Wellspring Nature Schools sprouted from thousands of unknown and known teachers-students-ancestors and the great mystery of life :) On a more finite level, it grew out of Ashley's dedicated commitment to being a apart of creating education that support children in living life in a way that deepens their capacity to grow up as kind and caring people in this time of great beauty, change, and suffering. 

As a child she dreamed of being a teacher and always loved taking care of others. She spent many hours in the back yard, mixing up "perfumes" with smashed leaves and sitting on top of dirt piles. She was only fourteen years old when she got her first job in childcare. She immediately fell in love taking care of children and started on her path of work and study. 

Over the last twenty years, she has worked as a childcare provider, teacher, and infant development specialist. She has come across many teachers and collaborators that have informed her way. Her practice integrates wisdom from many frames of thought including Waldorf, Forest School, Attachment Theory, Somatics, and the 8 Shields model. Her formal education has included a BA in Child Development, an MA in Early Childhood Mental Health, and a certification from the School for Body-Mind Centering. 

She is looking forward to inviting more family and teachers into Wellspring over the next few years!


Summer Camp Collaborators

Effie Rawlings

Core Facilitator

Effie grew up homeschooled, in a family of farmers and woodworkers, with the Mojave desert and Illinois corn fields as her classrooms.  Her interest in education, Agroecology, and community organizing was catalyzed by her family’s experiences farming seed, her time serving as Cryptologic Linguist in the US Army, and her introduction to processes of decolonization at Sisonke School, South Africa. 

While completing her degree in Social Work at UC Berkeley, Effie's interests found a nexus at the Gill Tract Farm, where she joined the 20-year struggle to protect the land for community benefit. Today, she farms and organizes events there, and is delighted to deepen her relationship with some of its youngest farmers by teaching with ELF.  

Effie also organizes internationally with the Friends of the MST (Landless Workers Movement). She lives in South Berkeley, where she has shared in a 25 person housing Co-op for the last 10 years.  

Effie is always watching for ways to bring herbalism, music, Spanish language, Agroecology, and collective decision-making into her days with ELF.

Vian Xu

Core Facilitator

Vian was raised in a typical Chinese family, which means they spent most of their life in an academic pressure cooker. The difficult experiences Vian had in the classroom inform their interest in alternative education. In 2011 Vian graduated from UC Berkeley with double honors in two majors. They have spent the intervening years plunging off the beaten path, into the worlds of grassroots activism and DIY art in the Bay Area. 

As an activist they have been most involved in land and housing struggle, and homelessness advocacy/support.  They are passionate about teaching social justice through art, storytelling, and community building. 

Vian has been working in education since the summer of 2016.  They have worked for Trackers Earth (a wilderness school), Five Creeks Studio (an un-school/forest-school), Decolonize Academy, and Peace Out Loud (a summer camp).

Vian believes that "Learning" and "Play" are one and the same flame! They are so grateful to be surrounded by families and teachers who are also committed to a spirit of play. 


From Parents!

"Our experience with the nature school was extremely positive.  Our son had always had a hard time being at daycare so we were concerned he would have a hard time joining Ashley's class but her love for children is so evident that right from day 1 he felt completely at ease.  Every day he would return from nature school with a huge smile, singing songs, interacting well with other kids and pleasantly dirty from learning about nature. It was an extremely positive first impression for our son of what a teacher can be and what a learning environment can feel like."

Bruno, Oakland

This group is a way for the kids to play connect with the outdoors in all weather, even on days when I want to stay inside. My boys absorb Ashley's love and respect for nature and for each other. Ashley understands who my kids are and where they are at developmentally, and she uses that to tailor activities and projects that best suit them. Because of Ashley's group, my kids can identify wild plants and their usages, and have a love of the earth that goes beyond what I could pass to them.

It's hard to describe how kind and gentle Ashley is with my boys. She is my role model on how to parent respectfully. When I struggle as a parent, I go to her for informed and respectful perspective and suggestions. When I see my boys acting with kindness and empathy, I know Ashley helped foster it. We are grateful to have her in our lives.

Eliza, Berkeley

Ashley is awesome. She is attentive, respectful, and authentic in her communication with the children. I appreciate her encouragement of the kid's connection to nature as well as her listening and responding to the emerging curriculum.  Highly recommended!

Bronwyn, Berkeley