Category: Blog Feature

StoryBrand - Website Mock Up

[2021] StoryBrand Website Examples

When I discovered the book, “Building A Story Brand”, it transformed the way I think about marketing.  I have never been comfortable with “selling”.  The Storybrand model puts the client in the role of the hero, and yourself as the guide, which completely removes the “selling” feeling, as you are reduced to merely someone who is providing guidance.  I loved how that sounded.  The big question for me then, was how does this translate into a website?

I wrote out all of the parts of the StoryBrand framework, and then sketched them out as a wireframe.  This worked great for the first website that I made, but what about the next and the next?  I often create “form generated” content for streamlining, so I decided to utilize a Google Form and a third party tool to ask the questions, and then generate a wireframe for each project on a Google Document.  I now have a “worksheet” that I use to collect information from the client, and then I rewrite their responses, and plug my content into the form.  It creates the wireframe for me, which I then use as a guide to build out a home page, as well as the About and Services page.  It also uses the content to generate a Facebook ad, Google Ad, About page, and other useful sets.

Here are a few examples.  I have more in the works and will be adding to this collection as I move through them.

Examples Of StoryBrand Inspired Websites

Example 1:  Coach

Ending Burnout

StoryBrand Website Example

Example 2:  Employee Benefits

Benefits By Design

Example 3:  Digital Agency Home Page

Future Bright Home Page

StoryBrand Website Example

Example 4:  Digital Tool

Website Mock-Up Tool

About The Book

“Building A Story Brand” is a book by New York Times Bestselling author Donald Miller.  In the book Miller outlines a method for creating a story, with your client or customer as the hero.  The hero encounters a villain, then meets a sage (you) who provides a plan for avoiding failure and achieving success.

By creating a story for your brand with the method described in the book, you are giving your audience a story with closure and a happy ending.

Author Donald Miller developed his framework based on Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”.   It is remarkable to create a story with this  model, and then see it in action on a web page.

Once you have become accustomed to this model, you will love taking the copy that you write, and having access to an instant, printable website mock-up of your text


Future Bright is not associated with or endorsed by Donald Miller, and we do not teach the Story Brand method.  We just geek out on making tools that improve efficiency.  This product is like an iPhone case, which is built to fit the iPhone but is not created by Apple.  We have created the form, but you will need to read the book  to know how to use it.  You will love it!

Beautiful Squarespace Sites

Web designers have their favorite tools, and with so many website design platforms to choose from, it can feel overwhelming for a business owner to unravel which website platform is best for your needs.  My recommendation is always to first chose someone you trust, and who you think understands your business.  They will then help you chose the platform, and identify the right team to support you.  At Future Bright, we primarily work with WordPress, because our clients typically need features and functionality that is not available in many of the other platforms.  But often a client comes to us who does not need all of the bells and whistles of a complex site.  In that case, we can recommend using SquareSpace, or Wix, or even just going with a Google site.

We work with a wide range of talented designers, and absolutely love matching our clients with just the right fit.  There is so much talent around the country and the world, and it is important to find someone who understands your niche, your visual style, and has the chops needed to create a website for you that is actually a powerful lead generator.

One such talented web professional is Army Veteran Erin Neumann, owner of Be Aligned Web Design.  Reading her bio is astonishing, as she graduated from West Point and once spent her days jumping out of airplanes and diffusing bombs.   She completed her MBA and is now building beautiful websites in Squarespace.

We are thrilled to be able to recommend Erin to clients who would benefit from her design style, SEO Expertise, and her ability to create a powerful home for your digital brand.

Erin’s Be Aligned team focuses on Squarespace, but gets many requests for WordPress.  They want to be able to recommend great WordPress designers so they have been reviewing portfolios, and giving an award to those they chose to display on their site.  To receive the award, each designer must have a great portfolio, good reviews, and be technically savvy.  Be Aligned has selected Future Bright as a qualified, award winning WordPress Designer.  To view this list  and explore the portfolios of top WordPress Designers, visit their page of Best WordPress Designers.

Premier Wordpress Website Designer Award
Premier Wordpress Website Designer Award
Wendy Plan For Pandemic

Plan for enduring the COVID-19 Pandemic

A plan and a timeline.

