About Our School
All human beings have the basic needs of shelter, water, fire, and food. Native American Indian ancestors, and ancient ancestors from Africa, Asia, and Europe, lived close to the earth using skills and knowledge perfected through direct experience and direct teaching from elders. They met their basic needs and lived well using the gifts Nature provides.
These are the skills we practice and teach at Coast Live Oak School. They are time tested skills that enable a human being to be at home on Earth, in accord with the needs and limitations of the Earth and the ecosystems that support us.
We integrate history so that we can remember how things change, and to remember the great struggles, great achievements, and great hopes of the diverse cultures from which we have come.
We integrate ecology so that we can understand the needs of the trees, plants, animals, insects, and micro-organisms who support us and enable us to breathe, eat, and enjoy the gift of life.
The skills and knowledge that allowed our ancestors to live close to the Earth, in accord and in partnership with Nature, is a deep and ancient connection that all human beings share.
Amy and Mark co-taught the Weekly Home School classes together from 2010 to 2021. Amy is a dynamic artist and a force of creative energy!
She shaped the vision of Coast Live Oak School in many direct and subtle ways.
Since June 2021 Amy has dedicated herself fully to her career as an artist. You can see some of her art and keep up with her doings at:
I have been teaching in classrooms and outdoors since 1993, and have dedicated myself to understanding many different approaches to teaching and learning. I have been learning and practicing native and ancestral skills since 1996, and teaching them since 2004. I love learning and teaching native and ancestral skills because they are a way for us to connect very directly to plants and animals, to other people and cultures, to our own ancient ancestors, and to the living Earth.
I am very interested in how we as human beings learn and create meaning and connection in our lives… especially how we connect to nature and wilderness.
The first wilderness I ever explored, and the first wilderness that nearly ate me, was the Pacific Ocean. Our coastline is a vast wilderness.
As I explored our local deserts, mountains and rivers, I found more wildness and mystery.
I understand what it is like to truly be at home here in Southern California... to know the histories, the hidden stories and the secrets of small things; to understand the connections between things that others might overlook. I am always excited to learn and understand more about this place, and to share this learning experience with others.
My academic background is in history and archaeology.
My most important teachers have been and continue to be:
-My mother and father
-The love of my life, Amy
-And, of course, the great living Earth
Joseph Campbell, through his books, interviews, and recorded lectures on myth and world religions. Joseph Campbell is one of my earliest influences. When I was a teenager his books taught me to see the intricacy, interconnection, and deep understanding in myths, religious stories, and cultural stories from all over the world.
Gary Snyder, through his books, poems, and essays on ecological awareness. Gary Snyder showed me that many of myths and stories I learned about through reading Joseph Campbell were coming from our ancestors’ deep experiences of ecological awareness and living with nature.
Marija Gimbutas, through her books, essays, and research on ancient pre-historic European cultures. Marija Gimbutas has totally unique perspectives and ideas, based on years of meticulous research in archaeology and pre-history of the area now called Europe and Turkey. She brings us beyond the imperial march people think of as European history to an older, more ancient, longer lasting culture that had deep connections to nature and flourished in Europe and Turkey for thousands of years before the Greeks and Romans.
Martín Prechtel, teacher, founder of Bolad's Kitchen school, and author of Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Long Life, Honey in the Heart, The Toe Bone and The Tooth, and Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun. Amy and I have attended Bolad’s Kitchen together for four years. Bolad’s Kitchen is about cooking and feasting in a truly indigenous way… with magnificent, hand-made shoes, chairs, tables, rugs, pottery, clothes, stories, songs, poems, praise, and deep comprehension of and gratitude toward ALL the guests!
Tom Brown Jr., teacher, author, and founder of the Tracker School. Tracker School classes are intense… I completed the Standard Class, Advanced Standard, Advanced Tracking and Awareness, and Children of the Earth Teacher Training. Tom Brown is a passionate teacher and totally inspired me to go home and DO everything he taught in class.
