Celebrating 13 years of Nature Connection! 

Click Photo:  Earthroots’s 39 acre property, Big Oak Canyon was purchased mid-2013 thanks to the generosity of our community.  We look forward to tending this land for generations to come. Photo: Silverado Creek at Big Oak Canyon

Earthroots is a non-profit 501(c)3 education  organization dedicated to  cultivating a sense of care and connection between people and the natural world.

Earthroots inspires life-long dedication to environmental stewardship & community through deep nature connection mentoring.

In our creative learning environments, Earthroots participants gain a better understanding of how all of life is connected.  They experience how our actions influence the world around us. With this understanding, we hope that individuals then make choices in their daily lives to improve the health of the earth, themselves and each other.

We offer classes, workshops & lectures year round for toddlers, homeschoolers, teens, adults, private and public schools, scout groups and summer camps. Outdoor classrooms include local organic farms, gardens, wilderness parks, green kitchens, beaches, and creeks. These programs are an exploration of our natural world and extends into our connection with all things. Orange County programs meet at new locations each week, ranging from San Clemente to Huntington Beach and east into the Santa Ana Mountains. Each year, we also travel out of our region for family camping trips & adventures.

We build trust and confidence through adventurous challenges and by enjoying the peaceful abundance of the natural world. Some of our favorite seasonal projects include starting, growing and eating from our garden; harvesting acorns, practicing survival skills; weaving with natural fibers; identifying marine tidepool creatures; identifying and eating edible plants in our local wilderness areas; following and identifying animal tracks; understanding bird language; building with natural materials, creating a journal documenting our discoveries; and finding places to be quiet in nature.

We adapt our classes to the interests of our students and allow the spontaneity of the day to guide us. Small groups allow for deeper and more powerful experiences in nature. For the children’s classes, parents are welcome to participate or to drop off. In most situations, younger siblings may accompany parents during class.

Earthroots is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. We welcome your referrals on grants that support getting more kids outdoors, smiling and muddy from head to toe!

P.O. Box 504
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678

(949) 709-5777

…. Earthroots is making a big difference in our lives. Brian is responding so well to the experiential learning. He loves being outdoors and enjoys all the hands on activities. I have watched him bring home rocks from Earthroots and sort them by color, add, subtract and divide them. It is amazing. Just one day a week at Earthroots has allowed him to “connect the dots” on all his other learning experiences. Keep up the good work.

-Todd S, January 2009


Jon Young for Earthroots from Rev. Sandy Moore on Vimeo.

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2017 Impact Report

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
 ~ John Muir

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Earthroots continues to grow and thrive thanks to a dynamic staff and support from community members like you! So far, this year has been filled with new and wonderful changes for our classes and for Big Oak Canyon. In this mid-year snapshot, we are excited to share a glimpse of those programs with you. We will also give you a look into what we have planned for the rest of 2017 and into 2018. Come, take a walk with us through some of our adventures this year.

 and Vision
Earthroots is a non-profit 501(c)3 educational organization dedicated to cultivating a sense of care and connection between people and the natural world. Earthroots vision is to create a world where people of all ages, abilities, cultures and affiliations understand how our actions influence the world around us and with this understanding are inspired to make choices that improve the health of the earth, themselves, and each other.
Since its founding in 2005, Earthroots has grown both programmatically and structurally to enable the organization to serve an ever broadening range of local residents including school children, families, universities, and businesses. This growth and organizational stability has further allowed Earthroots to purchase and conserve a beautiful 39-acre property in Orange County, known as Big Oak Canyon.

Exploring local tide pools with Earthroots Homeschool Field Class. Photo: Rachel Kimball


Overview of January 2017 through July 2017
In the first half of 2017, program participants have logged a total of over 15,000 hours in nature. Earthroots provides opportunities to connect with nature and reduce or eliminate the Vitamin N deficiency. Our participants include numerous local residents of Orange County. Additional participants travel from Riverside, San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties to immerse themselves in the Earthroots experience.

  January 1 through July 31, 2017
Days of nature programming 109 days
Enrolled participants 718 people
Guests at programs 208 people
Total hours in nature 15,247 hours
Volunteers 132 people
Total volunteer hours 751 hours

Program Highlights
Eco-Literacy on Campus is a weekly program for grades 2-8 held at a local elementary school. Now in its 9th year the program at this site has become a true demonstration of sustainable living practices, mentoring 160 students each week during the school year. Teachers, students, volunteers and administrators actively engage in growing fruit and vegetables, harvesting rainwater, composting lunch waste, recycling, minimizing single use containers and restoring native habitat. Our unique grade appropriate Eco-Literacy curriculum builds future environmental stewards for the next generation.