If you are like me, you need a plan.  I felt so confused and uncertain about even how each day would end until I sat down and marked out a timeline for the virus to run its course.  There are many unknowns, but there are enough knowns to create a general outline.  I recorded a video explaining that plan, and a printable document for you to hang on your wall, share with your children, and use as a guide during this very disorienting time.

Print The Timeline

Probable timeline for the covid-19 pandemic


Each day new information emerges about this virus.  It is now believed to be airborne, and also that you can be a carrier and have no idea or symptoms.   It is critical that you wear a protective covering over your nose and mouth.  This may protect you from getting sick, but most importantly, if you are sick and do not know it, will protect others.

  • wear some sort of face covering/ mask at all times when out, to prevent yourself from touching your face, and at home if someone is sick,
  • sanitize and wash your hands obsessively and multiple times while out, after touching anything, anyone and before entering your home, and while you are at home because soap destroys a virus,
  • sanitize objects that you bring into your home, and
  • stay six feet away from everyone outside of your home.
  • watch my video on how to shop safely.

Source:  Dr. David Price, a critical care pulmonologist caring for COVID-19 patients -Weill Cornell Hospital.  He explains how not to get sick, what to do if you are sick, and how to protect yourself and family if a house member is sick.  Watch The Video.


U . S. Government COVID – 19 Response Plan
Spread and Seasonality for COVID-19
CDC – Cases in the US
Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team Report

HuffPost – When Will Life Return to Normal? The Answer From Europe Is Emerging

We Will Rise

How To Not Get Sick – And What To Do If You Are

Theme Song

Predicted Infection Rate In The US

Corona Virus Chart
Chart Source: Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team – New York Times
Fabrique De Lices

The 2020 TEDx New Year Community Gathering

Fabrique Delices – French Artisanal CHARCUTERIE

Our favorite table – duck prosciutto?  Yes, totally insane…ly delicious!

A festival of solutions!

As it is each year, there was an incredibly wide range of businesses showcasing their products and services.  It is just amazing to me how creative the human mind is, and to see the investment of time and energy that people put into their passions.  Participating businesses ranged from mini-homes to zero waste school products. This was a showcase of solutions.  Here are a few of my favorite booths!

Future Bright - Wendy Louise Nog
Wendy Louise Nog - Future Bright Founder, Digital Strategist

No Chocolate?!?

After recovering from the initial shock of learning that there was not a table that had chocolate,  we headed for the wine counter to order a glass of wine, and we began to explore the tables at the 2020 TedX Marin New Year Community Gathering.  We look for cool logos, delicious foods, and interesting products or services.

Wisdom Supply Co. – Zero Waste School Supplies

The emotional response that I had to this company struck me, and the phrase that kept going through my head is “we need to give kids these solutions.  They want these solutions.  They need them.”  I have three kids in school, and they are all learning about the utter wasteland humans have made of the planet.  They are motivated to do something!  Plastics became available for every-day use just since WWII, and in one generation’s time they have spread to the entire planet’s ecosystem, now overtaking the mass of fish in the oceans.  The Baby Boomer and Gen X generation have experienced complete domination of plastics in every facet of life.  We need to give the next generation an alternative.  They want an alternative!  Wisdom Supply Co. has developed a line of products that are either compostable, recyclable, or refillable.  I absolutely love their logo, and it emulates simplicity. To learn more about these products and find out how you can get them into your schools, visit them at

Herbologie Teas and Nutraceuticals

There is something about the aroma of fresh ginger and turmeric that draws you in.  It’s as though you instinctively know that your body will be nourished by these ancient roots.  Herbologie Teas and Nutraceuticals are created by Monika Kathuria Tournis, who hosted the table.  She knows her stuff, and has been working with plants for 20+ years.  We love her logo!  To learn more about Herbologie you can visit their website at:


Housing in the North Bay, and the Bay Area in general is needed badly.  With the loss of homes due to the fires adding to the shortage of housing, and an aging population that wants to stay put, building contractors are providing unique and creative solutions.  Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) are a way to increase the value of your home, and can provide rental income.  One company, Backyard Bungalows, is building these tiny homes and small structures to be modern and beautiful!  The Backyard Bungalows table was hosted by Melanie Cheng, who graciously explained what they do.  The company was founded by Barry Price, who moved from building large homes, to specializing in backyard bungalows in Marin County and the North Bay.  You can learn more and see their really beautiful portfolio of bungalows by visiting them at  or call them directly at 415-971-3710.

