Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Beautiful Moon

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, 
a full moon on a dark night and the road downhill all the way to your door.”
-An Irish blessing 

There is something completely magical about a bright moon on a clear evening. And a lucky group of grad students were able to experience this enchantment the other night after class in a very special way. 

In Clancy’s Science Methods class, we have been diligently journaling about the moon each night, noting if its visibility, luminosity, position in the sky, and any details we can see. So, on a clear Thursday night, Clancy met us outside of the learning studios as we trickled out of Denise’s class. Set up was a viewing scope attached to a small TV screen. As Clancy fiddled with the scope to get it just right, we were all gathered around, anxious to see the moon up close. As soon as it came into view, bright and detailed, we spontaneously started cheering and exclaiming with awe. We were just like an SOP group, giddy and excited, marveling at the moon’s beauty and sharing this unique experience with each other. We erupted in songs about the moon, took turns at the TV to see the moon up close, and passed around binoculars that provided a similar spectacular view.

Even if he wanted to, Clancy probably couldn’t have gotten the group to sit down and journal at that moment. He stayed back and let us explore, discover, and fire off questions like, “Is there such thing as a dark side of the moon?” It was an important lesson for us, not only to learn about the moon, but also to remember how our kids feel most of the time when they are here: full of wonder, awe, and completely inspired by the beauty of our natural world.

We get it almost every night
and when that moon gets big and bright
it's supernatural delight
everybody was dancin' in the moonlight

 -Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tales from the Field

We are so fortunate as EEC graduate students here. The wonderful backdrop to our learning is IslandWood’s 255-acre campus of greenery and sustainability. We are equally blessed as IslandWood instructors. The classrooms for the many students that visit each week are awe-inspiring spaces like tree houses, trails, and hidden wild zones nestled off the beaten path. We can plan lessons around watching leaves fall from the tops of big maple trees, dark starry nights by the pond, and unexpected black-tailed deer sightings.

A few weeks ago in class, one of our teachers shared a poem by Taylor Mali, a former teacher and current poet. Titled Undivided attention, this piece speaks to the difficulty of teaching while there are exciting distractions outside a classroom window. In Mali’s story, students are glued to the sight of a piano being moved out of an eighth-floor window, and not so much enthralled with learning math. As teachers, we want the students to be most engaged in what we have to offer them. As I listened, I thought how lucky we are at IslandWood to be able to use the wonders of nature as an integral part of our lessons.

In the second half of Undivided attention, Mali writes:

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year 
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.
So please.
Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers' crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.
Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

(Full text of poem found here.)

Here, we don’t have to compete with sudden occurences in the great outdoors. We can use them as richly as we want. And we have been. For the past five weeks, these moments, big and small, have been happening. Enjoy the following tales from the field, when grad students have been able to teach “like the first snow, falling.”

Julia Hugs a Tree
“When I was team teaching with Ted, we were leading the kids on a solo walk . Ted went first to lay down the cards to follow and read. Then, each student went on their own. One of them said: Hug a tree. Don’t worry: no one’s watching. I was the last to go through, after all the kids had their turn. When I got to the card, I actually hugged a tree and felt a little silly. The second I got within eyeshot of the kids, they all started asking me: Julia, did you hug the tree? Which one? They were so excited! The more we talked about it, the more they all just started randomly hugging trees. This lasted until the moment they got back on the buses.” 

Mashawn and the Moon Shadow 
“We went on a night hike and we had a full moon. We were hiking on the Spine Trail by the bog, where there are all these clearings in the trees. The kids were hiking and they were all clumped together. But then, they looked to the right and could see their shadow. Immediately, they started asking: why is my shadow there? It’s night and it’s dark, what is going on? They got to see their shadow at night and that was a really cool experience for them. I explained about how bright full moons cause moon shadows.” 

Bri and the Big Leaf Maple
“I was really trying to get the kids to hike last Thursday because time was short . So, to keep them moving I said: while we walk, keep eyes open for the biggest maple leaf you can find. They got really into it and were finding all these leaves for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, they all get to take their leaves home."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Get to know a grad!

This is the first audio snapshot of who makes up Class of 2012. First up is the lovely Liz Maloney! Enjoy her voice!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Introducing IslandWood's Grad Class of 2012!