2017 Quail Springs Camping Trip with 7th grader Eco-Literacy students from The Journey School. Photo by Chrisha Favors

Earthroots Homeschool Field Classes meet for 5 hours once a week in nature at various locations throughout Orange County. In 2017, experiences for children ages 6-14 have included hiking to a natural hot springs, tidepooling along the coast, fishing, tracking animals, plant uses for making tools and shelters, learning about watershed health and the water cycle, rainwater harvesting, native plant identification, and growing food organically. Our homeschool participants gain confidence in nature and the emotional and social intelligence to care for our earth, which often inspires them to share their outdoor skills and nature excitement with family and friends. Twelve students each explored for 80 hours with Earthroots mentors in the first half of 2017.

Forest Kindergarten
Forest Kindergarten participants and their parent(s) meet for 5 hours one day a week exploring the natural world around them. Each student has spent up to 80 hours of outdoor program time in the first half of 2017, mentored by Earthroots instructors. This program started meeting at Big Oak Canyon in August 2017, which is a very special realized vision for our organization and our students. These children, ages 3 – 6, along with their parents, gain confidence in nature, physical strength, camaraderie with their peers and build a true community of families connected with nature.

Service Learning Projects
This year, a dedicated group of teens from Tesoro High School Conservation Club have been working with Earthroots Restoration Manager, Daniel Francis, to design the outdoor kitchen at Big Oak Canyon. Daniel is mentoring the teens in permaculture design, which interweaves land care and people care ethics through all aspects of the process. These environmentally minded teens will be presenting their designs later this fall. This group has also been instrumental in furthering our efforts to bring fresh drinking water from our natural spring to our event terrace area. Ten teens each dedicated 12 hours of service in the first half of 2017.

Festival Fundraiser
Earthroots Annual Festival & Fundraiser was celebrated at Big Oak Canyon for the second year! This year we were honored to have guest presenters and musicians including Jacque Nunez and Capoeira Batuque, among others. Games, crafts, nature hikes and a kids music circle added to the fun, while guests enjoyed organic homemade chili, salads, treats, beverages and a Chocolatl fountain for dessert. Almost 250 guests, volunteers, and staff enjoyed the day at Big Oak Canyon at this 11th annual event.

Summer Camps
What better season to spend outside learning in nature than summer time!  Earthroots offered two summer camps this year: Primitive Skills Camp and Fairy Garden Camp.  Primitive Skills Camp participants (ages 6-14) had adventures together learning about various local ecosystems and rediscovering ancient ways of living. Fairy Garden Camp explored the wonder of nature and the magic that it holds through plant and animal identification and fairy garden house building (children ages 3-7). Seventeen students spent 15 hours in nature this summer.

Eco-Literacy and Sustainable Living Training
Earthroots instructors spent 3 days this past Spring with Naturalists at Large educators offering training on Ecological Literacy and Sustainable Living, partially funded by the Nature Connection Mentoring Foundation. Thirty five Naturalists from all over the state experienced the beauty of Big Oak while being immersed in this hands-on training. Each year this group impacts thousands of students throughout California. Earthroots provided instruction on Bird Language, Habitat Restoration, Native Plants as Food & Medicine, Composting, Organic Farming and Natural Building, among many other topics. These inspiring experiences will continue to enhance their programs for years to come.

Educators In Nature
The first “Educators in Nature Training” was held at San Clemente State Beach Campground. It was designed to attract directors, instructors and volunteers of unique organizations in Orange County who work with youth outdoors. The goal of this training was to inspire nature connection practices for the adult participants to bring back to their students. The impact of this training will benefit hundreds of students each year, further enhancing Earthroots mission to connect others more deeply with nature.  Nineteen educators participated in this 3 day training, representing 7 unique organizations

Staff Training
Instructor training has always been a key element of Earthroots. This year we trained 2 new instructors and 3 new long term volunteers. Thanks to a grant from the Mara Breech Foundation, instructors were able to participate in specialty trainings to enhance our breadth of offerings to the community. In the past several months, four Earthroots instructors attended 18 days of workshops and trainings in the Art of Mentoring with the 8 Shields Institute, Forest Kindergarten training with the Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers and Embodying Nature, also with the 8 Shields Institute. Additionally, three instructors are receiving Wilderness First Aid Training.

