The Shepherd's Staff
Welcome to our community news bulletin!
"The cultivation of an embodied connection to ourselves, each other, and the earth is largely missing from the mainstream education of children. Instead, children are trained to become consumers, employees, and patrons of a disease management system, as all manner of medications become necessary to offset the effects of excessive exposure to hyper-tech, processed food, and stress."
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Meet Gina Tang - CanvasRebel Magazine
In the news...
Our upcoming summer enrichment program got a little coverage in the San Diego Reader this month! Check out the article here:
We had such a blast at the "Paint the Bus Red" fundraising concert! With a fantastic turnout and over $2,000 in donations and raffle ticket sales raised in a single day, we're well on our way to the fancy red paint job that will turn heads and hearts throughout San Diego County. If you'd like to add to the magic, our GoFundMe campaign is still very much active. If you already donated (or bought raffle tickets), thank you for driving our impact!
Highlights From the Event
1. Kids and adults responded to community prompts, such as: "What's alive in you today?" and "What are you building with the people you love?" One eight-year-old boy responded with the word friendship.
2. A rainbow dog!
3. THE MUSIC. Patrick Hadley prickled inner ears with his Array Mbira. Raina Reign taught the kids a song about healthy boundaries on her guitar. The Natters (songwriters for Jason Mraz) brought tears of sweetness to many eyes. Then Iron & Wood grooved us into the sunset.
4. Artists of all ages collaborated on a painted sheet that will become one of the backdrops for our pop-up stage.
5. A truly epic raffle. Prizes included a CranioSacral session with Katie Dove, a massage by Liscia at Dancing Hands Bodywork, hand-cut record art from Venice Vinyls, a CSA box from Clear Chiropractic, a cutting board from San Diego Urban Timber, a gift basket from Dr. Bronners, a gift card to Goddess Again Resale Boutique, a six-pack of Pacha Bread, and sage bundles and oil from Sagewind Farm.
Of course, another highlight was announcing the outdoor classroom lineup for our 2023 Summer Enrichment Program! Enrollment is open from March 1st to May 16th.
For those who don't know what we're up to, we’re turning a 26-foot bus into a nature school on wheels. It will have a kid-sized composting kitchen (with worms!), a miniature soil laboratory, and a pop-up stage. Affectionately named Red Rover, the bus will visit local farms, community gardens, grazing sites with goats and sheep, parks, and other outdoor classrooms where our integrative curriculum can unfold.
This is the story of the time we developed four outdoor classrooms on a 24-acre ranch in Ramona over a period of three months using entirely reclaimed materials and volunteer labor. It was deeply satisfying to flesh out a place-based education program, centered around the mutual benefit of people, plants, and planet. It was also a brilliant demonstration of what can happen when human capacity meets resource consciousness. Thanks to our many helping hands!
One week before our program was scheduled to start, I received word that the county had issued a cease-and-desist order after multiple complaints from a neighbor. They wanted us to get a conditional use permit to run a "school." Next would come the mandates.
And we're not playing that game. According to the United States Constitution, parents have the unalienable right to make educational decisions for their children. We also have the right to assemble. If my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness includes participation in an empowering, comprehensive, and healthy offering for kids, who can lawfully deny it?
However, being a fledgling program, we needed a more supportive place to make our stand. We packed up our supplies. Gave away the ducks, chickens, kittens, and goats. Said good-bye to the ranch, and all we had planted.
Ultimately, we need our own land. We need a place to raise our seedlings, both literal and figurative, in fertile terrain. Little Shepherds Nature Lab doesn't want to cower down and play small. It wants to root deep and become a tall tree.
In the meanwhile, we have a fundraising goal of $24,000 to help us transform a school bus into a Mobile Learning Lab and move forward with our mission to deliver regenerative educational offerings in San Diego County. Think Ms. Frizzle meets John Jeavons!
