............ Programs


Wilderness Way has activities for every grade level that involves math,
science, art, and poetry. WW recently supplemented Montessori’s Native
American studies and will provide a Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program in
the spring. Students will observe, monitor and keep an elementary journal.
Middle School will have a similar program at a significantly more advanced
science level, including use of a video-flex. They will also create a film
documentary beginning with the egg pick-up at the hatchery. We have winter
field trips to the Larsen Preserve, San Geronimo Creek, and Taylor Park to
observe coho salmon spawning and sometimes sight a stray chum or chinook.
We use the San Geronimo Valley watershed model to better understand our
interrelationship with our environment.

NATIVE AMERICANS Wilderness Way has activities for grade levels K - 8. These are hands on projects that help children understand how Native people lived and what we can learn today from the harmonious way they coexisted with nature. Our plan is to create a village model, similar to those at Kule Loklo and Chawsee and then build a real model village in or near the Larsen Preserve where skills, games, dances, and stories can be taught and enjoyed.

Students used their knowledge about coho salmon (including chinook and chum), steelhead trout and Valley and marine sanctuary watersheds from class lectures, activities, projects and field trips to seek out the best and little known salmon sites in the tributaries of the Valley’s watershed leading to San Geronimo Creek. This creek runs the length of the five mile long San Geronimo Valley. It is 20 miles from the mouth of Tomales Bay and the National Sanctuaries. Students worked in teams of two and each team had a camcorder. Some students concentrated on marine life while others documented wildlife and the riparian habitat. The student’s film was shown to all Middle School classes and at Open House. It was entered in the Marin County Fair film competition.

Wilderness Way staff’s consistent use of the Native American flute on field trips, calling the wild coho salmon back to their home stream in the fall and sending them on a safe journey in the spring has resulted in a popular elective class for Middle School students with an exciting change. Each child will sand, finish, personalize and assemble their own flute from "pre-tuned flute kits." These Stellar Flutes "kits" produce quality flutes that professionals use in concerts today! The original American instrument, from trees and reeds, influenced by the wind, played by humans, capture melodious sounds that call us back to nature. The flute instructors will guide the students to honor the flute, through history, story telling, art, and field trips. Each flute has its own song, as each student has their own song. The students will learn how to creatively express their personal song with their hand crafted cedar flute and play -- the Wilderness Way!. Classes are held on the land for inspirational compositions.

Flute instructors Tina and Paul Berensmeier

Wilderness Way partnered with Tomales Bay State Park and participated in the well known Environmental Living Program inspired and developed by retired ranger Carlos Porrata. It can be experienced only by entering a lottery and participating in a two day teacher training workshop in the fall where teachers and volunteers are provided with the tools to teach children about Native American traditional culture. WW brought many Native American artifacts and described their use at the workshop. WW taught these skills to the Montessori 4th/5th graders and then, in the spring, simulated that life in a two day overnight experience on Indian Beach at the park.

Wilderness Way uses the Marietta Larsen Memorial Preserve as a dynamic out-door lab. We identify and study plants, birds, fish, and animals. We teach children how to use their eyes and ears differently than they do in the classroom. Our outdoor studies become science and frequently art and poetry projects. We teach survival techniques.

Wilderness Way continues to restore and maintain the Preserve’s trails, creeks, riparian habitat and regularly cut back poison oak. We have built a tracking box in a trail which allows the children to make plaster casts and learn to read the story the wildlife tracks tell. WW is creating a Field Guide for the Preserve, collecting work done by teachers and environmental groups, and initiating the studies needed to create a Guide that will include information about native plants and their uses, birds, salmon and steelhead trout and other wildlife. Grant funds from NOAA has allowed Wilderness Way to do additional work with Middle School math students to measure speed and volume of Larsen Creek and interpreting and making predictions from the results.

Wilderness Way has made several films documenting environmental projects in the classroom and in the community. Students not only assist but are creating their own environmental films. As part of their Community Out Reach program, Wilderness Way is also documenting Valley elders telling their stories of living in the Valley.