Big Oak Canyon
Big Oak Canyon, our 39-acre property in Silverado, CA, continues to thrive.  So far this year we’ve hosted many new programs on this site.  As mentioned above, Forest Kindergarten meets weekly on this beautiful land and we’re working with the Tesoro High School Conservation Club to design an outdoor kitchen.  Spring water runs year round on this very special property, and we’re in process of bringing fresh pure drinking water to our future kitchen area so we can all enjoy this gift of year round water onsite.  We’ve hosted many volunteer days in conjunction with local companies and volunteer groups in which we’ve continued our rehabilitation at Big Oak Canyon, and in the process have created an opportunity for many more people to commune with nature and get their hands in the dirt.  Additionally, we’ve begun preliminary efforts to design what will become quarterly ancestral living skills gatherings, to be shared with our community.

GOALS FOR 2017-2018

“Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt

As we look forward to the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, we are excited to share that this season marks Earthroots 13th year! This year we launched of our nature educators training series, which will uplift outdoor education and nature connection programs growing in our area for our entire community. In the coming year we are excited to further develop this program and expand its outreach.

As we look to preserving natural space in Orange County, the restoration of Big Oak Canyon continues to be a priority.  The success of our restoration at this location is fundamental to establishing a safe environment for our local animals, plants and people alike.

While continuing our current classes for children and adults of all ages, we’re looking to expand our course offerings to a broader reach within the community.

It is our goal and our hope that through environmental education and practices we create a legacy where the importance of nature connection is realized.  Our classes and programs plant the seeds that will create a new forest of environmental stewards in our future generations.

Thank you for being a part of Earthroots!

Jodi Levine-Wright
Executive Director

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Educators in Nature Training

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Ecological Literacy Training

Jodi Levine-Wright spent years exploring the state of California as a teacher with Naturalists at Large before returning to her hometown of Orange County to begin new adventures as the founder of Earthroots Field School. Jodi was steeped in a community of young environmental educators brimming with energy to share what they knew.

This past spring, Earthroots instructors spent 3 days with Naturalists at Large educators right here in OC. Thirty five Naturalists from all over the state experienced the beauty of Big Oak while being immersed in ecological literacy training hosted by Earthroots.

“It feels like a completion of the circle to be able to host current Naturalists at Large educators at Big Oak Canyon and share what we are passionate about at Earthroots”, says Jodi of the training.

The training included hands on instruction on Bird Language, Habitat Restoration, Native Plants as Food & Medicine, Composting, Organic Farming and Natural Building and was funded in part by a grant from the Nature Connection Mentoring Foundation.

The next Ecological Literacy Trainings will be Spring 2018. Teachers, parents and administrators, please inquire for future dates info@earthrootsfieldschool.org

Photo: Naturalist At Large educator tending Wild Hyacinth at Big Oak Canyon during the Habitat Restoration program.

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Bring the Future Into Balance

End of year blog by Jodi Levine-Wright

“Every one of us understands that our personal health is directly connected to the health of our planet, the health of our ecosystems and the health of our organizations and communities….Feel yourselves be a part of something that’s transformative.”

~John D. Spengler

This OC Register article was written by a participant in a recent Bird Language course held at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39 acre property.  Since the article came out last month, I’ve hear from people who are shocked that you can get this kind of deep nature connection experience in Orange County… programs like this are a far cry from the mainstream reputation of our OC.

Forest Kindergarten-Thurs-Web-19I smile inward thinking about that because we have been doing this work for 10 years unnoticed by many, yet those who we have mentored are forever transformed. Earthroots is not big and flashy, we are slow and steady. We are deeply connected to a path of building authentic relationships to the earth and the natural systems that support healthy individuals and communities.

It is because of you, and others in the Earthroots community that we exist here at all. The  transformational life experiences for our scholarship recipients, the 39 acres of wilderness now protected through the purchase of Big Oak Canyon are still intact and more school children attend nature connection field trips because of you. Thank you for your years of support.

It is this time of year that we ask that you continue to give what you can to support the slow and steady ripples that Earthroots creates in Orange County. We are working to #BringTheFutureIntoBalance.

IMG_4807What are the benefits to Earthroots participants?  Read a blog by Kristin, who comes to class every week with her two kids, to hear what she has to say. As the founder of Earthroots, having worked with hundreds of students over the years, I see a whole generation transforming. It’s a big claim to say that I see people taking responsibility for their actions with regard to caring for themselves, the earth and each other, and I see it year after year. People are inspired to make the world a better place once they understand how “what they do” affects the world around them. Earthroots mentors start at the foundation and help participants build relationships of connection that naturally shift how we each live in the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Please visit our new donate page and contribute today.

IMG_4958In this short video, you can see what we do and hear the kind of impact Earthroots has on today’s participants and future generations. We aim to raise $85,000 to complete the purchase of Big Oak Canyon, continue offering scholarships and expand our programs to give more students in OC life-changing experiences in nature.