When we find a suitable place to raise a full-time kinder program, an expansion to grades 1-5, and place-based building projects for older kids, our original seed will come out, shining and singing and ready to sprout.
Little Shepherds Nature Lab will grow on. Stay tuned!
Written by Evon Mucek
Child Development Specialist
A child is feeling frustrated, sad, or scared and sometimes we just want a quick fix to stop the behavior. Sometimes we’re not thinking, and just reacting. And sometimes this leads to yelling, threatening, time outs. Oof! It’s a tough one when everyone feels a bit (or a lot) out of control.
When children are having meltdowns or tantrums they are trying to:
1. Express their needs
2. Communicate their feelings through actions, sounds, and often lack the words to share their feelings
3. Want connection and attention (which we all NEED and deserve)
Start looking at children's’ behavior more as a road map for helping them out, as opposed to a threat to sanity. It's a game changer! Trust that the child is not being difficult on purpose.
We already know about basic needs: hunger, sleep, play, potty…all the physical needs we understand. What can be less-than-obvious are the emotional needs that are important to children:
- The need for love and attachment
- The need to be heard and accepted
- The need for choice and autonomy
Understanding the emotional needs of children has completely changed the parents that I work with. I’ll elaborate. If a child is having a “tantrum” it usually means that something is up and the child is seeking control. The child needs some help. First, look to the physical needs (hungry, tired and so on…). Then, look to the emotional needs:
Love & Connection
Try holding your child, snuggling, or reading a book close to him/her.
Listening & Validation
Look and listen to what your child is feeling/saying and kindly reflect it back to him or her in a way that shows you understand how he or she feels.
Choice & Autonomy
Try offering choice or some control over the situation.
Validating or kindly reflecting back to your child what he/she is saying shows that you are listening and that you care. And being heard by your parents is so very important to a little one. Being heard is important to all of us. Hold your child, reflect back to him/her how they are feeling, and then try to find a way to help them get some control, and problem solve the situation. I have seen it stop tears and tantrums dead in their tracks.
As children get older, encourage them to do this more on their own, to help themselves and advocate more for their needs. This will help them feel safe in expressing their feelings, will help them in naming their feelings, and will help them learn to create a plan to address how they are feeling. It’s actually when feelings go unexpressed that we really have something to worry about. It’s hard enough as a parent. Don’t add extra challenges to yourself. These messy situations, experiences and transitions our children have, are incredible opportunities to foster their self-worth, to build our relationship, to deepen trust. But these are opportunities.
If only we could see every conflict and every issue that’s going wrong as an opportunity for growth. Wouldn’t we all be so much healthier? I certainly can’t say that I am able to do that all the time. But children, they’re so open, they’re so innocent, they’re so heart-on-their-sleeve. They need us to be on their side, and stay on their side, and accept them at their most challenging moments!
is our in-house Behavior Therapist. If you are struggling with staying calm, connected, and clear in your relationship with your child(ren), she is here to provide personalized support.
"Please help!" cries our neighbor, via text, upon discovering that someone has abandoned a domestic mother duck and two ducklings at Dos Picos pond. "This is urgent, because coyotes will get them. I will donate their enclosure if you can give them a home."
We deliberate for approximately eight seconds. "Yes," I reply.
Two hours later, our neighbor Gloria arrives--duckless--to meet me, and assess our potential as stewards for the feathered family. I offer up prime real estate: the deep shade under a huge Brazilian Pepper tree right smack in front of the Nature Lab. (It is fortunate that we have so many trees, including the magnificent Pomegranate Palace, to keep kids sheltered during summer months.) Gloria seems satisfied. I'm glad. Not everybody sees our 24-acre ranch as the land of opportunity. Some just see the needs for repair. This, however, is the perfect opportunity to talk about ecosystem restoration in the context of regenerative education (and I do, to anyone who will listen).