Wilderness Way sponsors Community Service projects with Lagunitas Middle School students and Sir Francis Drake High School students that includes plant care and habitat restoration, creek cleanup, Salmon crossing sign cleanup and repair, releasing Chinook at the Romberg Center and assisting a the Salmon Run, a benefit for Wilderness Way programs. Students also help with preparing supplies for craft projects, cleaning incubators, folding instruction sheets, etc.

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Wilderness Way has an exceptional library and collection of native artifacts it uses in its instructional programs.

School Programs and Community Out Reach
Wilderness Way recently received third year grant funding for the 2008-09
school year from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to
continue existing salmonid and watershed programs and projects in the
Lagunitas School District, create a comprehensive K-8 program, expand
partnerships to benefit school and community and provide staff development
opportunities as well as supplies and equipment.

Wilderness Way has been teaching about coho salmon, steelhead trout and the Valley’s watershed in the Lagunitas School District since 1999. Every year Wishing Poles are made to Call Back the Salmon -- and sure enough the salmon come back year after year.

Wilderness Way received third year funding from NOAA to continue the program
described in the 2006-07 year below.

Wilderness Way received second year funding from NOAA to continue the program described in the 2006-07 year below.

This school year, due to the generosity of a grant from NOAA, WW was not only able to continue its existing program of science, art and literary activities, outdoor adventures, and field trips but, in cooperation with school district teachers, completed a fall program in the Montessori and Waldorf programs -- the first steps toward creating an articulated curriculum about salmonids and the Valley watershed at each grade level from K to 8th grade.

Students walked Larsen Creek in the Preserve in September while it was dry and got a pretend ‘fish feel” of how water impacts the creek and riparian areas. Together we walked through the tunnel that merges with San Geronimo Creek and imagined being a salmon struggling to get up a terribly designed culvert to get back to the site where it was born. We made discoveries about native plants (Do you know why poison oak is called “The Love Bush?) and native birds and spotted a few nonresidents in this special forest.

We watched the extraordinary WW film Crouching Heron, Jumping Salmon that gave the students the opportunity to see local salmon jumping the stepped pools at the Inkwells; the display of male and female behavior and their last acts in the spawning process. We took this information and utilized it in appropriate grade level activities. Kindergartners, learned to use their eyes and ears differently in the forest and next to the creek. First graders practice stalking skills and imitated birds. Second graders studied the tracking box and learned to tell the stories tracks tell and identify what animals come and when and why. Third graders made a unique accordion book of he salmon life cycle and learned not only about where salmon are born but where they live the greatest part of their life before returning home to spawn and die. All students got to see the watershed model of the San Geronimo Valley and find where they lived but it was the 5th graders who ran the Thorner ridge and experienced the watershed by running the ridge and searching and finding the headwaters of Larsen Creek. (This will give readers a sense of the fall program)

And while the primary grades in Montessori and Waldorf were having these
experiences WW was teaching a Middle School Elective - Secret Salmon Sites. WW divided the class in teams - each with a camcorder. Following basic instruction they were given the assignment to film different aspects of the life and habitat of a wild coho salmon. The raw footage is unique -- humorous, serious, educational -- and very diverse. The edited film will be shown to the Middle School student body and at Open House.

OUT REACH 2008-09

This Circle is a gathering of parents and adults interested in Native
American flute. It grew out of the interest and popularity of Paul's native
American Flute elective in Middle School. Come and play creatively in a
space adorned by local art work. We will support one another through solo,
duet and group work. No prior experience is necessary. Open to all --
listeners, beginners and advanced. Bring a flute and friend. No flute? No
problem. We have extras. Paul has 15 years flute experience He and Tina
studied with world renowned flautist R. Carlos Nakai. Class is ongoing and
held the first and third Monday each month from 7 - 9 pm in the Valley Room
at the Community Center. Fee: $10 donation appreciated at the door. For
more information contact Paul or Tina at 415-488-1964.

