Instructor Highlight – Shane Brown

Meet Shane Brown, tracker, craftsman, environmental educator and caretaker of Earthroots’ 39-acre property, Big Oak Canyon.

Shane started volunteering with Earthroots when he was a teenager in 2011. He is dedicated to learning and sharing the skills that it takes to be a human living in deep connection to other living things. This has led Shane to attend Teaching Drum Outdoor School, study wildlife biology at Humboldt State University, work on various wildlife management and research projects for agencies and universities, learn regenerative farming and land stewardship practices while living at the Oak Granary in Mendocino County, work on prescribed fires with The Nature Conservancy and Forest Service, become skilled in tracking, music, wild foods, animal processing, fiber arts, and other ancestral arts, and teach hundreds of kids at summer camps and nature connection programs. He has a calm and humble personality and loves a good story.

What is your educational experience?

I worked sporadically with Earthroots from 2011 to 2017 teaching toddlers, homeschool-age, teens, and adults. I taught 3 weeks of summer camp for ages 8-12, and 2 weeks of teen camp at The Oak Granary in 2017 and 2018. I taught 8 weeks of residential summer camp for ages 9-12 at Hidden Villa in 2018. I taught workshops for adults at the Elderflower Earth Skills Gathering and the NorCal Permaculture Convergence in 2018. I currently mentor kids ages 5-12 for 360 Youth Diversion in Santa Ana and teach Forest Kindergarten for Earthroots. I used to work as a field technician for wildlife research and management projects. 

What is your role at Earthroots?

I am the caretaker of Earthroots Big Oak Canyon property and an assistant for Forest Kindergarten classes. I will soon start leading volunteer days at Big Oak and lead the Ancestral Arts Series.

What is your favorite memory from volunteering/working at Earthroots?

Some of my favorite memories from Earthroots include making fire in the rain with Forest Kindergarten, the all-night fire at the Winter Solstice campout, watching the kids watch marmots and deer on a high Sierra trip, sit spots at the mouth of San Mateo Creek, and teaching a teen camp with my brother in Trabuco Canyon.

Do you have something to share about yourself that would surprise us?

I grew up in Orange County, yet I never learned to enjoy its beaches.

Why do you enjoy working at Earthroots?

I enjoy working for Earthroots because I can bring my uniqueness and passions and gifts to the community every day, and I get to be energized by the bright eyes and minds of children.

What are your favorite things to do in nature and what locations?

Some of my favorite things in nature are close encounters with wild animals, gorging on abundant patches of wild fruit, and witnessing the diversity, resilience, and beauty of every place I go. Some of my favorite places that I’ve been include Cache Creek in Northern California, the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sonoran coast, and the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

Wildlife at Big Oak Canyon

Last year, my partner and I were granted permission to set up wildlife cameras at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots’ 39-acre property in Silverado, CA. After watching multiple wildlife camera enthusiasts on YouTube, we were inspired to start our own journey into the mysterious world of motion-activated cameras.

We started with one camera to do test runs and location scouting. Our first videos consisted of grasses blowing in the wind, tree branches blowing in the wind, cars driving up and down the property, children walking back and forth during class….we were a bit discouraged with the results, but persevered onward. We finally learned how to properly place cameras throughout the property and found a perfect spot free of tall grasses, tree branches, and areas where children frequent. After reinstalling the camera in the new location, the magic began. Bobcats, foxes, various bird species, squirrels, skunks, and mountain lions! We found the mother lode of spots to place our camera!

Astounded by the amount of wildlife at Big Oak, we were reminded of how important biodiversity is for a habitat. Big Oak is ripe, healthy, and full of many different species. Having different varieties of plant and animal species help to keep the ecosystem sustained. We are so honored to share the property at Big Oak with the native flora and fauna.

After months with one camera, we decided to add additional cameras in different locations. Seeing the paths the animals take through the property remind me to look for clues when we pick up the camera footage. Sometimes we see evidence of animals left behind; scat, tracks, tufts of fur, rub/scratch marks on nearby trees. These are the spots where we like to stage our cameras.