Jon Young, teacher, founder of the Wilderness Awareness School, and creator of The Kamana Naturalist/Seeing through Native Eyes program. Jon has created many excellent learning communities that are alive and vital. The Wilderness Awareness School is one of these learning communities; their classes are great. My experience taking the 6 Day Wilderness Walkabout course, going into central Washington State with just clothes, a water bottle, and a knife, was life changing. There are people who think that wilderness skills can or should be learned by oneself, alone in the wild, with guidance from a master, the goal being TOTAL “self-sufficiency”… the Wilderness Walkabout convinced me that being in a small group with several teachers as elders and guides is a more effective, more healthy, and more relevant approach.
M. Kat Anderson, through her research and books on the indigenous people of California and their relationship to the land. Her books include Beyond the Wilderness and Tending the Wild. These books are a great way to get to know the native cultures of California and their deep and subtle understanding of ecology.
Paul D. Campbell, through his book Survival Skills of Native California. Great Book! Buy it and make everything in it!
Helen de la Maza, colleague, local teacher and curriculum design consultant. We all have living inspiration in our own lives and in our own community.. Helen is this for me and many teachers here in Orange County.
First Aid Certification:
Wilderness Medicine Institute/National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)
Wilderness First Responder
BA in History
University of Redlands
Course-work focused on pre-history and history of the indigenous peoples of present day California.
Also completed upper division courses in ancient and modern Chinese history, ancient and modern Japanese history, and ancient and modern Middle East history.
Teaching Experience and Curriculum Development, starting with most recent:
Currently: Curriculum Consultant and Instructor, School Garden programs, Tustin Memorial Academy Public Elementary School, Tustin, CA. With the support and collaboration from parents and staff, I wrote the curriculum for and then implemented the Water in the World 5th grade program, Life Cycles in the Garden 2nd grade program, a 2nd Grade Worm Composting program, a 4th grade Hot Composting program. All these programs take place in the school garden, and align with CA state standards for science, math, and language arts.
Currently: Creator and lead instructor of Ancestral Skills Camps, teaching students ages 7-18 to how to meet their basic needs of shelter, water, fire, and food using indigenous skills, their own innate genius, and natural materials around them.
2010-2013: Bolsa Chica Jr. Stewards Coordinator. The Bolsa Chica Stewards and Junior Stewards--the Restoration Team of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust--have been restoring the natural habitat on the Bolsa Chica Mesa since 1995. In cooperation with the California Department of Fish & Game, the Bolsa Chica Stewards have planted over 25,000 drought tolerant, native plants at the Bolsa Chica Mesa with the help of more than 8,000 volunteers from 80 different schools and community organizations.
2008-2011: Curriculum Consultant, Archery in Schools Program, California Dept of Fish and Game
2007- 2010: Director of Programs and Lead Instructor: Earthroots Field School, Trabuco Canyon, CA. Taught students, trained instructors, and designed curriculum for outdoor ecology and wilderness skills programs at wilderness parks and education sites around Orange County.
2005-2009: Guest Instructor: Environmental Nature Center, Newport Beach, CA. Created and taught the Ancestral Skills Camps for students ages 7-14.
2007: Curriculum Consultant: Teacher Training Curriculum Development and Implementation, Inside the Outdoors Teacher Training Program/OCDE, Orange County, CA. Created and taught classes to public and private school teachers and outdoor educators showing them ways to use outdoor locations like school gardens, parks, and nature reserves to teach academic lessons aligned with CA state standards.
2005-2007: Naturalist, Lead Naturalist, and Traveling Scientist: Inside the Outdoors, Orange County, CA
2005- 2007: Tutor Grades 6-12; Essay Writing, Critical Reading, Grammar, English Language-Arts: Smart Start Academy, Mission Viejo, CA
History Teacher: Grades 7 and 8; The Pegasus School, Huntington Beach, CA
Ameri-Corps VISTA: (One year of full-time national service within the United States.) Supervised 15 Ameri-Corps Volunteers in academic after-school program for at-risk students, grades 1-6. Santa Rosa, CA. Through this program I participated in a community mural project workshop at Precita Eyes in San Francisco, and facilitated the creation of mural with 65 elementary students to commemorate the first Cesar Chavez Day in California.