The Journey Begins

A taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Kindergartners Exploring Ellwood Mesa

Author: Colleen Million

I am a recently retired elementary school principal and school teacher of 21 years. As a principal I implemented a restorative approach to discipline, school-wide empathy practices and parent education classes on English language acquisition, health, food/nutrition/gardening, empathy, and restorative justice. As an elementary school teacher I was intentional about designing units of study for students in grades Kindergarten-6th grade that focused on developing healthy self-esteem (SEL) through a thematic project-place-based constructivist learning approach with an emphasis on the Ethical Trinity, “Taking Care of Yourself, Taking Care of Each Other, Taking Care of This Place.” The Ethical Trinity became the guiding principle in the work that I did with students and families, which supported the values and modeling that I expressed in my interactions with children and thus created a safe place for learning. Whether students were out on Ellwood Mesa coastal bluffs exploring the natural habitat of the flora and fauna or back at the school site, tending the Monarch butterfly garden, feeding the worms, collecting eggs from their chickens, or harvesting crops in the garden, the ethic of care was intentionally woven into the instructional tapestry. I also dedicated years of service to land preservation, which culminated in the Saving of Ellwood Mesa, an overwintering site for the Monarch Butterflies in the school’s backyard on the Ellwood Bluffs in Goleta, CA. I recently retired as the Co-Director of Teacher Education at Antioch University, Santa Barbara, where I supported and mentored teacher candidates, taught social science methods, and nature-based early childhood curriculum courses.

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