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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo by Pedro

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

 photo by Pedro


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



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


by 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 - 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 Mishel Ramos, Student - November 9, 2014

This poem was performed Wednesday night in Berkeley at a Slam Poetry event. (Click on the image to see the Video).

by Chloe Auman, Student - October 24, 2014

Every semester the Woolman campus hosts the Quaker Quarterly Meeting and many Quakers all come to stay on Woolman campus and use the cabins and classrooms for meetings and lodging. Students and interns can join, or go on a mid-semeter adventure called Staycation where we choose as a semester where to go for four days. Our semester chose to go to the Stinson Beach/Point Reyes area!

On the first day of staycation we all piled in cars and made it to our campsite and got settled in with plenty of time for a sunset beach trip and a wonderful dinner!IMG_1010.JPG


On the second day we started out with sleeping in (finally!) and a lazy breakfast. At around 10 o’clock am, a group left camp and went on a beautiful hike from our campsite down the mountain to Stinson beach. It was a day filled with lots of swimming in the ocean, reading and napping in the sun, exploring the small town, and long walks on the beach!


On day three we all drove down to the beach at Point Reyes and one group of students decided to stay and relax at the beach and search for tide pools, while another decided to go for a hike. The group that stayed at the beach was successful in their search for sea anemones and a relaxing day of reading and napping in the sun. The other group had an amazing time hiking the Tomales Point Trail. On the hike we saw gorgeous views as well as lots of lots of wildlife including tule elk, coyotes, falcons, and a bobcat!

After the hike we all met back up at the beach and had more time swimming and sunbathing before heading into the town of Point Reyes for dinner and ended the night with ice cream and free freshly pressed apple cider gifted to us by a 1970’s graduate of the John Woolman School!



On the final day of Staycation we all packed up camp and headed to the ocean for one last lunch on the beach, and then packed into the vans sandy, salty, tired, slightly sunburned and happy from a great vacation. On our arrival back on campus we were greeted with lots of hugs and joy from Dorothy, Gray, and other staff members!

by Susan Bell, Student - September 27, 2014

Before I visited the Berkeley Edible Schoolyard, I had fairly low expectations. I thought it was an interesting program, but I was skeptical. In my past experiences with observing similar programs, I have been disappointed because they have not been entirely successful.

Within the first ten minutes of hearing the woman speak about the program and the kids’ involvement, most of my expectations were exceeded. I was impressed with the facilities of the kitchen, and the layout and upkeep of the garden. I was surprised by the organization of the schoolyard, from color-coded tools to agendas written out for students. It was also nice to see the kids learning to become most self-sufficient, and leaning life skills. I think this program is very sturdy, and does wonders for the students and the school as a whole.

One thing I learned about the program that I did not realize before is that they incorporate animals into their program. I think this is a valuable lesson to help kids understand where their eggs and meat come from by creating relationships with chickens.

I would have liked to spend more time in the kitchen to observe their cooking program. From just walking around, it looked like the kids were enjoying themselves and having fun learning.  I think the most impressive aspect of the program was the enthusiasm from both sides, the administrators and the students.  I got the idea that the students look forward to the class, and the class has grown to make the school a better place. 

by Heather Sieger, Student - September 25, 2014
On Monday, our second stop was at Wolfskill Experimental Orchard, or National Clonal Germplasm Repository, which is owned by the federal government and land is leased from UC Davis. I enjoyed seeing this “living library” of so many different species and varieties of fruits and nuts. First, we learned all about how grafting works. Grafting means to take a limb off of one tree and line it up with a similar part of another tree and since trees’ immune systems are so much different from our own, it heals up the cut and the new branch will grow into the tree. It was common here to see walnut trees with the bottom of their trunks a darker bark color than the top because of the types of trees grafted onto one another. The darker color is a type of walnut that has a strong root system that fights off bacteria and diseases, which the top kind is another variety that we want. I find this interesting because you could have so many different varieties of a fruit on one single tree, and for apples, all of each variety comes from one tree and then is grafted onto other apple trees.
Since this is a Germplasm Repository, they do not harvest the food grown here and just keep it as a place to preserve species and varieties of grapes and fruit trees and nuts. I was impressed with all of the grapes—there are 3500 varieties at this orchard, some with seeds and some without. How are seedless grapes grown? They actually have seeds when they are young, but at a certain time as they are maturing they get a mutation that kills them. In order for these to reproduce from seed, someone must go into the grape as it is young and take out the premature seeds before they leave.
We also got to see and taste olives, pistachios, and figs. Olives taste really bad when they are first picked off of a tree, they are very bitter and need to go through much processing to taste how we are used to them tasting. To make olive oil, the olives are juiced and then the oil and water that comes out is separated because the water holds the bitter taste while the oil is what we know. The pistachios have three layers, the seed, the shell, and an outer coating. Unique about this nut is that the shell forms before the seed inside forms, which is opposite than must nuts like almonds and walnuts. The figs were different colors, so that wasn’t what told us they were ready to be eaten, but rather when their stems were leaning downwards. I really enjoyed spending time at and learning about the Wolfskill Orchard!
by Cait Corrigan-Orosco, student - May 5, 2014

