Episodes

  • In the olden days, before the internet, when you ran a workshop or a skills class or wild foods program, you could usually skip the student evaluation forms and questionnaires.  Participants just 'got the experience' and that was the deal.  There wasn't any trolling, or review bombing, because there were no online reviews.  You might get a letter, if people felt a certain way about your offering, but often times it was something positive rather than negative.

    In 2024, however, outcomes and evaluations matter.  We have a lot more opportunities to connect with our students, and understand the class from their perspective, and it's a whole new world.   

    Quite frankly, it's a much better world.   

    The simple truth is this:  The more we ask, the more we know, and the faster we can get better at what we do.

    This episode is a quick dive into understanding the importance of understanding our metrics, gathering data, self evaluations vs outside assessment, setting our own goals and best of all, how they can help make us better educators.

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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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  • It's one thing to have a 'vision' or idea that is inspiring and exciting and full of hope and promise.  It's also a WHOLE other thing to actually bring it into the real world, grounded and fully expressed and achieving outcomes.

    When we take that leap into the unknown, it's scary, risky, stressful and even wonderful; a lot of intense emotions all rolled into a kaleidoscope blender that most of the time, we are not fully prepared to handle.

    Sometimes, we even have unexpected 'inner barriers' that show up, with hesitation, procrastination, tangible fear in sharing something from the heart, rejection sensitivity and anxiety.  These inner challenges are no joke, and they can stop our visionary work in its tracks if we don't figure out how to navigate and work around them.

    In this episode, we explore these issues and more, with an emphasis on solutions and strategies that can help us keep going.

    Forest Educator Bonus Content Page:
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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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  • There are literally piles of research about the benefits of contact with nature for human beings, and most of the time, we think of 'forest experiences' primarily for children.  Monica Eastway shares her work with people who are in their 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's, and why nature is vital for this segment of our community.   She shares stories of how nature experiences improve the quality of life for those in managed or skilled care facilities, and her quest to facilitate change 
    as a true paradigm shift for ALL of us.

    We discuss some of the work that's being done in the Netherlands, Finland and Esalen, CA, and the impact that nature can have for families and people of all ages.  Her vision includes helping our American fear of 'growing old' and seeing the aging process with grace, self acceptance and even joy.

    Monica's website:   https://www.monicaeastway.com/

    Monica's LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/monica-eastway/

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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  • Ever since I was a kid I was always fascinated by the concept of 'time'.   

    I know I am not alone, because it's a pretty popular theme over the last four decades or so.  Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle In Time was one of my first steps into a different world.  The time differences in the world of Narnia was pretty interesting!  Then came the wildly unexpected Time Bandits and the fun of Back to the Future. The Time Lords and Dr. Who.  The resetting of time in Edge of Tomorrow high stakes battle for Earth.  Hot Tub Time Machine.  The compression of time in Interstellar and Inception.  HG Wells' The Time Machine.  Groundhog Day.  The Time Heists of Avengers: Endgame and the TVA of Marvel's Loki were some of the more recent forays, but there are literally tons of shows like Quantum Leap, or Travellers, or The Umbrella Academy and yes, Outlander....

    I'd like to believe that time travel is possible but it's probably not, at least, not in the way that these shows seem to depict it.  However, there are some situations and experiences that I have had in my forays into nature and leading groups that have broadened my understanding of time and its paradoxes and oddities and gifts, so, I figured we better talk about it!

    No hot tubs required!

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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
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  • If there is a defining moment for nature education in the past five years, it always seems to be found during the Covid Pandemic.  It was in this time that we see major shifts in the way we work, teach, learn and grow, as it accentuated the many changes that children, youth, families and adults were already showing prior to the coronavirus, and virtually all nature programs felt the effects.   

    In this episode, Jason Knight of Alderleaf shares how his organization responded to these forces, and how his program and community has pulled together to find ways to thrive in an ever-evolving world.  He launched some online programs, and even wrote a great book called 'The Essential Skills of Wilderness Survival', while also running lots of local programs and raising a family.

    Sometimes, we are all forced to 'embrace' change, whether we like it or not, but Jason's gifts have allowed him to take it to the next level.  It's a great conversation that can benefit anyone running nature programs, and gives us a little 'behind the scenes' feeling at times as we explore many relevant topics along the way.


    Website:   WildernessCollege.com

    Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/alderleafwildernesscollege

    Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/alderleafwildernesscollege/

    LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/company/alderleaf-wilderness-college/



    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
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    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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  • There is one thing that is certain in our world, whether or not we 'believe' in climate change, and that is that our lives and the lives of our young students, is going to change.  A lot.  

    Being adaptable, fluid, responsive and creative are key necessary ingredients to have if we want to be able to handle change in a positive way.  Most people struggle with even minor changes in their lives, especially when we have no control over what is happening.  It can be debilitating and anxiety producing and managing that kind of response is difficult for everyone.

    This is where nature education can be literally life saving for our students.  

    By giving them skills that help them manage their mental and emotional health, we are giving them an advantage over those who struggle to 'hold it all together'.   Giving them problem solving skills, communication skills, awareness and gratitude, we lay a foundation that they can build a life from, even in a world that our own grandparents might not recognize.

    The importance of nature educators in this context is vital to the long term survival of our species and I believe it will have a powerful impact for those students and parents who understand the stakes and are willing to invest in their child's welfare in both the short term and 'down the road' thinking.   


    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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  • I've always been able to quickly tell the difference between someone with years of actual hands on experience in bushcraft, nature skills or crafts, from those with just a little.  It's seen mostly in the way that skills are presented, or how the preparation is put in, or in the choice of words in a social media post or photo description.  When four or five tiny things begin to add up, I start paying attention, and then it becomes obvious.  When I first began seeing Nick Hulley's LinkedIn posts, I saw this phenomenon in spades.

    In this episode, Nick shares the width and breadth of a life lived hand in hand with nature, through teaching, living, practicing and working day in and day out.  He's used natural elements in conservation and forestry, and considers himself a 'Social Forester', which is a term I had never heard before.  He also shares a wealth of experience in witnessing the origins of the current Forest School model as it evolved and grew in the United Kingdom, and how the current iteration of today's thousands of educators and schools are making an impact, one child at a time.

    LinkedIn:      https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-hulley-91854b1/

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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  • Some Forest Educators seem to create amazing program and organization names effortlessly, with titles that evoke strong feelings, qualities and almost magnetic pull that draws in people excited to participate.   

    Some of us have to work REALLY HARD to get names that are 'fair' or serviceable, after a long process and hours of crystal ball gazing.   

    The fact is, finding a great name is both an art AND hard work, and it's something that takes a bit of intuition, luck and even a group of friends working a process to make it a little easier.  

    This episode dives into several factors that come into play as we explore organization or individual program names, and outlines a process I've used for years that helps make it a little easier for those of us who aren't marketing or communications professionals!

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
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  • In a small town in Texas near Fort Worth, there is a program that seems to do everything.  On the surface, they seem like a typical summer camp, but they do so many other special things that serve the local community:  Bereavement camps.  Project Wild education.  Fishing & Angler Education.  Private Retreats for Adults.  Off Season School Groups. Wilderness Survival or Science Themed Summer Camps (day and overnight). Alumni Programs. (This list goes on and on.)

    Jen Smith is the Vice President of Outdoor Connections at Camp El Tesoro-Camp Fire First Texas, and she and her staff continue an over 90 year legacy of serving their community with outstanding nature based programming.   She and her team work incredibly hard to craft experiences that are relevant to today's youth, adults and families in a variety of capacities, which is needed now more than ever. 

    Camp El Tesoro is a great example of an organization that is committed to being willing to grow and change while still keeping the traditions and experiences that are time tested and transformational.

    Professionals like Jen don't seek the limelight, and spend the bulk of their days in the hot Texas sun, doing the work without fanfare, and making a difference, all with the enthusiasm and passion of a first year CIT.  

    Connect with Jen:
     LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/smithjen/

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
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  • When it comes to nature awareness and personal awareness, I've found it useful to see and perceive it in a few different ways.    Sometimes I see it in a mythological or 'rite of passage' perspective, and other times, I see it more from an 'awareness and perception' perspective.

    In this episode, I share some of the stages of awareness my campers, or students or staff have gone through in their journey into the world of nature, and how we all balance our lives in the Known and Unknown worlds, and sometimes even into the 'Unknowable' realms for which there is almost no descriptions.

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

    Linkedin:
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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    https://www.facebook.com/RicardohawkSierra

  • When we remove all of the 'non-teaching stuff' that surrounds our profession, we educators are left with an opportunity- to connect with the 'still maturing' mind of our young students.   We can have all the trappings and bells and whistles and laptops or digital projectors or classroom props and decorations, but if we don't have the ability to make a real, personal, one on one connection to these human beings, we won't really have a positive, lasting impact.  Wendolyn Bird shares from her decades of experience working with very young children, parents and also other educators, and we dive into what it takes to deeply engage and 'lead' an early childhood program in a way that is soothing, stimulating and energizing.

