The Folk School Alliance Newsletter
A project of Folk Education Association of America
View this email in your browser
Folk Education Association of America Board of Directors 

Jennifer Rose Ramsay
     Escobar, Chair

Mary Cattani, Vice Chair,
    Newsletter Editor
Dawn Murphy, Secretary
Kimberly Coburn
Jerry Jackson
Marilyn Jackson
Geraldine Johnson

Make a Donation
Contact Us

Folk School Alliance

news | winter 2020

Welcome to the Folk School Alliance (FSA). 

Please email us:

if you have comments, news to share through our newsletter or would like us to feature your organization!

The Environment Issue 2020

Editor's Note

Stewardship of Nature

-Roots School
-CedarRoot Folk School 

Species Preservation: Snakes
-Hearth Folk School 

-Turkeyfoot Folk School

-The Folk School Fairbanks
-Living Well Folk School

Waste Management and Recycling
-The Homestead Atlanta

Place-Based Learning

-Koviashuvik School
-Cobscook Institute

Photo from Roots School website
I know of no restorative of heart, body, or soul more effective against hopelessness than the restoration of the earth
Barry Lopez

We know that for culture change to take place, what is needed first is education.   This is certainly true for the changes in culture we need for the limited resources of our planet to be preserved.  But before we can change how we live, how we make what we make, and the technologies we employ, we need education.  We need to learn what our activities cost the environment, then integrate that knowledge and respond by creating alternatives that are more sustainable.  This is a huge project which is beginning to engage human society now. So far, however, mainstream traditional educational institutions do not seem able to take this project on fully. Perhaps their association with the global economy as it is stands in the way of serious attempts to change the paradigm, as has been the case with previous social and economic justice movements. Thus, the big picture for our climate future remains grim.

One way we might look at our folk school movement is as a response to this crisis.  We may see it as entirely about the environment, about the restoration and preservation of both the natural environment of the planet and the cultural environment we humans have created. The quest for solutions to the critical problems our fossil fuel burning civilization has brought is one that engages many in the folk school movement, and of course far beyond, in the rest of the society and across the globe. The impulse to revive earlier arts and crafts and sustainable ways of living to help mitigate the overconsumption and  overproduction that is the hallmark of our age is reflected in the focus of most of our schools’ programs.  

One past workshop description from North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota, asked the question so many of us do: How can you reduce your carbon footprint in the reality of your own life? Using a solar- and wind-powered homestead farm near North House as a classroom, the workshop provided a jumping off point to making environmentally sustainable decisions for participants individually.  A look at the big picture led to examining the specifics of transportation, water use, wastewater re-use, growing and cooking food, producing electricity and hot water, and choosing building designs and materials. Rural and urban scenarios were addressed through demonstrations, presentations, discussions leading to an individual plan of action that participants could take home with them.  

Not just at North House, but at more and more folk schools across the country, our folk schools are hard at work discovering, teaching, and sharing solutions as we come to them, and engaging students in new ways of thinking about them. In what follows, we present and review a number of programs and courses that address different aspects of the environment, and of the gathering crisis. In the group of schools we present here, we find programs focused on a variety of environmental topics from nature appreciation, to forest management, species preservation, recycling and waste management, and sustainability, to name a few.   This group of schools is representative, not comprehensive, and there are many more programs than those we discuss here.  But this, at the very least is wonderful sample, and we are very proud of these initiatives. Mary Cattani
Photo from Roots School website
Stewardship of Nature
Roots School
Bradford, Vermont

Roots School was created by Sarah Corrigan and Brad Salon in 2007 to teach people of all ages and backgrounds traditional nature-based skills. "Our goal is to foster a deeper connection between people and the natural world in their day to day lives by building literacy and comfort with students in the wilderness. We teach a wide variety of classes, from shaping stones into tools, to bow and arrow making, to weaving willow baskets, to wildlife tracking, spring foraging, in a course named `Roots and Shoots,' summer foraging, nature awareness, bird languages and behaviors.   All serve this aim."  Courses are week-long and year-long, and for both adults and children, in all seasons, in the Upper Valley of Vermont. "Through connecting first hand with natural materials, and working with challenging skills projects, we find that students must engage with the environment in a deep and nuanced way. This attention to detail and interaction builds a respect that cannot be inspired any other way than a hands-to-material connection. This connection carries through as people make choices about how to impact or caretake the environment they inhabit."
CedarRoot Folk School 
Nordland, Washington