We also see some regular residents, including one of our favorites, Zeb the bobcat. Zeb has very distinct markings on his front paws that are reminiscent of zebra markings. He’s seriously the cutest bobcat ever (I might be a little biased). Zeb was also one of the first cats we witnessed on our wildlife camera footage. I clearly remember being ecstatic to see this gorgeous wild cat. I’m a big fan of cats, by the way :)

Zeb the bobcat.

Back in November, we filmed one of our most important videos to date. Months went by with a plentiful amount of mule deer on our camera footage which prompted us to think about the bigger predators in the area. Our cameras were perched upon a tree adjacent to one of the roads that run through the property. Lo and behold, after months with no sign of any animal larger than Zeb, four mountain lions trigger our camera to record…and oh my! What a sight to see FOUR MOUNTAIN LIONS…it was a big moment for us. Mountain lions are known to be solitary creatures, so seeing four of them roaming together was a special moment. We believe the video contains 3 sub-adults and a mother lion.

Mountain lion family at Big Oak Canyon.

This video is also part of a California mountain lion series created by University of California, Davis. It’s an eight-episode mini web series illustrating the nature of mountain lions in California. This video and the previous videos from the series are worth watching. Many thanks for Winston Vickers from UC Davis for featuring our video in your beautifully done documentary.

It seems as though this was the last time we’d see them all together as a family. We are so grateful for our camera being there to capture this BIG moment. Protecting these elusive creatures is very important not only to Earthroots but also to the ecosystem. Mountain lions are an indicator of a thriving habitat, and Big Oak is just that. Thankfully, we still see one of these lions regularly on the property. The Mountain Lion Foundation states that “Cougars that occupy home ranges are called residents, and possession of a home range enhances a resident’ lion’s chances of more consistently finding prey, locating mates, and successfully rearing young.”

Big Oak’s resident mountain lion.

This property is a prime example of what a healthy habitat needs to thrive. Food, shelter, water, and lots of space are key resources for our friends to survive, and Big Oak provides these resources in abundance.

Big Oak needs to continue being protected, nourished, and cultivated for generations to come. Earthroots’ conservation efforts throughout the years are reflected by the amount of biodiversity it contains.

Would you like be a steward of this land and support our conservation efforts to help keep this property wild?

Volunteer with us at our stewardship events! We’d love to have your help in maintaining Big Oak’s 39-acre property.

Donate – any amount is appreciated.

Take a class with us!

Check out our YouTube or Instagram for more wildlife videos from Big Oak Canyon! Also, be on the lookout for more wildlife video updates on our website.

Blog by Chrisha Favors, Earthroots community outreach coordinator, Homeschool field class instructor, and wildlife camera enthusiast.

2017-2018 Annual Report

2017-2018 Earthroots Annual Report PDF

As we reach this annual milestone we reflect with gratitude and joy at Earthroots impact during the 2017-2018 academic year. Thank you for being a part of the Earthroots community. Together, we are creating opportunities for people to transform through new connections with nature.

Mission 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. With this understanding, the hope is to inspire 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 community engagement has further allowed Earthroots to purchase and conserve a beautiful 39-acre property in Orange County, known as Big Oak Canyon.

2017-2018 Year in Review

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
–Frank Lloyd Wright

Overview of July 2017 through June 2018

Earthroots experienced tremendous growth this year. Many of our regularly offered programs were again fine tuned with our constant commitment to improving the impact of Earthroots. In addition, new opportunities presented themselves giving us a glimmer of what more is to come in the near future. The following table summarizes the Earthroots impact during the past school year (2017-2018).

Earthroots Impact (2017-2018 School Year)
Days of Programming228
Number of Program Participants812
Number of Volunteers183
Total Number of Hours in Nature20,837
Average # of Hours in Nature (per person)20

In the past year, over 20,000 hours have been logged by Earthroots participants and volunteers. These amazing adults and children have come from all parts of Orange County, and as far as Riverside, San Diego and Los Angeles Counties to share time with Earthroots mentors and gain connections with nature.

Land Updates

Big Oak Canyon

This land is truly taking shape as a place to connect with our natural world and learn the art of regenerative living. Unique outdoor events held at Big Oak Canyon this year have included a wedding, private retreats, a movie shoot and an alfresco fine dining event. Many people are attracted to the beauty and peaceful setting of our 39-acre wilderness property.

