. Presented with extreme heat and smoke, their red hot clay art was deftly tonged to the reduction cans with great teamwork. Raku is such a wonderful dance of movement demanding each participant be thoughtful of their position and job in the Raku process. Everyone did great!

So excited for the second half of this Semester and confident each student will be ready to step up to the challenges presented them, and finish the Semester a little bit closer to understanding their own artful voice.
 
Enjoy these photos from last Friday's Raku event!
 
        
 
   
 
 
 
 
by Charlotte Lippincott, Farm to Table Manager - March 17, 2016
This week in Farm to Table class, we explored coevolution, fermentation and the gut!
 
The human microbiome is arguably understated, considering how central it is to our experience of health, wellness and life itself. The gut assimilates the food we eat into nutrients while also moderating our immunity, detoxification, brain development, energy levels, cell regeneration, and countless other body systems. As such, these crafty little inhabitants of our microvilli serve as the mediators between our selves and the world around us. They also constitute a world within us: scientists believe that at least half of the cells in our body belong to microbes, constituting over 10,000 species. So when you “trust your gut”, you are taking advice from trillions upon trillions of microbial voices. Our microbiome is amazing!
 
After getting better acquainted with our microcosmic counterparts, we discussed the benefits of fermentation and made kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish. Students split into stations and chopped and grated napa cabbage, green onions, carrots, daikon radish, garlic and ginger. Together we salted and massaged the veggies with chili flakes and pack them tightly into jars, to be shared after spring break. We tasted kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, and some homemade pickled limes; it's always exciting to watch students react to new tastes, or see their eyes light up with familiar flavors. Fermented foods have a more profound place in our diet than many may realize; cheese, yogurt and kefir, coffee, bread, beer and wine, soy sauce and most other condiments, pickles and some meats and fish we have subsisted on, thanks to the process of fermentation, for thousands of years. Only relatively recently has Western culture waged a war against bacteria, and within our current industrialized food model we are increasingly disconnected from the process of growing, preparing, preserving, healing and connecting through our food.  

As we explore fermentation in Farm to Table class, we find so many ways in which it connects to our greater values of peace, justice and sustainability.  The process of fermentation is an opportunity to reconnect with our food, our communities, and our own power to heal. It creates a space to celebrate food stories and locate ourselves within many intertwined, rich cultural histories. It is an opportunity to reconfigure our roles as consumers in a fragile, fossil-fueled, sterilized, capitalist food model. And it is an opportunity to proactively support the health of our body systems and communities outside of the pharmaceutical-dominated biomedical model. 

And it is a chance to share good company, microbial and human alike!
by Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher - March 9, 2016

On Saturday, Feb 27th, Wounded Knee Liberation Day, Woolman students took action in solidarity with students across the country to demand clemency for American Indian Movement hero Leonard Peltier. Earlier this semester, a dear friend of mine in Albuquerque invited me to take up this national call to action. I was excited to learn about the National Student Day of Action for healing and justice and brought the proposal to the students who enthusiastically took up the call. 

    

Leonard Peltier was active in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and fought against oppression and injustice of Indigenous People in the United States. Over 40 years ago, he was wrongfully convicted in the death of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Peltier is a political prisoner and a victim of the FBIs COINTELPRO program, which used imprisonment as a tool to silence radical movement leaders. Peltier’s health is currently failing and he does not have adequate access to healthcare. Peltier’s critical health issue paired with it being Obama’s last year in office makes now the time for Peltier to finally be granted clemency.

To prepare for the action we watched videos, read articles and letters, and discussed the importance of Leonard Peltier’s freedom.  Organizing started with a group of 6 of us one evening around a table in the dining hall. We decided to go to the state’s capitol of Sacramento to march with "Clemency Now for Peltier" banners, chants, signs, flyers, and postcards to Obama.  Some of us organized an art party to make signs and banners and listened to Free Leonard Peltier: Hip Hop's Contribution to the Freedom Campaign.

Thanks to a Woolman alumni, we learned of another Indigenous solidarity action happening in Sacramento that same day so we started the day by joining them. The Apache Stronghold organized a powerful Save Oak Flat march and rally in solidarity with the San Carlos Apache to protect their sacred ancestral homeland that is being threatened by an international copper mining company. After marching to the capitol and many powerful conversations with Save Oak Flat protesters, students headed to the Farmers Market to start demonstrating for clemency.  They then marched up J street with chanting: “One: We want justice. Two: for Leonard Peltier. Three: Clemency Now!” Check out this photo album from the day’s events.