    Wendolyn discusses ways to connect with children that meet them in ways that help them grow, which is crucial to achieving the goals we have as educators or parents.   Listening to her stories makes me wish she had been MY preschool teacher, too, because she is both wise AND fun.  The bonds we make with emotionally safe adults is incredibly important and soothing to us as children.  Learning these skills is a profound game changer for us as educators and for our students, which is sorely needed in today's rapidly changing world.

    Connect with Wendolyn:
    Website:   https://wendolynbird.com/
    Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/wendolyn.bird
    Instagram:   https://www.instagram.com/wendolyn__bird/

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
    https://patreon.com/ForestEducatorPodcast

    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

    Linkedin:
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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  • There is no question that being in nature is 'healing' in both a practical and therapeutic sense, because this has been demonstrated in an impressive list of nature focused studies by researchers in several different countries from reputable academic institutions.   

    In this episode we dive into the different 'layers' of healing, from several different perspectives, and discuss how nature education can have significant positive impacts on both adults and children.   There are a lot of different ways that people experience healing, on the physical level, emotional and mental health levels and when they appear in our programs, it can be difficult to know what to do if we are unprepared or unaware.  

    My own journey and experiences with healing, both traditional, modern or alternative have helped me to understand some basic principles that have helped both me and my staff throughout the years.    Our world and humanity needs all of the healing we can get, on all levels, and this topic is one that can offer some hope for us all.

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
    https://patreon.com/ForestEducatorPodcast

    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

    Linkedin:
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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    https://www.facebook.com/RicardohawkSierra

  • When we remove all of the 'non-teaching stuff' that surrounds our profession, we educators are left with an opportunity- to connect with the 'still maturing' mind of our young students.   We can have all the trappings and bells and whistles and laptops or digital projectors or classroom props and decorations, but if we don't have the ability to make a real, personal, one on one connection to these human beings, we won't really have a positive, lasting impact.  Wendolyn Bird shares from her decades of experience working with very young children, parents and also other educators, and we dive into what it takes to deeply engage and 'lead' an early childhood program in a way that is soothing, stimulating and energizing.

    Wendolyn discusses ways to connect with children that meet them in ways that help them grow, which is crucial to achieving the goals we have as educators or parents.   Listening to her stories makes me wish she had been MY preschool teacher, too, because she is both wise AND fun.  The bonds we make with emotionally safe adults is incredibly important and soothing to us as children.  Learning these skills is a profound game changer for us as educators and for our students, which is sorely needed in today's rapidly changing world.

    Connect with Wendolyn:
    Website:   https://wendolynbird.com/
    Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/wendolyn.bird
    Instagram:   https://www.instagram.com/wendolyn__bird/

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
    https://patreon.com/ForestEducatorPodcast

    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

    Linkedin:
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

    Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/RicardohawkSierra

  • There are so many powerful learning elements that are part of the expansive topic of 'Food', it's hard to know where to start.    When it comes to nature based learning, campfire cooking and 'hearthcraft', we can start with campfire circle design, hardwood vs softwood firewood, cooking utensils and the like.   Or we can just jump right into the cooking, and get our flavor receptors firing with more traditional methods and means.   We can even go full foraging style, to include gathered berries, teas or nuts, with plant identification, storage and preparation experiences too.

    I've seen the transformation that happens when someone tastes black birch tea sweetened with maple syrup for the first time, or bites into an acorn pancake slathered with chokecherry syrup.    Clay baked butternut squash stuffed with nuts, dried fruit, and lots of savory spices will make even the most reluctant vegetable eater suddenly become willing to try a slice!

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
    https://patreon.com/ForestEducatorPodcast

    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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    https://www.facebook.com/RicardohawkSierra

  • This episode explores the powerful role that communication and visibility skills play in the overall long term success of our nature programs.    It's not a reach to say that they are absolutely essential for us to master, and they are also the skills that we probably are the most reluctant to practice.      Nature Educator April Zajko M.Ed. and I dive into these concepts and we share stories about our own journey as visionary business leaders and how we learned important lessons the hard way over the past few decades.

    Social media, written newsletters and blogs, video content and public speaking all form a 'communications ecosystem' that gives us all many ways to connect to our potential students, each with their advantages and disadvantages.   We discuss some of the many ways to achieve our goals if we are willing to let go of our fear, have a curious mind, are willing to learn from failure and persevere!

