Woolman Semester takes studies to Bay Area | TheUnion.com

Woolman Semester takes studies to Bay Area

Berkeley – How do you build a culture of peace? Students and teachers from the Woolman Semester School, located in Nevada City, travel to the Bay Area this week to find out.

A semester program for high school juniors, seniors and gap year students, who hail from all over the country, the Woolman Semester School is the only semester program to explicitly teach peace. Peace studies is one of the three core classes offered as part of the curriculum at Woolman.

In this class, students are asked to read and evaluate stories told in popular culture and examine how these common cultural narratives can contribute to a climate of violence.

“Throughout the class the students will learn how to step into the roles of culture creators and tell a new kind of story, one of peace,” said peace studies teacher Grace Oedel.

“It is exciting to see how storytelling in different forms can positively impact people.”

— Jacob Holzberg-Pill, environmental studies teacher

With the Bay Area as their classroom, the students are going to the sources of where culture is created. They are hearing from and working with various authors, songwriters and journalists who are using words to represent voices and themes that are rarely heard in mainstream narratives.

“It is exciting to see how storytelling in different forms can positively impact people,” said environmental studies teacher Jacob Holzberg-Pill.

This week, the students saw poetry slams, wrote songs, participated in workshops with writers such as political journalist Bob Burnett and Rachel Reynolds, author of “Four Seasons for Charlotte,” and filmed mini-documentaries about Berkeley.

This type of experiential learning lies at the heart of Woolman’s education. It is a way for students to engage with the course material both inside and outside the classroom. They return to campus empowered to tell their own stories that will contribute to a culture of peace at Woolman and beyond, said the teachers.

The Woolman Semester School at the Sierra Friends Center is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to the stewardship of diverse learning communities and educational programs, which weave together spirituality, peace, sustainability and social action.

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