At the end of the day we had collected nearly 60 postcards for Obama! In reflecting on the action, students were grateful for the opportunity to take action and learned a lot about themselves. They gained skills and experience with writing press releases, contacting news outlets, creating banners and signs, doing social media outreach, leading chants, and engaging people on the street to comment and take action.  I asked them to make connections between colonization at home and US imperialism abroad and to critically consider their own role as a group of mainly settlers taking action for indigenous rights.

One of the powerful observations students made was in their comparison of how they were received by different groups of people.  At the farmers market, people were generally not very interested in what students had to say.  At Cesar Chavez Plaza, however, students met many people without homes who were not only interested in what students had to say but appreciative for their action and offered material support for the cause. 

In organizing and taking action, students were able to directly apply the concepts of peace, justice, power, privilege, systemic oppression, violence, allyship, and collective liberation that we have learned about in Peace Studies class. The students are currently organizing their own actions around issues that they are passionate about and/or directly affected by such as mental health, justice for queer and undocumented people, and reproductive rights – stay tuned for updates on those projects. 

If you are reading this, please take the time to email, call 202-456-1111, or write President Obama at The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 to demand clemency now!  For more information about organizing for Peltier's freedom visit: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/ and watch Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story.

by Carl Sigmond (Spring 09), Operations Manager - December 28, 2015

Reflection and hope have been very alive at Woolman this month. Three weeks ago, we gathered as a wider community (students, interns, staff, Board members, alumni, donors, and F/friends of Woolman) to envision the future of Woolman. Facilitated by Drew Smith, the Executive Director of Friends Council on Education, we spent a weekend reflecting on what Woolman does well, what we can do better, and our hopes for the future of our school. 

We created a list of bold goals for Woolman that build on our strengths and will guide our way to the future. We envision a brighter future with enhanced support for staff, improved facilities, abundant financial resources, robust enrollment, wider sharing of Woolman’s unique curriculum, and ongoing commitment to empowering diverse young people.

There was an energy and an aliveness coming out of the envisioning weekend and a shared sense of hope and readiness to get to work on these goals. We will be forming a steering committee to discern ways forward, to set priorities for Woolman, and to start making our goals realities.

We all shared an intense love for Woolman that weekend, for the land and what we do in community on it, and for the spirit of Woolman that grows more alive and vibrant with each new semester. I was one of two people present during the Envisioning Weekend who had been Woolman Semester students, Woolman interns, and staff members, and I am the only alum currently on full-time staff. Given this relationship with Woolman, it was a true honor for me to participate in this historic event at Woolman, an event that will influence the direction of our school. 

by Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher - December 22, 2015

Every semester the Global Thinking and Peace Studies classes take a weeklong trip to the Bay Area called the Radical Learning for Change Trip (Rad Trip).  The intention of the trip is to connect classroom themes to real examples of people working for peace and social justice as well as for the students to recognize themselves as agents of change.  This Fall we were honored to have trainings, visits, presentations, and engaging workshops with East Point Peace Academy, BAY Peace, Youth Spirit Artworks, American Friends Service Committee, Beehive Collective, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Tri Valley CARES, Casa de Paz, and the Berkeley Poetry Slam.

The following student testimonies were gathered from reflection essays the students wrote for Peace Studies:

“Each student here at Woolman is unique in that they have tapped into their deepest desires to learn, to ask questions, to be vulnerable, and to put themselves in uncomfortable situations in order to understand something bigger than themselves. We practice that here everyday, and it was a truly amazing experience to see that other people are practicing it, too. […] We made our way through the city in our van packed full, learning about Kingian nonviolence, about spreading awareness through art, about the power of youth as changemakers. Each day we became more hopeful of a future we thought we were alone in desiring. In each moment I witnessed my classmates changing before my eyes, saw their fists clench tighter, as if in preparation to fight off all injustices. I wonder if they saw a change in me.” –Sophie Merrill

“Hearing the stories of the organizations we visited really made me value the effort these people put into their work. I think the main thing that I learned on this trip was that the stories are what drive passion. Everything from Casa de Paz to Bay Peace wouldn’t exist without people who care. People whose voices were heard and incited change with art, vigils, acting, and most of all, stories.” –Lena Connolly