You can help facilitate beautiful change here by supporting Earthroots. Please contribute to our end of year fundraising campaign: www.earthrootsfieldschool.org
Thank you!


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2015 Year End Appeal Letter

Dear friend of Earthroots,

Take a moment to think back on a time when you were sitting around the campfire. Perhaps you were telling stories and laughing with friends. You could see their faces by the glow of the fire and felt a connection with them and the natural world around you. Now imagine looking up and not seeing a single face because everyone is huddled over their phones or iPads.

This is todays reality.

“I often see kids at their evening campfire staring down at handheld devices, the glow of the screen brighter than the glow of the fire. They are cut off from each other and nature. It’s like their energetic switch was turned off, disconnecting them from each other and the beauty surrounding them. As someone who loves kids and nature, it breaks my heart.”

Would you be alarmed at the distance and disengagement replacing the warmth and easy camaraderie you’ve become accustomed to over the years? I felt saddened when I heard this story from a friend of Earthroots. However, my sadness turned to joy as she continued:

IMG_3363“But on the other hand, I also get to observe the Earthroots kids in their weekly classes with switches on. They explore this park fully alive, taking everything in with joy and wonder. It gives me hope for the future.

Your gift to Earthroots Field School gives kids a chance to wake up and experience the beauty of living a life connected to themselves, each other and the natural world.

Earthroots’ kids are awake to the wonders of life and engage
 with the beauty of nature. They interact with their peers and
 community with eyes wide open. They walk on rocks in the creekbed, which improves their balance and coordination. They let their imagination and creativity run wild playing under the oak trees, and tend a garden which connects them to the earth and their own personal wellbeing.

Gentle mentoring during nature outings encourages an authentic understanding of the interconnectedness of our world. Time with us means kids simply “get it” when it comes to realizing how their actions impact their environment and everyone in it — which naturally leads to a lifetime of making good choices for today and future generations. The ripples are endless.

Erica, a third grader who attended a no cost school field trip at Earthroots Big Oak Canyon property, came away inspired by our 200-year plan. It was a new concept for her that certainly left an impression. She now knows what caring for the earth into the future can be.

IMG_5356“I liked the idea about the seven generations thing. Normally people don’t think about that kind of thing, so I thought it was really 
cool Miss Jodi thought about it.”

Earthroots concepts, while not new, are also not the prevailing concepts in a fast-paced media driven world that todays’ children know. Please make a year-end gift so that more children can experience the benefits of nature mentoring with Earthroots. It is with your contribution that we engage and inspire more people to care for the earth and live connected. Your contribution gives hope for the future.

Your gift makes a difference. Please make a donation now to provide more scholarships, fund the preservation of 39-acre Big Oak Canyon and get more children outdoors to experience a classroom without walls. #BringTheFutureIntoBalance

With gratitude,

Jodi Levine-Wright
Founding Director

PS. Watch our new video to learn more!

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Pine Needle Tea Party!

We recently we had our first, of hopefully many, tea parties in Forest Kindergarten class. It was the idea of one of our Instructors, Stacey Anderson, who this summer attended a Forest School training where she was inspired to bring back what she learned. Another teacher at the training hosts tea parties throughout the year, culminating in a graduation celebration where the class dresses up and goes out to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant. Imagine that, a room full of 3-6 year olds out to eat. Thankfully they have practiced their manners at Forest Kindergarten.


Tea parties are an opportunity for children to cultivate calmness and respectful manners while gathered around a table.  It can form a bridge between Forest Kindergarten class and activities we do in everyday life.  At our first tea party we had the children practice sitting with their bottoms on the picnic benches, backs straight, elbows off the table, and hands folded in their laps – requests that are not easy for a group of excited 3-6 year olds!  In Monday’s class, Stacey, modeled being a good host, while I modeled being a pleasant guest.  We practiced our ‘please’s, ‘thank you’s, and asked to be ‘excused’ when done.  We also made our first attempts at being calm and quiet around the table.  In our Tuesday class, Director, Jodi Levine-Wright, gave instructions in her most proper British accent, mimicking her dear Aunt Rose. When Jodi was a child, her Aunt Rose was aghast when she and her brothers strayed from their manners at the table.  We continued on for the rest of the party speaking in accents, which added an unexpected element of fun!

12 2 webChildren are included in the preparation of the tea.