On the morning of Thursday, May 1st The Woolman Semester School visited the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, which is a non-profit that “provides job training, transitional employment and support services to people who are homeless”. Kate Pearl gave us a tour of the 3-acre organic farm.

One thing I found interesting about the farm was the system used to make soil that they have in place. Soil, compost and grass are the layers of the system. Separate mounds are in place for it to decompose faster.

After the tour we got into two groups 1) to help weed or 2) to pick strawberries. We volunteered working in the garden for 1 hour and it was awesome!

Visiting the Homeless Garden Project was such a rewarding experience. Knowing that places like the Homeless Garden Project exists gives me hope that by working together in communities we can overcome the economical issues in the world.

by Jena Brooker, student - May 5, 2014

Located off the beach in Santa Cruz, California is The Homeless Garden Project. By far, this site was the furthest along in terms of planting, than all the other sites we visited on the Food Intensive trip. The garden was abundant in both vegetables and flowers. 


The Homeless Garden Project is an organization that hires people without homes for 20 hours a week, at minimum wage. This garden offers a transition period between no job, and a job, through work experience and the services they provide like basic job skills and resume building.

The product of all the hard work is sold at the Farm Stand and in CSA boxes. The Homeless Garden Project puts together 45 boxes altogether, but donates 24 of those each week to non-profit service organizations. This project is even looking to triple their size! It was evident there was dedication and care in the people and the land. 

Overall I was impressed and warmed by how kind everyone was there. Everyone we saw was happy and said hi and they were really excited we were helping. It was great to actually do some farming also, while visiting all these farms. My group planted Crimson Clover which will be dried and used in the beautiful wreaths they make. So, if you're in the area, stop by The Homeless Garden Project Farm Stand and purchase a wreath!

by Jena Brooker, student - May 5, 2014

     There was a guy on the side of the road holding a sign saying, "Farm Tours" painted along with an arrow and a strawberry. Intern Tom said, "That looks a little like Bear." (Bear was the guy who was giving us a tour.) So, we kept driving. And then realized ten minutes later, that was in fact the strawberry farm we were touring! So we turned around.

      Bear was very gracious about our tardiness. He welcomed us with three gallons of strawberry lemonade, which was much appreciated on the 82 degree day. We gathered around his pickup truck as he explained the basics of Swanton Berry Farm. 

     Swanton Berry Farm is the first organic strawberry farm. Swanton was also one of the first farms to change worker conditions in a positive way. A lot of farms pay for quantity; you get payed by the box. However, Swanton decided to try out paying by the hour and it greatly benefited them. In addition to paying by the hour, the pay is a livable wage. They are able to succeed because their berries are picked at a better quality, due to their workers not rushing. Another really cool thing about Swanton is their approach in the worker's ownshership of the farm. I didn't quite understand it all, but it's kind of like a co-op. It gives their workers security, completely opposite to the likelihood of being fired on the spot for whatever reason. The strawberry beds are also raised 36 inches off the ground. This minimizes the harm done to a worker's back, due to having to stoop over so low. 

     They also grow: blackberries, kiwis, artichokes, rhubarb, broccoli, and other berries. To help the abundant plant life on the farm, they have nine bee boxes. We got to check out the bees and I learned that there were different colored shapes on each box to guide the bees back to their home. Bees are incredibly smart. 

     When you grow a lot of one thing in the same area, your crops become much more prone to disease. Strawberries especially require a lot of chemical upkeep to maintain their potential. Swanton struggled with losing their strawberries to Verticillium. However, one year they found that planting strawberries in a field recently planted with broccoli got rid of the disease! So, Swanton is able to provide us with delicious berries without using non-organic harmful sprays to keep their crop alive. 