We are 23 individuals with passion and ambition. We have hiked for weeks on end, seen landscapes many only dream about, and sailed vast seas for days. We have taught hundreds of kids, indoors and out. We are counselors, students, therapists, writers, and thinkers. Influenced by childhood walks in the woods, inspired by a vision of a greener world, we are commonly linked here at IslandWood because of our love for nature, belief in education, and our hopeful ideas for the future. We believe in the power of outdoor learning to heal, transform, and ignite a sense of wonder. We each bring a unique perspective on education and our own set of environmental experiences, and we are ready to learn from each other and the greater IslandWood community. Together we are IslandWood’s graduate class of 2012, and here is where we are from…

We Are From…

Iron, Timber, and Fish
A family of strong women
Eyes twinkling with rainbow smiles
A gnarly scar full of blood and great stories
Singing around a campfire
Circular racks in department stores
With snow that covers your porch and melts the next day
Twin sisters that wanted something better than they had
Salty waves, rocky shores, and evergreens
Where I welcome the occasional summer breeze
Cold water, swimming, sailing, rowing
Thunder clap, boom, crash
Optimism that next time will go better
A dreamer and a believer
Exploring the woods and days that would last forever
Pickney you a grow, a you wi’ see
A place whose people are deeply connected to the land
Baking cakes for birthdays
A family that isn’t pure blood but a process of selection
Where sandhill cranes dance and bison wallow
A strong mother and honorable father who taught me to explore and wonder
The ocean
Realizing the journey is never over
We are from. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Oh, the places we'll go! (Part two...)

The Saturday before Graduation has become almost as big a tradition as the ceremony itself. Chef/Professor Clancy Wolf makes some ASTONISHINGLY delicious paella. Grads, Islandwood staff, friends and families were all in attendance - not only to eat the delicious paella - but to watch the spectacle of creating it! Clancy and Chris Agnew (one of the amazing IslandWood chefs) cooked the dish in several large pots over a couple of fires in the garden. If you were watching, you were probably helping too. Unless of course, the final step had been reached. 
Master of Paella - Dr. Clancy Wolf
Clearly, #9 is the most important step!
Many family members were acquainted before the party with some grad-facilitated challenges on the Teams Course. The experience was a highlight of the participants’ stay at IslandWood and turned out to be quite the ice-breaker, as many laughs and accomplishments were shared.
Grads' loved ones balancing Whale Watch
To think, they were strangers just before the Teams Course
Grads show 'em how it should be done!
The paella party was a potluck, so many delicious dishes from staff, grads, and families were sampled in addition to the epic dish. Families and friends chatted and shared a lovely evening, sipping on homemade sangria from Cathy Sanford :) The Forest Chorus delighted the crowd with lovely songs, and everyone watched that oh-so-famous video once again.
Paella was the star, but there were many delicious dishes to be had!
Good times with friends
Forest Chorus sings to the crowd
Graduation day was just perfect. The ceremony began with Ian, Clarissa, and Ali playing “Stand By Me”. Ali sang the song beautifully, and Ian’s stand up bass, as well as Clarissa’s guitar playing were flawless. The grads walked in and took a seat, while Clancy gave the best opening speech the grads could have asked for. Clancy’s words were genuine, humorous, and profound, and most of us could not hold back our tears for very long.
Ian, Ali, and Clarissa begin the ceremony
This banana slug cap was one of the many surprises in Clancy's speech!
Cornelia and Adam presented Karen Matsumoto with the Patsy Collins Award - an IslandWood tradition that recognizes an outstanding local educator from the community - nominated for the great work that they do and whose practices are in line with IslandWood’s educational philosophies. 
Cornelia and Adam introduce the recipient of the Patsy Collins Award...
Karen Matsumoto!
As each Grad crossed the stage, his or her mentor shared their mentee’s talents, triumphs, and qualities before adorning them with a lei made by Randy Komatsu and his wife, and presenting them with their certificates in Education, Environment and Community. Getting to know our mentors throughout the year and depending on them for guidance and support has been one of the most powerful parts of our experience at IslandWood. It was an honor to receive these gifts from one of the people who have had such a profound roll in our growth as educators. 
Ray shares his thoughts on Ms. Bonnie Anderson
Greg and Montana...pre-hug!
Brownie (aka Lauren Brown) and KareBear (aka Karen) share a celebratory hug
Danny read a poem that we created very early on in the fall. We all wrote our own “I am from...” poem during a diversity workshop, and at the end of the session we combined a line from each grads’ poem together to create one beautiful one - “We are from...”.

We Are From….

