About the Living Earth School

Our Mission

The Living Earth School is dedicated to renewing our connections with the earth, caring for the earth, and building healthy relationships with nature, self, and community.

Support the Mission

The Living Earth School is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to connecting students with nature, themselves and community.
FEIN: 38-4169577

LES EIN 501(c)(3) official
Virginia nature

The Classroom

The Living Earth School is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia, outside of Charlottesville. We are in the Chesapeake Bay, James River, and Rockfish River watershed. The Blue Ridge are some of the oldest mountains in the world, once as tall as the Himalayans, and now the rounded tops and ridgelines around us rise about 4000’ above sea level. The mountains are rich with medicinal plants, wildlife (including bobcat, bear, coyote, deer, owls, etc) and some of the highest diversity of amphibians in the world. There are rock outcrops to explore, creeks to follow, and mysteries that keep pulling ones curiosity further. We use two sites, a camp facility in Sugar Hollow for our summer camp programs and our base camp in Afton.

About Our Logo

It symbolizes to us the opportunity we have on this earth and the vision for our school. The turtle symbolizes the earth itself. Within the turtle’s back is an acorn, the seed that lies within all of us. If that seed has a good home, nurturing, support and the opportunity, it can grow into the grandest oak tree ever seen. And we know that if humans are given the opportunity, their gifts will take root and be shared with the community.

Our Philosophy

At Living Earth School, we aim to teach a holistic balance of skills to help the students understand their place in the natural world, their role in the community, and finally a better awareness of their passion and vision for life. We use coyote mentoring in our nature-based approach to help people connect with their place and to deepen their relationships. Coyote encourages us to break out of old habits of awareness, and to see nature with fresh eyes. The mentor ideally guides from behind the scenes, opening up the edge-stretching curiosity of each person, and their fascination to learn more. Then the mentor can step out of the way, and let nature teach the rest. It aims to develop more passionate and alive human beings that are actively engaged with life. In time, mentoring uncovers the gifts of creativity and power that lie within each individual.

Our curriculum is nature based, developing naturalist skills, survival skills, animal tracking, edible/medicinal plants, and understanding the language of birds. We ask lots of questions because it nurtures self-sufficiency. We utilize core routines that help students more fully immerse in nature, with all their senses. The benefits to the student are the excitement of discovery, a real connection with animals and plants, and a sense of belonging.

In ancient times, coyote mentoring happened as a sort of “invisible” school. Elders would ask questions, tell stories, send the kids out on a mission to fulfill a community need, and build on experiences so that the children had a deep understanding of their place and their role in the community. It was done in a way that children gained a deep breath of knowledge, but never really knew that they were learning while it happened. That is our goal at Living Earth School, we want the experience to feel like a wild, unplanned adventure, that is full of passion and discovery.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At the Living Earth School, we value and honor the biodiversity of nature, which extends to humanity. The natural world we use as our space to host programs and our program participants are interlinked: we strive for the protection and harmony of both entities.

Although nature is thought of as a great equalizer, we recognize that nature is not equally accessible to all, including but not limited to those individuals with learning differences, varying physical abilities, in the BIPOC community, and in the LGBTQIA+ communities.

We are committed to a culture of inclusivity and connectedness through including diverse voices, perspectives, and backgrounds across all areas of our organization through our participants, staff, and board members. We are stronger together when we prioritize opportunities to address real and perceived barriers that exclude people from nature and nature connection.

We have identified the following areas as barriers and are actively addressing:

  • Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training using an equity lens

  • Establishing community partnerships with other organizations

  • Programming & participants

  • New & current programming

  • Participant grant/scholarship
  • Community building

  • Program location, accessibility, and maintenance
  • Reparations & acknowledgements

We seek to create a “village community” where everyone feels safe and welcomed, because nature loves diversity, and so do we!

Who is Living Earth School

Visit the staff page to learn more about us…

Living Earth Staff