How we made Pine Needle Tea:
1. Instructors harvested fresh pine needles to bring to class (harvest where you have permission, away from polluted areas and avoid potentially harmful species*).
2. Early in our day we had the children help remove the brown papery sheaths on the bottoms of the needle clusters, and pinch the needles in halves. Getting kids involved in as many steps as possible brings more depth to the experience.12112245_10153251610262075_3122652767215588818_n (1)
3. Children took turns adding their pine needles to a big jar of water, which we left in the sun. We discussed what the sun was doing to the pine needles, the benefits of drinking pine needle tea, and that it is a local, wild food that has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years. Later that day during our exploration time, we kept an eye out for pine trees and were excited to notice so many!
6. When it was time to serve the tea, we added a touch of honey and poured the strained tea into each cup… so long as each child was showing good manners : )

The children did beautifully and the pine needle tea was a hit.  We are excited to learn about and use other local, wild plants that grow in our area including rose hips, horehound, and nettle as the seasons progress.  As the weather gets cooler we may also make pine needle tea again, but this time mixed with a little hot cocoa!  As the children learn to display excellent manners and calmness at the tea parties, our hope is to allow them to eventually take turns being the host!  We had a fun time together at our first intentional gathering around the table.  We look forward to seeing how the children grow as we continue to have more tea parties throughout the year.  You can find out more about pine needle tea here* including which species of pine needles are safe to use and what the health benefits are. Enjoy!

Nikki Hieb
Forest Kindergarten Instructor
Earthroots Field School

12079623_10153251660277075_8708678032132665202_n (1)

Thank you Karen Graham and Claudia Boden for sewing our table cloths, and Michelle Watts for donating the cups, bowls and spoons that we use every week. Our classes are held by many loving hands.

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Cooking with Acorns

Coast Live Oak AcornsMy favorite trails are littered with acorns from the recent big winds. This incredibly nutritious food has been feeding native people of our region for thousands of years, and is used today by a wide spectrum of cultures.  After reading this blog, I hope that you will feel inspired to cook up a recipe with this local wild edible, take a walk in your local parks and spend time taking in the beauty of nature… and perhaps join me to gather acorns at Big Oak Canyon.

Leaching out the Tannic Acid
An adult friend told me that she remembers hearing as a child that acorns were edible, so she cracked one open, popped it in her mouth and to this day remembers the awfully bitter taste before spitting it out. Our local Coast Live Oak acorns contain high levels of tannic acid that need to be washed out before consuming or they can make you feel sick.

One of my mentors, Jon Young tells a story of how he learned from his elders to leach the tannic acid out of acorns. First, crack the hard shells with a stone, save the inner acorn meat, and toss the hard shells. Put the acorn meat into a basket woven tight enough that the acorns would not fall through the holes, and loose enough that the water could flow through easily. He then set the basket in the creek where the current flowed strong enough that it would wash the acorns, and gentle enough that once secured with stones, the basket would not be swept away. The basket of acorns was left in the creek overnight. The acorn pieces were checked in the morning, and if still tasted bitter, were set in the creek to be washed again. They were finished leaching when the nuts did not taste bitter.

Ground acornsIn our classes, we use the same concept, but with a modern twist. Students remove the hard shells by first cracking them with a stone and separating out the inner acorn meat. They take out any acorn weevils (which are edible!), dark or moldy inner acorn meat and toss that aside, leaving only the lighter fresh smelling acorn meat for consumption. The acorns are then ground with a mortar and pestle until only small pieces remain. Keep in mind, the smaller the pieces, the faster the leaching process. Grinding acorns this way takes a lot of effort, and is great for group activities.

When I’m leaching acorns at home, I fill a blender half way with water, put the de-shelled acorns in the water and blend on high until the pieces are broken up. Some may call this cheating, but hey, it gets my family and I eating acorns! I then leach and strain as described below.

To wash out the tannic acid, we use a kitchen strainer with a cloth laid on top of it to hold the acorn pieces. We then rinse them under flowing tap water while stirring the acorn meal with our hands to make sure all pieces get washed. Another method is to put the acorn meal inside a nut milk bag instead of using the strainer/cloth. The nut milk bag works best for younger kids so that they don’t spill out any hard earned acorn pieces while rinsing. Try both, see what works best for you!

You will notice that the first wash leaves the water looking milky. This is good! Repeat washing until the water comes out clear and the nut pieces do not taste bitter. This step could take up to 30 minutes or more of constant rinsing, stirring and squeezing. Don’t give up!

Once leached, the sky is the limit on how you use these delicious nuts. Jacque Nuñez, a local Acjachemen educator teaches about Wi-wish. Wi-wish is a traditional dish of ground acorns, similar to porridge. I look forward to one day cooking it the old way, in a tightly woven basket filled with water and boiled with fire-heated stones.

