The Open Space Council Blog


Live-blogging from the Harvest Gathering

November 20, 2014


Wow, what a turn out and what an amazing event yesterday.  There was energy all over the room and relationships and collaborations forming right before our eyes.  Although the drizzle and rain didn’t let us out on the patio to enjoy our lunch, they sure didn’t put a damper on the event.  We heard over and over that there might not have been a group of people anywhere who could have been more thankful for the much needed precipitation.

The distinguished attendees
The distinguished Jose Gonzalez
The distinguished speakers

More pictures are waiting for you on Flickr.

A huge thanks to our speakers:

We also want to thank ChangeScale for partnering with us on this Gathering. And our deep thanks to our sponsors: Environmental Education Funders Collaborative, Coastal Conservancy and Kaiser Permanente.

There was a lot of great participation from the audience in the room yesterday, and even more online at hashtag #OSC1120.  Take a look at what some people were saying on Twitter:


Stay tuned as we continue to upload photos from the event.  Keep posting your own pictures, updates, and feedback from the event to #OSC1120 on your favorite social media.

We’d love to see you at our other events, which you can find more about here.



12:01pm: Okay, that’ll do it for the live blog.  Jenn has freed us for lunch. Check back in for the post script, where we’ll upload photos from the day and anything else we may have missed in the heat of the moment.

11:56am: “People participate in all different ways.” -Jenn Fox

We’ve seen these partnerships and collaborations being successful over and over again.  We’ve even tracked the progress that’s been made through the Conservation Lands Network Progress Report.  Take a look at the progress that has been made in the individual counties with high quality printable posters here: Progress By County.

11:54am: To wrap things up we’ve got Jenn Fox, the Open Space Council Executive Director up on stage.  She’s thanking the speakers and audience for coming today and really participating in the topics that we’ve discussed today.

11:48am: Q: Susan Silver – Green School Initiative “Are there any innovative approaches you’ve used to get your stories out there?”

A: Chris Overington – Hidden Villa “The Hidden Villa Board of Directors came out and pretended to be loggers, the kids had to write persuasive letters to convince the “loggers” not to log the trees.”

11:42am: Q: Elizabeth Babcock – Cal Academy “We’ve transformed our planet so much that farms and working lands are one of the biggest ecosystems we now have. How do we combine with Alison talked about and what Jered is doing?”

A: Jered Lawson – Pie Ranch “I was watching Alison’s presentation and thinking, man, we need to have a bio blitz on the farm!!”

11:40am: And that was the last of our speakers and presentations.  We’ve got José González back to moderate our Q&A session.  The theme today seems to be that each and every partnership deserves a whole day’s worth of presentation and discussion, but it’s great to be able to get an overview of everything that’s happening.

11:37am: They’ve created a CSA-like model with Google employees and their cafeteria, and taken it to the next “CSA 2.0” level.  The important part about this partnership is that it was built to be scaleable.

11:35am: Google began the partnership with Pie Ranch with the idea of an “innovation lab for food experience”.

11:27am: Jered Lawson – co-founder and Executive Director at Pie Ranch – is now up on stage and we’re getting his video set.  We’re celebrating what Jered calls the first agriculturally significant rain of the season. And we’re watching this video:

This is who Jered is, if summed up in a very short paragraph: Jered Lawson is a co-Founder and co-Director of Pie Ranch, an educational farm on the southern coast of San Mateo County. Before starting Pie Ranch in 2003, Jered worked with various organizations in the Bay Area that share a common goal of influencing the way people relate to themselves, each other and the land around them through the development of healthier local food systems. Jered helped start Pie Ranch’s youth education and new-farmer training programs in 2005. He leads the organization’s regional advocacy efforts, joins in farm operations and raises support for the social change work of Pie Ranch.


11:23am: Highlights from Chris’ talk: 

11:19am: Chris from Hidden Villa said there are three key barriers to getting people connected with nature. These barriers are well documented and researched, but still we haven’t been able to collectively overcome them. They are:

11:18am: Chris describes three ways of thinking about schools and nature:

11:15am: We’ve now got Chris Overington – Executive Director at Hidden Villa on stage. Here’s his bio:

Chris Overington held the position of Hidden Villa Director from 1994 to 2004 when he assumed the position of Director of Programs & Community Partnerships and in 2007 stepped up as Executive Director. In this new role Chris’ long-term service to Hidden Villa and extensive background in experiential education, curriculum and program development, and a strong commitment to children’s education is invaluable. Prior to coming to Hidden Villa Chris worked for five years in teaching positions at Nature’s Classroom and Life Tech Ventures (two outdoor teaching programs in Massachusetts). Chris holds BSc and MSc, from the University of London, and has completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, University of Sussex.