Located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, In the Folk School tradition, we offer "hand to hand" instruction to all ages and backgrounds.  Our mission is to honor
the natural world by preserving and restoring the skills and wisdoms of the rural arts, and to explore deeper connections to nature.  Our classrooms are the natural habitats of the Olympic Peninsula.   Youth and Adult classes follow the seasons and the traditional skills of rural living.  Some typical classes with a focus on the environment include: sustainably managing livestock, creating topsoil, increasing plant diversity, building nutrient levels and suppressing fire danger while bolstering animal health and productivity;  herbal theory with hands-on harvesting and medicine making to stay healthy by shifting food and medicine in accordance with the Earth’s natural cycles;  water storage and conservation irrigation systems through theory and demonstrations on a working farm, including HDPE tanks and fittings, pond building, rainwater catchment, rain gardens, low flow irrigation, swales, pumps, and ferro-cement cisterns.
Photo from Cedar Root School website.
Species Preservation: Snakes
Hearth Folk School 
Sonoma, California

As instructor, my intention for the Snake Series is to cultivate a safe space to co-explore relationship to these generally misunderstood and oft-maligned creatures. A hoped-for outcome from this exchange is for participants to emerge from the series better informed and thus empowered to follow their curiosity, and in some cases, to reconcile their phobias of snakes. To achieve this, we set about learning the natural history, identification, and life cycles of the snakes native to the course area, in addition to learning about the broad variety of ways that human cultures have oriented to snakes across time. Within this, participants are strongly encouraged to exercise ambivalence and interrogate their own socialization and how it informs their view of snakes, and to entertain the notion that snakes, and all forms of life, are inherently valuable - regardless of their ecological service to us, which is legion. All of this is strongly informed by my personal history with snakes, from many years of observing and interacting with them closely in both a captive setting and in the field. It is important to note that my relationship to snakes is not classically professional - I'm not a biologist - but my views are rooted in mutual regard for both science and cultural wisdom.

At the personal level, I regard them as the greatest teachers of my life, and there is no part of my life that is not enhanced or at least somehow informed by the lessons I have learned from applying my curiosity to snakes, their habits, and indeed, their customs.

From childhood on, following this curiosity led me to a greater understanding of ecology and consequently, a worldview rooted in interrelationship as a fundamental and guiding principle. In a sense, my simple childhood longing to go outside looking for snakes, led me to be enamored with the whole world. This blossomed into an understanding of my own embeddedness in ecology, which granted me a greater sense of security in relationships beyond the strictly human realm, while simultaneously bestowing an awareness of, and responsibility for, my inherent impact on those ecologies. I carry this responsibility rooted in reverence with me into the course, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity it presents to both advocate for snakes and the places they call home, and to assist people to quell their fears and find allies in the ecology of which we, and snakes, are parts. In this navigation, I hope we may broaden our views of kinship and emerge with greater regard and advocacy for the imperiled others with whom we share this world. Roy Blodgett 
Ringneck snake photo from Hearth School website.
Turkeyfoot Folk School
Iowa City, Iowa

The mission of Turkeyfoot Folk School is to promote community, conservation, and creativity. The volunteer-run nonprofit organization is still in its infancy but many of Turkeyfoot’s workshops and events have been focused on outdoor skills and the environment.  This is due, in part, to the fact that many of the board members have a wealth of experience and interest in this area.  Turkeyfoot leads free monthly full moon hikes at a local nature preserve that are open to individuals of all ages.  Hike participants are led quietly through the woods with the hope that they’ll hear an owl call or coyote howl.  These hikes typically end around a campfire where everyone has an opportunity to roast marshmallows, drink tea, and converse.  

Other events have included a family camping workshop, a camp/dutch oven cooking and foraging workshop, and an astronomy workshop/star party.  Turkeyfoot has also partnered with other local conservation and environmental education groups at larger events by hosting an animal track casting activity or nature art table. 

While Turkeyfoot plans to expand its programming to include folk arts and practical life skills, the focus on outdoor skills and environmental ed has been fun and rewarding.  The hope is that by teaching outdoor skills and providing these outdoor opportunities to adults and families, Turkeyfoot will encourage individuals to get outside and learn to love and advocate for nature and conservation. 
Carolyn Buckingham
Photo from Turkeyfoot Folk School Facebook page
The Folk School Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
The Folk School in Fairbanks considers stewardship of the boreal forest to be one of the tenets of our school. We feel that increasing awareness of the wonders of our local forests naturally leads people to stewardship, and we weave this idea into many of our classes, most notably, our flagship summer programs, Week in the Woods (which takes place in the boreal forest), and Weekend on the River, (which focuses on salmon, and other river resources). We have offered classes in mending clothing, making rag rugs and chair pads, small engine repair, repairing and relacing snowshoes, and replacing cane chair seats.

We have hosted several Repair Café events, where folks were assisted by our instructors in repairing small electronics, appliances, and various other household and outdoor equipment.  We have recently teamed up with a local Zero Waste group to host sewing bees and information nights, and are currently working with other local non profits to tackle climate change issues, as Alaska is literally on the front lines, and we are experiencing dramatic changes to our environment.  Kerri Hamos
Photo from Fairbanks Folk School website
Living Well Folk School
Franklinville, North Carolina

Sustainable living is a consciously chosen core mission and vision of Living Well Earth Stewards. This is where all of our projects, classes and activities begin. Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources, and our members model this in a variety of ways individually, as well. Our affiliation with Living Well Community, the folk classes we run, as well as our support and participation with other communities and groups demonstrate our organization’s commitment.