One incredible change you may notice on your next visit to Big Oak: our new emergency communication system. Thanks to a generous donation from Skybridge Renewables, Big Oak Canyon has solar power! They designed the system, brought in materials and installed it all as a gift because they love what Earthroots is doing and want to see us succeed. Thank you Skybridge Renewables! This system supplies electricity to our satellite wifi and phone, allowing us to feel more connected with the wider world. Guests at Big Oak will still be off grid at most of the property, but when the need arises to be in communication, it is wonderful to have it accessible. With this new connectivity, we have been able to share on Facebook Live real-time events at Big Oak with our social media followers. 

Another very meaningful addition at Big Oak is the Creek Trail, named in memory of Katie Hatch Reich. Katie was a longtime family friend of founder, Jodi Levine-Wright. Upon her passing, Katie’s family made a generous donation to Earthroots to honor her life while inspiring others to connect with nature. The trail is a newly opened footpath that connects the upper and lower portions of Big Oak Canyon, following the spring-fed creek. Walking this path opens up a whole new experience for visitors.

Earthroots Forest Kindergarten classes continue to meet at this very special location on a weekly basis. In addition, school field trips give children a chance to walk among steep mountains and touch fresh flowing water. University students have lent a hand restoring the native landscapes. Corporate volunteers helped to build a rain shelter and prepare the land for fire season by removing invasive grasses. Orange County Fire Authority and Cal Fire removed several trees growing alongside our roads to allow for improved emergency access.

Program Highlights

Eco-Literacy

Eco-Literacy on Campus is a weekly program for grades 2-8 held at a local elementary school. Now in its 10th year, the program at the Journey School 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 fruits and vegetables, harvesting rainwater, composting lunch waste, recycling, minimizing single-use containers and restoring native habitat. Our unique grade appropriate Eco-Literacy curriculum is building future environmental stewards.

After School Programs 

Two after-school programs were initiated by request this year, one in Laguna Beach and the other in San Juan Capistrano. A total of 50 students enhanced their days learning with Earthroots through outdoor experiences. The Laguna Beach students spent low tide days at the beach and high tide days in the hills. San Juan students focused on improving their wilderness survival skills at their private school campus. Earthroots mentors worked with students on crafts ranging from dyeing fabric with plants to making bows and arrows.

Festival Fundraiser 

Big Oak Canyon was once again the site of our Annual Festival and Fundraiser. Martin Espino led our group through the music of Native California and Mexico. Chrisha Favors taught us to hula hoop and displayed her amazing talents. There were two delicious food trucks this year, along with many fun booths and activities for kids of all ages: face painting, bake sale, reptiles zone, instrument making, a healing sanctuary and more. Over 200 guests, volunteers and staff enjoyed the day at Big Oak Canyon at the 12th Annual Festival and Fundraiser.

Forest Kindergarten

Songs from the voices of young children fill the air at Big Oak Canyon every week. The children, ages 3-6, with their parents spend their Forest Kindergarten days wandering the creek and crafting with what they find in nature. Earthroots mentors create a rich tapestry for learning within this seemingly innocent experience. The children’s learning has been profound and includes: learning songs and the alphabet in multiple languages, plant species identification, uses of plants for food, shelter building, medicine and tools, as well as sharing and developing emotional intelligence and how to be comfortable outdoors in all weather conditions, year-round. These youngsters have taken a leadership role in the protection and preservation of this land. A new willow weaving garden has been planted and hundreds of seed balls with native seeds have been dispersed by these little hands. Each participant, young and old, spent 160 hours at Big Oak Canyon during the 2017-2018 academic year. Due to the amount of enthusiasm for this program, a second day of Forest Kindergarten has been added to the upcoming semester class offerings.

Homeschool 

Last year’s homeschool class was able to dive deeply into nature connection and learning in a unique experiential style only possible when you spend five hours each week, 32 weeks a year with the same group of ten students and two mentors. These students, ages 6-14, developed compassion towards each other, gained physical strength, and became confident in nature. Experiences included hiking from the peak of San Mateo watershed to the ocean at Trestles beach to better understand watershed health, to discuss Acjachemen land rights issues, and to learn water quality testing techniques. Homeschool students started and tended an organic garden, which they harvested and ate from together. They learned about animal tracking, bird language as well as shelter building, just to name a few wonderful experiences. 

