Teacher Blog

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - March 7, 2015

For the past two weeks students have been researching different aspects of our campus and looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption. Yesterday students presented their energy audits to the class, and in the coming weeks we will be implementing the changes that they've recommended. The first group looked at our dish sanitizer and alternatives to it.

Based off their research they will be proposing to the community that we save energy by washing dishes by hand for a week. We will see how that method serves or does not serve the community.

The next group — Alex, Pedro, and Wade presented on our wood stoves and their efficiency. 

What was most interesting for them and the class was how inefficient space heaters are and the benefits of EPA certified wood stoves. We have written grants in the past, through the Strawberry Creek Meeting Dime-A-Gallon Grant, to replace old wood stoves with EPA certified ones, and this research supports doing so again.

We then heard about Woolman's vehicle use, and a proposal to buy a two-seater leaf car for short town trips, which we will be looking into. Finally, Lily and Luz presented on cabin lights. They looked into switching them to motion sensing lights and/or timer lights. Their data showed that switching the porch lights of all 8 cabins to motion sensing would cost about $100, but pay for itself in a year. They will be proposing this change to the community next Wednesday.

I am excited for the impact these students will have on the campus and for the understanding that they gained while doing these projects. Their knowledge will transfer to where ever they go when the leave Woolman, and will hopefully have a positive impact on those communities as well.

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - March 4, 2015

Happy March! It is hard to believe that the semester started almost six weeks ago. We have some updates for you from different aspects of Woolman life, written by various teachers.

Students and interns had a gorgeous 3 days on Staycation last weekend! They headed down the coast to the Big Sur region, camping at Plaskett Creek campground which bore a lovely resemblance to Frodo and Bilbo’s shire. A 6 mile hike up the switchbacks of the Cruickshank Trail was well worth the trek when met with epic oceanic views at the summit and a West Coast sunset at the shore in the evening. Saturday morning started early to get down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While the tentacle exhibit was incredible, the simple pleasures of double rainbows, tacos, and accoustic melodies of fellow students were a wonderful completion to a weekend away. 

In Peace Studies students just finished a unit on oppression, power, privilege, and allyship. This week they started learning about US empire, militarism and native sovereignty. Here is a link to one of their readings by feminist activist Andrea Smith. In Peace Projects class the students came to a consensus that for their collective action organizing project they want to focus on three issues: Pro-Choice, Immigration Rights and Islamophobia. In groups they have been researching each issue and will present this week on the root causes and effects of injustices and articulate their own visions for social change on their issue. We will then as a class look at the intersectionality of each issue and dream up an action to implement that will address all three.
Woolman’s Technology Committee is organizing Tech Free Day challenges for the campus. These are opportunities for us to explore our relationship to and dependency on the various forms of technology in our lives. All community members will be encouraged to leave their cell phones behind and be intentional about using as little electricity as possible. Our first challenge will take place next Wednesday, March 11 on the five-year anniversary of the tsunami and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. We will be joining forces with efforts around the world to take a stand for clean, safe, and sustainable power by unplugging from the grid.
The attached pictures show Lily playing with the bluegrass Fruit Jar Pickers in Rough and Ready, CA, gnocchi and quiche meals, students working on EnviSci energy audits, and pruning in the orchard.
by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Thinking Teacher - March 2, 2015

In one of our first units in Global Thinking, we examined how each of us views the world. What parts of our identity, backgrounds, experiences, and other aspects of our selves influence our perspectives? Where do our biases and opinions come from? Multiple perspectives is a key theme that we will explore throughout the semester, and students began by digging deep within themselves and shared what makes up their unique worldview.




by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - February 12, 2015

The semester is in full swing! After a week of orientation, and a hectic first week of classes, people are starting to find their rhythm. Each of the teachers have written about their classes for this update.


The students hit the ground running in terms of being introduced to and grasping the basic concepts of NVC.  On their second day here in orientation week we identified what values/life qualities would be present in their ideal community and what we were willing to do to live into or out of those values. In our first NVC class we looked at what gets in the way of us living like this all the time. This led us to exploring right/wrong, good/bad thinking and how that naturally flows into a system of punishments and rewards and named that way of living as a "power over" culture. The whole process and consciousness of NVC was presented as a choice to explore a "power with" culture instead. Next class we will continue to explore what it means to embody a value that we deeply care about so we may better meet hard and challenging moments from a place of fullness, without judgements or blame.


In Environmental Science, we began the semester hiking around Woolman’s campus, learning about the land and what we will be covering. We then shared our experiences with science and our dreams for this class. We are now studying global warming and the biases commonly associated with both sides of the issue. From here we will delve into energy, and groups of students will be doing an energy audit of different aspects of Woolman’s campus.


In Peace Studies we began by sharing our hopes and fears and envisioning the world in which we want to live. We also made collective agreements with the goal of creating a safer space for learners who support, challenge, and affirm each other. In this introductory unit we are building a theoretical foundation drawing on concepts of peace, violence, power and interconnection. We are exploring the power of voicing our truths and transforming our silences in to action for peace and justice. This week students wrote and shared powerful “Where I’m From” poems.


In Global Thinking, we began by exploring what it means to be a global citizen, working off the idea that we are all interconnected to each other and thus in order to be agents of change we must start by changing our own lifestyles. We have examined our individual worldviews and what parts of our identities and experiences help shape our perspectives. This week we began our unit on media literacy with a TED Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi


In Farm to Table, we started with a class on fruit tree pruning, which we will be practicing all spring as we maintain our orchard. During shared work, several students learned to create trays of seedlings, which will be transplanted to the fields in April. This week we are talking about why growing, preparing, and consuming our own foods is a form of activism.


Sorry, we don’t have many pictures from class… yet! But here are some from the Contra dance we took students to this past weekend, shared work, and community meeting. Oh, and a Valentine’s Day gift Eli and Andrew gave to Wade!


by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - December 4, 2014
Another semester has sped past all too quickly, and I wanted to take this chance to share some highlights from Environmental Science.

    Food Intensive

Learning about grafting at Wolfskill Experimental Orchard & Picking strawberries at Swanton Berry Farms

What seems like forever ago — late September — the students journeyed to the Bay Area and Santa Cruz to learn more about the unseen sides of agriculture.  We toured Swanton Berry Farm and learned about socially just farming, Bi-valve Clover Dairy and saw the inner workings of a 600-cow operation, and UC Davis’s Feedlot and GMO Seed Lab. Spencer Wollan, a current Woolman student, says, “Until I went on the food trip, I never realized the complexity surrounding the issue of GMOs.” All of our stops, from distribution centers to living plant libraries and even a Jelly Belly factory tour provided us with new information, perspectives, and questions to pursue.


Ecology Research Presentations

Wild Turkey Jeopardy & Thistle on thistles
Delving into the wilderness surrounding Woolman, students chose one organism to research and present to the class. Through these spotlights on individual species, we gathered a larger sense of the ecology of the land. Emily Spognardi, a community intern and environmental science class T.A. says, “Turkey Jeopardy was a refreshing way to connect and learn about local wildlife!”




Sustainability Projects

Woolman well data for this semester & Ceramic coffee filters to replace plastic ones

Students have been working hard throughout the semester on their Sustainability Projects. Some projects include creating a student library, plastic awareness, well water monitoring and awareness, cataloging what is grown in the Woolman garden, a chicken guide, and fire circle renovation. Come see our presentations December 6th at 2:00 pm!
by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - October 19, 2014

The night of October 7th, several interns, students, and I slept out among the oaks to watch the lunar eclipse. In doing so, I was reminded of the nights we slept out during the Wilderness Trip at the beginning of the semester, and the bonds that have been made within our community. There was a sense of calm and comfort as we waited for the eclipse, but I waited restlessly, finding celestial objects with students in our telescope and talking to anyone who would listen (read: stay awake) about The Moon. In a month, we will be spending a few classes studying astronomy, learning about the universe, our place in it, and how the greater world outside our pale blue dot affects life.

The following photo is a multiple exposure, exposed every 5 minutes over the course of 4 hours. Taken from the middle of Woolman's campus. To see a verison that does justice to the beauty of the night, click here.

"The Earth and The Moon would more accurately be called the Earth-Moon System. The Moon is astoundingly close to Earth, from a cosmological perspective, and their relative sizes are also very close.

We owe a great deal to our moon. Life on this planet would be very different, if it managed to survive at all, without The Moon. Ocean tides 'stir' the waters of the planet, creating a semi-aqueous zone around every ocean which would be the perfect place for sea life to try to come up on land. The Moon also brightens the night sky, guiding our sleep cycles and our behavioral evolution. Most importantly for us though, it serves as an asteroid catcher, instead of a single gravity well around our planet there are two of comparable size.

Earth is a perfect planet for many reasons but an important one, our moon, is often forgotten. When I see The Moon at night, I can't help but think about how critical it has been in our development. If Earth is our mother, then The Moon is undoubtedly our father.

The Moon protected Earth while it was new with early life. The Moon has countless visible scars but still keeps constant vigil over Earth and it’s inhabitants. It helped raise us, holding our hands as we learned to walk and lighting up the nights so that we could see. And just like Earth, The Moon has been a wonderful teacher. It taught us how to keep time which let us track the seasons. It helped us figure out how our solar system worked. It helped us learn about gravity. It showed us that relativity was correct, for the most part, and let us feel good about ourselves when we finally managed to say hi in person.

Finally, The Moon will give us a push as we leave home to join the rest of the solar system." 

~Adapted from a quote by Content404

by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Issues Teacher - October 13, 2014

With voting day just around the corner, Woolman students had a unique opportunity to engage with and critically analyze the political process in the United States. In Global Issues class, we are exploring what it means to be a "democratic" country and how democratic processes are manifested both in the US and around the world. We talk about the power behind voting in our representative democracy as well as access to voting and how different demographics of people living in the US are helped or hindered in participating in the democratic process. To our great fortune, the League of Women voters held a debate between the two congressional candidates for our district of California, Heidi Hall and Doug LaMalfa!! What better way to combing our theoretical class analysis with practical real-world happenings!

I was extremely pleased and proud of the level of engagement and excitement from the students surrounding the debate. They were wonderfully analytical of the candidates' platforms and presentations, and although our questions weren't chosen to be asked during the forum, we had an opportunity to meet the candidates afterwards and express our priorities and concerns to the prospective representatives. The topics of our inquiries to candidates ranged from marriage equality to climate change to immigration rights and more!


by Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies Teacher - April 5, 2014

What is justice? What kind of world do prisons create? How has the prison system changed over time? What are alternatives to prisons, and how do they work? How will I create justice in my life? These questions guided our Peace Studies and Global Issues trip focusing on the prison system and alternative forms of justice. In this jam-packed week, Woolman students and staff visited individuals and organizations in the Bay Area who address prison issues from numerous angles: from the American Friends Service committee and the Human Rights Pen Pal Project organizing solidarity support for prisoners on hunger strike, to educators such as Jeff Duncan-Andrade who understand that we cannot have justice in our world without justice in our schools, to MetWest High School, where restorative justice practices create healing in communities deeply impacted by systemic violence. Art, and performance poetry in particular, became a lens through which to process our experiences and speak our truths. Check out these pictures and students' blog posts on some of their highlights of our trip!

by Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies Teacher - March 9, 2014

One of my favorite parts of teaching Peace Studies is the opportunity to read and discuss Assata, the autobiography of Assata Shakur. The book raises critical questions about race and racism, prisons, violence, social change, and resiliency and hope in the midst of tremendous injustice—themes that unfortunately are all too relevant today. Here, students Imani Sherley and Sophie Tuchel share some of their first impressions:

“It was amazing the number of people who said they were too Black already” (Assata, 25).

This part of the book and this quote in particular resonated with me in a myriad of ways. Even today, years after this book was written, there is still a huge divide within the black community along color lines. People still value European features over our own, and they especially value light skin over dark. I know for a fact that I have received better treatment from people in my life because of my lighter skin. Darkness then and now is seen as a burden, and both white and black people treat it as such. The lighter you are, the more others will associate you with something other than black, which unfortunately can give you privileges over other black people. Skin whitening is still a huge industry, and even Dove sells skin bleaching products in Asia and Africa. The crazy thing about this quote from Assata though isn’t the cultural ideal she is introducing, it’s the fact that these people are on the beach! That is how deep this runs.

“I was supposed to be a child version of a goodwill ambassador, out to prove that Black people were not stupid or dirty or smelly or uncultured” (Assata, 37).           

Code Switching! Respectability politics! This quote has it all. Assata is referencing something so real here I couldn’t help but start snapping when I read it. The way that she describes her middle school experience and the attitudes of her teachers and the black community was some of the best writing thus far in the book. In this chapter she basically tells her story in a way that defines some key concepts in black survival. The need and expectation of talking, walking, and looking like white people is a form of code switching, or learning how to function in one part of society while still maintaining your authentic identity elsewhere. Use your slang on the porch, but cross your t’s and dot your i’s in the classroom. This way of thinking which her grandparents presented her with is also known as respectability politics. It is the expectation that those black people who are often in white owned spaces ought to act a certain way in order to preserve the respectability of the race a whole. Assata was definitely not down with that plan. This is because respectability politics take away the individual’s right to self-authenticity for the sake of being  “acceptable” and uniform. Nevertheless, respectability politics are still a huge part of black survival today, just like code switching. I code switch. Other black kids at my school constantly either rebel against or expect others to perpetuate respectability politics. I didn’t realize how much I had in common with Assata, or how much has not changed within the black community and the American School System.  

- Imani Sherley

It is so crazy to me that so many people grew up thinking that white, straight-haired, and thin-lipped was the most beautiful way to be. Sure, most children, teens, and even adults have insecurities and long for different features; that’s not at all uncommon. But to grow up thinking that the color of your skin is less beautiful than another race’s? Or putting a clothespin on your nose to make it thinner? I think it was that part that made me realize how privileged I have been in my growing up. Like I mentioned earlier, most kids have insecurities; I wished that I was taller, blonder, and better at sports, amongst other things. The differences between my insecurities and Assata’s are that mine were more or less something that I could make happen. I was going to grow, I could always dye my hair, and if I really wanted to get better at sports I could have practiced my butt off. But you can’t change the color of your skin or the texture of your hair (very easily). That, my friend, is called privilege.

I could relate to a surprisingly large number of Assata’s experiences as a child, such as teachers who gave homework as punishment, and watching T.V. shows depicting what families are ‘supposed’ to be like. I think that is why I loved this book so much; everyone has a little piece of Assata inside of them, and reading some parts of this story felt like reading an entry in a diary from my younger self.

This book is so emotional, and it just makes me feel so many overwhelming emotions all at the same time. I felt joy and love for Assata when she was happy or even being stubborn, and I loved anyone who helped her succeed. I felt an extreme amount of sympathy for Assata, and I was amazed at how resilient she was throughout all of the challenges she faced. I felt as though she was a good friend of mine, and I wanted her to win every battle and just be happy and carefree. I am, and always will be rooting for her.

-Sophie Tuchel

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - December 1, 2013

For the Environmental Science service project, Chris, Valentine, Lily, and Ethan worked with me to clear a large area of scotch broom.  Although we cleared a sizable area, there is still plenty back there! As we worked, we discussed the right for scotch broom to thrive, as all plants at some point in history are invasive species, vs. the idea that because we have so quickly and vastly changed the world and have taken stewardship over it, humans should keep it in balance as opposed to letting evolution take its course. We also talked about the idea that plants feel pain, which we ignore through antropic bias. Stimulating work & stimulating conversation!

Here is a time lapse video of our restoration work: http://youtu.be/qB_eymuvfYE

by Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies teacher - December 1, 2013

This semester, students had the option to choose one of three service projects, each connected to a core class. The Peace Studies service project was a collaboration with the Nevada City-based art and activist collective Radical Art for these Times (RAFTT). In just three days, students became familiar with art and activism theory and models, chose to do a banner drop raising awareness about privilege, painted the giant banner and smaller signs, recorded a radio piece,  and held a demonstration over highway 49! Student Genna Kules wrote the following press release about our work:

Students from the Woolman Semester School team up with RAFTT to call attention to the invisibility of inequality and how privilege is easily taken for granted
“Privilege is The Ability to Not Notice Inequality” reads the the large pink banner hanging on the Broad Street bridge. Smaller signs scattered along the highway compliment it with the words: “Take Time. Notice.”
Students at the Woolman Semester School study Peace, Justice, and Sustainability on a daily basis. With the banner drop, they are bringing their studies outside the confines of Woolman Lane. They are using this action as a learning experience in the practice of activism.
When people driving down Highway 49 see this sign, “I want them to think about their daily lives and how this affects them,” says Ky Biswell, grade 12. Jasmyn Atsalis-Gogel, grade 11, agrees saying her goal is “to make people think.”
“You can’t understand the world until you become aware of your own privileges” says Anna Scott, grade 12. She believes one must get past the feeling of guilt for their own privileges before they can affect change around inequality.
Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies teacher, describes the process of realization of privilege: When people of privilege learn about their privilege they move into a state of guilt. Guilt is an important stage but there is a danger of getting stuck in it. One can either move through the guilt and into change-making or move into a state of blaming the oppressed minority groups.
Jennifer says, “sometimes the most radical thing you can do is to say something obvious.” Woolman Semester intern, Danya Morris, follows with “It’s radical to tell the truth. It’s radical to ask for truth— to question.”
Students believe they will go back to their hometowns more aware and able to affect change in their own communities.


by Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Issues teacher - December 1, 2013
The Global Issues community service project was a great success! We worked in conjunction with Reinette Senum, a friend, former mayor of Nevada City, and enthusiastic community organizer, refurbishing the town square boardwalk. The boardwalk is a place that the community has reclaimed as a communal space to gather since their town plaza was plowed through by a highway. As we planted bulbs and cleaned up the patio, Reinette gave us a brief history of Nevada City since its thriving gold rush period (fun fact: Nevada City was on the list for becoming the capital of California back in the day!) and explained the amazing advantages of having the boardwalk and also the challenges that come with it. 

We also worked with a Shea, the owner of our local herbal remedies store Haalo, to help prepare bags for alternative medical kits for homeless folk in the area. Nevada City has a substantial amount of homeless residents and a group of concerned citizens created a community organization called Sierra Roots to address the root causes of homelessness here and cater to the needs of folks without a roof over their heads. Alternative medical kits with natural remedies for ailments specific to those encountered by the homeless are a great example. We even got the chance to sit in on a Sierra Roots meeting to get a glimpse of the organizational side of these projects! 

Our third project was to help deliver a micro house to Sonia, a homeless resident who now maintains the conservation land where she lives. A micro house is a wooden structure with a roof, just big enough to fit a person or their things when it rains. Delivering Sonia's house and hearing her personal story gave us an invaluable perspective and insight into the struggles of poverty and the causes of homelessness here in Nevada City. 
Reinette, Shea, and Sonia were amazing inspirations for bringing their ideas for change in the community into fruition, particularly as we get ready to bring our own Global Issues projects into our home communities!
by Jennifer Stone and David Dean - November 3, 2013

For our combined Peace Studies and Global Issues trip, students spent a week in the Bay Area exploring social justice issues and activism—focusing especially on education, race, the prison system, and global interconnection. Highlights of the trip included a "Wake Up" with Generation Waking Up, in which students discussed the unique challenges and opportunities facing their generation; a presentation by Laura Magnani, author of Beyond Prisons and director of the American Friends Service Committee's Bay Area Healing Justice Program; and an incredible conversation with Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a veteran public school teacher and founder of the initiative "Roses In Concrete." In addition to discussions and presentations, students saw the movie Fruitvale Station, attended and performed in a slam poetry performance, and participated in Canticle Farm's East Oakland community meditation. Magnolia Neel, a Woolman student, remarked, "This trip was so inspiring—I have so many new ideas about what I want to pursue in my future and how I want to live my life."

For more on this wonderful trip see the photos below that were captured by Woolman student Izak Lederman-Beach, or read blog posts from our students and staff about our shared experiences and new friends.

Wait a minute, white people can help solve racism? - By Izak Lederman-Beach
A frank conversation about disability with our own intern, Carl - By Valentine Purell

An inspiring afternoon with Mia Mingus - By Carl Sigmond, Media & Technology Intern

Waking Up to a Wake-Up - By Genna Kules

The Starry Plough - By Emily DePol

Jeff Duncan-Andrade - By Cait Mazzarella

Fighting for Justice Beyond Prisons - Samara Rosen

Reflections from the Peace Studies/Global Issues Trip - By Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies Teacher

The Generation Waking Up Experience - By Holland Bressler

Our Talk with Jeff Duncan-Andrade - By Jasmyn Atsalis-Gogel

Beyond Prisons - By Jordan Newhof


Students read Assata, the autobiography of activist Assata Shakur, in an Oakland park.


Woolman student Ethan Bronstein described listening to Jeff Duncan-Andrade as "being in the presence of greatness."


Veteran urban educator and community activist Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade speaks to Woolman students about rethinking the purpose of education in our communities.


Pancho Ramos-Stierle tells Woolman students about Canticle Farm and La Casa De Paz, a hub of urban farming, community revitalization, and spirituality in East Oakland.


The Oakland city-scape at dusk.

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - September 26, 2013

As a part of their Environmental Science course, Woolman students left campus in mid-September and headed for the Bay Area where they spent a week on their Food Intensive trip, one meant to expand and challenge their views about food systems. They visited farms that practice social responsibility, natural agriculture, medium-scale organic farming, and permaculture design. In addition, we saw distribution hubs, experimental feedlots, a seed repository, and GMO labs.

Places visited: Bi-Rite Creamery, Swanton Berry Farms, Shumei Santa Cruz Farm, Berkeley Farmer's Market, Veritable Vegetable, Regenerative Design Institute, Santa Rosa Heirloom Festival, UC Davis' Feedlot, The National Clonal Germplasm Repository, The Jelly Belly Factory, Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis, & Full Belly Farms.


Students and staff at Shumei Natural Agriculture Farm.

by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - September 7, 2013

In Environmental Science, students have been investigating the ingredients in the foods they eat. As Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously said: "Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are." However, we have entered an age where we don't know what we're eating. Two students, Kelly Flannery and Emily DePol, created this commercial and poster after finding out what is in their lunchables. Bon appétit!


Video at: https://www.facebook.com/woolmansemester

by Jennifer Stone, Peace Studies Teacher - September 6, 2013

It is my pleasure to kick off the first of many Fall '13 blog posts with student poems written in Peace Studies class! Here is "Broken and Then Put Together" by Rebecca Ross. 


Broken and Then Put Together


Here is to the broken.

The bikes that can’t be fixed,

People who get made fun of for being mixed,

To the children who are ten, but want to be twenty-six,



Here is to the broken.

The old ladies whose shaking hands can’t knit,

The household wives that get hit,

The drummers who have stopped their drumming,

To the people who keep running,

And the nightmares that keep coming,

Because they don’t know how to face the monsters IN. THEIR. DREAMS.


Here is to the broken.

The freaks who feel ashamed,

The innocent who get blamed,

The teenagers called “lame.”

For the butterfly with one wing,

Struggling to fly.


Here is to the puzzle piece that cannot find it’s right fit,

And the person who is about to give up,

But doesn’t.


Here is to the whole.

The fighters,

The babies who are biters,

To the brave who are igniters,

We need those humans that start great fires,

Because the flame MUST. CATCH. SOMEHOW.


Here is to the whole.

The non-stop believers

The dreamers,

To the kindergarten class full of beamers,

The college kids who call their parents on the phone,

The lucky one who wins the wishbone.

To the lonely ones who figure out they aren’t really alone.

Because we are NEVER. REALLY. ALONE.


Here is to the whole.

The ones who get back up after they fall,

The trees that grow tall.

For the go-getters,

The boys and girls who know better,

To handwritten letters.

You open the box, the pieces spill out,

Sort them,

First the corners,

Then the colors,

And last the sides.

Every piece has a purpose.

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - June 18, 2013


A couple of months ago, I decided to leave my teaching position at Woolman. After 4 years of teaching Global Issues, (nearly two years of teaching Peace Studies), plus all of the pizza cooking, adventuring, hiking, gardening, advising, and more that goes into living here--words cannot express what a difficult choice that was. But in the end, I know it is time.


There were a lot of factors leading to this decision, none of which are easily explained. So, for now, I am processing with gratitude, what has been truly the most amazing and absolutely most challenging experience of my life.


My heart is overflowing with love for the time that I have spent on this beautiful piece of land; with it’s prolific wildlife, kind and quirky residents, the wise and generous wider Woolman community, and most of all—each and every Wombat who has rolled through here since Fall 2009. Whether as teacher, head, staff, intern, or student—all of you have given and taught me more than you can know.


It is hard to imagine anything being more fulfilling than sitting in a class under peace flags and an Adbusters corporate flag of America…discussing the roots of apathy, the effects of immigration policy, the purpose of education, visioning a more just and sustainable world and coming to an understanding that each of our unique gifts are needed to get there.


It is hard to imagine working with adults that bring as much dedication and intention to what they do, while making it fun as heck, as the staff at Woolman does.


Or in a school system that truly sees each youth in their care (gifts, challenges, individuality, and wisdom) and holds them with such deep respect and accountability.


Or with youth who value authenticity, adventurousness, compassion, and the fabulous quirkiness each of us has, over the superficial crap that teens are told to care about.


It’s hard to imagine finding a life where every task you do feels like it contributes to the larger revolution.  


But, its time for me to take the advice that I have been giving graduating classes for the past 8 semesters: Woolman is both a place and a family. It is a school in the Sierra Foothills and also model for living what you believe, no matter where you are.


In order for Woolman to succeed as a model for the new paradigm (and not just an idealistic bubble), it is clear that we need to take what we have gained here out into other places of the world.


I am facing a lot of unknowns in my life as I move forward, but I can thank Woolman for one thing that I have come to know clearly. Through this place, these people, and this wacky class we place under the name of Global Issues—I have found my calling.