We have sponsored the building of two small-house projects…which not only teaches valuable carpentry skills, but the value of smaller houses. We have had classes on water catchment, growing and using herbs, fermentation, shiitake mushroom growing, and identifying and eating wild edibles, among others. our intention is to help facilitate and educate people to choose sustainability wherever they are. LWFS is a catalyst to provide advice and encouragement to those who seek the mutual support of community and desire to live cooperatively, sustainably and harmoniously. Some typical classes include: cooking with natural fuel; green woodworking/bushcraft; modern homesteading, urban and rural.  Harvey Harman

Tiny house photo from Living Well Earth Stewards website.
Waste Management and Recycling
The Homestead Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia

The most enduring crafts and the most successful homesteads have traditionally utilized closed-loop systems. Unfortunately, most urban lifestyles rely on inputs from outside the city and generate waste we pay to have taken "away." At The Homestead Atlanta, we offer programming to reacquaint people with their capacity as creators, not just consumers. Take food scraps, for instance. With a little creativity, they can become a delicious fermented snack, rich compost for the garden, stunning natural dye. We also love programming that reconnects people with the landscape around them and its capacity for healing.

Our Edible & Medicinal Plant Rambles are wonderful ways to help people discover the wealth of food and medicine we overlook as weeds throughout the seasons. While these little steps might only be a drop in the bucket environmentally, they go a long way to shifting mindsets and providing a different lens through which to view the world and our place in it. Kimberly Coburn


Canning Season photo from The Homestead website
Place-Based Learning
Koviashuvik School
Koviashuvik is an Inupiaq word meaning a time and place of joy in the moment
Temple, Maine

"Bioregionalism, Resilience & Active Hope, a collaboration of Koviashuvik Local living School and Antioch University:" This is a 6-day, 5-night immersion course in resilience skills and bioregional living at Koviashuvik Local Living School exploring elements of craft, culture, community and connection that inform living well in place.  From splitting shingles, to spinning rope, to growing beans, to harvesting medicine, in daily life participants dig into the art and practice of crafting a life from the world around them.   Shelter, water, fire, food, fiber and medicine become doorways to connection, interdependence, kinship, justice and gratitude as we investigate this key question of our time:  how do we reenter into healthy, mutually beneficial relationship with the biosphere? 

Using the working homestead of Koviashuvik as an outdoor classroom, student’s engage in a learning adventure that encompasses, homesteading arts, permaculture frameworks, indigenous skills, and cultivation of ecological and social relationships. Through daily regenerative acts like thinning a forest to provide fuel, or composting human waste to build soil fertility, students experience being a constructive force in the ecosystem while meeting their needs. From these daily constructive actions spring self-efficacy and hope; necessary antidotes to the oftentimes overwhelming challenges that face learners who are engaged in—and passionate about—environmental studies and ecological protection. Koviashuvik believes in the power of small, localized solutions.  We acknowledge that no one experiment can or should hold the keys
to paradigm shift. What this class does provide is a mini-experience of one model that contradicts our current trajectory, regenerative skills that are transferable to other contexts, and the sense of hope and energy that are born of the ability to enact positive change in one’s situation and surroundings. Chris Knapp

Photo from Koviashuvik School website
Cobscook Institute
Lubek, Maine

Cobscook Institute (formerly the Cobscook Community Learning Center), a contemporary expression of a folk school in eastern Maine, formed a unique partnership with neighboring Calais High School to create a high school program, the Cobscook Experiential Program, for high school students seeking a unique experience. Cobscook students are able to learn directly in and around the dynamic natural environments of Cobscook Bay, part of the Gulf of Maine and one of the most biologically productive bays on the planet.

A core component of the Cobscook science curriculum involves long-term ecosystem investigations on the Cobscook campus and in local watersheds.  Students collect data on changes in pH, water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity at a variety of sites throughout their local watershed. The students will also conduct a number of in-stream macro invertebrate surveys to assess stream health and measure the impact of ongoing conservation efforts to restore habitat. The data collected this year will be analyzed to make connections between the physical and chemical characteristics of water bodies and their impact on biodiversity.
"This sort of authentic, place based, field science benefits students in many ways," says Cobscook teacher Michael Giudilli. "It not only helps students deepen their connections to their own community and build relationships with local scientists, but also helps them see the interconnectedness of the natural world and more clearly understand the important role humans play in maintaining it. Our ultimate goal in this work is to help our students find the inspiration that we all need to be active stewards of a healthy planet." Kara McCrimmon

From Cobscook Institute website


To see a working list of folk schools in North America, visit the Folk School Alliance's website at

Copyright © 2020 Folk Education Association of America, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp