About

Our Mission

Mentoring students outdoors to foster confidence, resilience, and kinship with nature.

Whole Earth Nature School is about more than developing outdoor skills, we are about developing thriving human beings. Through the pathway of nature connection and wilderness skills, our students are given the support they need to flourish. Our outstanding staff ensure lots of personal support and attention goes to each and every student. Through fire making, students learn patience, resilience, and safety. Through hiding, they learn stillness, observation and awareness. Through wildcrafting, they learn caretaking, pattern recognition, and self-sufficiency. Through group play and challenges, they learn leadership, respect, and confidence. Whole Earth Nature School is a place where each student is given the right balance of freedom and support to be their best self.

CORE VALUES

Cultivate gratitude • Encourage a culture of respect • Learn from failure • Teach appropriate risk-taking • Take personal responsibility• Practice awareness • Play

We are committed to Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion:

We believe that access to nature is a human right and recognize that structural inequities impact participation in outdoor experiences. Through staff training, student financial support, and culturally responsive curriculum, we commit to providing greater access to inclusive nature experiences so that everyone can benefit from the healing power of nature.

We acknowledge that our program activities take place on the traditional homelands of indigenous people, including tribes and bands of Kalapuya, Coos, Lower Umpqua, Siuslaw, and Molalla peoples, who have lived and cared for this land since time immemorial. They were forcibly removed from their homelands and moved onto reservations by EuroAmerican colonizers. These tribes are still thriving today as part of two sovereign nations: the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. We commit to including land acknowledgements in our programs, strengthening relationships with tribal nations and Indigenous people, learning from Indigenous educators, and with permission, including Indigenous education and traditional ecological knowledge in our programs.

Volunteer

Make a difference in our community by sharing your nature connection with kids. Plus you can learn new outdoor skills and games. We have a variety of schedules and commitment levels available, depending on your experience and schedule. Training is provided.

Meet the Founders

Ana Bradley, Matt Bradley, and Rees Maxwell

Founders’ story

Whole Earth Nature School was founded in the fall of 2009 by Rees Maxwell, Matt Bradley, and Ana Bradley. Each of their life journeys had brought them through deep nature connections and trainings, culminating in that fateful day when their paths crossed at a credit union; the teller, Matt, spoke first. “Rees, I’ve been meaning to talk with you.”


The three of them gathered every day after, sharing stories of the profound impact that nature connection had in their own lives, and discovered a shared vision to create opportunities for all people to receive personalized nature mentorship. They quickly took this passion for living in kinship with the earth, and an understanding of the many barriers to experiencing that, and within two weeks were at their first school meeting kids at their classrooms to bring them out to connect with the diversity of nature that exists right in the surrounding alleys, avenues and parks. Thus Whole Earth Nature School was born, and their first program Coyote Kids was launched.


Since then tens of thousands of youth have received personalized mentorship outdoors, and experienced the benefits of confidence, resilience and kinship with nature. We are continually working to decrease barriers to nature connection, while increasing our understanding of the limitless diversity of the human condition and adapting our pedagogy to better support every student.

Whole Earth Nature School was created because our founders saw that there was a need for a different kind of nature connection experience in Lane County. While there are good environmental education programs in our area, there were no programs offering the type of immersive nature connection and wilderness skills experiences that we wanted to see. It is important to us that our students’ experience is hands-on and based in real outdoor experiences. More than simply observing, we want our students to interact with their environment, activity engaging with nature and each other through their learning process. Students eat wild plants and use them for medicine. They move from human trails to deer trails, following the tracks of wildlife. They use mud and charcoal to camouflage their faces and bodies to blend into the landscape and observe nature, unseen.


Another key aspect of what makes our program unique is the use of live action storytelling and themed camp programs to hook the interest of students and help them to more easily immerse themselves in the natural world. We often theme our nature camps around archetypal story elements found woven throughout all popular culture, and this allows kids to relate to the experience more quickly. It also allows them to live inside a story while being introduced to the core concepts and connective outdoor experiences we are offering. 