Straight out of the womb to the emergency room
A family of musicians
Spices and sports
A gravel road
Begging my brothers to take me along
An arranged marriage held together by catholic values
Chicken coops and boxcar children
Twinkle lights and swaying seas
You can never add too much cheese
A snapshot of memories
Lots of holidays with my entire family
Using love to end hate
Hard work and idealism
An amazing saving grace
A hike through the woods each day to work
A life of constant change
Feet that can’t sit still
I will do my best
Making mistakes, some bigger than others
A proud, unique hippie town
People who love me despite what they know
Poets and pickles, full of love and green kindness
Cramped closets and sunsetting stages
Leafy greens and sprouting beans
Big trees and a burning desire to belong
From nurture and nature
Those who will always have my back
Quilt-square cornfields and rusty ice smokestacks
I am a survivor, enjoying the ride

The “We are from...” poem preceded a similar effort more suited to the end of the year and our experiences at IslandWood. We created a “Where we’ve been...” poem encompassing what the EEC experience has meant for each one of us. Some contributions were silly and some were sad; the poem was beautiful in every way.

Where We’ve Been...

We have put our hands into the soil and, not knowing what might come of it, grown something so unbelievably beautiful – DM
Created a new home that may be far from our families and previous lives, but will last beyond this time and this place.- IS
We have lived!-ED
Smearing countless bananas across our faces - DS
Getting lost along the trails and helping each other find our ways again. - RN
We have found hope and a powerful optimism in knowing that the youth of our world are being taught by caring, passionate, intentional educators. - CA
Struggled with the same skills we teach to our students –JP
We have been through solo walks and thoughtful talks-Z
Shared smiles (and sometimes even angry eyes smiles) across our circles that only we really understand. - KC
We have cried, grown, and come together - AT
Helping each other when we weren’t feeling so great ourselves - CE
We have climbed to the top of very tall towers and crossed bridges to get there. - AP
Surviving a sea of struggles, rising up together and learning that our roots are stronger than we ever thought. -AD
We have seen rain and sun, wind and snow, all while building relationships that will continue to grow. - LB
Danced for the sheer joy of it. -CB
Experimented, educated, and excelled!! - KB
We have seen miracles and disasters, both always together.-CJ
Dove deep into the imperfect and beautiful reflective pools of our being. – LG
To a moon of green smiles, seedling friendships strong in the wind. -Cornelia
We have survived through hardships and challenges, celebrated the successes, reflected on experiences, and grown as learners and educators. -AC
Been broken down only to fight our way back stronger than before.  –BK
Known that no matter how the stars aligned – this is where we were meant to be - RV
We learned how to do the hula-hoop, that we are a firework, the majestic call of the trumpeter swan, and that Danc-ee-o-kee is a good way to let off steam - BA
Learned, laughed, and loved from our hands, minds and hearts. -TS
There are no endings, just new beginnings. PP
We have offered more of our selves than we thought wise, and received in return more wisdom than we can imagine. -KVM
The first welcome was a gift; the second was a blessing. -MT
In the bog, cathedral, and beyond; our roots go down.  -AZ
Reading our lines from "We are from..."
We each read our lines and then returned to our seats for Ashley to finish off our portion of the ceremony. She read the words from a legend whose works we have shared with our students throughout the year. There could not have been better words chosen to send us off than those from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh! The Places You’ll Go”.

Oh! The Places We’ll Go (adapted from Dr. Suess’ “Oh! The Places You’ll Go”)

Today is our day.
We’re off to Great Places!
We’re off and away!

We have brains in our head.
We have feet in our shoes.
We can steer ourselves any direction we choose.
We’re on our own. And we know what we know. And WE are the ones who’ll decide where to

Oh! The Places We’ll Go!

We’ll be on our way up!
We’ll be seeing great sights!
We’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

We won’t lag behind, because we’ll have the speed. We’ll pass the whole gang and we’ll soon
take the lead. Wherever we fly, we’ll be best of the best. Wherever we go, we will top all the

Except when we don’t.
Because, sometimes, we won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to us.

We can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And our gang will fly on. We’ll be left in a Lurch.

We’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that we’ll
be in a Slump.

And when we’re in a Slump, we’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping ourselves is not easily

No! That’s not for US!

Somehow we’ll escape all that waiting and staying. We’ll find the bright places where Boom
Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more we’ll ride high! Ready for anything
under the sky. Ready because we’re that kind of a gal or guy!

Oh, the places we’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games
to be won. And the magical things we can do with that ball will make us the winning-est winner
of all. Fame! We’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching us win on

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t.

And when we’re alone, there’s a very good chance we’ll meet things that scare us right out of
our pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare us so much we
won’t want to go on.