Gloria goes home to start hunting for a duck coop, while we scout out possible pond material. (Resource-consciousness is part of our educational approach; we buy nothing new, unless we absolutely have to.) There is a round metal water trough in the old horse pasture and we roll it over, thinking about the charming little ramp we'll build with reclaimed lumber.
But the next morning, terrible news. Mother Duck and one duckling have been eaten by a coyote. Our collective spirits sink.
Hope rises yet again when Gloria's search and rescue efforts pay off, and the remaining duckling is recovered. On top of this, Gloria finds a beautiful new chicken coop that Tractor Supply can deliver the same afternoon. Orphan duckling waits in Gloria's laundry room. Meanwhile, Gloria tasks me with getting another duckling to keep Orphan company.
I'm headed to the pet store to make the necessary purchase (our Rules of Green-Thumb are gentle guidelines, not rigid demands) when someone just so happens to send me a post from the Buy Nothing Facebook group in Ramona. Ducklings, approximately the same size and age as Orphan, are available for free! I take two.
Gloria then brings Orphan over for a grand introduction. Orphan waddles tentatively out of his crate, into the open enclosure where his new companions await. He moves toward them. Once he gets a few inches away, they all burst into conversation--a little chorus of chirping whistles--and then, to the profound delight of our watching eyes, they start cuddling. Rubbing their heads on each other's backs, pruning each other, and eventually settling into a contented pile of three.
So that is how Orphan, now named Pico, came to Little Shepherds Nature Lab. And in case you're wondering, we named the other ducklings Peep and Pumpkin (pronounced pun-kin).
You can help feed the ducks!
The current education paradigm holds the idea that the sole purpose of education is to educate individuals within their particular society, to prepare and train them for work in an economy that integrates people into the national cultural reality and passes on to them the values and morals of that society. In Carol Sanford’s critical analysis: “The Role of education is the means of socializing individuals and to keep society running smoothly and remain stable.” In other words, to form people who conform to the ruling class of their respective societies.
This theory has dominated modern culture and defined the social rules of nations for the last 200 years or more.
There is an emerging new theory of education that we espouse and are dedicated to developing further. An education that serves people and the planet as we move into a new environmental reality, with its accompanying social shifts, economic transformation and understanding of who we are as a species and an individual.
Daniel Wahl describes this new education paradigm this way: “Education for regenerative cultures is about the life-long process of enabling and building the capacity of everyone to express their unique potential to serve their community and the planet and in the process serve themselves.”
Why Regenerative Education?
Regenerative Education aims to:
In order to bring about this new educational paradigm, we have to accept that “Culture” cannot be looked at as “a monoculture,” grown from the same seed, under similar conditions and giving the same results everywhere. We have to first understand and dismantle the colonial/patriarchal mindset that treats people, resources, and the Earth itself as commodities to be extracted by those in power who control the inputs and outcomes of our own lives.
Again, Carol Sanford provides some guidance to what the principles of a regenerative education could look like. She provides 7 principles for regenerative education, which I summarize here:
1 – The regenerative work is to be the integrated work of educators and systems, providing the ableness required to do nothing short of transforming whole societies and evolving all the systems within them to meet the new global imperatives. But just relabeling it does not ensure it meets the new purpose of enabling a transforming society and evolving the systems in it.
2 – The education system must design and develop an infrastructure that makes self-initiated new direction and contribution possible, inside the value adding process of the learning context. This means there are no generic assignments from others, no external grades, no pre-formatting of the results. It must be fully self-directed to wake up and nourish the essence of each individual.
3 – Learners come to see potential in themselves, uniquely, that they had not seen before. They have to see that they can make a huge difference in the life of their communities, nation, and planet — even when very young… regenerative education aims to understand the learner so well and how they live, their aspirations to live, that we can see a void in their ableness that needs to be filled. Educators must be able to support them, to be a resource on the learner’s path to pursue and achieve that promise. And to help design and deliver what the learner has now specified they need to learn. Educators become great experiential designers for learners.