Whole Earth Nature School was originally created as a private company (LLC). In January of 2012 we transferred all operations over to a newly created nonprofit entity. Whole Earth Nature School is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Admin

Rees-high-5-sm

Rees "Flicker" Maxwell
he/him

Executive Director

Rees Maxwell enjoyed hiking and canoeing during his childhood years, before getting pulled into the tech world of Silicon Valley. Thankfully he moved to the Northwest later in his college years and rediscovered the wonder of the wilds. He has attempted to walk in both worlds ever since.

Rees founded Whole Earth Nature School with Matt Bradley and Anna Bradley in 2009 after graduating from Wilderness Awareness School’s yearlong immersion program. He taught in their Roots & Wings preschool program as well as their summer camps, and once back in Eugene looked for a local place where his own kids could go to camp learning advanced skills like friction fire-making, shelter building, tracking, understanding the voices of the birds, etc. and really get their hands dirty in the process. He’d previously taught children at local nature programs with Mt. Pisgah Arboretum and Nearby Nature and, while loving what they provide, saw an opportunity to bring a different style of nature education to children.

Prior to co-creating Whole Earth Nature School, he brought this environmental immersion style of nature connection to teens at the Network Charter School. Rees and his wife Matty Maxwell also founded a nature program for preschoolers called Dancing Sol in 2007, connecting the youngest kids in nature five days a week throughout the school year, for thirteen years.

Unusual for most Executive Directors, Rees continues to directly mentor youth in nature through Whole Earth. It is not only the most exhilarating and immediately impactful work he can do, it allows him to understand firsthand the challenges and needs that students and his staff experience, and supports the continual refinement of the Whole Earth pedagogy as well as the support structure created for all staff.

He feels and expresses gratitude every day.

  • Primitive wilderness skills practitioner
  • Mentor
  • Dreamer/visionary
  • Storyteller
  • Inventor
  • Interpersonal Mediator
  • Parent & Partner

Alicia "Foxfire" Kristen
she/they

Programs Director, Instructor

Crawling through wineberry brambles, Alicia prayed her natural camouflage would keep her hidden under the gibbous moon’s light. She had made it to the other team’s side in search of their “flag”: a green glow stick hidden in the bushes. Her blood raced, her senses were on high alert, and every single plant or log around her seemed a conspirator in her quest. She finally grasped the green glow she had seen from afar… only to have it crumble into rotten wood fibers. This strange species, foxfire, filled her with a powerful sense of awe and curiosity.

Like her namesake, Alicia “Foxfire” Kristen strives to help her students appreciate the beauty of the world around them and develop a lifelong love of learning. She helps students see both the magic and mechanics of the natural world. She created the Wildkin™ game to engage every student in leading and supporting the group through their individual passions. As an anthropologist and folklorist, she imbues her programs with songs, ceremony, crafts, and traditions old and new. She loves to create imaginary spells based on plants’ scientific names, build fairy villages, brachiate through the trees, create art from nature, and take students on epic and challenging adventures.

Foxfire was called to move to Eugene from Appalachia, where she trained as a mentor at Living Earth School. She is certified in Permaculture Education through the Mother Earth School and in the Art of Mentoring through the Wilderness Awareness School. She has trained with the folks at 8 Shields PDX, Jon Young, and Tom Brown. She trained in Montessori education with the folks at Heartmoor Farm Education Center. She mentored four teams of the UO Environmental Leadership Program in outdoor curriculum development. She has a B.A. in anthropology, M.S. in environmental education, M.S. in folklore programming.

  • Magic-maker & curriculum writer
  • University-, Montessori- & permaculture-trained educator
  • Scholar of natural and cultural history (here and in Costa Rica)
  • Systems Wizard
  • Renaissance Woman
  • Game Designer

Ana "The Larch" Bradley
she/they

Special Projects Coordinator

Coming soon!