Once again, Wilderness Way provided an exhibit, activities and ceremony for
children and adults in preparation for the release of 10,000 chinook salmon
into Sausalito Bay near the Romberg Center in cooperation with the Tyee
Foundation. Two months later over 1,000 chinook fingerlings were released
into Richardson Bay in cooperation with the Tiburon Salmon Institute, Casa
Grande High School, Girl Scouts and Trout Unlimited.

August 2008
San Geronimo Valley Community Center

This fun-filled outdoor festival was a benefit for the San Geronimo Valley
Community Center and featured a showcase of "eco-music", diverse acts, a recycled art show, organic, local food and engaging workshops. Prior to the opening of the Festival a ribbon cutting ceremony for the solar panels that will serve the school was held. Paul played his flute honoring this critical and healthy connection with the environment to address energy needs.

During the Festival Paul performed selections on the Native American flute from his forthcoming CD "Valley Songs" inspired by his runs and hikes in the San Geronimo Valley. Berensmeier teaches flute to children at Lagunitas School and is well-respected for his skills and unique teaching style. He had a Wilderness Way booth giving children and parents a mini-lesson on flute playing.

Paul recently passed the world renowned flute player R. Carlos Nakai¹s
stringent ability test, on the first try, and was elevated to Teacher's
Assistant at Nakai's world famous Renaissance of the Native American Flute
Retreat 2008. Paul joined others in a large outdoor concert with the
celebrated flute master. He has had performances at the Community Center
and elsewhere and also plays the silver flute with the San Mateo-based, 28
member, Magic Flutes Choir. Berensmeier is a founder of Wilderness Way, a
Valley based environmental education organization.

OUT REACH 2007-08

Marin County Fair - Displayed student projects in the Aquatics Themes Pavilion. WW’s film Crouching Heron, - Jumping Salmon was reedited, narrated and selected for viewing at the Ocean and Bay Film Festival at the Fair.

Chinook Kiss - WW provided an exhibit, activities and ceremony for children and adults to participate in the release of 10,000 chinook salmon into Richardson Bay. They joined other partners which included Tiburon Salmon Institute, Casa Grande High School, Girl Scouts, Trout Unlimited.

Salmon Run - A 100 yard dash and 5K for all ages was held under the redwoods along Lagunitas Creek, home to wild coho salmon, in Samuel P. Taylor Park. An organic pancake breakfast and hand made awards were provided with proceeds to benefit WW programs.

Second Annual Environmental Art Show - WW joined partners San Geronimo Valley Community Center, Valley Artists Advisory Committee and Steward of the Mighty Oak to honor significant oaks of the San Geronimo Valley and beyond, with an exhibition, performance and educational presentation by 37 artists, musicians, poets, educators and naturalists

OUT REACH 2006-07

First Annual Environmental Art Show - WW honored 13 San Geronimo Valley artists who make their living by doing art work inspired by the Valley environment. the Art Show was the center piece of the first staff development session. Students took tours of the show with a WW docent.

Film Festival - Documentaries of interviews of two elders telling about their life in the Valley as well as a film of a life long resident describing his environmental adventures over the years.

Park St. Bridge - WW coordinated with the County of Marin and helped students and adults from the community install native plants at the new arched culvert in Woodacre. This project was documented in the WW film, “Park St. Bridge.”

YouthGive - WW joined other select non-profits that were featured in the Inaugural Edition of YouthGive's Guide to Giving in Marin..

Cub Scouts - Provided Cub Pack #1 from Mill Valley with a salmonid program that included, a film, Calling Back the Salmon with wishing poles, visiting the Inkwells , visiting the fish ladder at Roys Pools and the new fish friendly culvert at Woodacre and finishing with a tour to see spawning salmon in Lagunitas Creek.

Wishing Poles at the Inkwells - Placed 100 wishing poles made by students of the Lagunitas School District to Call Back the Salmon. Also available on site was a brochure with instructions as to how to make a wishing pole and information about wild coho salmon.