4 – Everyone needs to get imbued with the idea that their life is about moving themselves out of a rut, based on contributions they see they can make and on what is needed for the whole to evolve…creating a citizen/learner development process that is based in core human capacities, but which capabilities are accessible on demand (from the self), building living systems and critical thinking skills with the thinking and personal development of being a self-determining human being.
5 – Processes and materials are embedded in the experience and engagement within community with a planetary understanding. They have connections into the communities and resources that break down the usual walls we think of learning institutions. We have learned in the last 50 years how interconnected we are as humans, but also as global citizens that have an effect on the place we call home. We also need to learn to see the effect we have on societies in which we live and how we can make them work more fairly for all.
6 – Learners are the teachers of themselves —Their development is guided by the idea that they test everything with their own reflective experience rather than accepting the ideas of others. They value science, art, great writing, and thinking, but not as received ideas, rather as ideas to experience and reflect on, then from that position incorporate it into their life, or not. Evolve it or leave it behind. They don’t so much question authority as they question the thinking behind what is offered. The teacher works to displace the toxic and degenerative practices while nurturing what’s emerging.
7 – WE will never be effective at creating timely change until we teach people how quantum change happens, how to design and lead it and how to apply it to systems design.
To advance the development of a regenerative education we must refer back to Einstein’s great contribution to how the world works. He proved that complex systems work differently from simple ones. And by definition, that humans work differently. Einstein was not fooled by the widely accepted classical Laws of Physics. He showed us through his experiments that a direct approach is not necessarily the best route to understanding movement and motion, as it tends to escalate restraint (and in some cases, easy adoption without careful examination).
These unexpected results can cause a blocking of our capability to shift our thinking and bring about the changes needed for a new paradigm to enter our reality.
Welcome to regenerative education!
This article was written by one of The Good Shepherds, a land management organization that provides prescribed grazing services to San Diego County. We visit their paddock every season, as part of our animal husbandry module.
With more than 500,000 acres burned, the Dixie Fire is the second largest in California history. At the time of this writing, the fire is roughly 30% contained.
At one point, the Dixie Fire burned 44,000 acres in one day.
“We’re seeing truly frightening fire behavior. I don’t know how to overstate that,” said Plumas National Forest Supervisor Chris Carlton. Pyrocumulus clouds, dry lightning, firenadoes—these fires create their own weather, making movement hard to predict and conditions unstable. Firefighters on the front lines are concerned for their lives. While meteorologists work on technology to help them predict the locations where these much-wilder wildfires might occur, the Good Shepherds are working to reduce the likelihood of their occurrence.
As usual, the most effective way to address a problem lies at the root: soil. Healthy soil holds water and carbon. Simple as that. When soil is damaged, carbon gets released back into the atmosphere. The result is hotter temperatures, fewer rains, desertification…and extreme fire behavior.
Carbon is present in all organic matter, and it needs to cycle back down to the ground. Sheep and goats eat carbon, poop carbon, and trample carbon. Their activity increases top-soil and activates soil microbiology, helping it coevolve for perennial bunch grasses with deeper root systems. Thus, ground that is regularly grazed holds more water and resists erosion.
So these animals aren’t just adorable lawn-mowers. They’re doing the work that makes land more manageable, and less volatile. When we use tractors and machines to clear brush and weeds, we miss the feedback loop with the soil, further drying and distressing the ground.
Fire is a healthy, predictable part of the native landscape here in California—and healthy, well-maintained landscapes burn in predictable patterns. We don’t want to suppress fire, but there is no reason for catastrophic fire when we have the tools to manage it. We need to employ and support these tools ahead of time.
Shepherd Matthew Sablove says, “Imagine if fire crews faced tended ‘wild’ lands, trails made by ruminants (grazing animals), thinned out brush, and less dead matter stacked in the air to fuel hotter fires. It behooves us all to regenerate lands by being active agents and stewards of nature.”