Hales Wilson

they/them

Outdoor School Director

Hales is an avid mushroom forager with a love for animals and a background in biological science and the veterinary field in their early career and education. They grew up hiking and camping in Arizona as part of a parent-child outdoor group and taught youth about animal care at the Phoenix Zoo.

Hales made the switch to higher education leadership working in Residence Life and Campus Activities at Colorado State University. Most recently, Hales worked at the University of Oregon as the Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Education and Support Services for the last four years.

Hales brings a lot of experience and interest in equity work, particularly supporting students in crisis, integrating trauma-informed care practices into programs, and creating inclusive working and learning environments. Hales also loves to dance and is a stellar storyteller!

Joe Ramagli
he/him

Development and Outreach Director

Joe brings to Whole Earth a breadth of experience in communications and donor relations. He’s also worked as a legal advocate for children, marginalized communities, and farmers, and is committed to protecting our environment so that future generations have the opportunity to connect in deep and meaningful ways with nature. From cycling through the Colorado Rockies to hiking the Ridgeline Trail with his family, Joe finds solace and inspiration in the natural world.

He is excited to have joined the Whole Earth community, where he gets to bring his love of people and nature together in his work. Joe is passionate about Whole Earth’s mission as he continually sees the growth and joy in his two children as they come home from their Whole Earth programs.

Julie Hubbard McNall
she/her

Bookkeeper

Julie is compelled to keep all the rest of the nature nerds around here responsible. But she also loves to play outside when she gets the chance.

  • “Numbers person”
  • Jolly soul
  • Mother
Sarah Hoffman

Sarah "Sparkles" Hoffman
she/her

Office Administrator

Sarah grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California where she was immersed in nature at a very young age. Days were spent creating and reading about different worlds and a deep love for and connection to the outdoors was born. At the age of nine she wrote President Clinton about the impending doom of rapidly filling landfills after seeing an episode of Bill Nye and has been passionate about the environment ever since.

Sarah believes in the interconnectedness of all beings, including the land we live on, and strives to be a responsible human and an advocate of both her peers and the Earth. With nearly 20 years of customer service and 10 years of administrative experience, Sarah has worked in the non-profit, local government, and retail industries. She has realized her passion for making tangible contributions to the local communities around her and is very excited to be a part of the Whole Earth Nature School family where she hopes to learn much more than she can give.

  • Intuitive movement enthusiast
  • Zero waste and whole systems advocate
  • Student of energy and the interconnectedness of all things
  • Frequent outbursts of song
  • World explorer
  • Believer of magic

Sarah "Redbud" Kelly
she/her

Equity and Engagement Director

Sarah lived most of her life in the urban expanse of Houston, Texas, the most ethnically and culturally diverse city in the U.S. The bayous and woods where she played helped her cultivate an appreciation for nature; though hers was a complex relationship with the land, experiencing feelings of love, connection, and loss. She saw the fireflies slowly disappear over time and oil bubble up from discarded car parts in Mustang bayou. Sarah learned about climate change, habitat loss, and environmental injustice while living in a place where freeways are more valuable than living beings and oil and gas profits trump health and wellbeing, clean air, and a stable climate.

Motivated by the urgency to address global environmental and social issues, Sarah worked on sustainability projects while pursuing her studies in Communications & World Cultures & Literatures at the University of Houston. She later became the first Sustainability Manager for her alma mater and directed campus sustainability initiatives. Sarah left Houston to pursue her master’s degree in Environmental Arts & Humanities at Oregon State University where she studied intersectional environmental justice, place-based education, and ecological ethics. During graduate school, she co-led the College of Forestry’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategic planning process and coordinated educational programming and research for the H.J. Andrews Forest Discovery Trail program. Much of her research and coursework focused on dismantling harmful western worldviews that are at the root of centuries of intersectional oppression. 

Sarah started at Whole Earth working as the first Outdoor School Director for three years. Meanwhile, she launched and coordinated Justice Talks, started incorporating trauma-informed practices in training and programming, redesigned Outdoor School curriculum to be aligned with Indigenous education principles, and more.  

