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! 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


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 Adrian Struck, Student, Spring 2016 - May 4, 2016

This past week we spotlighted a student who is attending the Spring 2016 Semester — Here are some of the things Adrian has experienced so far. Adrian is from Cuernavaca, Mexico and has fell into the Woolman Community seamlessly.

On Coming to Woolman:

I came to woolman, I wasn’t feeling good back home in the regular school where i was studying, I felt bored in my current program because I wasn’t doing the things I loved. I decided to come to Woolman and find myself and what my passions were, and to have 1 semester to really connect with myself and see what I really want to do in my life.

On transitioning from Mexico:

Coming from a different country, it was a good transition. It’s like living in 2 different worlds; in Mexico they have a different way of acting and thinking, and seeing both perspectives gives you a whole new sense of how humans interact with each other.  It was easy for me; you need to be willing to come here with an open mind and willing to learn a whole new way of living and thinking that will change you for ever.

Living at Woolman:

Living at Woolman has been so far one of the best experience in my life, I’ve learned so much about myself and changed so much, everyday i’m happy to be here, I love to see the woods everyday, I love nature, it’s great to be in full contact with nature. Living in community you always have someone to talk to — it’s like a big family that supports you, every person here is an amazing human being. It’s great to hear about their amazing stories.

The classes are incredible and the teachers are the best I’ve ever had in my life, you can see that they really love the work that they are doing — they really want to be a teacher and you can see that through their classes.

Leaving Woolman Thoughts:

I would recommend Woolman to people who want to connect to themselves. Woolman has changed me a lot. I’m kind of a new person I now know what my passions are  — Woolman gives a great real life experience. I’ll miss the staff members, students, this place — and walking everyday for a half hour in the woods.

by Sara De Roy, Student Spring 2016 - May 2, 2016

There is no such thing as a typical weekend at Woolman. Much of them are spent talking with classmates, going for walks, eating food, watching movies, and doing homework - pretty much like weekends at home. Every weekend, our fabulous interns schedule something for us to do. There have been Capture the Flag games, trips to the grocery store, and walks outside. Other times, we have more out-of-the-ordinary activities. We’ve gone to a Lunar New Year festival, had a dance party, attended a yoga class, and spent hours making rice and nut milk. Here’s an overview of what I was up to this weekend.


8:17: Breakfast in the Dining Hall. We have brunch on weekends so if we are up earlier, breakfast is up to us,  but that’s not a problem - in the walk-in we have delicious leftovers from the Seder dinner that we made with last night.

10:07: A trip to the laundry room. Not a favorite task of mine, but I really need a clean towel.

11:13: Heading off with Hilary, our NVC teacher, for a hike to the Yuba! We did this hike our first week here and I’ve been wanting to do again since, but this is the first time that someone has been available to take me.

2:56: We’re back! Time for a snack (leftover miso soup), sending some materials off to a college, and meeting a future student.

4:48: A stroll up to Mel’s Pond. The students have been planning a cookout for a while and we have the rare treat of having hamburgers.

8:02: Chatting with a visiting alumnus. He came six semesters ago, but still comes back every semester.

8:35: A much-needed shower.

10:29: Journaling in bed. A bunch of my classmates are watching a movie in the Meeting House but I’m too tired for anything but nesting on my top bunk.


8:40: More Seder leftovers for breakfast - and a long chat with Gray’s dad about history, math, and genetics.

10:01: Making brunch with an intern and a classmate. Trying to figure out the gluten-free vegan pancakes is a bit of a struggle but everyone seems to like it - maybe it’s all the whipped cream and stewed fruit we put out with them…

1:03: Helping Charlotte in the garden. I spray two and half rows of infant red peppers with Dr. Bronner’s - to kill aphids - and help her weave a blackberry trellis.

3:38: Homeworking. We’re making “Occucards” for Global Thinking class. Mine is on free community college - on the front there’s a drawing of a community college diploma with a “$0.00” price tag.

