The California Field School’s mission is to take youth on adventure learning bike tours exploring social and environmental justice. Our approach of combining active travel with educational opportunities for high school students creates life-changing experiences for our participants.
The California Field School (CFS) is dedicated to telling a story of California that centers indigenous Californians, and a story that reflects the experiences of our program participants, almost all of whom are youth of color, and who come from first-generation immigrant families. On all of our trips, we prioritize building relationships with the people native to the areas we pass through.
CFS connects California’s wilderness with underrepresented youths' homes by mapping an impactful route between the two: mile by mile. This outdoor experience allows remote places to feel accessible and grounds them in the connectedness of all living things – eliminating barriers by uniting youth with nature.
Our trips are hands-on learning opportunities - participants are not reading about California’s history – they are in it, and they are writing the story through their lenses. By understanding the impact of how people and systems have shaped the environments we pass through, participants learn about how they can make choices to protect and preserve the well-being of the planet.
WHAT WE DO
CALIFORNIA FIELD SCHOOL
We partner with groups and communities who otherwise wouldn’t have easy access to adventure learning programs.
From day one, we treat our program participants as people with the abilities and capacity to do what most people think is impossible. We give them tools – bikes, clothing, equipment, training, and food - and use “building blocks” in skills acquirement to build familiarity with cycling and confidence in their own capacity to succeed.
"No matter how you feel, no matter who you are, you can do amazing things - you just need to put in the effort."
2019 California's Changing Coast - Bike Tour Participant
HOW WE DO IT
We organize rides for community partners who already work with specific groups of youth with the goal of creating a safe, supportive container for participants to challenge themselves, think about the world, and grow together.
Working with Oakland public high schools, we organize experiential learning bike tours for academic credit.
This monthly ride series for girls and gender non-conforming youth explores the indigenous history and gender justice in the Bay Area. The series culminates with a 5-day bike tour in April 2020.
WHO WE ARE
FOUNDER AND CO-COLLABORATOR
Nora loves nothing more than exploring the world via bicycle, and she has been organizing bike tours since 2007, when she rode across the country by herself on "Wanderlust: A Coast to Coast Exploration of Politics, Sex, and Culture." She has a Masters degree in Political Engagement from New York University, and she is dedicated to building political power and engagement in marginalized communities.
She has organized a variety of social justice oriented trips, including a 6 week trip from Seattle to San Francisco with the Beehive Design Collective to publicize their narrative mural “The True Cost of Coal” and a week long trip from Chicago to Detroit with over two dozen social justice activists to attend the United States Social Forum.
Working in collaboration with the Spoke N’ Heart Collective, she developed a Bicycle Leadership Training to train activists to organize and operate social justice bike tours. She worked for three years in Croatia and California leading biking and hiking trips for Backroads, an active travel company, and she was the regional manager for Backroads Yosemite trips.
From 2010-2018, Nora was involved as a Board Member and Staff Collective Member at Cycles of Change, an organization dedicated to connecting young people with the natural world through bike education and outdoor adventures.
DIEGO ARMANDO ARANA
Diego Armando Arana is a capoeira, a practical/touring/commuter/educator cyclist, and a parent who loves combining his passions! He went on a fifteen-month bicycle tour from Berkeley CA to Bahia, Brazil to spread the word about capoeira and meet others in the capoeira community. Most recently he helped lead a California Field School's bike tour that guided 25 of East Oakland's youth on a 320-mile life-changing experience powered by their will.
In addition to working at the California Field School, Diego is a bicycle educator with Cycles of Change, and he shares his path in capoeira with the youth at Life Academy, an Oakland public middle and high school.
Diego loves sharing the passions he has gained through life’s lessons as tools to help guide others by bridging reluctance to trust.
MALAY "TACO" KHAMSYVORAVONG
Malay "Taco" Khamsyvoravong bought a bike in 2010 to beat an unpredictable bus system, to get to work on time, and to return home safely at night. In the beginning of bike ownership, she was terrified of biking in traffic and knew nothing about bike maintenance. After some time, she began to enjoy the challenge of navigating traffic and trying to get up hills without her bike falling apart. Malay went on to work with YBike, a youth-centered collection of bike programs of the Presidio YMCA in San Francisco. Witnessing her students' sense of wonder and confidence in traffic yielded in her the conviction that the streets are everyone’s space, and everyone has a right to feel safe and enjoy them. In the Spring of 2019, Malay took a 3-month solo bike trek through Southeast Asia to visit her father's homeland, Laos, for the first time.
Malay is passionate about connecting people to the joy of moving their bodies and believes in the power of bikes to serve as a tool for young folks- especially youth of color, girls and gender nonconforming youth- to claim their right to public spaces. Malay is an AmeriCorps*VISTA alumna for Coaching Corps (Oakland, CA) and a practitioner of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.
These community organizers and activists serve as advisors and provide support and technical assistance to ensure excellence in our programs.
Marilyn Price, Founder, Trips for Kids
Elizabeth Sy, Founder, Banteay Srei
Amy L. Casselman Hontalas, M.A., Professor of American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University
Robin Sohnen, Founder and Executive Director, Each One Reach One
Rose Slam! Johnson, Founder, Queer Camp