Educators in Nature Training 

One of our mentors, Jon Young says that you can only mentor others in nature to the level that you are connected with nature. Training adults have always been a key foundation of Earthroots’ mission. This year, in addition to training our own instructors, Earthroots hosted a three-day training for educators who lead programs for other schools and organizations in Orange and San Diego Counties. This training supported 19 educators representing seven different organizations. A big Thank You to the instructors who came out to teach at this impactful training: Captain Alex Carney, Cristin Geestman, Jodi Levine-Wright, Verna Sundquist and Mindy Uranga.

Staff Training 

Thanks to a second-year grant from the Mara Breech Foundation, instructors were able to participate in deep nature connection trainings to enhance our breadth of offerings to the community. In the last few months, three Earthroots instructors have attended 17 days of workshops and trainings in the Art of Mentoring with the 8 Shields Institute, and a Bird Language course, also with the 8 Shields Institute. Additional trainings are to come!

Natural Building Workshop 

Earthen structures are fire resistant, have thermal mass, are non-toxic and are fun to build! Teo Briseno, a seasoned, organic builder from San Diego is working with Earthroots to create a lasting earthen sitting bench at Big Oak Canyon. During our first two-day workshop, participants experienced the beauty and function of working with stone, clay, sand and straw. After learning the applications, materials and process for working with these abundant resources, the group made adobe bricks and cob, creating the base of our new earthen bench. Each participant spent 12 hours learning about natural building techniques during the two-day workshop.

Photo: Participant carrying adobe bricks in her wheelbarrow.

Traditional Skills Gathering 

A dedicated group of 30 members, comprised of past Earthroots instructors, their families and other hearty nature enthusiasts have spent nine nights camping at Big Oak Canyon this past year (divided into three separate weekend campouts). Their goal has been to share and learn traditional survival skills in a community setting. Skills shared this past year have been knife safety and advance carving techniques, shelter building, archery, consensus decision making, willow basketry, cordage making with various fibers and natural building. This group serves as a deep well of strength and inspiration for Earthroots staff and the broader community. This group will continue to meet in the upcoming year for nine more nights at Big Oak Canyon!

Traditional Skills Series: Food, Fire, Shelter, and Water 

This series inspires participants to look at the basic needs of human survival in a new way. Together, people of all ages spent one day exploring each topic: harvesting and preparing food from native plants, building fire by friction, building a survival shelter with no modern tools and harvested water from the land and learned to purify it. 

Participant testing out the overnight emergency shelter built during the Traditional Skills: Shelter class while her child looks on.

GOALS FOR 2018-2019

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
–John Muir

As we look forward to the new school year, we are excited to know that more people will be coming to experience the natural beauty of Big Oak Canyon. Class participants at Big Oak Canyon will enjoy the new nature trail that was completed in Spring 2018 as well as continue working on the earthen bench, habitat restoration projects and tending the wild.

The upcoming semester and year will see an expansion of two tried and true programs. Earthroots is doubling our reach for young explorers by adding a second day of Forest Kindergarten at Big Oak Canyon. We are grateful to have Caroline Colesworthy returning to teach the program that she co-founded many years ago. Eco-Literacy at the Journey School is growing to now offer programs for grades kindergarten through fifth to compliment their new Hybrid Homeschool classes.

In addition to the rich nature-connection programs listed in this review, Big Oak Canyon will host unique private events and retreats in the coming year. Keep an eye out for a dedicated Big Oak Canyon website coming in early 2019.

Through Earthroots unique programming, a culture of connecting with nature is being created and deepened for our current generations, thus creating a stewardship way of life for many generations to come. By creating opportunities for our community to engage in nature, Earthroots is cultivating a sense of care and connection between people and the natural world. We look forward to seeing you at the next adventure.

Thank you for being a part of Earthroots!
Jodi Levine-Wright, Executive Director

Wild Edibles – Recipes & More

Acorn Pancakes

Acorns can be found beneath southern California Oak trees in the mid to late fall. Acorns have been the staple food source for early Californians for thousands of years, and therefore, an important food to know how to prepare. Generally, November/December is the perfect time to gather acorns in Southern California. Remember to harvest in appropriately designated areas and only what you need. Leave the rest for the animals who depend on acorns as their food source. Most state & county parks have a no gathering policy.