“Overall, the RAD Trip filled me with a sense of family, comfort, discomfort, inspiration, grief, empowerment, enlightenment, fatigue, energy, analytical-ness, perception, and an overflow of emotion all at once. This trip was just another milestone of Woolman that has, is, and always will, change my perception of the world, life, justice, and me as a person.” –Victory Amos-Nwankwo

“Going back to my home town and talking about social justice movements made me proud to live in a community that’s about change. This is important to me to acknowledge the importance of how we affect the lives around us and to take action in making that first step to a brighter future.” –Stephon Brewster

“It made me realize that, me as a youth, I have the power to change the systems that oppress people. […] I not only heard people talking about oppression, I got to see it in different forms. I saw it through artivism, I watched it through films, I experienced the feelings, and most inspiringly, I heard it through the stories of those who have been or are victims of oppression. Nothing is more powerful than being exposed to the real side of oppression here in the U.S. Through this experience of the Rad trip I learned there is hope because the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.[…] Throughout the whole Rad trip I’ve collected so much passion, wanting to be the change I want to see in the world by being nonviolent and just being involved. Albert Einstein said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” This is the generation to fight for peace and we can't sit there and watch the world go by because that’s saying it's okay for the privileged to oppress the oppressed, and it's not. If we fight, the worst that can happen is that we might lose, but if we don't fight we’ve already lost. The Rad trip really sparked the passion in me to want to fight (with peace). It gave me the passion to want to open everyone's eyes up because we have so much power as the people, we just don't know it.” -Isolde Harpell

 

Here are student reactions to a few of the specific organizations we visited:

“One of the stops that was the most memorable to me was the East Point Peace Academy, where Kazu, Sima, and Stephanie taught the students and I a new perspective on nonviolence: the Kingian nonviolence. Apparently, when you take the hyphen out of ‘non-violence’ you get ‘nonviolence’, which has a completely different denotation. ‘Non-violence’ is simply the lack of violence, the abstinence from the violence; whereas, ‘nonviolence’ is the action of taking measures to prevent or rid the world of violence in general. This really resonates with me because everyday, there are many who everyday, decide to take the ‘non-violent’ route in life; perhaps it is because that way is simply easier, perhaps it is out of fears. I have also been a part of that crowd that simply stands in the background and who does not engage in the violence, yet makes no move to prevent it; because “if we express any emotion while talking about it, we’re tone policed, told we're being angry”, and society does not accept people being ‘overly’ passionate about what they believe in.” –Victory Amos-Nwankwo

“Later that day, Woolman visited my art program called Youth Spirit Artworks that works with homeless youth from ages 16 to 25, Youth Spirit Artworks is a place where you can come and do art and have the freedom of expression in an artistic way. Youth Spirit Artworks works with different groups such as Black lives Matter and Mural project. I was filmed for a documentary that’s called lost in America that talks about homeless youth in america and how it impacts their lives. In the process of getting filmed I felt sad having to repeat some of the hardships in my life but at the same time I felt a kind of liberation from my sadness to be able to talk about what my truth is being homeless in America. This experience had given me a voice to express my true strength for what it is and knowing other people was doing the same made me proud of the action I was taking. Being at Youth Spirit Artworks has made me more of a self aware person as far as being able to express myself through art and sharing that with my community makes me feel like an inspiration for others.” –Stephon Brewster

“Aaron’s [IVAW] presentation intrigued me to no end. I liked how he didn’t sugar coat the terrors of war and tried to paint a pretty picture. No, he showed us the atrocities of war, the reasons behind it, the corruption of the entire military. We can’t call it a sensitive topic when people, not terrorists, are being killed by the thousands because of money and resources, or as they say in America “freedom and democracy”.  I understand the way he said things might have made people uncomfortable, but what made me feel uncomfortable wasn’t his language, it was the realization that our country has gotten away with so many murders and no one bats an eye about that. The military is so corrupt it takes up about $598.5 billion (54%) from Discretionary Spending. In all honesty Iraq’s Veteran’s Against the War had the biggest impact on me. I knew some of what he was talking about, but the way Aaron went into detail with things just got me thinking a lot.” –Brian Gil-Rios

“It was amazing how much emotion had flooded into my stomach from realizing that our nation's prison systems are completely unjust. Jerry, who worked for the organization [AFSC], told us a story about how he was in prison for committing a serious crime, and somehow managed to change his direction and become very “successful” in life. I was very inspired about his story, but then I began questioning the treatment of every other person in prison, who potentially could also be contributing to our world. The government and private corporations are throwing people in jail as a solution to an issue, when in reality, the prison system is the issue.” –Maisie Rising

