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

The EARTH-BASED WISDOM (pilot program) is being designed to provide a template for healthy teen development. Part of that adventure involves gaining 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 practices of ecological restoration.

EARTH-BASED WISDOM Levels 1, 2, & 3 (pilot)

EARTH-BASED WISDOM is a program rooted in ecological restoration that will provide a framework for teens to not only discover their unique mission and purpose, but also expand their human potentials in service to themselves and culture.


This template is flexible enough for most to facilitate. Level 1 achievement is worth 100 points

  • 10 - - Collect seed, process it and bag it
  • 10 - - Plant flats and plant the plugs out
  • 10 - - Remove exotic, invasive plants
  • 10 - - Prepare a site and plant seeds
  • 20 - - Broad-Based Ecological Concepts (energyflow/cycling of materials/interrelationships)
  • 10 - - Immersion – Solo time/magic spots/ reflection (developing feelings for the earth and life)
  • 30 - - Twenty four hours at Earth Mirrors Meadows (our high quality habitats), to include restoration experiences at Don Robinson State Park, or twenty four hours at Shaw Nature Reserve.

Each site leader would create and facilitate exciting learning experiences to draw their teens into participating and completing.

(with Level 1 graduates)


The “Heroic Journey” Template

Craft the following within it:

  1. Continue restoration processes
  2. Begin practices that expand consciousness and human potential (Jean Houston)
  3. 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 program minimum requirements are:

  • 36 essential lessons requiring 44 days with each lesson taking a 50 minute period (ideally 70 min)
  • a one or two-day Rite of Passage Ceremony to be held outside of gathering time.

The opportunity for this program may have to be created within the Green Teen Network. It could fit into a daily hour-long lesson within the June/July (40 days) + first week of August (5 days) paid work session. 

* 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.


Step into partnering with the universe as a conscious co-creator manifesting “Individual calling/Soul” work in culture.

The framework of this program is based on the work of two of the most visionary elders of our time, Bill Plotkin and Jean Houston.

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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