My Favorite Packaging – Cult Cracker

Other Logos Of Note

How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Updated Winter 2019

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow

  1.  Images are too large
  2.  Code is not compressed
  3.  Code, Javascript or plug-in errors
  4.  Site is not cached
  5.  Server is slow

Other less obvious reasons:

  • Your domain has an https redirect
  • Another site on your shared server is being attacked
  • Too many elements on your site are trying to load at the same time
  • PHP version does not match the WordPress, Theme, or plug-in version
How To Make A Wordpress Site Insanely Fast

Website Speed Tests:

Following are the site speed tests that we use.  Test results will vary vastly depending upon how busy your server is, and many other factors.  Try at different times during the day to learn more about what your visitors experience.  We try to keep a site fully rendering in under 2 seconds.  Under one second is the magic number!



Dot Com Tools:

GT Metrix:

How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

  1. Reduce Your Image Sizes
  2. Asset Optimization through GZIP, compression, &  minify (theme, images, scripts, and files)
  3. Implement Browser Caching
  4. Configure Your Hosting & Server Optimally
  5. Utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  6. Use Cloudflare

The Details

Following are more details about the above items.  It can take 5-8 hours to implement all of these, including testing, so consider that in your cost estimates so that you can weigh cost/benefits.  It is especially important to move carefully if you are working on a live site.

Select A Good Theme – Or Build Your Own

We primarily use a WordPress theme called Patti.  We have chosen Patti because it is simple, clean, and has beautiful 20/40/60 spacing.  We specialize in creating visually stunning websites, so we needed a starting theme that felt free, airy, modern, and that is highly flexible.  We found all of these in Patti, which also allows you to use custom short-codes.  We speed test the demo version of every theme we consider.  The demo must load in under 2 seconds.  Every theme has its pros and cons.  Because we use lots of huge images, if our score on Google’s Page Speed Insights is in the green, we are happy!

Server Optimization – Your Host Provider Can Perform These Tasks

  • Choose a host that is known for being fast.
  • Have your host “Set my PHP Max Input Vars to 1540”
  • Ensure that Gzip is enabled on your server
  • If Needed, host your website on a dedicated Server (is more expensive, around $100/month)

Asset Optimization & Browser Caching Plugins

Font Optimization

If you are using Google or other custom fonts, your site can render a default font first, and then the custom or Google font.  Use the CSS below.  Note of caution:  the user will observe the transition, so if design is important to you, this may not be an option.  You can find other options at:  FONT OPTIMIZATION

/**draw text then swaps when font loads**/
body{ font-display: swap;}

WordPress Plugins

We utilize the following plugins to achieve asset optimization and caching.  I will not go over all of the settings because you will need to play around with the options based upon your particular site.  If you are working on a live site, continuously check the site to ensure that any features you have implemented have not broken your site.  Specifically, minifying CSS and Javascript can cause issues.  If your site is not WordPress, look for added widgets or features, or what ever your platform offers, for the below functionality.

WPMU – Smush

  • Compresses Images
  • Reduces all images to a maximum size that you set.  No accidental 6MB file sizes!

WPMU Hummingbird Pro

  • Analyzer
  • Weekly Report Email
  • Caching
  • Gzip
  • Asset Compressing(minify – may break your theme, use carefully)
  • Tools:  WPMU Dev CDN for JavaScript and CSS files

WP Disable –

  • Heartbeat at 60 or above (
  • Removes Bloat
  • Database Clean-Up
  • Offload Google Analytics (not always done)

Swift Performance Lite

  • Speed Booster
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content (doesn’t always work)
  • Leverage browser caching
  • CDN Optional

WP Rocket Can take your site from 40 to 80 just by activating it.

  • A powerful, paid alternative to Swift (my other favorite), Super & W3 Total
  • Easy Activation
  • Minification
  • Caching
  • Image Load As Needed
  • Caches your site

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Many of the above plugins include CDN’s.  They also offer storing CSS and scripts off site.  We do not use those, only because it becomes challenging to keep track of everything that is going on with a site.  We simply use one CDN for the entire site.  A CDN creates copies of your site throughout the world.  Your site is then served to a user from the location that is closest to them.  Because the site is a completely cached copy, delivery can be very fast.  If you have having speed issues due to your SSL Certificate (in speed tests your domain name takes a long time to load), a CDN may resolve this issue.