5:36: Dinner - mushrooms, quinoa with peas, kale and peppers, cucumbers with tomatoes, and hummus - followed by dish crew in our industrial sized kitchen.

7:05: Blog post writing, followed by watching one of the interns get her head shaved!

8:52: Video chatting with friends back home.

10:21: Bedtime!

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 Sophia Mueller, Fall '15 student - December 21, 2015
I frequently hear people complaining about their work. Many people don’t want to work or dread having to. However, imagine work being inspiring for you. Fun. Creative. Something you are crazily passionate about. As I write this essay I am in residence at The Woolman Semester School where the mission is “to steward diverse learning communities and educational programs that weave together spirituality, peace, sustainability and social action.” One way these important themes are woven together is through our requirement to participate in shared work. A lot needs to be done around campus; whether it is gardening, stacking firewood, or cooking, there are always opportunities to help out.
Shared work is one of my favorite parts of Woolman because I usually get to work outside in the garden. I love to work closely with the earth. I also love shared work because the whole Woolman community works together to make a comfortable, sustainable, and happy home for us all. There is something powerful about working with other people: I get energy from their motivation, and I can inspire them to keep working by sharing my enthusiasm. When many people work together to do something they care about, it becomes even more meaningful.
I find shared work to be very satisfying. I get to see the results of my work. No, it is not instant gratification, but I can see that what I do matters and has a positive effect. I remember planting radishes one day. Each time I revisited I noticed them getting bigger and heartier, eventually becoming ready to provide us with healthy nutrition. Sure this was more work than going to the supermarket and buying vegetables straight from the shelves, but it was important. We all worked together and had a direct relationship with the earth and our food. Shared effort makes work more meaningful. It connects and motivates people. When I feel deeply inspired to serve a purpose, and when I experience the power of people achieving something important together, work means a lot to me. 
by Charlotte Lippincott, Farm to Table Intern '15-'16 - December 20, 2015
The garden doesn’t lie, but it is especially honest in winter. The dense foliage that a few months ago dressed the earth with life has since receded, revealing the backbone--its essential form. The hedgerows that teemed with colorful perennial flowers and their loyal pollinators when I arrived in August are now pruned back, focusing their energies inward as they bear down for winter. The last of the fall plot gleams each morning with frost, and the sturdy, determined garlic push their bright green sprouts upward. 
My first week working in the Woolman garden, when this whole place was still unfamiliar territory, I cleaned tomatoes with the renowned farm apprentice Brianna. I remember us slogging through the thick forest of tomato vines, cutting off the discolored sunburnt ones and piling them into our wheelbarrows in the sweltering afternoon sun. Sweat streaked through the substantial film of dirt that comfortably clung to my entire body. But Brianna and I fell into conversation easily, bringing a lightness that made the hours pass more quickly. By the time we finished, we were itchy, sticky, scratched up, exhausted, and satisfied. 
Now staring at the same field, unassuming cover crop grows where those proud tomatoes once reigned. Bri has since gone on to Portland, to do amazing and important things. August in my memory feels distant, because of the abundance of experiences that have happened, and continue to unfold each day. I am constantly learning from the garden and the connections that are made within its fences. I covet the hours spent by myself rocking back and forth on a broadfork, exploring my thoughts and admiring the subtle, graceful systems happening below my feet. I am equally, forever grateful for the mornings spent with the intern work crews, cleaning carrots and picking beets and spilling our souls to each other, or reframing my entire worldview with Maggie as we bunch chard.  The garden extends an invitation to embrace change, and seek continuity and meaning within these cycles of growth. It is not hard to find metaphors that apply to your own life.
As the semester draws to a close, the air is heavy with nostalgia for the present moment, while stirring with anticipation for a winter of rest, reflection and going home. It feels fitting that the garden is slowing down, drawing itself inward, as if to mirror this introspection and reconnection with roots. I hope this winter presents for us all an opportunity to rest, heal and reflect with honesty, and prepare for another vibrant season. 
by 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

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 Amelia Nebenzahl, Global Thinking Teacher - June 2, 2015

Many members of our community come to Woolman seeking a powerful experience. Others come without expecting it and are perhaps even more deeply transformed than those who do. One of the students of the Spring 2015 semester illuminated his journey at Woolman through a poignant metaphor during his graduation speech. He described his semester as a marathon. At Woolman, we focus heavily on connecting theoretical learning to real world examples and to our own lived experiences. Earlier this spring, one of the interns, with whom this student had particularly connected, ran a 50-mile marathon, which made this metaphor even more relevant.