  • Empathetic leader
  • Advocate for just & sustainable change
  • Curious, life-long learner
  • Facilitator of discovery
  • Fungi enthusiast
  • Naturalist & organic gardener
  • Dance party catalyst

Board

Becky Wheeler

President

  • Certified Professional Public Buyer
  • Experience in city management
  • Outdoor recreation enthusiast

Brenna Leech

Vice President

  • Air Force veteran
  • MS Planning, Public Policy and Management
  • Outdoor adventure enthusiast

Ericka Thessen

Member at large

  • Acute Care Physical Therapist
  • Public education enthusiast, 4J and Whole Earth Parent
  • Volunteer for animal rescue, youth homelessness, and social justice

John Giustina

Treasurer

  • Professional wildlife and sports photographer
  • Whole Earth Parent
  • Experience in natural resources management

Leah Rosin

Secretary

  • Digital content & marketing strategist
  • 4J parent leader & Whole Earth Parent
  • Former wildland firefighter, goat milker, and Oregon farm kid

Roger "Bill" Ward

Member at large

  • NW Regional Outreach for Oregon Trail Recovery
  • Fifth-generation Oregonian
  • Art, music, and outdoor enthusiast

Staff

Terance “Dirt” MacKenzie

FOREST Director, Instructor

Terance was raised in Coburg, Oregon. He graduated from the Northwest Youth Corps Outdoor high school. While with the Youth Corps he worked with crews on a variety of conservation projects all over Oregon and Washington building trails plus restoring habitat for animals and plants. His family taught him to love the forest and everything in it while helping him learn how to identify plants and mushrooms, how to hunt and fish and most important how to have fun and get muddy. He has been a counselor for a number of youth programs including: City of Eugene’s Safety Town, Sempervirens Outdoor School located in the California Redwoods and Portland based Trackers Northwest.

  • Longest-running instructor
  • Director of challenging team building activities
  • Head Ogreseer
  • Tink
  • Head baker of wood cookies
  • Ninny Bane
  • Loud
_Ponderosa_ Grebbin (she_her)

Bailey "Ponderosa" Grebbin

Instructor

Growing up in Southern California, Bailey fell in love with the great outdoors while camping with her family on the coast, seeking out nature in the suburbs and exploring the desert at Girl Scout camp. After spending many summers as a camper, Bailey started working with youth in high school, first as a leader in training and then as a camp counselor. Her favorite part of connecting kids with nature quickly became using outdoor experiences to build their confidence.

Bailey spent a year in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, where she worked with a team of other young adults on projects to remove invasive species, plant trees, provide disaster relief services, lead environmental education programs and build homes in underserved communities across the southwest. These experiences cemented her passion for public service, and inspired her to pursue environmental education and public policy in college. 

Bailey went to school in snowy Vermont, where she spent many hours exploring the forest while getting a Bachelors of Environmental Studies, with a minor in Environmental Education from Green Mountain College and a Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.

In addition to having a range of experiences working with youth in the outdoors, Bailey’s been a tutor, an intern at a climate change non profit, a community organizer and a ghost tour guide. When she’s not working with kids, Bailey can be found hiking, organizing around justice issues and the climate crisis and reading with her adopted cat, Winnie.

  • Collector of interesting rocks
  • Devourer of books
  • Frequently found dancing in the rain
  • Seeker of nature in all places
  • Loves to explore outdoor spaces

Jade Weaver

Instructor

Jade grew up in Eugene, Oregon, where he spent his time camping, hiking, canoeing, rock climbing and backpacking with his family. Some of his fondest memories are spending time in beautiful wild places with people he loves. At nine years old, Jade began doing camps through Whole Earth Nature School where he began develop his primitive skills, outdoor knowledge, and love for nature. He is a graduating senior at the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield Oregon, where he is a theatre major. He incorporates his love for theatre into his work through telling stories and providing positive and creative energy to every situation he can. Jade is a graduating member of our FOREST program and loves spending time with friends outside. More than anything he hopes to provide what was given to him through Whole Earth to new campers, an incredible learning and growth experience!