There are many CDN’s to choose from.  We utilize Cloudflare.

Website Hosting Service

As hosting providers grow, their servers tend to slow.  We now steer clients away from BlueHost and GoDaddy.   If you are not in need of an enterprise-level hosting platform, there are several providers that we can recommend.

  1.  Site Ground – in our testing, an identical page loaded in 945 ms on Site Ground, and 1.6 on WPEngine.
  2. WPEngine – We started out with our agency account at BlueHost, but left due to down-time, then moved to a local partner who managed our servers at MediaTemple, but again left because of down-time issues and speed.  We are now settled in at WP Engine because of all that they offer.  We like having a managed wordpress account because the back-ups, PHP updates and WordPress updates are all taken care of. This is a big time saver, and a cost saver definitely for the client. WP Engine also caches each website, has free SSL certificates, and also a CDN.


Sometimes finding that one thing that is slowing a site down feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.  If you go through the above list and implement them all, and you are still having issues, it may be worthwhile to hire fresh eyes to take a look.  Sometimes someone who isn’t familiar with your site can spot things that you overlook because you have looked at your site a million times.  I hope that you find this list beneficial.  Of course every website is different, and you may use only some of these options.  I wish you speed!

–Wendy Louise Nog, MSTM, Founder of Future Bright


Elsie Green Shelf

North Bay Getaway – Discover “The Barlow” In Sebastopol, CA

My view of Sebastopol being a retreat for aging hippie artists (note:  my mom is in that category) was turned on its head this week.  I am not certain at which point in recent history “artists” began to share the limelight with “artisans”, but I am certain that it must have been some time around the slow food movement, which led to the farm-to-table movement, which led to mason jar water glasses in Michelen star restaurants, and the rest is history.

The continuous gutting of small shops and downtowns by big box stores, and the lingering recession of 2008 resulted in thousands of vacant retail shops of all sizes in neighborhoods with shuttered and abandoned warehouses around the country.  This created affordable spaces for artists, craftspersons, and chefs to set up shop not only in cities, but in the outer reaches.

The Barlow
Elsie Green Boards

Photographs By Wendy Louise Nog

The artist retreat of Sebastopol was faced with a similar challenge of lost industry, and a twelve acre apple processing business was mainly unused and in disrepair.  Recognizing that this space provided an opportunity to develop a craftspersons and boutique retail area, it was purchased by local Barnie Aldridge, who planned and executed a revival and renovation of the buildings and area, and named it “The Barlow” after the Barlow Family of apple growers that had once used this space.

It is fascinating to observe that the further we advance technologically, the further back we reach to revisit the past, to a time before plastic when all that was made would over time return to the earth to be recycled by its systems.  There is something fundamentally relaxing to hold an object that is of completely natural materials.  I believe that even though we may not be aware of it, our brains are analyzing the objects we interact with far beyond identifying the color, but also where it fits into this complex system that it must interpret correctly in order for us to survive.  Our brains can recognize that a plastic container we toss into the trash has a life cycle that is not natural, and we experience this awareness hundreds of times each day.  This creates a sense of unease, and we may not even be aware of its source.  When we bring natural fabrics and materials into everyday use, there is a palpable change that takes place in our sense of well being.  This is why artisan products made with natural materials have become so sought after.



Crossroads Cafe - Future Bright Website Design

1. Schedule A Consultation

2. Tell Us Your Story

3. Follow Our Recommendations

Sebastopol sits just West of Santa Rosa, CA an hour’s drive from San Francisco, and is the last large town when you head West, leaving way to farmland and then the rugged hills and coast of Mendocino.  The Wine Industry has spilled over 101 and headed towards Sebastopol, and you can now see vineyards where there once cows and old fences.  The Barlow is a modern shed experience on twelve acres of land right in downtown Sebastopol.  There are forty retail and industrial use spots in The Barlow, and as you wander along the streets you will observe wine tasting, the weaving of gorgeous fabrics, brewing of beer, the making of ice cream, and so much more.