    Visibility & Advocacy Workshop Link:    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-power-of-visibility-advocacy-for-nature-based-educators-registration-878507909807?aff=April&fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAR2WxncUdJe5adelA1Y5YArBCfj_-B9ecyT725l8Bd5qIMI5SZfzAPQIP4A_aem_AYvfUzHx6HXHfWbOAhqTCuNKE99ZM2q65r9VHNNIU9TPJP0Yk0iXH7YupIUvcunxcIt1f1hdntgGFFMns0m_lcnf

    Connect with April:
    https://aprilsteachingtree.com/
    Nature Inspired Teacher Facebook Group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1843474542616408
    Website/Courses:   https://aprilsteachingtree.mykajabi.com/links

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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    https://www.facebook.com/RicardohawkSierra

  • The problem with 'awareness' is that it is 'on' even when we would prefer it wasn't.    Once we open that capacity, it helps us see the world in new ways-both the beautiful and the painful.

    In addition to noticing the incredible birdsong or wildflowers, we also see the trash littered across the landscape, or the ragged destruction caused by wanton development.     We know the joy of our personal refuges, and the agony at seeing them defiled by those who don't understand or know what makes them unique.

    It's a weight that we all carry, and one that our students will also, eventually.   In this episode, we explore this phenomenon and consider ways that can support us all.

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
    https://patreon.com/ForestEducatorPodcast

    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

    Linkedin:
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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  • I have a penchant for the term 'Unsung Hero', because I believe it's an accurate assessment of so many of us 'nature educators' who plug away at their work, day in and day out, rarely getting accolades or even credit for their contributions to the field.     I'm going to use it again here with this episode's guest, because he's earned it many times over through the decades of his innovation, free thinking and constant effort.    

    Tom Elpel has authored many books and written countless articles for wilderness publications and primitive skills journals, including one of his most renowned book "Botany in a Day",    Tom has inspired me and many others to live simply, with minimal lasting impact on the earth, and he's modeled these principles for decades in his home region of Montana.

    In our conversation, we talk about his recent canoe trip using a dugout canoe down the Missouri River, and hear about his adventures along the way.   We talk about our work, and what it's like to teach and practice nature principles as part of a growing nature movement filled with wonderful young people.    


    Website:      https://www.greenuniversity.com/

    Classes & Courses:    https://www.elpel.info/Programs_and_Classes.htm

    YouTube:      https://www.youtube.com/user/thomasjelpel

    Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/Thomas.J.Elpel

    Instagram:       https://www.instagram.com/thomasjelpel

    LinkedIn:          https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomasjelpel/

    Botany in a Day Book:    https://www.hopspress.com/Books/Botany_in_a_Day.htm


    Connect with Tom:
    https://www.elpel.info/

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
    https://patreon.com/ForestEducatorPodcast

    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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    https://www.instagram.com/the_forest_educator_podcast/

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  • After doing fifty interviews with incredible educators and also fifty solo 'spotlight' episodes, I thought it was worth a moment to share some of my biggest 'aha' moments, surprising discoveries and also where this podcast might be going in Year Two.       Doing two episodes a week has been an honor and a privilege, and also exhausting at times, too!    I am not sure how I managed it, some months, but I'm very glad I did!

    The field of nature education is growing exponentially, and there are a lot of important elements to discuss as we move forward to help children and adults find their way in this constantly changing world.   Our grandchildren are counting on us to get things right, and this is a path with honor and purpose.    

    Special thanks to everyone who is listening.    You are all keeping me going, and I appreciate you all!

    Join the Forest Educator Patreon!
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    Connect with Ricardo:
    https://www.foresteducator.com/
    https://www.theforestboxforkids.com/
    https://www.hawkcircle.com/

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    https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-sierra-5980931/

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  • It's never easy to be 'the first' in a pioneering effort.  There is always a constant push to communicate the value, and the need, and the positive outcomes to people who may not even know they are missing out on something amazing and important.   

    Each generation that follows has it a little easier, because they are arriving and standing on the foundations that the first pioneer laid, for the benefit of future generations of students and educators.

    For the past four years, Carol Sanchez has established the Rizoma Communidad Educativa, which is a Forest School based in Quita, Ecuador.  Her emphasis on the importance of family involvement, students with special needs and abilities form the basis of our conversation, which was helped greatly with her son as translator.  

    It was a joy and an honor to hear her story, and share her vision, and it's one that I believe will stay in our hearts and minds for a long time!

    Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/p/Rizoma-Comunidad-Educativa-100064045991860/

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  • I've always been drawn to areas that are desolate, open and devoid of human presence, and this episode explores the power of our desert landscapes through my own stories and experiences.     Deserts are far more than sand and cactus, and most people speed through them as fast as humanly possible.   There are gifts to be found if we learn how to approach these unique places in ways that change us inside forever.

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