     After touring most of the farm, we got to the strawberries! We were given free range to pick as many as we wanted. When looking for the right strawberry you want to flip the strawberry over and pick the ones that are the most red, all around. Warm from the sun the strawberries were incredible. It also felt good that these berries were the product of social justice. 

      TIP: U-PICK strawberry fields are really gross, kind of like a McDonalds play place. 

by Imani Sherley, student - May 5, 2014

Driving up to Veritable Vegetable in the iconic and distinctive Woolman vans, I was not at all excited. It was a hot California day and as I stepped out of the car I was faced with hot pavement, cars, and a warehouse. This was not the image that I was expecting to be presented with on our Food Intensive, which so far had consisted of feedlots, organic farms, and lots of produce. At first glance, it was nothing short of underwhelming, and as our guide led our group into a conference room, I was anything but jazzed. This seemed like just another typical company with typical policies feeding into the ever growing, ever more pervasive capitalist hierarchy. Boy was I wrong.

Veritable Vegetable is probably the coolest produce transporter since ever. They transport exclusively from organic growers and bring their produce to restaurants, grocery stores, institutes, and other places in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado. Their trucks are on the highest end of sustainable technology, and they map out their routes in order to be as energy efficient as possible. While of course wanting to run a successful business, all their decisions are made based on a set of core values that focus on healthy working conditions, helping the environment, and the support of their growers as well as the communities they service. People from many levels and job descriptions help make important decisions in order to help make things fair. Their staff is 60% women, and the difference in pay between the CEO and the workers doing manual labor is never more than a 5 to one ratio. They rock hard.

Yet those facts, which anyone could find by just looking at their website, don’t even compare to the experience of walking through their operations. As Woolman students and staff were led into the main warehouse, we were met with funky music blasting from wall to wall, and both men and women of all ethnicities, ages, and appearances working the floor. Our guide (who was way cool) took us on a tour of some of the different coolers where they keep produce, and explained exactly what the journey would be for all the mushrooms, bananas, peppers, and other tasty treats that filled each ice box. As we danced our way through the warehouse, jamming out to Veritable’s sweet beats, our leader talked to us about alternatives to wooden pallets and plastic wrap that were being used on a trial basis to help the environment. Then we took a look inside of their trucks, and a few of us took a try at screaming our lungs out in one of their storage spaces, which was so thick that no one could hear us. We asked a lot of questions, and got some honest answers.

Finally, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we went back to the conference room we started off in, where we were greeted with two huge bowls of strawberries. It was magical. I was and still am completely hooked on Veritable Vegetable, and I wish that for every food producer, there was such a rad transport company. I would love to work there someday, and would love to see more companies move in their direction. However, until then, I’m happy to know a place so hip and cool exists. So the next time you’re in Briar Patch or another California marketplace, take a minute and find out if your vegetable are veritable.

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 Dontae Sharp, student - April 2, 2014

The Berkeley Poetry Slam was the best poetry slam I have ever been to. There was this guy who wrote to Marshal Mathers a.k.a Eminem. He talked about how he is so homophobic and tries to make a living off of dissing the LGBT community. The poem was dope and got a 10 out of ten from all 5 judges.

There was this other guy who wrote to the D.M.V about how they drive him crazy and make him get out of character. He spit his poem as if he had two personalities: one that was a really nice guy who just want a little bit of understanding, and the other guy who was mad and didn’t care about hurting anybody feelings. He got mostly 9 from all the judges.

This one guy who was black and white had wrote about his life. He lived a life where people told him he wasn't black enough. He said as basically his course in the poem “I'm black and I'm white and I'm white and I'm black what the f--- you gonna do about that?” This guy was so deep. He made me think about all the time I made fun of light-skin people for portraying themselves as blacks. Who was I to tell them they wasn't black? Why should color identify who we are as people? This is the overall message I got from this great poet.

Overall I had a great time. There were more poets I can talk about but that will last forever. I learned a lot about different cultures. I wish I could've attended the next round that took place last Thursday at the same place.

by Jena Brooker, student - March 30, 2014

     Woolman has a partnership with MetWest, an alternative public high school in Oakland, CA. We visited this sister school on a recent trip to the Bay Area to explore prison and education systems and how they tie together.

    As we drove up to the school, Dontae (a student of MetWest and Woolman), was yelling and whooping with excitement and begged for the windows to be opened so he could yell out to his friends. There was great excitement from everyone to learn more about MetWest by vistiting the school.