11:12am: The California Academy of Sciences is working with a bunch of great partners on so many cool projects. Here are some highlights from Alison’s talk:

11:07am: Alison Young , the Citizen Science Engagement Coordinator at the California Academy of Sciences is now up talking about citizen science. Here is her presentation:

Connecting People to Nature through Science – Alison Young on 11/20/14 from OpenSpaceCouncil


Here’s Alison’s bio. She is the Citizen Science Engagement Coordinator at the California Academy of Sciences, where she and her colleagues involve thousands of everyday volunteers in documenting and sustaining biodiversity everywhere. Alison sits on the steering committee for the national Citizen Science Association and is also co-chairing their inaugural conference in San Jose in February 2015. She is also the founder of the Bay Area Citizen Science Coalition, which brings together local citizen science groups to achieve broader biodiversity research and education outcomes. Alison has spent time as an outdoor educator in the Santa Cruz Mountains for elementary school youth, and prior to coming to the Academy, led a coastal monitoring citizen science program for high school students. She has a Masters in Marine Biology from Humboldt State and a Bachelors in Biology from Swarthmore College, and loves that citizen science combines her passions for research and science education. In her free time, you can find Alison hiking, kayaking, and geocaching in our local parks and open spaces.


11:02am: East Bay Regional Parks District is also working with Park Prescriptions in conjunction with Healthy Parks Healthy People.  Carol is giving “a shoutout to Dr. Nooshin Razani! A tireless advocate for nature and health.”

10:59am: Healthy Parks Healthy People has seen a lot of success throughout the Bay Area.  There have been monthly hikes throughout the nine counties on every first Saturday with hundreds of people participating each week. Here’s a video we just watched:


10:50am: Now we’re welcoming Carol Johnson from East Bay Regional Park District to speak about their Healthy Parks Healthy People program. Here’s her presentation:

Connecting people to nature through personal health – Carol Johnson on 11/20 from OpenSpaceCouncil


Here is Carol’s bio: Carol is Assistant General Manager at the East Bay Regional Park District, directing public affairs, communications, community relations and fundraising strategies across all business sectors. Carol has served as executive public affairs and fundraising council to several well-known agencies during her twenty-five year career, including the Mayor of Oakland, Mervyn’s and Target Stores, and currently East Bay Regional Park District. She also has executive experience leading non-profit management and development with Volunteers of America and the Regional Parks Foundation.

A Bay Area native with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from University of San Francisco, Carol has an extensive list of professional affiliations and awards, including membership in the Public Affairs Academy, affiliated with the Haas School of Business, U.C. Berkeley for Fortune 100 Public Affairs counselors. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the California Roundtable for Recreation and Tourism and chairs its Economic Impact Committee. She also is on the Executive Committee for the East Bay Economic Development Alliance and chairs its marketing committee. Her community involvement includes serving as a Founding Board member to Edubase, Inc., a non-profit mentorship program connecting youth to assist community organizations.

10:47am: “Yours Truly” postcards as part of the exhibit: “We weren’t sure how people would respond. It’s been 7 weeks and 20,000 postcards have been written and sent.”

10:45am: Sounds like they had a great turnout on social media as well.  Take a look at #aiweiweialcatraz for public response.

10:40am: Kate asks, “Have you been to Alcatraz?” Surprisingly, everyone’s hand goes up.  Then, “Did you only go because you had from someone from out of town visiting?” and most of the same hands are back in the air.  Interesting that many Bay Area and San Francisco natives don’t visit Alcatraz on their own.

The Ai Weiwei exhibit was a great way to continue their tradition of engaging artists to solve problems and collaborating with new and upcoming artists to make place specific art.  It was also a great way to bring locals to Alcatraz who may not otherwise have visited.