  • Lover of games
  • Pun master
  • Enthusiastic
  • Definitely not Sarcastic
  • Loud
  • Former Whole Earth student
_DSC1454 - Nature Teach LLC

JoJo Jorissen

Instructor

Growing up in northern California, Joelle spent much of her childhood among gnarled oak trees and the Russian river banks. As an only child, days were often spent outside exploring the magical lands surrounding her home. Joelle found much joy in finding the best hiding places.

Spending time outside continued to be a passion and after finishing college with a B.A. in anthropology, Joelle worked on various organic farms in California, Montana, and Oregon. While helping to grow delicious food and partnering with Farm to School, Joelle found she loved working with kids. In 2017 she received her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Southern Oregon University along with a multiple subjects Oregon teaching license. But again-nature called and four walls could not contain her.

Joelle has worked as an outdoor educator, farm educator, substitute teacher, and kids yoga instructor. She is passionate about sharing the magic and healing power of nature with kids of all ages. In her spare time, Joelle loves wandering outside, following animal tracks, exploring plant life, hanging upside down, playing on the river, tending her garden, and adventuring with her dog Myla.

  • Upside down hanging enthusiast
  • Wandering in nature lover
  • Wildlife tracking student for life
  • Beaver believer
  • Friend of plants and trees
  • River rat

Jordan Lindstrom-Demant

Instructor

Jordan Lindstrom-Demant has been working professionally with children for over 10 years in summer camps, day cares, after school programs and most notably for a children’s entertainment company singing and face painting dressed as fairytale characters.

Jordan is a nature enthusiast and caretaker and is so happy to have the opportunity to educate children in and about the natural environment.

In her spare time Jordan is a dedicated yogi practicing for over 9 years. You can find her locally teaching kundalini yoga and workshops combining therapeutic art and yoga.

  • Yogi
  • Transformational face painter
  • Secret princess
  • Friend of goats and donkeys

Justin "Lonestar" Watt

Instructor

Coming soon.

  • Ukulele songwriter
  • Pizza chef
  • Gnome Leader

Kaity Heflin

Instructor

Kaity Heflin grew up climbing trees and playing in the farmlands of the midwest. She spent summers visiting a wide variety of national parks throughout the Western United States with her family. They explored new lands through hiking and backpacking, biking a hundred miles a day, surfing, rock climbing, and mountain biking. While biking on a hot summer day it was rare that they passed up a swim hole or an ice cream stand. Kaity is a Scientist and a Naturalist. She understands the world on a molecular level, and enjoys sharing awesome facts with the kids when an opportunity arises. Inspired by the personal growth she experienced after receiving a scholarship to Outward Bound at age 16, Kaity went on to seek a way to connect children to nature while teaching useful skills. She volunteered at organizations such as Nearby Nature and Big Brother Big Sister, and worked as a Wilderness Therapy Instructor in the backcountry with teenagers. She appreciates the way that nature grounds people and helps us get in touch with our true selves. Running in the woods and spending time in nature nourishes her soul, and she seeks to help others feel more connected and whole through spending time in nature.

  • Fierce warrior princess
  • Athlete
  • Lover of natural sciences
  • Wilderness therapist
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Meadow Scott

Instructor

Meadow Scott is a mother, educator, adventurer and self-proclaimed plant geek. Growing up in Alaska instilled a deep love of wild places, and Meadow spent plenty of time romping around in the wilderness. She lived in a treehouse for many years, kayaked in Prince William Sound, and even spent a winter mushing sled dogs near Denali. Her thirst for adventure took her around the world as well, backpacking and working on farms in such far-flung places as Iceland and Australia.

Becoming a mother led Meadow on yet another adventure and she quickly discovered the joy of sharing nature with small people. She especially loves the way young minds just drink in new experiences like moss soaking up the first rain of winter. Meadow spent as much time as possible outdoors with her two kiddos, watching them learn through direct experience, and gently guiding their understanding Earth’s complexity.