I now see myself as an educator for The Great Turning. To me, that means my task is to help people come to understand this unique time in human history—with all of its opportunities and challenges. I hope to work with others to analyze how we came to be facing these social and environmental crises, while introducing them to the myriad of exciting and inspiring solutions that are already occurring worldwide (and visioning alternatives that don’t yet exist, too!).  Most importantly, I would love to continue the work of facilitating skills for getting active and helping people to see that their unique gifts can be used joyfully for creating a better world.


The challenging part is that, to my knowledge, it doesn’t really exist in this form yet outside of a "tiny think tank in the Nevada City woods"! This is what has led me to pursue a PhD in Sustainability Education through Prescott College. The program which starts in August for me, describes Sustainability Education as "education at the intersection of ecology, economics, and social justice" (so similar to Global Issues!). The PhD caters to non-traditional career goals and will ideally equip me to create another incarnation of the work that is done at Woolman, an education program facilitating skills and values that are relevant to this very unique time in history. 


...Or, who knows? Maybe I will become a doctor (of philosophy), come back and be the next Ted Menmuir! (the amazing man who started as the John Woolman School history teacher, took a break, was head of school at least three times, and then returned again as art teacher for several years!) We'll see. Until then, I look forward to coming back to visit here, ushering in my replacement (ANOTHER University for Peace, Peace Education graduate!!!!), and utilizing the wealth of wisdom that I have gained at Woolman to continue teaching, learning, and living what I believe! Thanks everyone! 


Love, Peace, and Global Solidarity,


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


The following is an excerpt from a recent press release:

The students of The Woolman Semester School are excited to host a night celebrating environmental and social justice activism by bringing the film, Occupy Love, to Grass Valley on Friday, May 10th.

Both a film premiere and a Change-maker’s Symposium, the evening will start with a reception where students from Woolman’s Activist Toolkit class will be informing and inspiring guests.

The Occupy Love website states, “a profound shift is taking place: humanity is waking up to the fact that the dominant system of power is failing to provide us with health, happiness or meaning. Join the filmmaker, Velcrow Ripper, on a journey deep inside the revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet, as he asks the question: how could the crisis we are facing become a love story?”

Featuring captivating insider scenes from the Egyptian Revolution, the Indignado uprising in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in New York, Indigenous activists at the Alberta Tar Sands, the climate justice movement, and beyond, Occupy Love aims to show that love can unite as much as greed can divide.

 “Occupy Love is directly connected to the curriculum at our school. Whether the lessons are on gift economies or nonviolent resistance, our students are gaining an education that is relevant to this unique time in human history,” says Activist Toolkit Class teacher, Emily Zionts.

The Change-maker’s Symposium will give the young activists a chance to display their plans for creating a more just and sustainable world.  Zionts says, “Come at 7:15pm for the film, but come at 6:30pm for a dose of authentic, active hope through poetry, giant puppets, fair trade treats, and more.”

This event is free of cost. All are welcome!

Evening Schedule (all events take place at the UU Church):

·       6:30pm Change-Makers Symposium begins

·       7:15pm Occupy Love begins

For more information:

·       The Woolman Semester School: semester.woolman.org

·       Activist Toolkit Teacher: Emily Zionts 530-273-3183

·       Occupy Love: www.occupylove.org

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

What are Transition Towns?

How are they working (and playing!) to bring in the new paradigm of justice and sustainability?

What is resilience?

How can we strengthen our own resilience as individuals and communities?

What role can our education systems take in preparing us for peak oil and climate change?

Last week, members of the local sustainability organization, APPLE (alliance for a post petroleum local economy), came in to expand and deepen the conversation that we have been having in Global Issues class around how to weather the upcoming storm of peak oil and climate change. With just a few weeks left of the semester, we are now thoroughly immersed in the solutions and alternatives portion of this course.  

At Woolman, the first half of Global Issues is spent analyzing our current global economic model and it's role in creating and feeding the social and environmental crises that the planet is facing. Those classes are challenging and sometimes discouraging as we explore multiple perspectives of  topics like Free Trade, globalization, corporatocracy (the idea that corporations are more powerful than governments), and capitalism.

In this analysis we are constantly seeking out potential root causes like greed, systems of power-over, and a false sense of scarcity. Then we moven onto the consequences, such as sweatshops, modern day slavery, ecological destruction, over-consumption, and a sense of separation between humans and each other and humans and the natural world. 