     The Woolman crew, along with MetWest’s school counselor, restorative justice leader, and students of MetWest, gathered in a circle and introduced themselves. Then, instead of saying, “Hi, I’m Jena from Michigan and my favorite color is purple.” we said our name, where we were from, and a recent conflict we had resolved. That felt different in a really good way.

     Current MetWest students whom were considering attending Woolman had the opportunity to ask us questions about our school. One question we got was, “Are there showers?” A Woolman student answered yes, but how often people utilize them is variable from everyday to once a week.

     Next, we asked them questions about their Restorative Justice class and practices. MetWest believes in healing wounds, and not punishment. For students who find themselves involved in a fight, they are given the option to do a restorative justice circle, or suspension. Most students at MetWest are open to restorative justice, and see the value in it. The Restorative Justice teacher (Malik) said most of the circles they do are because students come to the teachers with an issue, and request the practice.

     During the visit we learned Malik was trained by Marshall Rosenberg in NVC, a class we have here at Woolman! We hope to learn more from MetWest about their restorative justice practices among other things, and further develop our relationship with them. The weekend following spring break, some MetWest students are coming up here to visit us!



by Jena Brooker, student - March 30, 2014

     After a long day we students were excited the next activity would be in the home we were staying at for the week. We migrated to the comfy basement for a workshop with LJ.

    All us sprawled out on the couches and carpet to watch a video about At The Crossroads. At The Crossroads is an organization LJ works for by doing outreach for to homeless youth and young adults. At The Crossroads provides various services such as handing out food/condoms/toothbrushes, counseling, helping set up interviews, etc.

      When the video ended we partnered up and considered all of the different situations real people are in that would prevent them from getting a job. It was surprising to me how many obstacles a homeless youth would need to overcome such as: no internet access to learn about the job, not having the correct documents, being recently incarcerated or accused, and avoiding notification of truancy to authorities.

     It really resonated with me that At The Crossroads meets people where they are, and as an organization does not try to persuade people to stop living the life they are living. I think giving people agency is so important in trying to help them.

     My heart aches every time I encounter someone who I perceive as homeless. I am filled with sadness, curiosity, and a longing to help that person. However, I don’t know which strategy or approach is the best in helping them. Especially after LJ’s presentation I am interested in exploring a job in homeless outreach, enabling me to know how to help in the desired way. 

by Cait Corrigan-Orosco, student - March 28, 2014

“Igniting a generation of young people to bring forth a thriving, just, sustainable world” This is the mission statement of Generation Waking Up, an organization that Students of the Woolman Spring 2014 Semester were introduced to during the Global Issues Peace Studies Trip last week.

We met with two ambassadors for the organization, Barbara and Mary, whose goal was to first AWAKEN, second EMPOWER, and lastly MOBILIZE the public.

We watched inspiring videos, danced to calming yet energizing music, and discussed the issues in the world and (when I didn’t think things could be any better) we thought of ideas about how to create positive change for the negative issues.

After a week of learning about the injustices of the prison system it was a great and inspiring refresher to think, hear and discuss positive change in our hometowns that we can facilitate ourselves. I came up with the idea of helping make NYC a greener atmosphere by planting grass, trees, gardens ect… on the roofs of the NYC skyline!

Even though I’m not too excited about leaving Woolman in about a month and a half, I am extremely motivated to go back home and be a leader and organize positive change.

by Imani Sherley, student - March 28, 2014

As I walked into the room at the Berkeley Battle of the Bay Poetry Slam, I was instantly filled with excitement. The Dion was covered with dark red, blue, and purple light, while the space itself burst with people and food and conversation. Everyone at Woolman was pumped to be there, and extremely impatient for the show to start. Not only were we about to see a real poetry slam, but this slam was the qualifying round for the National Poetry Slam, so the teams were really going to throw down. I was especially antsy because I was performing in between rounds, along with other teens from a big group of students who came with their teacher.

So there we all were, seated in the first three rows of a crowded room in the dark evening, listening to people laugh and poets prepare, watching the musicians tune their Instruments on stage waiting for the MC to arrive. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he came running onto the stage fill of energy and enthusiasm. What came to follow was amazing. 

If anyone reading this has never been to a poetry slam, you ought to turn off your computer right now and go. It was amazing. There were poems about Black Kids and Dinosaurs, Love, Pain, Oppression, Race, Chess, Youth, and Parking Tickets. There were four teams total, and they were all great. The judges were random audience members, and our own Rob The Intern was one of them. He did a pretty good job (even though he refused to give higher than a 9.1). One team was called New Sh*t and some of their poems were only minutes old! As an audience member, it was amazing to feel what, and just go where, the poet wanted us to, and to be so intimately a part of their art and performance. We all has a great time, and at the end if the night, it really didn't matter which team won. 

