Rewilding People and Places

Friends of The Naturalist School,

Donations make The Naturalist School possible. We see those with whom we walk, plant, study, and create as collaborators in rewilding people and places in a time of global environmental crisis. We rarely charge for our services or require tuition for our workshops and retreats – only asking for energy, creativity, curiosity and a spirit of openness. But we do need funding.

 I have included a list of some of our current activities. We hope to grow all of our programs – with your help. You can make a donation by clicking on our Donate and Join Us page. Your generosity is appreciated!

Wilder days,

Jack Phillips

Earth-house retreats: Days of contemplative, walking and writing centered around nature writing – most often poetry – from the rich diversity of the human community. We draw heavily on the work of Indigenous, African-American, and marginalized peoples and to them we add our own voices to the wild and colorful cosmos. 

Collaboration with landowners and conservation agencies in Iowa and Nebraska to develop strategies for self-sustaining native ecological communities, including the careful and measured use of prescribed fire, and mitigating human impacts.  

Backyard ecology: Helping homeowners plant and preserve native trees and create backyard nature centers that support birds and pollinators, and to eliminate pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and other toxins and to reduce irrigation and emissions.

Native tree preservation and regeneration: Our members collect seeds from wild populations for restoration projects and to supply our native nursery co-op. We focus on oaks and other rare and threatened species. We are currently germinating Loess Hills white oaks and a bur/white hybrid from southeast Nebraska, an extremely rare butternut ecotype from southwest Iowa, and sacred pre-settlement Pawnee bur oaks with our co-op partners.

Ecospirituality and ecotherapy: We provide opportunities and space for people of all walks to grow in intimacy with nature, and for therapists and practitioners to explore the meaning of their work in wild nature in the local and global context of environmental crisis. 

Residency program: Several days of solitude in a rustic cabin for artists, poets, writers, to find a wild space to create. Our residents serve as leaders for our retreats and share their work with TNS members and friends. Our residencies are open to active TNS members and contributors. 

Wild Arts events: In winter 2023 we will begin a series of public presentations of poetry, film, photography and art created by our members during our gatherings and residencies. Waubonsie State Park will be the venue, and opportunities to walk and celebrate the rich seasonal ecology of the Loess Hills. 

Sacred Hoop ecology: We support the preservation of a sacred Pawnee site through work days, sacred plant propagation, and helping tribal members to identify and collect medicine plants. We also collaborate with the John J. Neihardt Center for Black Elk workshops, retreats, and Sacred Hoop Garden.

Saunters and Days of Shack Simple: Weekly small-group contemplative walks in wild places and days of quiet reflection and celebration of the wildness within. Open to anyone seeking wild silences and growing curiosity. 

Artists in Residence and UNO MFA: In collaboration UNO Master of Fine Arts, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Amplify Arts, and the Union for Contemporary Art, TNS sponsors retreats and other opportunities for artists to explore and engage their work in native ecosystems. 

Native Arboreta and outdoor classrooms: Over the years we have planted native trees and other plants with students from local schools and universities to create vital habitat and teach earthwise rewilding methods. In 2023 we will continue to plant our ongoing projects at North Omaha’s Prospect Hill Cemetery (we started planting the arboretum in 2005) and the Old Market Arboretum (in 2009), in addition to an outdoor classroom at Brownell Talbot School. 

Citizen science: We are currently or have recently participated in ecosystem monitoring, biotic surveys, native seed collecting, and butterfly and bird censuses, partnering with Creighton University, Iowa DNR, Audubon Society, Loess Hills Alliance, Golden Hills RC&D, and Harrison and Pottawattamie Conservation Boards and USDA Forest Service. Our members are currently working with biologists from Creighton on monitoring a distressed waterway in Fremont County, Iowa, and our ongoing surveys continue in Iowa and Nebraska. Our collected specimens contribute to the UNL and ISU Herbaria. 

Photos By Robert Smith and Betiana Simon (tadpoles).