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
Mission: 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.
Programs: 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 extend 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!
Earthroots PSA Commercial Sponsored by Cox Communications:
We are so excited to share our PSA with our community. Look for it on Cox networks within the South Orange County footprint (i.e. Food Network, MSNBS, VH1, ESPN, Bravo, CNN, MTV, Oxygen, etc.)
…. 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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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.”
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.
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 Programming
Number of Program Participants
Number of Volunteers
Total Number of Hours in Nature
Average # of Hours in Nature (per person)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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