“The final, most prominent theme throughout the RAD Trip was the power of youth intersecting with both stories and art. BAY Peace is a place that intersected all three: youth leadership, art, and storytelling. BAY Peace is a youth organization that studies social justice through theatre of the oppressed. They used artistic improv games to spread awareness of social justice and environmental issues.  By setting up in a park for a performance, they are giving onlookers free access to art and to education about oppression. We played many games relating to gentrification in the area of Oakland. After spending time in Oakland, in the downtown area I could tell that people felt as though their city had been stolen. Their town focused on tourists, on wealthier residents, but not on the people whose whole lives belonged in Oakland. I especially think this is important because several of my classmates here at Woolman live in Oakland. I have noticed the immense pride that they have for their hometown, and I hate that it could be stolen by wealthy people looking to add to their already huge collection of systemic privileges.” –Lena Connolly

 

Several students made commitments to the change they want to see in the world:

“The moment my passion filled up with rage, was when we came to my hometown, Livermore. The home of the Lawrence Livermore Lab and the Sandia Lab. We visited an organization called Tri Valley CARES that monitors the Lab to make sure it isn’t harming anyone and isn’t polluting our Earth. Also it is to make sure the lab isn’t doing any harmful testings. They are the organization that tests the water, soil, and air in my town to see if it has any harmful chemicals. So far there has been in the past. […] I can’t just go home and live my life day by day without a fear of my water, soil, and air being polluted. That’s why I’m going to join Tri Valley CARES and help end the nuclear testing in my hometown. I want a plutonium free future, so that’s why i'm going to take action with this group.” –Isolde Harpell

“My goal as I emerge from the Woolman cocoon is to continue to push through despair as I learn more about the hard realities of the world, as I strive to empathize with those who are not benefiting from the white privilege I benefit from. I vow to bear witness to and call out injustice even when it is scary, even when it makes me feel anxious or frustrated, even when I make mistakes. There are many ways to do this - maybe I will work through my despair by talking about it, making meaningful connections with people from different cultures or by connecting with nature - the ultimate non-judgmental mother. But I will definitely commit to find balance and not just focus on the negatives but also get in touch with the beauty of differences and culture and society. I will bear witness to and call out both injustice and beauty in the world, and use what I learn to make lasting change in the world.” –Sophie Merrill

“The Radical Learning for Change trip inspired me to find my passion and method in which I can make a change. My goal is to start writing more songs about issues I am passionate about. Sometimes when I am very passionate about something I get a feeling inside of me, nagging me to express this, and I choose music as my method of sharing my opinions. I also have been interested in art therapy because art moves me in a way that is very therapeutic. Art, music, theatre, these are all ways to catch people’s hearts and minds and connect them to the issues that are present in this world and need to be acted upon.” –Sophia Mueller

by Gray Horwitz, Head of School - December 12, 2015

I am consistently amazed each semester by the creativity and effort that students put into their projects. After so many years of projects, it seems like they might all have been done, but students always find a new topic or a unique angle to examine.

This semester, Lena delved into where our food comes from and how much food we compost/waste. Many of our vegan products come from far away, bringing into question the environmentalism of being vegan (at least at Woolman, where most of our other products are as local as possible). Sophia studied paper waste at Woolman, taking on several small projects. Below, she is displaying a “How Paper is Made” poster, collaged from junk mail collected over the course of her project. Adrian, Lee, and Brian worked on fixing up bikes to provide a sustainable method of transportation. Sophie researched screen use, interviewing folks from different generations and perspectives.

  
 
 

There were a couple more projects on the tour — Cleaning trash off Woolman trails and researching the intersection of Quakerism and Sustainability. It was a wonderful showcase of student work, and we hope you can join in person next time!

by Lisa Putkey, Peace Studies Teacher - December 7, 2015

In Peace Studies class, students have been learning about intersecting systems of oppression and organized resistance movements.  One of our focuses is to debunk the creation myths of the United States Empire, which was founded on genocide and slavery.  In projects class, students have been studying Native American rights, the impacts of continued colonization, and contemporary resistance movements centered on indigenous leadership.  Earlier this semester, we attended an annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Nevada City organized by the Tsi Akim Maidu.  As Thanksgiving approached, we organized a banner drop in Nevada City to shed light on the true history of Thanksgiving.  While we deeply value family gatherings and giving thanks, we wanted to encourage fellow settlers to reflect upon the origins of this holiday and how it is a time of reflection and mourning for many.  With consultation from some Native American friends, the students came up with the phrase: “Happy Thankstaking! Ask Native Americans what they think” 