As soon as her own kiddos started school Meadow began a new chapter in her life as an environmental educator. Starting with the Prince William Sound Science Center in Alaska, then Partners for Sustainable School here in Eugene, and finally with the Whole Earth Nature School, Meadow has enriched her skill as an educator with many years of experience, both in the classroom and outside of it. Meadow shares a contagious enthusiasm for the natural world, and loves watching kids’ innate curiosity lead them into discovery and deep connection with nature. She believes that these quiet moments nourish a sense of place and belonging that eventually leads to stewardship of our Earth and all the critters we share it with.

Meadow is a lifelong learner and has a passion for all things green and growing. When she is not leading camps, she is enjoys studying ecology, gardening or natural history. She is a Master Gardener, Certified Permaculture Designer, and an amateur botanist. She practices all of these disciplines in her family’s backyard homestead where she can frequently be found petting plants.

 
  • Alaskan Homesteader
  • World traveler 
  • Mud lover
  • Secretly a plant
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Meg "Sparrow" Frank

Instructor

After obtaining her B.A. in Child Development and Learning and her M.A. in Elementary Education, Meg taught Intervention K-5 and 1st grade in North Carolina. After moving to Oregon, Meg wanted to shared her passion for the outdoors with children to give them the same energizing experiences and appreciation for nature that she gained as a child. Meg captures students’ high energy and channels it into learning and helps students learn their limits with the right balance of autonomy and support. She also makes challenging experiences like campers’ first overnights comfortable by role-modeling preparedness and being super supportive!

  • Elementary teacher
  • Creator of artistic things
  • Crafter of little kid adventures
  • Lover of fire
IMG_6690

Soma "Thunder" Bhargo

Instructor

Soma grew up in the big city of Los Angeles, dreaming of giant evergreens, mossy logs and wild, rocky rivers. She moved to Eugene in 2004 and jumped into the forest with both feet. She completed a 2 year Wildcrafting and Herbalism Apprenticeship program at Columbine’s School of Botanical Studies in 2006 and has since taken courses in Mushroom Biology and Environmental Education at the U of O. After dreaming of wolves, she began to study tracking with Wilderness Awareness School and later at Tracker’s Earth in Portland, where she completed a 9-month weekend immersion course. She’s been a nature guide at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum and led old growth ecology walks for the McGowan Creek Science Project. She has also been a summer camp instructor at Northwest Youth Corps and Tracker’s Earth. Soma holds a Level II certification in Track and Sign Identification from Cybertracker International. During the course of her wanders she’s picked up some useful wilderness survival skills too. Soma is always looking to grow her understanding of the interconnected web of nature, and loves to share what she’s learned with children and adults alike. When not exploring wild places, you can find Soma working as a massage therapist and yoga teacher, crafting, or playing in the garden.

  • Herbalist
  • Wildlife tracker
  • Wildcrafter
  • FOREST chef
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Tim "Timber" Warren

Instructor

Tim spent his formative years exploring the dunes of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, romping through the marshes and climbing trees. He loves camping and playing in the wilderness. While in the Boy Scouts of America, he learned the basics of how to be in the wild; learning knots, fire structure and tending. Tim volunteered at Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve cleaning up beaches, mapping and discovering new trails, making trail markers, and care tending the facilities. Tim developed a passion for sharing his nature connection with others while working at the Museum of Natural History in Brewster, tending the aquariums and learning the local species of birds. Seeing the people’s expressions when learning about each animal or local lore, he noticed how important it is to include nature in our lives. Tim loves hiking, wood carving, learning primitive skills and teaching in the woods, passing on his excitement and curiosity of the natural world! Tim is driven by the desire to inspire the next generation to connect with the woods.

  • Finder of Things
  • Shaper of wood
  • Binder of knots
  • Wildlife Tracker
  • Fire Bender