A marathon, he explained, begins in a manner similar to that of the beginning of a Woolman Semester: you might be a bit anxiously excited about being there, you're not quite sure how the rest of the journey is going to go, and you see that many others share a common goal of making it to the finish line. The 26 miles of the marathon will definitely have lots of steep uphills and long downhills, as will the 16 weeks of powerful learning and living in community. At times you might feel like giving up or wonder how you could possibly make it through, but just when you feel like you've hit the lowest point, another runner might pass by and say, “Way to go!”, or a classmate might reach out and give you a piece of advice that is the little bit of needed motivation to keep going. Then, all of a sudden, you're at the finish line. You've reached the end and look back and think, how did that possibly happen so quickly? And while the simple task of completing the marathon of a semester is an achievement in and of itself, what stuck out most for this student was that through loving and pushing each other, feeling struggle and frustration at the low points and singing joyfully at the high points, they were still all together, right to the end.

While the intern who ran the marathon may not have felt the 50 miles exactly in this way, and while the hills and valleys of the Woolman Semester certainly manifest differently for each student each semester, what is most meaningful for me as this student's advisor was how much reflection comes from this 16-week journey. Both self reflection and reflection on the systems and structures that govern our society, which I teach in depth in my Global Thinking class, are where I see real growth happening at Woolman. And yet I realized during this graduation ceremony that it's called commencement for a reason: commencement means a beginning, and I often wonder if the deepest reflection and growth of our students is only just beginning when they leave our campus.

by Andrew Sellery, Ceramics instructor - May 25, 2015

Woolman is blessed with one of the most amazing wood fired kilns in America. In Japan, it is called a Noborigama kiln or "climbing kiln". It is a six-chambered kiln, each chamber using the residual heat of the chamber below it. Should all six chambers be loaded, it would use up to five cords of wood split to a diameter of one inch and hold as many as 3000 pieces of pottery!

Firing the Noborigama kiln demands the efforts of the whole Woolman community, as well as the efforts of as many as forty local potters to see this process to completion. It takes months of planning and long days of prepping wood, glazing pieces, loading of kiln chambers, and up to 24 hours of continual stoking wood. The process is exhausting, but the communal gathering to work together as a team is a life experience never to be forgotten.

What a joy to watch the transformation of student learning from the process of clay making. Yes, the wheel is exciting -- and when viewed from a place of competence, awe inspiring! This process is always more daunting once the student takes on the reality that the challenge to learn a craft imposes. To hold a steady hand that first asks the student to move beyond their fear of failure to the slow process of skill improvement, I love to watch their continual shift from apprehension to a skills learned excitement.

I love to look into each student’s eyes and say, "If you show up, you will succeed". From day one, I make it completely clear that it is about the effort not the outcome. This is my job, this is my passion, this is why I was placed on this earth.