   

Despite pouring rain, spirits were high and students were full of passion and energy the day of the banner drop.  We were met with many supportive honks.  In addition to hanging the banner, students passed out the following article to passersby and local businesses: 6 Thanksgiving Myths, Share Them With Someone You Know by Vincent Schilling.  In reflecting on the banner drop, students felt powerful taking action and felt it was something they could easily do on their own with a sheet, paint, scissors and a friend.  In reflecting further on the message, we felt that “ask them” can be homogenizing and puts the burden on Native Americans to educate, and so we could have focused more on settler responsibility.  We also asked the critical question of who are we accountable to in taking action and how do we build deeper relations with local indigenous organizations to center their leadership in any solidarity work.

by Hilary Ellis-Lavigne, NVC Teacher & Restorative Practices Coordinator - September 24, 2015
 
Each semester, we invite students to intentionally create the community that they want to live in, and, most importantly, to create a system to respond to any conflict or feelings of disconnection that might arise within the community. To start the Fall semester, students were asked to reflect on and draw pictures of communities and systems that they have already experienced prior to coming to Woolman and to describe what worked and what didn’t. The result was an expression of dissatisfaction and images of triangles depicting hierarchy or scales tipped only one way. Then students were asked to envision what they wanted instead and what that might look like; we saw circles and most notably spirals, to represent open communication and understanding spiraling back into the community, thus “The Spiral System” was born. Last week at Community Meeting “The Spiral System” was presented by Jhanna and was accepted and endorsed by the community.
 
     
 
The work that we are doing now in the Nonviolent Communication class directly relates to and supports the creation and implementation of “The Spiral System”. It is a weekly opportunity to remind ourselves of what really matters to us. Together we learn important and necessary skills which provide opportunities for us to show up in ways that will allow the shared vision of our “perfect community” to emerge. We have been looking at why, even though we have amazing values at the core of our beings, we often make choices that are not in line with those values.
  • We have been asking: What happens if we call ourselves or each other wrong and bad when we do this?
  • We have been exploring what it means to listen to our feelings, name them and use them as guides to connect to what we are deeply caring about.
  • We have been practicing how to hear the feelings and needs of another person no matter what they are saying or how they are saying it, and in doing so to recognize and connect to the beautiful universal human needs behind every “should or shouldn't" thought that we might be having.
This is radical work, the ownership that the students are taking of their own experiences here, is palpable. I am excited and curious to see how this semester will unfold as we individually and collectively continue to live into our Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality/Equity and Sustainability, at the same time living more and more deeply into the beliefs that are the underpinnings of Quaker faith and practice: that there is that of Truth in us all, that we all have direct access to this Truth, that it continually reveals itself to us and that in coming together in community we may come to understand a greater, deeper Truth. 
by Emily Wheeler, Admissions and Outreach Director - September 21, 2015

Brian Gil-Rios is currently a senior at Big Picture Learning’s MetWest High School in Oakland, California. He is spending the fall semester at the Woolman Semester School, where students from high schools across the United States study social justice and environmental sustainability together while living on a farm in a residential community in Nevada City, California. We sat down with Brian to learn more about what it’s like to transition from the hustle of a metropolitan learning environment to one which, as Brian admits, benefits from a certain level of calmness.

1.   If you had one word to describe Woolman, what would it be?

Relaxing. I come from a city, Oakland, where there is constant noise from cars, construction and people. In Oakland there is never time where it's totally quiet, no silence. You can’t just go sit under a tree or walk through the forest. At Woolman, like in silent meeting, I can really focus on myself and that helps me not feel stressed. I see that I don’t have to worry too much. Plus, there are hammocks around!

2.   What has been most surprising for you at Woolman?

The people. Before I came, I was thinking okay – 15 students, interns, staff – I never thought I’d connect. I’m from Oakland, they won’t understand. But we’ve actually had similar experiences and I’m learning different things from everyone. We’re interacting from different backgrounds. When I visited Woolman before this semester, I saw the community interact, everyone seemed really close. Now I see that process working, people are getting closer.

