Gratitude to those who planted and cared for this tree many years ago.
These delicious mini persimmons are one of our favorite snacks this time of year at Big Oak Canyon. If you like wild greens, those are popping up as well. But this persimmon steals the show.
Photo: Ron Plomell
The tree grows in the forest between pines, majestic oak trees and a wood rats nest. Poison oak, English ivy and Matilija poppy are close by. Birds of prey nest on a neighboring tree: excrement and leftover scraps of bone and fur drop to the forest floor daily. I imagine the boost of nutrients it’s roots receive from that wood rats nest. In this forest, nutrients cycle continually and will for as long as there is Big Oak Canyon.
When the persimmon fruit is orange, it is bitter and hard to eat. As it ripens and turns brown and then purple, the flavor sweetens and the fruit begins to shrivel. I’ve been managing Big Oak Canyon for 7 years and I have not seen anyone water it, even once.
Intercropping cultivated foods in the woods is looked down by conservationists who want to conserve as much native habitat as possible, and popular by those wanting to live off the land and keep forests from being cleared for mono-crop agriculture.
Making our backyards work more like a forest gives us all who live in town a way to benefit from the concepts of food forests. You don’t need to put a rats nest in your back yard and crane in an 80-year-old oak tree… but you can use these 5 simple strategies to create a more holistic way for nutrients to cycle in your yard.
1. Plant species of various heights and various fruiting seasons.
2. Create earthen sponges to receive more water by covering the ground with leaves and mulch. If you do nothing else, this simple act will give the currently established trees more water by holding more moisture in the ground and extending access to moist soil until later in the dry season.
3. Feed the soil by composting your excess food scraps and manures. Without nourishment, soils and plants wither away. Compost replenishes the soil. It can be as complex or simple as you make it.
4. Use the energies moving through your space more intentionally. Wind, sun and human presence have an impact. Situate activity zones, plants and walkways in a way that allows for the most benefit from the various energy sources.
4. Plant species that provide native wildlife with food and shelter.
5. Share gratitude and give back to the earth whatever you can.
Stay tuned to the first newsletter in 2019 when we announce upcoming programs on tending the forestwith Shane Brown at Big Oak Canyon.
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
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 programming
Guests at programs
Total hours in nature
Total volunteer 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.
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 [email protected]
Photo: Naturalist At Large educator tending Wild Hyacinth at Big Oak Canyon during the Habitat Restoration program.
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.
I 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.
What 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
In 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!
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:
“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.
“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
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!
Children 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. 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
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.
My 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.
In 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.
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
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.
Bringing ancient skills to life by lashing split feathers onto a hand-made arrow. Photo by Lindsay Kliewer
OVERVIEW: JANUARY – JULY 2015 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!
First 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!
Restoration 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.
Forest Kindergarten instructor and students still themselves to enjoy a family of deer moving through their outdoor classroom. Photo by Sarah Beck