That work is frustrating and can lead to sense of despair if not coupled with opportunities for action--which is where our project class, Activist Toolkit, comes in. Activist Toolkit class is a workshop based course where students are introduced to frameworks for activism, skills for creating change, and role models that are out making a difference in our local community. This semester, we studied artivism, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rights of Nature, the power of poetry to be used as activism, and more. But, we can't just skip past those hard truths. It is absolutely necessary to see how we got to this place in human history in order to create solutions that will be just and long lasting.

These solutions are all around us and the task of revealing them (and visioning others) is incredibly exciting. Over the past few weeks, we have delved into topics including the power of cooperatives, the benefits of community credit unions, Time Banks, local economies, local currencies, cradle to cradle production, biomimicry, corporate social responsibility, Fair Trade, homeless eco-villages, and so much more!

The visit from the APPLE folks gave us the opportunity to see people out in the community who are really living this work. We gained a sense of possibility and an understanding of the joy than can come when people coordinate with their communities to become more self-reliant.  A member of our Quaker meeting, Dave Barnett, was able to give us an idea of exactly what effects we may see when oil becomes too expensive for the average person. The president of the organization, Joshua Lichterman, gave us a run-down of the specific challenges that this county will face in the transition, including the fact that we are at the end of the supply chain when it comes to food trucks and other services. Mr. Lichterman also explained a myriad of solutions that Nevada County residents are already working on, too. Finally, Shea Smith, from HAAlo (Health Alternatives for All Locals) spoke eloquently about her experience transitioning out of a 25 year career as an airline stewardess to heading up a nonprofit which utilizes a unique economic model with a heavy focus on barter and trusting relationships. Students were inspired by her advice to not let money get in the way, but to find win-win situations for creating nonprofits and other transition businesses.

In our closing circle, students shared a take-away from the panel, as well as a short description of one of their final projects that they are working on here at Woolman. As the youth listed off undertakings such as bee-keeping, producing a film about "freeganism", building a giant puppet to incite conversations around happiness, designing a methane bio-digester, a 'Zine on open source and community knowledge, growing a natural dye plant garden, and other amazing pieces of work, it occurred to me that a Woolman Education is truly a Transition Education.

The New Economics Institute  writes:

"The Great Re-skilling continues the emphasis on re-localization, starting from the position that greater local production will require us to relearn many skills that have been forgotten. From agriculture to manufacturing to the provision of local finance, returning to appropriate scale means equipping ourselves with the means to do so. Becoming less passive in terms of consumption and production we will start to regain our autonomy, which will extend to culture and arts, where we see the beginning of a life-enhancing renaissance. This is not the case only for the economy and for the arts, however; local decision-making based on active participation will be most effective when people are well informed about what makes their local economy tick and what makes public services able to achieve the best outcomes. Achieving consensus requires as full an understanding of these issues as possible."

Whether we are farming in our organic garden, cooking veggies from the seeds that we have sewn, enjoying a night in fiber arts club, working out conflicts in community meeting, or walking like a fox throughout our forest, life at Woolman is an active example of the Transition Town movement. In addition to gaining a political awareness and self confidence in becoming an agent of change, it feels wonderful to know that the youth who come here are receiving an education that is truly relevant to this unique time in history. We can only hope that this model will spread in time to reverse the destruction of  "The Great Unraveling". Perhaps that is yet another task for our alumni.

At Woolman, we teachers are often much more pleased when our students leave our class feeling more confused and full of questions than before they came. And so, with that in mind, I leave you with these queries:

  • With Peak Oil imminent and the effects of Climate Change already in our backyard, how can we justify education systems that ignore the reality that we are living in a rapidly changing world?
  • Will skills for improving standardized test scores serve this generation as they fulfill their roles as active community members amongst these global crises?
  • What is the purpose of education in this new era?
  • What steps can you take to become more resilient?

Feel free to respond to any of those in the comment section below!

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

“By what name will future generations know our time?

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

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

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

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

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



The Catalyst project:

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

Website: http://collectiveliberation.org


The Canticle Farm: 9-2

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

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

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

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

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

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



Generation Waking Up: 9-5:30

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

Website: www.genup.net


Global Exchange: 9-11

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

Website: www.globalexchange.org

Pachamama Alliance: 1:00-2:30

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

Website: www.pachamama.org

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

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

Website: http://timebank.sfbace.org

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

Website: www.foodnotbombs.net

Going out to dinner in china town!


Mission District Mural Tour 9-12 

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

HOME AGAIN by dinner!!!