3.   Do you have a favorite memory so far?

Finding the Crystal Tree [a famous but secretive spot on campus]. I explore the woods here two or three times a week, sometimes just for 15 minutes and sometimes longer. Literally, yesterday, I found it. I wish I could have just stumbled upon it myself, but there were some other people there and I could hear them so that’s how I found it. There are other places I might find myself, like the old structures that students have built. But you know, it’s like that phrase, “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.

4.   How would you describe the Woolman community?

As a whole it seems like Woolman functions because each individual is a part of what makes it whole. If you miss something, like Shared Work, we might actually have trouble filling that hole. And if someone is having a hard time, we communicate with each other – we’re united. And it is united, we have meetings to talk about our ideas or to work things out. Everyone has a voice and the community will try to meet their needs as well as the community needs.

5.   How do you see yourself in that community?

If something arises that I’m passionate about, I’ll speak about it. For the most part, I agree with the things that are happening, so I don’t always speak. My nature is to be quiet. I know it might sound like I’m contradicting what I just said about community, but I think my voice feels represented here and if it doesn’t, then I share.

6.   Can you talk a little bit about the classes at Woolman?

I came to Woolman already knowing about types of oppression. But here I’m able to go deeper, share what I know and help facilitate. In Peace Studies, I facilitated an activity from my organization Bay Peace, and students asked where I had learned that; which was cool! Peace Studies is helping me think about justice and injustices. The homework is hard, some of it is grad school level! That on top of SAT’s, math, work from MetWest – juggling all of it has been a challenge. But I’m not stressed about it because I’m here.

7.   Have you learned any concepts that give you a new perspective?

My Global Thinking class has really opened my eyes to recent events. In each class, one person is asked to give an explanation of a current event with three sources. It’s the same issue, but from different sides. You really see how media portrays different things to make it look good or bad depending on what they want to show. You really see the bigger picture. The issues feel far away, but it’s good to have the knowledge of what’s happening all over the world.

In the first two weeks [of Global Thinking], our homework was to trace our clothes – how many miles they had come – and it was crazy to see how every part of our clothes comes from a different place. The zipper might be from Texas, the cloth from India or Bangladesh, then it might be assembled in China and finally shipped to the store where you buy it. You really see how the world is connected through one piece of clothing.

We’re also really connected through technology. You can literally talk with someone anywhere in the world through a screen. When I think about it, it’s cool but crazy.

8.   Why do you think doing a semester program is a valuable experience?

The reason I came out here to Woolman is that I wanted to be away. I’m not running away from Oakland or my problems, but I want to be independent. I want to be myself. Here everyone looks out for each other. It’s a different lifestyle. I never thought I’d be eating different kinds of food every night. We’ve only been here a month and it’s amazing to see that I’ve actually adapted to being here! I think it’s important to have an open mind and to live differently in terms of your daily routine. I came here thinking, “Okay, it’s going to be different”, and that mentality, being open, that was really important. I might have been shy at first, but I was just getting used to everything. I wouldn't say I changed myself to be at Woolman. I just got used to the change.

We invite you to learn more about what makes the Woolman experience special for students like Brian. For more information, please visit semester.woolman.org.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff - September 1, 2015

Welcome to the Woolman Educational Garden--a place of laughter and growth, a place where the word drought is never spoken in front of the plants (that would be rude), and a place where harvesting your first vegetable reminds you that all the hard work was undeniably worth it.

In the beginning--back in February--the garden felt cold, the orchard wet, and I did not understand the importance of straight and fluffy beds. I dreaded long afternoons...thinking maybe gardening wasn’t for me.  Every piece of information seemed part of some new language I hadn’t even heard the name of.  Words went in one ear and out the other in a series of explanations told by the wonderful, eloquent garden manager Maggie McProud.  After many mornings of seeding I thought I knew it all, but then I realized through all the cover crops we still had vegetables in the garden. That day I harvested my first vegetable--leeks. Later on that day I googled what leeks were.  Soon, what I was doing made sense, outcomes became clearer, and I understood what my purpose was in the garden: I was to facilitate the growth and care of these plants, and in turn they facilitated the growth and care of those who walked through the garden walls. 