Our local Acorns contain tannic acid that must be leached before eating. (Tannic acid causes stomach aches.) One traditional way of leaching out the tannins was to set the cracked and pealed acorns in a basket and leave them in the creek for 3 days. We do it a little different now. Directions for LEACHING acorns: Crack and open the acorns and remove the nuts. Grind the nuts (by hand or in the blender) to a fine meal. Place the finely ground nuts in the center of a towel sitting in a strainer or in a nut milk bag. Place under the faucet and rinse with a slow, steady stream of water, stopping occasionally to squeeze the towel or bag and observe the color of outflow. It will start out milky tan and become more clear. When clear, taste a few small grains. If the bitterness is no longer there, the tannic acids are leached, and it is ready to cook with.
Leaching with this method may take 30 minutes or more depending on the type of acorns.
*There are many leaching techniques, and recipes for using acorns. To satiate your curiosity, check out
http://siouxme.com/acorn.html
http://www.edibleplants.com/month/wepmonth.htm

Acorn Pancakes
1 cup mashed acorns or acorn flour
2 cups of your favorite flour (almond, corn, amaranth, garbanzo bean, etc.)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (vegan option: tsp flax meal or chia seeds + 1 tbsp water)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup water or milk

1. Mix dry ingredients first.
2. Add wet ingredients and mix together thoroughly. Note: the secret to blending pancake batter well is to mix all the wet ingredients together before adding to the bowl of 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

2017 Impact Report

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

print version

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.

Mission 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

MID YEAR 2017 AT A GLANCE

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 programming109 days
Enrolled participants718 people
Guests at programs208 people
Total hours in nature15,247 hours
Volunteers132 people
Total volunteer hours751 hours

Program Highlights
Eco-Literacy
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

Homeschool
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 spring, 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 summertime!? 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 the 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 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

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 heard from people who are shocked that you can get this kind of deep nature connection experience in Orange County…programs like this area 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 a beautiful change here by supporting Earthroots. Please contribute to our end of year fundraising campaign: www.earthrootsfieldschool.org
Thank you!

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. Its 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 youve 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_3363But 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_5356I liked the idea about the seven generations thing. Normally people dont 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!

Pine Needle Tea Party!

We recentlywe 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 Schooltrainingwhere she was inspired to bring back what she learned. Anotherteacher at the traininghosts 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.

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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 hadthe children practicesitting 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 Mondays class, Stacey, modeled being a good host, while I modeled being a pleasant guest. We practiced our pleases, thank yous, 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 instructionsin her most proper Britishaccent, mimickingher dear Aunt Rose. When Jodi was a child, her Aunt Rosewas aghastwhenshe and her brothers strayed from their mannersat 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 thetea.

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 beenused 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 showinggood manners : )

The children did beautifully and the pine needle tea was a hit. We are excited to learn about and useother local, wild plants that grow in our areaincludingrose 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 thechildrenlearn to display excellent manners and calmness at the tea parties, our hope is to allow themto eventually take turnsbeing thehost! We had a fun time together at our first intentional gathering around the table. We look forward to seeinghow the children grow as we continue to have more tea parties throughout the year. You can find out more about pine needle teahere*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

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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.

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 upa 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 thenset the basket in the creek where the currentflowed 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 leachingwhen 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 acornsat 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.

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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 insidea 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!

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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!

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Once leached, the sky is the limit on how you use these delicious nuts. Jacque Nuez, 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 daycooking 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 yourfavorite flour (corn, amaranth, wheat, garbanzo bean, rice etc)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (vegan option: tsp flax meal + 2 tbsp water)
cup coconut oil or ghee
cup honey
2 cups water or any milk

1. Mix dry ingredients first.
2. Add wet ingredients and mix together thoroughly(Note: the secret tokeeping pancake batter from getting lumpy is to be sure to addall 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 its 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 sinceyou 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 pesticidesor 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 activitiesNovember 7, 2015. We hope you will join us.

Happy Harvesting!
Jodi Levine-Wright

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

MISSION AND VISION
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

OVERVIEW: JANUARY – JULY2015
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

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
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 childrens 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 years 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