Here’s what our classes are cooking:
Earthroots Acorn Pancakes
1 cup acorn meal or acorn flour
1 cup of your favorite flour (corn, amaranth, wheat, garbanzo bean, rice etc)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (vegan option: ½ tsp flax meal + 2 tbsp water)
¼ cup coconut oil or ghee
½ cup honey
2 cups water or any milk

1. Mix dry ingredients first.
2. Add wet ingredients and mix together thoroughly  (Note: the secret to keeping pancake batter from getting lumpy is to be sure to add all the wet ingredients first, mix thoroughly, then add dry ingredients)
3.  Adjust consistency by adding a little more water/milk or a little more flour if it’s too thick or thin.  Pancake batter should be thin enough to pour, but not runny.
4.  Cook on oiled grill.
5.  Top with Maple Syrup or prickly pear jam

Benefits of Acorns
1. They store well – you can keep them all year long. Adding acorns to your diet makes “eating local” more successful since you will have a good storage of nuts to supplement the seasonal ebb and flow of your garden harvest.
2. Acorns are full of vitamins and minerals.
3. They are a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates.
4. They are 100% local.

Harvesting Acorns
– As with all wild harvested plants, make sure you are harvesting out of harms way from pollution, run off and places where pesticides or other toxins are used.
– Select acorns with intact shells, no holes and no mold. Holes are distinct signs that an acorn weevil has taken residency. If you find acorns with holes, crack one open and see what’s inside.
– Remember to harvest in appropriately designated areas (OC Parks and CA State parks while great places to explore nature are off limits to gathering of any kind) and only take what you need. Leave the rest for the animals who depend on acorns as their food source.

Get to know acorn this season by joining us at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39 acre property in Silverado Canyon where we teach ethical wild harvesting along with sustainable living and nature connection skills. Kids young and old will be harvesting acorns along with many other activities November 7, 2015. We hope you will join us.

Happy Harvesting!
Jodi Levine-Wright

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2015 Mid-Year Report

Thank you for being a part of Earthroots Field School! 2015 has been full of transformative classes, workshops, and camps for people of all ages. In this 2015 Mid-Year Report, we are excited to share a glimpse of those programs with you. We will also give you a look into what we have planned for the rest of 2015 and into 2016. Come, take a walk with us through the first half of adventure this year

2015 Mid-Year Report

Earthroots is a non-profit 501(c)3 education organization dedicated to cultivating a sense of care and connection between people and the natural world.

Earthroots vision is to create a world where people of all ages, abilities, cultures and affiliations understand how our actions influence the world around us and with this understanding are inspired to make choices that improve the health of the earth, themselves, and each other.

PrimitiveSkills-Web-25Bringing ancient skills to life by lashing split feathers onto a hand-made arrow. Photo by Lindsay Kliewer

Since its founding in 2005, Earthroots has grown both programmatically and structurally to enable the organization to serve an ever broadening range of local residents including school children, families, universities, and businesses. This growth and organizational stability has further allowed Earthroots to purchase and conserve a beautiful 39-acre property in Orange County, known as Big Oak Canyon.

In the first half of this year, program participants have logged a total of over 9,700 hours in nature.  The Children and Nature Network talks about the “nature deficit” crisis that many children experience today; Earthroots provides opportunities to increase time spent in nature and reduce or eliminate this deficit. Participants include local residents of Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Santa Ana and other local cities. Additionally, participants travel from Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, and Santa Clara counties.

January through July 2015
Days of programming: 130 days
Individuals served: 685 people
Ages of participants: 0-86 years old
Hours of participation in field trips to wilderness parks, beaches, organic farms & gardens: 8670 hours in nature
Hours of participation in on-campus, outdoor field trips: 1144 hours in nature, on campus

Eco-Literacy on Campus is a weekly program for grades 2-8 held at a local elementary school. Now in its 5th year, the school has become a true demonstration site for sustainable living practices. Teachers, students, volunteers and administrators actively engage in growing fruit and vegetables, harvesting rainwater, composting lunch waste, recycling, minimizing single use containers and restoring native habitat. Earthroots instructors teach our unique grade appropriate Eco-Literacy curriculum to 75-100 students each week during the school year.

Forest Kindergarten and Homeschool Field Programs participants meet for 5 hours one day a week exploring wilderness parks, organic gardens and beaches. Each student has spent up to 80 hours of outdoor program time so far this year, mentored by Earthroots instructors. These children, ages 3 -12, often along with their parents, gain confidence in nature, physical strength, camaraderie with their peers and build a true community of families connected with nature. 38 children and 20 parents were served.