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. 
by Kat Globerson, Community Intern '14-'15 - April 1, 2015
When I first learned about the Woolman internship, one component that piqued my curiosity was the mentorship program. The idea of being a mentor for a group of teens was intriguing but also nebulous—what exactly does being a mentor look like? Is there some particular way one acts as a mentor? Throughout my time here, I have been delightfully surprised by the many ways that mentorship exists here at Woolman. I have also come to realize that the richness of the mentorship program lies in the mutual growth that comes from mentoring relationships—it turns out that Woolman students are in many ways just as much mentors as are Woolman interns. For me, at the heart of mentorship is a willingness to listen deeply and to give joyfully in order to make life more wonderful, as we say in Non-Violent Communication. Mentorship at Woolman is about being medicine for others when we are able, and allowing others to be medicine for us when we need it, whether in matters of academic obstacles, relationships in and outside of Woolman or grief for the hardships we see in our world. Of course, mentorship here is also about fun and celebration. From working through college essays, kitchen baking and dance parties, trips to the Yuba River, and long one-on-ones over lunch or on the hammocks, mentorship has proven to be a hard to define yet central component of what makes our community so strong here. I am grateful for the variety of ways that I have been able to foster relationships that inspire growth, understanding and straight up gratitude for the chance to share this life with so many lovely humans.  
Mentor & Mentee, Emily Spognardi and Jasmine Rosalbo, Fall 2014

by 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 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 Dorothy Henderson, Interim Head of School - December 3, 2014
As I write this, I am warmed by the fire in my wood stove, awaiting the warmth of the almost-winter sun to take the chill off the day.  On these clear cold mornings it is easy to feel grateful for the simplicity of a full stack of wood and kindling, for the pink and azure sunrise, for the quiet of an early morning at Woolman. Gratitude fills the space.
This morning I am grateful for the young people who take the risk of leaving home to come to Woolman. Some travel across the country, some leave the inner city, some leave suburban prep schools. All of them leave what is known, what is familiar, and their time at Woolman becomes a living laboratory of what it really means to practice equality and peace, to try to live in harmony and understanding with others. 
This morning I am grateful for this living laboratory, this container that we are trying to create to hold these young people as they find their way. Within this container, we have deepened our roots in Friends faith and practice, strengthened our teaching and learning of Nonviolent Communication and instituted restorative justice circles as part of our response to community discord. 
This morning I am grateful for the abundant community discord that has emerged as we endeavor to live these practices, to create this container. We have described our effort as an experiment and within this experiment we struggle. Again and again, we need to remind ourselves and each other to come back to our faith that it is possible to find that of God, that of Truth, in all. That we can bring the core of nonviolence to all that we do and say. That love is an action, not just a feeling. 
This morning I am grateful to be a part of a Quaker school.  As the only Quaker semester school, we are held in the larger container of a 325-year history of Friends education in this country that prepares young people to live lives of integrity and meaning.  We draw strength and support from this history and community.
Finally this morning I am grateful for you, the reader of this newsletter and blog, for taking the time to share this moment. I hope that this message inspires you to stop and reflect on what in your life fills you with gratitude.
by Benjamin Hofvendahl, Student - November 30, 2014

Friday, Nobember 14th, marked the 124th firing of the oldest noborigama kiln in the U.S., built on Woolman soil in 1971 by a large crew, including Dick Hotchkiss, who runs it currently. Woolman students, local potters, and some from as far off as North Carolina came to our campus for this three-day event.

A noborigama is a Japanese style of kiln dating back to the 17th century. It features a large clay structure with multiple connected chambers situated on a slope.

Day 1:

We split rounds of cedar into massive rows of kindling.

We glazed our pieces together, and stacked them on shelves next to the kiln.

It was strange to see over 2,000 ceramic pieces, each individually and carefully crafted by so many different potters and sculptors, all fit into a single kiln.

The kiln doors were sealed shut late at night. A fire was built at the top to create suction, and another fire was built at the bottom. We stoked it until the fire glowed yellow-white and a searing kiln wind pulled from the bottom chamber out through the chimney.

Day 2:

We stoked the kiln all morning, all day, and into the night, in shifts.

One person pulls the stopper out, one throws the wood in, then shuts the stopper, all in one quick motion. It’s so hot that the wood explodes rather than burns.

The heat is intense, but it’s much more exciting than unpleasant. Except by the end of your shift, that is.

Day 3:

This is the time we'd been referring to as "Christmas morning."

We opened up the doors, and assembly-line passed thousands of hot ceramics into the open.