10:35am: Kate Bickert is back, now speaking as Director of Park Initiatives and Stewardship, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. She’s talking about the Ai Weiwei exhibit on Alcatraz. Here’s the presentation with a ton of great photos:

Connecting people with nature through art – Kate Bickert on 11/20/14 from OpenSpaceCouncil

10:25am: José Gonzalez from Latino Outdoors has just been introduced as the moderator for today’s event.  He’s helping to set the context for our day’s event and how his organization is working toward similar goals.

José G. González is an educator with experience in formal and informal education in the arts, education, conservation, and the environment. He has broad experience as a K-12 public education teacher, environmental education advisor, outdoor education instructor and coordinator, and university adjunct faculty. He received his B.A at the University of California, Davis, and his M.S at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment. He also holds a CA single-subject teaching credential in Social Stuidies.

His recent work is founding and developing Latino Outdoors. Latino Outdoors is a growing community as a network and volunteer-run organization. Latino Outdoors exists to “connect cultura with the outdoors.” The focus is on promoting a network of like-minded professionals, supporting outdoor leadership capacity-building opportunities for youth and young adults, and serving as a storytelling platform for defining the ambicultural identity connecting Latino communities and the outdoors.

You can connect with José G. González on Twitter @JoseBililngue, @Green_Chicano, and

José is introducing the rest of the talented speakers who make up today’s panel:

10:20am: Applause is now bringing up Kirk Anne Taylor, ChangeScale Director. ChangeScale is a collaborative in the 12-county SanFrancisco and Monterey Bay areas working to advance the cohesiveness, effectiveness, and prominence of the environmental education field. Prior to joining ChangeScale, Kirk Anne served as the Urban Conservation Manager forThe Field Museum in Chicago, developing environmental education programming, facilitating teacher professional development, and supporting student-led, conservation-action projects. While in Chicago, she served as the chairperson for the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, a bi-state consortium of over 40 government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations. Kirk Anne was also a leadership team member of Chicago Wilderness’ Next Generation of Conservation Leaders Working Group and the Chicago Wilderness Education Team. Kirk Anne holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Illinois Chicago, a Bachelors of Arts in English from Hendrix College, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

10:15am: And we’re off! Kate Bickert is opening the show for us and talking about how we’re celebrating our 24th anniversary this year:


It took a few minutes to get this awesome crowd seated.  Even with the drizzle and rain outside, we’re packed to the gills in here and love how many people were able to attend this sold out event!

10:00am: Good morning! Welcome to the Harvest Gathering of the Bay Area Open Space Council! We’re here at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley with a great line up for you. Here’s what we’re going to talk about.

There are many ways to start an experience in nature. We swing open gates at trailheads. We step from the concrete onto dirt to enter a park. We access farms and ranches at farmers markets, grocery stores, restaurants, and u-pick days. For another kind of experience, we walk through doors at environmental education buildings like life sciences museum and nature centers where we learn about and interact with the natural world in a different way. The entry points to nature in the Bay Area are as infinite and as diverse as the human population here. Behind all of the entry points is a network of organizations and agencies that care deeply about connecting people to nature and all of its beauty and mystery.
In partnership with ChangeScale and with generous support from the Environmental Education Funders Collaborative, Kaiser Permanente and Coastal Conservancy, our Harvest Gathering will focus on these questions: How can we open the doors and gates to more Bay Area residents? How can we partner with organizations doing similar but different work? What are some best practices and replicable ideas?
Our speakers will be:
  • Jose Gonzalez, Latino Outdoors, will moderate
  • Kate Bickert, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy – bringing artist Ai Weiwei to Alcatraz
  • Carol Johnson, East Bay Regional Park District – leading the way with Healthy Parks Healthy People
  • Jered Lawson, Pie Ranch – partnering with Google
  • Chris Overington, Hidden Villa – working with schools to get kids outside
  • Alison Young, California Academy of Sciences – using citizen science to connect people

Today on the blog we’ll provide a play-by-play, share presentations, post photos and more. We’ll also be Tweeting (@BA_OpenSpace) and Instagramming (@bayareaopenspace) from #OSC1120 This is Annie Burke and I’m sitting next to our talented Communications Intern, Trevor Rice. We’ll do our best to bring it all to you. Refresh often!