Service Learning Projects at Big Oak Canyon have expanded to now include youth groups. Over 120 school-aged children, parents and teachers, and 50 corporate volunteers experienced ecological restoration through hands-on service work at Big Oak Canyon during the first half of this year. Projects have included harvesting white sage seeds for our seed bank which will later be used for habitat restoration, removing non-native grasses, vines and trees, spreading mulch, building a shade structure and installing a hand washing sink. The transformations are incredible, thank you for your efforts!

IMG_3352First grade students from the Journey School are exploring Earthroots’ 39-acre property, Big Oak Canyon. Highlights of this field trip included participating in ecological restoration by making and tossing seed balls, learning about Earthroots 200-year plan to conserve onsite resources for 7 generations and hiking up the hills.
Photo by Jodi Levine-Wright

Summer Camps now include programs stretching from the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains to the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Cooking in Nature Camps brought nutrition to the forefront for 25 students ages 3-14. Participants learned to prepare new meals using local, organic ingredients while cooking in a sun oven, camping stove and over a camp fire. Surfing and Nature Skills Camps gave 20 students ages 8-15 confidence in the ocean learning a new adventure sport while bringing awareness to our connection with the health of the sea.

High Sierra Expedition Trip is our newest adventure program, serving graduates of our Family Backpacking Training and those with previous backpacking experience. Three families adventured to the John Muir Wilderness this summer for a 5-day backpacking trip, led by Earthroots instructors.

Instructor Training is one of the little known specialties of Earthroots. Each year, we facilitate deep nature connection practices for adults who become leaders both in our children’s programs and in the broader community. Training is guided through weekly mentorship by seasoned staff and involves inner personal development, group management and outdoor skills education. In the first half of this year, Earthroots trained 2 instructors.

Gratitude Day was the first event of its kind held at Big Oak Canyon, honoring Earthroots’ growing community of donors. Attendees toured the property to see the land and hear the vision for what is to come. Special guest and ecological designer, Art Ludwig, presented how Earthroots’ design and stewardship of Big Oak Canyon is impacting the region beyond the visible “education programs”, pushing the edges of what it means to be truly sustainable in our time, from food to buildings, water and waste. There were 40 attendees at this year’s Gratitude Day. We hope to see you there next year!

BOC_GratitudeDay_RestorationSiteRestoration Manager, Daniel Francis describes the newly installed rock creek bed at Big Oak Canyon to Gratitude Day attendees. Photo by Rebecca Primm

GOALS FOR 2015-2016
As we look forward to the remainder of 2015 and into 2016, we are excited to host the first of many public workshops at Big Oak Canyon. Mark your calendars, as we have a full-day event on November 7, 2015 entitled: Wilderness Awareness Workshops. This event will bring together experts on ecology and ancestral survival arts to teach hands-on workshops with participants of all ages.

With the help of volunteers and staff, we aim to complete the habitat restoration project funded by the Earth Island Institute, which began in 2013. This project has brought together hundreds of volunteers to transform a once degraded area of Big Oak Canyon into a vibrant native ecosystem. This Fall, we welcome you to experience this beautiful transformation by joining in on the efforts November 5, 2015. Activities will include watershed restoration, saving native plant seeds, making seed balls and planting native shrubs along the newly installed stone creek bed.

We know from personal experience, as well as from case studies on the subject, that time in nature supports social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical development, creativity and problem solving skills, enhances concentration and lessens Attention Deficit Disorder behaviors. In addition to our regular programs, we look forward to launching a new program at Big Oak Canyon in 2016 for 15 underserved youth to include multiple field trips focusing on ecological awareness, empowerment and ancestral survival arts.

IMG_9982Forest Kindergarten instructor and students still themselves to enjoy a family of deer moving through their outdoor classroom. Photo by Sarah Beck

Thank you for being a part of Earthroots!

Jodi Levine-Wright, Executive Director

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Beck Family Backcountry Adventure

Written by Sarah Beck, mom, guest blogger & long time Earthroots participant.

When my husband suggested a backpacking trip with our two and four year old kids this summer I was hesitant. I love camping and being outside with my family; but car camping is an endeavor to say the least. The amount of work, gear, and planning it takes to simply get out the door can be incredibly overwhelming. And now my husband was proposing that we pack both kids and all of our gear up a mountain for an overnighter? I honestly wondered if it was possible.