“No oggling. Keep the line moving.”

We oggled. I oggled quickly, caressed each piece with my hands as I passed it to the lady on my right, who was beaming back at me. Honestly, my heart was pounding with joy and excitement. I cannot overstate the emotional effect of watching all of these transformed pieces, hot out of the kiln and baked dark and smooth and vibrant, being passed out into the open. I saw each piece individually, and was briefly elated by its elegant form, its weight, the way its heat lingered on my hands, the rich dark interior or the the way the glazes interplay on the rim, before passing it to my right and taking the next on my left.

And finally, every piece was layed out together in the open, and all the artists walked among them, collecting their own, admiring others’, and talking.

There’s an element of unpredictability in the process that is fascinating. The upper chambers were hotter than the lower; the bottom one was more prone to scorching; reduction and oxidation work in mysterious ways, making the same glaze turn different colors on different pots, different colors on the same pot, or different colors on different sides of a pot; some unfortunate pieces (unless you’re into that) had pieces of the kiln roof fall into them. The number of variables that play into how a piece turns out is dizzying. It’s an exercise in acceptance.


I think I may be a little bit in love with ceramics. There were pieces so finely crafted that I could feel the sculptors hands poring over every curve and surface, and, though I’m blushing as I write this, there were pieces that were so beautiful, or so shapely that they made my heart flutter in a way that I can really only compare to meeting the gaze of someone I have a crush on.


One of the greatest things about ceramics, as Giovanna noted to me, is the community it creates. All these potters and sculptors rely on each other, and come together here for this kiln firing. Thank you all the people who built the dragon kiln, all the people who kept it running, the people who split the wood, the people who stacked, the people who stoked, the people who piled, the people who passed, the people who brought food, the people who explained to me the nuances of how the whole confounded thing works, the people who contributed works of ceramic to the kiln, the people who contributed their knowledge, the people who contributed their work and their love, and all the people who shared the joy of the whole process.

Thank you all,


(First photo by Maggie Jones. Subsequent photos by Gray and Nomi)

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 Thistle (Hannah) Mackinney, Student - September 12, 2014

I perceive the world through a construct of words
articulate my articles with literate alliteration
a carefully constructed concept of creation
coerced into calling my own
but my bias is based on beliefs
that pile up. Poignant presumptions
grounded on ideas and experience
of ethos, air, and education.

Some species sip the sunlight
a succulent subsistence
sentence structure is superfluous
when you’re older than the dinosaurs
sending out spores
and I am opening doors made of driftwood
and other things that I’ve forgotten.

Some things don’t need words:
the way the bark curls off the manzanita
falls at the slightest
pressure of my finger
as if it wants to be undressed, and that’s okay.
It’s totally fine
not to feel fine all the time.

That’s what I’m doing.
I’m walking with God.
I have just enough fear to keep me alive
as I strive to find the dragon.
Something is hidden in these woods
so I ask for love from the Archangel Michael:
you’re my idol and the only muse I need
cause everything’s inspiring
when everything is nothing
and everything is buzzing, humming
and all that love is part of God.

I met a water snake. I didn’t shriek
I simply followed upstream
swimming, sliding till I too became a snake
and I slipped through the silky spray
the safe suck of the current
swishing on my scaly skin
the silver satisfying surface tension
of the Yuba.

If I follow this path
I’m bound to get hurt.
If you walk barefoot sometimes you get splinters
and pain stings more than numbness,
the tingle when your foot falls asleep
but now it’s time to wake up!
and I’d swear every step brings me closer to God
but I don’t need to.
You have my truth
and I don’t give a damn if you don’t think I’m good enough.

I will sing a song of succulent surrender
and of sanitation cause it’s hard to remember
that even the messy bits
are part of God.
Spilled yogurt and microaggressions
the dirt in a wound and misguided perception
clutter and chaos and unanswered questions
Nothing can hide from the light.
You may feel insignificant
but deep down you are sacred
and it’s totally fine
not to feel fine all the time.