As the garden is in full swing--with harvests going into the Woolman Semester Kitchen, into a restaurant in town, and (for a lucky few) into their homes--there is a lull engrossing the space between the garden gates. The space that needed me so badly a few months ago is now blooming all on its own. The bees, ignoring me as I walk by, pull nectar from their flowers; the carrots are freely dwelling beneath my feet until it’s time to be pulled; and the hummingbird buzzes rapidly past my ear, whispering that everything will be ok. 

by Gray Horwitz, Head of School - June 3, 2015

I work in the shared center of this venn diagram — Woolman is the only school that is both Quaker and a semester program. I’ve worked at other Quaker schools and other semester schools, and being here, I feel so much gratitude, as I see the best of both in Woolman.

The most amazing aspects of semester schools are, in my opinion, the diverse, ever-changing community, intensive and immersive experiences, and focused programming. And in Quaker education, the things that I find truly unique are Quaker testimonies (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equity, Stewardship) and the core tenets of Quaker pedagogy — valuing each person’s individual truth, working together to discern knowledge, and always reexamining what we think we know.

By having people from different backgrounds enmeshed with Quaker pedagogy, individual truths can be explored and valued by all. And by having a challenging academic experience along with valuing equity, we have a curriculum that adapts to the varied education of students and where they are coming from. Creating community with new people every semester coupled with the unparalleled community support I know from Quaker communities facilitates a journey that is full of love and joy. The focused programming of a semester school allows us to delve deeper into subjects in line with our Quaker beliefs and teach classes such as Peace Studies, Farm to Table, and Nonviolent Communication. I could go on for awhile, but one final example is having an immersive experience with week-long field trips and a rural boarding school environment combined with continuing discernment lets Woolman students explore depths of subjects and themselves.

It is beautiful to see these two models of education overlap and have so much synergy.

by Red Feola, Maintenance Supervisor - April 19, 2015

I am responsible for taking care of 236 acres, 46 structures, pastures, a-frames, a dining hall, soccer field, bathhouses, 2 ponds, forest…..and I love my job, but when I describe my work to those outside Woolman these are the least of the responsibilities that I speak of.  I am also a teacher, an activist, a mentor, a student, an elder, and a friend. These are the roles that make my job worth it every day, I am the grounds and maintenance supervisor at the Woolman Semester School.

I repair sinks and fix toilets while thinking about systems of oppression and social justice issues, I chop firewood while discussing gender and identity, I work on garden irrigation systems while contemplating the effect of this year’s continued drought in the region, I work throughout the day with my hands, connecting to the land and helping others develop a sense of place, I am the grounds and maintenance supervisor at the Woolman Semester School.

I teach high school aged youth how to utilize a mop while discussing food systems and food choices, I sit every Wedensday, for 30 minutes, in silence with my community and reflect upon the opportunity that we call life, I dig water diversion swales in the afternoon and then at dinner, discuss lucid dreaming during Quantumplation Club. I am a teacher, an activist, a mentor, a student, an elder, and a friend, I am the grounds and maintenance supervisor at the Woolman Semester School and I love my job.

 

by Joe Beatty, Community Intern & Peace Studies Teaching Assistant - April 7, 2015

Picture this....  April rain.  April rain heavy.  April rain bulky.  April Snow.  The garden apprentice from Tinseltown gasps.  Eyes wide.  It is her first snow.  Before this, white April had only been a dream.  As she dashes for the door she slips on the kitchen floor already muddy from the rainy night before.  She giggles with glee, excited about the plump snowflakes and rattled from her near fall.  Outside the snowflakes fall thick on our hair, dazzling our smiles.  Down south, in her hometown, Los Angeles is shriveling like a stale plum.  But for a moment the bald snowpacks and empty aquifers are forgotten, and we could be elves, feeling wonderful in a wonderland.  Twenty minutes later the snow is gone and the dream is over.

  

by Nicole Esclamado, Intern Program Coordinator and Kitchen Manager - April 3, 2015

I'm Flo and I turned one year old last week!  What does it mean to be a one-year old goat?  I can do ANYTHING.   I can run really really fast while hopping sideways, backways, upways, and downways pretty much all at the same time.  While your favorite food is probably "sweet" or "spicy" or something silly ...  mine falls into the category of "anything with a lot of thorns" (thistle! blackberries! roses! locust!), which is to say my tongue is tougher than yours.  I eat poison oak.  What is my purpose in life?  To sneak into the school office if the door is left open and play king of the mountain on top of computer desks.  

But, I do get scared sometimes, which makes me sneeze. 
 
If you like adventure, spontaneous dance moves and authentic self-expression, fruit orchards and head-butting ... come play with me!!!  We can take on the world together.