Beck Family geared up for the big hike. Photo by Erin Lutrick 

Layla, our four year old daughter is moving into her second year of the Forest Kindergarten program through Earthroots Field School. We LOVE it. Oddly enough, even though my husband is an outdoor enthusiast, he has questioned my choice to enroll our kids in Forest Kindergarten. “It is too expensive” and “It takes too much time” are some of his basic arguments for why we should maybe not do it. I agree. It does cost money and it is almost a full days commitment. And much like his proposed backpacking trip, Forest Kindergarten requires forethought, gear and planning. The thing is, I wouldn’t provide my kids with 5-6 hours of weekly consecutive outdoor time if it were not for Earthroots. I wouldn’t teach them about our local ecology or how to take the time to really enjoy being out in the wild on a regular basis. If not for Forest Kindergarten, connection to wilderness would be something my kids would see a few times a year versus once a week. There is huge value in this.
So, there we were, my husband hesitant about Earthroots and me hesitant about backpacking. Jodi’s blog post about backpacking came at the perfect time. I was incredibly nervous about packing our kids up a mountain and there it was, 5 Tips to Backpacking with Children.

I read it to my husband after our kids went to sleep one evening.  It created a platform for discussing how best to plan our adventure.

Tip one: Keep the mileage short. We both took this to heart. We determined that I would likely be carrying my 2-year-old son on my back, my husband would carry the majority of our gear and our 4-year-old daughter would hike on her own. We both wondered if she could really do it. We decided that 2 miles should be our maximum hiking distance.

Tip two: Allow plenty of time for exploring in the woods. This was amazing advice. We live in such a busy world where we are constantly rushing and ushering our children to the next event or errand. Kids like to take their time to observe and wonder about the world and it is so rare that we allow them the opportunity to go at their pace. We agreed that in order for the trip to be a success for our kids that we had to allow them to take the lead.

Snack time on the trail! Photo Jesse Beck

Tip three: Bring food that is varied, nutrient-dense, and fun.  My husband and I really struggled with this one. What food should we bring? What would we make for dinner? What kind of snacks would be best? So this tip was incredibly helpful for us as we packed and picked foods for the kids. While we did pack nutrient-dense snacks we also packed a few surprise treats that we don’t normally eat as a fun surprise to keep the kids motivated. This worked great!

Tip five: Positivity is key. This was easy advice to follow. We were away from our regular life, outside in the mountains, and away from the stress of our normal life. We worked really hard to encourage our daughter so that she felt confident about her ability to hike 2 miles up a mountain.

So we packed our things, headed up to the Eastern Sierras, met up with our friends who have a 20 month old and an almost 6 year old and started hiking up the mountain.  I think perhaps a 6th tip would be to: Be prepared for the unexpected.  There are some major fires happening in the Western Sierras right now and air quality was incredibly smoky.  We had to choose a new location further south for our hike to avoid the smoke.

11951944_10205955285655906_4621070751974330540_nSarah’s 4 year old crossing her first creek by herself. Photo Sarah & Jesse Beck

The minute we hit the trail it was evident how much Earthroots has impacted our kids, particularly four year old Layla. My husband noticed and immediately commented on how natural our daughter appeared on the trail. She was tuned in to the plants and talked about them; she looked for scat from animals and informed us. She asked questions about what animals lived in the area. She noted the creek and trail and discussed our destination. The trail was about 2 miles long, rocky, and steep. We heeded Jodi’s advice and stopped a lot. We followed the lead of the children allowing them to determine the pace. Our daughter insisted that she carry her own backpack with her own water and snacks. It took just over four hours to make it to our destination, but the destination was a huge reward. We found a beautiful campsite next to a lake, caught fish for breakfast and dinner, built a fire, used the outdoors as our bathroom, enjoyed “camp food”, and experienced the richness of the wilderness through our children’s eyes. We enjoyed a morning adventure where we explored the lake and the area around it and did more fishing. (The fishing and cooking of the fish was Layla’s favorite part of the adventure). Our hike home was downhill and steep, the kids led the pace and rocked! My husband mentioned many times during the trip that he now saw the value of Earthroots and the lessons that Forest Kindergarten conveys. Our children’s natural understanding and comfort outdoors is directly influenced by Earthroots.

11949420_10205955295056141_6984540389028449791_nFresh fish with Jesse & the kids. Photo by Sarah Beck

I think we underestimate the ability of children and as parents often opt out of experiences simply because the idea of doing things out of the ordinary with children can be overwhelming. While I was initially hesitant, our first backpacking experience was an amazing. Through our experience my husband and I both learned lessons and changed perspectives. I opened up to the idea of overnight backpacking as a family and my husband saw first hand the value and impact of the Earthroots experience.

Earthroots is offering a Family Backpacking Training series that begins in September. Check out the program and experience the awesome combination of family backpacking and Earthroots Field School!

Maybe we’ll see you there, we intend to do a lot more backpacking in the future!!

-The Becks

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