Salmon Tours at Lagunitas Creek near the Inkwells - Although the rains were few and far between the staff of WW spent four days each week during December and early January giving docent tours to locals and tourists alike along the trail between the Inkwells and the Peters Dam spillway.

County of Marin Kid’s Day at the annual 4th of July County Fair. Project:
WW provided Native American Indian games, pump drills and craft supplies to
create shell/bead necklaces. Displayed watershed model of the San Geronimo
Valley and film documentary of Lagunitas School students building the model.

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Past Programs


In 2006 the Montessori PTA requested participation in the WW program. Instructors followed up with requests for experiences as part of their Native American studies program in the fall and the Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program in the spring.
• All four classes visited the WW center and learned native American games, the use of the pump drill, and created a bead necklace. (See above). 5th graders used the extensive WW library to study specific California tribes.
• 3/4th graders participated in the Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program for
9 weeks. Each child made aquarium observations and created a “scientific” journal to record their notes and sketches. They also did scientific drawings and supplemented their Journal with creative drawings of steelhead. The culmination of the program was returning the fry to their natal stream -- a field trip to Salmon Creek in Sonoma County. Each child received an award certificate for their participation.


• For the 5th year both 7th grade classes participated in the advanced level of the unique Steelhead-in-the-Classroom program. Their exceptional “scientific” journals emphasized anatomy and physiology. A student film crew documented and participated in editing the film which included egg pickup, classroom lectures and journal studies, fry release at Salmon Creek, an art mobile project and displays at the Middle School Open House. A student music crew created and played the music for the sound track.
• 6th graders began the documentation and study of the Woodacre Creek day lighting project to be implemented in cooperation with the County of Marin during the summer and fall. They are in process of documenting the “before” film shoot of the area and developing wording for a sign for this historic project. (See grants below).
• WW worked with the 7th grade teacher to provide art mobiles and the student film documentary as part of the Open House exhibit.
• Community Service: 8th graders cleaned and repaired salmon crossing signs in Taylor State Park that had been made by students in 2003.
• Elective: Secret Salmon Sites. This popular elective took students to unique areas throughout the Valley.


The instructors in the 3/4 and 5/6th grades Open Classroom program requested
activities and experiences related to Native American studies . These activities included:
• Native games: Pin and hoop (5 levels); pin and ring; staves, dice and acorn tops. Most children became quite skilled. Some made a few games at school or at home.
• Pump drill: Each child learned how to use the native pump drill and learned to drill holes in wood and shells to create other objects.
• Cordage: Each child learned how to make two ply cordage. They created cordage of their shell/clay bead necklace. 5th and 6th graders make 2 to 8 ply cordage charts.
• Tracking: Children went to the Larsen Preserve to clean and repair the tracking box. This was used to observe and identify wildlife tracks and learn the stories tracks tell.
• Native Plants: We collected and identified native plants from the San Geronimo Valley and learned the Miwok name and the use of the plant by native people. We put the plant specimens in old shoes, labeled them and created a Native Shoe Garden.
• Sweat Lodge: Children made scale models (2) of a native sweat lodge. WW
invited a native elder to direct us in building a full-size native sweat in the traditional way which was used by 5/6th graders and the 40 children visiting from France.
• Children did drawings of the games, pump drills and sweat lodge which were included in a book given to the French children.


• WW participated in the Community Center sponsored LSD Art Show with drawings, mobiles, salmon crossing signs, booklets and fish journal.
• WW had a booth in the BAEER fair and was invited to do a teacher’s
workshop on building a watershed model. 17 teachers attended.
• WW was commissioned to build Native American games to be used for display at the Grace Hudson museum in Ukiah.
• WW is collaborating with the CC garden/nutrition instructor on planning
future projects of mutual interest and of benefit to the school children and community.
• WW is seeking ways to reach the broader Valley community with the WW

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Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. William Butler Yeats