Earth-Based Wisdom

Background and Structure

The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it.  It is not possible to save the world by trying to save it.  You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place.  Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge.  The offering of that gift - your true self - is the most you can do to love and serve the world.  And it is all the world needs.
-- Bill Plotkin, Ph.D.

These are challenging times. We stand on a precipice where our future will require courageous actions and an expansion of consciousness unprecedented in human history. We are called to stretch our latent capacities and illuminate life supportive possibilities for our species and the earth. This is why I am emerging from my comfortable cave of retirement to guide teens as an elder to facilitate this EARTH-BASED WISDOM program.

This pilot program is being designed to provide a guide for healthy teen development. Part of that adventure involves helping our young people gain an understanding of earth's broad-based ecological processes, as well as deepening feelings for the earth and it's life. These naturally evolve through our practice of ecological restoration. In the process of healing the earth, we heal ourselves.


EARTH-BASED WISDOM is a program rooted in ecological restoration that will provide a framework for teens to not only discover their unique place in this world, but also expand their human potentials in service to themselves, culture, and the web of life.

Level One involves ecological restoration and immersion in the natural world, with tasks worth 100 points – all outlined in a Guidebook/Journal. Opportunities for completing the activities and earning the points will be available throughout the year. Participants get their completed tasks initialed by a guardian. The Guidebook/ Journal will be available in the St. Louis region through a sponsor organization, in hopes of attracting young people who resonate with the idea. Participants completing the Level 1 requirements will be honored with EARTH-BASED WISDOM Level 1 certification.

Level Two is the heart of the program. Level One-completed candidates submit an essay for a paid summer experience.

Students will earn $15.00/hour for 6 hours each weekday, to continue restoration practices while re-sourcing ancient wisdom and re-configuring it for the twenty first century in order to activate dormant mind/body potentials. This experience is designed to provide a framework for them to see themselves as the Hero of their own story. These participants will learn and practice tools to deepen their understandings and experience.  As a reflection of our adventure, we may write and publish a small book about our insights during the program, and perhaps send one to each supporter

“These loaded times question the essence of who we are, and what we value most. It's time to cross the threshold of traditional thinking and respond with even larger, more thoughtful questions and insights. Each person's task is now to grow his or her capacities to match the challenges; and turn insight into action. -  Jean Houston PhD

I intend to bring to the table the highest quality and most powerful processes and practices from my many years of sourcing and discovering deeper understanding, including those from Dr. Jean Houston, and Dr. Bill Plotkin, both visionaries of our time. Attention will also be given to the Institute for Earth Education program design template.

Although we have been taught that the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest reins supreme, the reality is that nature operates, to a far greater extent, on cooperation from the smallest to the largest toward value fulfillment at every level. This is where my attention is directed as EARTH-BASED WISDOM is co-created.

The activation of this program will depend on sponsor organizations and funding sources.


Level 1 achievement is worth 100 points

  • 5  - Collect seed
  • 5 - Process and screen seed
  • 10 - Prepare a bare ground site and plant seeds
  • 10 - Seed flats for greenhouse growing
  • 10 - Plant plugs out in a restoration
  • 15 - Remove invasive plants
  • 10 - Immersing techniques
  • 5 - Relating
  • 10 - Solo spot (first time)
  • 5 - Solo spot (second time)
  • Broad-basd Ecological Concepts
    • 5 - Energy flow
    • 5 - Cycling of materials
    • 5 - Interrelationships that change through time

(Completion of Level 1 is required prior to applying for Level 2.)

(with Level 1 graduates)



Craft the following within it:

  1. Continue restoration processes
  2. The "Heroic Journey"
  3. Begin practices that expand consciousness and human potential
  4. Be attentive to Bill Plotkin’s NATHS (Nature and the Human Soul) development wheel for adolescence (Stage 3) – be sure its tasks are complete as well as those of earlier stages:
    • Stage 1: Care of innocence
    • Stage 2: Discovering wonder of the natural world
    • Stage 3: Creating a secure and authentic social self

The following principles provide an important structure as the group moves through the EBW program. Being constantly mindful of them will help us co-create a high quality and powerful experience.

  1. Be fully in the present moment
  2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
  3. Tell the truth without judgment or blame
  4. Be open, rather than attached to, the outcome



The objective of the Heroic Journey Program* is to provide a challenging experience for adolescents in a supportive community context with the guidance of caring adults during several weeks of activities that address five main areas:

  1. social
  2. psychological
  3. physical
  4. intellectual
  5. moral/ethical

The program’s activities are structured appropriately enough to be conducted in a public institution, and they culminate in a Rite of Passage Initiation and Celebration.

This program views early adolescence as a heroic journey that all young people are called to take because of physical and other changes they are experiencing. It also serves as a guiding force to normalize the sometimes frightening major life changes teenagers face and provides a map to help navigate the treacherous twists and turns the road may take. The Heroic Journey Program helps young people see their lives as an adventure. They are each the hero of their own story and face life’s challenges with courage and satisfaction.

Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, notes that much of human experience tends to follow a similar pattern that he names the hero’s journey. Simply stated, heroes start as innocents who are unexpectedly called to meet their destinies. Those who answer the call must travel through trials that challenge them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are often helped along the way by allies who assist them. They may confront ogres that guard gates, which they will need to immobilize. Eventually they reach their goals, receive the boons or rewards for which they have traveled, then returning home they share the treasure and are celebrated for their accomplishments.  Campbell believes that if these experiences are not supplied through myth and ritual, they could easily emerge as neurosis and negative behavior.

The Heroic Journey, A Rite of Passage Program © 1996, 2nd Edition, 2001.  Anne Bruetsch, Joelline Jaffe, Marilyn Nikimaa Patterson, and Louise Sample.  Authorization granted by the authors to Gary Schimmelpfenig to present this program.

Cultural change that is positive, naturally emerges as a result of healthy individual development, because mature people visualize culture through their own actions. Individual health and cultural health create each other.

 "The times of great change and remarkable opportunity are upon us. To succeed we can no longer go it alone, but must partner with one another to share innovative and creative ways in which to rethink and restructure our individual existence within the context of our expanding global communities. To do this requires a heightened awareness, an awakened sense of purpose, and a dedicated commitment to actively seek out the possible." -- Jean Houston

"Restorationists are part of the most important environmental movement in history. Ecological Restoration evokes emotion, speaks of optimism, and involves an act of imagination and power."  - Bruce Babbitt, Sec. of Interior - 1998

Line art drawing
drawing by Gary T. Schimmelpfenig

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