Obviously the other really amazing part of going to the slam was performing at it myself. I was the last student to go after a long line of other teens who performed pieces that, in all honesty, were very clearly not meant for performance. The audience was supportive and kind but these were no up and coming slam gods or goddesses. Then it was my turn. Somehow that day I has managed to write a poem that was close to my heart, and decided to perform it. I had never done slam before, but I was well versed in theater. To be blunt, I killed it on that stage. Somehow I felt so safe and seen that spilling my ink heart to strangers felt freeing and natural. It was an amazing experience, and I loved it. After the show I was interviewed by a college show and I talked to a bunch of the competing poets. As proud as I am it was also a humbling experience. The poets I spoke to were amazing and extremely skilled, so their encouragement made me want to work harder to get to their level, rather than give me a big head. All in all, it was a great night.


by Tom Vogt, Community Intern - March 6, 2014


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














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

Student Dontae took this one: 

by Kelly Flanary, Student - October 14, 2013

As we drive through Bolinas looking for a permaculture learning center it was foggy and beautiful. We arrive to see a sprite old man with a top hat and a very Wizard of Oz like coat. He introduced himself as James Stark, one of the founders of the Regenerative Design Institute. As we gathered around him, he told us about RDI and their Philosophy behind creating this place. RDI, is a permaculture design institute where people can come and learn about various topics such as: Permaculture, Herbs, Nature Awareness, and Ecology Leadership. As I look around I see lush trees with fruits on them, chickens wandering around, goats climbing a hillside, a trailer with political bumper stickers covering it, tents scattered across the meadow and a goat milking station.

James explains that permaculture is about living and having fun within the land and in balance of the land. That as you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. The land is a living breathing organism that needs to be taken care of. Everything that you do to the land has an effect on everything surrounding it. Everything that is on the land is coexisting together working and breathing together. We also talked about the mainstream American lifestyle. He said that it takes 10,000 chemicals to get through a day in the life of an average American. As we walk through life it is always greener in front of us and browner behind. We are living in a constant soap opera of our lives constantly self judging ourselves, we think about it so much our own self-judgements become our reality. “We are all screenwriters of our own lives, if we don't like how the story is going we can write another one.” James promptly says. We need to compost our past in our knapsack and plant a new green loving garden. “We should judge not our bodies; our bodies are ferraris and we treat them like wheelbarrows” he explains. We pull our bodies along through life judging and criticizing them when really they are magical and mystical bodies of passion that are a miracle.

At this point I had drank the Koolaid and wanted to stay forever. I was hooked. We left the parking lot and walked over to the chicken coop/orchard. He explained that the chickens and the orchard have a symbiotic relationship where the chickens eat all of the bugs at the base of the tree and poop to make fertilizer on the ground. We then make our way into the gate of the garden, it was very much like walking through the closet to Narnia. We saw a gorgeous house surrounded with flowers and vines. Next to the house was a pond that attracts wildlife to the Garden and is used to bathe with in the outdoor bathtub. The water gets pumped into a heater where it is heated with a wood burning fire. It was the coolest outdoor bathtub/shower I have seen. It seemed so mystical and magical. We make our way up to the garden where a small amount of food is grown that they can sustain on. We make our way around to the greenhouse. We see small students housing and outdoor tables for classrooms. We walk through a tunnel of vines to get to the greenhouse. Inside the greenhouse we see the small pond that they are experimenting having fish in as well as bananas and other tropical fruits.

We end our visit with a question and answer with James. He shared his conclusion that in order to feed the world we need to revert back to the land where families had small farms where they produce their own food. Only 2% of people in the US are farmers and the majority of the food grown here is food for livestock. As we wrapped up our conversation and tour I realized there was still so much I wanted to see there. I wanted to talk with James and some of the students that were living there to gain a perspective on what the school was like. It was an incredible experience seeing the spirit of the land and the spirit of James Stark. I hope to go back someday and maybe be a student. I know that James Stark inspired me in a lot of ways. I know that in a lot of ways RDI is a somewhat of an Idealist world and that not everyone wants to be a farmer, but the philosophy with living within the land in a sustainable and thoughtful way is something that should be implemented through life. I hope to see you soon RDI.