But on we will go though the weather be foul. On we will go though our enemies prowl. On we
will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though our arms

may get sore and our sneakers may leak. On and on we will hike. And I know we’ll hike far and
face up to our problems whatever they are.

We’ll get mixed up, of course, as we already know. We’ll get mixed up with many strange birds
as we go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a
Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right
foot with your left.

And will we succeed?
Yes! We will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kids, we’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, we’re off to
Great Places!
Today is our day!
Our mountain is waiting.
So…let’s get on our way!

The words were so fitting for our special day and for the days that are soon to follow. We watched a slideshow of photos from the year and had a good laugh at a number of them. The Education Team at IslandWood surprised us with a revamped version of “Hey IslandWooders” -  the song that we sing to the students at each week’s closing Friendship Circle.
Ray introduces the re-vamped "Hey IslandWooders"
John adds some "pomp" to the "circumstance" during the closing speech!
It is hard to express how much the year at IslandWood has meant to us. This blog entry alone is way longer than most that we have posted - but it probably could have gone on for pages. All of us have been keeping in touch via an ongoing e-mail. While many of us are still in the same places (Seattle and Bainbridge Island) - some of us have moved away. Grads are in Maine, Washington D.C., Montana, California, Korea, Hawaii and beyond. Some will return in the fall to go to the University of Washington and finish their degrees. Some will go other places and move on to different things. We already feel nostalgic towards our IslandWood home and our IslandWood family and we look back at our experience with a fondness that will not soon fade. 
Oh, these two!!! Waterworks everywhere!
Environmental educators sure do clean up nicely!
Thanks for reading and keeping up with the Class of 2011! Good luck to next year’s class and may you enjoy everything that this amazing place and experience have to offer.

Love, Roxann and Bonnie

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oh, the places we'll go! (Part one..)

The IslandWood EEC Class of 2011's final teaching week (so much love!)
Graduation weekend was emotional for us all. We were overjoyed during our last week of teaching. We were suffering from lack of sleep and were stressed with finishing up our ISP's and teaching portfolios on time. We felt accomplishment and success. But, most of all - we felt a profound sadness to leave our grad family.
Many special guests gather for the premiere of a creation the grads were proud to leave behind!
(Once we figure out how to get it online, we hope to share it with the world!)
Thursday, June 9th, marked the end of the teaching week and the debrief lunch was an event that will not be soon forgotten by either the grads or the staff.  We were given an opportunity to truly think about what we would take with us after our year at IslandWood. One of the most important things we learned this year was how powerful a community can be. It is an amazing feeling to be surrounded and supported by a group of people who truly care about you and your well being, and from here on out, we hope to create similar communities wherever we go. 
Danny and Cathy Sanford chat about Danny's project during the ISP sharing 
Teaching was over but we weren’t done yet. Friday provided the grads who spent all quarter working on their Independent Study Projects the opportunity to show off all of the cool things they now know.  We already posted Chris Emme’s amazing “Farm Rise Up” video. (Please see two posts ago if you missed it!) Other projects included Kathie Bradford’s creation - an addition to the IslandWood website all about owls! Laura Goff shared her journey through pictures and video of her creation of a (very successful!) community storytelling event at IslandWood, while Adam, Lauren Brown, and Kasey shared the exciting (and soon to be published?!) research that they have conducted with the help of John Haskin (Director of Education at IW), interviewing School Overnight Program alums! There were so many amazing projects shared. Then, all grads presented their portfolios. These ranged from websites to super ornate binders (Ali). The portfolios showcased how, even though we all completed the same program, we all had unique experiences that helped us develop as educators. 
Check out Danny and Lauren's awesome online portfolios: and
Kathie sits by her ISP creation which can be found on the IslandWood website!
(Check it out!
The day ended with an extremely special treat.  The grads and the Ed team visited the home of IslandWood’s founders Debbie and Paul Brainerd.  Debbie hosted a beautiful lunch that can be summed up by Chuck’s exclamation: “This is even nicer than my wedding!” After a year of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it was extremely rewarding to be treated like royalty for an afternoon. We shared stories and hugs with Debbie - before it was time to hang with our families before the BIG DAY!
Bonnie, Danny, and Karen engage in intense discussion at the luncheon
Kat and Cassie naturalize at the beach in front of the Brainerds
The UH-mazing spread!
Empty plates and happy hearts
We hang with kids all day - don't judge.
Part two coming soon! (Don't worry - it's already in the works)