As always, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so will not tell you everything about the wine tasting, the breweries, the galleries, but I will share with you three of the spots that we visited.  The first is a clothing and gift boutique called Scout.  As a logo buff, the Scout logo is a head turner for me, and I had to go see what was inside.  The Scout shop is a curated collection of simply designed, artisan objects to use and wear.  The shop features artisans from around the country and overseas, and you will certainly find something to bring home.

Scour West County Logo On Wall
Scout Store
Scout Infant Sweater

Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, Sebastopol, CA

A second spot we got to know very well was Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, because we spent the entire work day hunkered down on their open upper level, and it was fascinating to observe the clientele passing through.  There was a wide range of the before mentioned aging hippie artists, and also hipsters, farmers, young artists, and people who seemed to be in the wine and beer industry, which requires a whole swath of different types of people.  Creatives have been retreating further north from the high prices of San Francisco and Southern Marin.  The wine country has spread west over 101,  and there are expansive preserves of farmland to the south and west where cheeses of all types are emerging from creameries.  The now legal cannabis industry is filtering south from Humboldt County, and Sebastopol is the epicenter of all of these.

Elsie Green, Sebastopol, CA

The third shop that we spent a great deal of time in is the Elsie Green shop.  This absolutely beautiful shop made me cry a little, that my life’s journey hadn’t landed me in an old French house with a kitchen filled with old wooden spoons and copper pots.  But I picked myself up by my bootstraps, or rather, sandal straps, and wandered through the store imagining myself cutting flowers on a big wooden chopping block, or setting the table before whooshing out to the garden to pick warm tomatoes and fresh fennel for a salad that I had to toss together quickly because I could hear my guests’ car winding up the hillside to my home, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Elsie Green Wall Hooks
Elsie Green Table

Fern Bar, Sebastopol, CA

My absolute favorite was the Fern Bar.  After going to a folk concert at nearby HopMonk, we walked back over to The Barlow to visit FernBar, where we were greeted by bartender Matt, formerly of SpoonBar in Healdsburg.  Matt was mixing up a delicious array of cocktails, and since I had already reached my three-is-really-all-I-can-handle limit, he created the most delicious mohito I have ever tasted…and there wasn’t even any alcohol!  A three-piece band consisting of a stand-up bass, piano, and since I had three beverages by then I can’t remember what the third was, but in any case, I was happy sitting on that bar stool in that beautiful space with a good friend, sipping a fizzy drink and listening to jazz.  It doesn’t get any better than that for me.  Alas I did not get any photographs, but all the better, so that you can find out for yourself.

Fern Bar Matthew
Fern Bar Drink
Future Bright Wendy & Stephanie

The author, and friend Stephanie Guaiumi, who introduced her to The Barlow.  Stephanie and her husband make their own wine, and she often brings the author preserves made in her kitchen. You need a four-wheel drive truck to get to Stephanie’s summer home, which is perched on a hill  behind their orchards in Lake County.


Plan for enduring the COVID-19 Pandemic

A plan and a timeline. If you are like me, you need a plan.  I felt so confused and uncertain about even how each day...

Read More

The 2020 TEDx New Year Community Gathering

Fabrique Delices - French Artisanal CHARCUTERIE Our favorite table - duck prosciutto?  Yes, totally delicious! A festival of solutions! As it is each...

Read More

Fabric Gift Bags – Preserve Trees & Memories

This Holiday Bring Joy To The Forests! At Future Bright we are passionate about preserving the beauty of our planet for future generations.  The Future...

Read More

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai

Persian Restaurant Ariana’s Kitchen To Open In Dubai

Ariana Bundy Restaurant In Dubai



My young daughter and I sat in an outdoor patio of a cafe whose entrance was piled with desserts and pastries of every color in the rainbow, and that looked out over the calming pool below.  Far below.  We were on the seventh level of cafes that line the edge of the Dubai Mall, and as we sat and breathed in the air, and wondered at the slightly orange tint that a distant sand storm gave the surrounding buildings, for the first time in two weeks, we felt totally at ease.

Our trip from California to visit family in Kolkata was punctuated by the extreme opposites that you experience when traveling anywhere in India, and we had arrived in Dubai fairly well shaken.  Being a woman traveling alone with a young girl had required a focused alertness that was exhausting.  We were very excited to have landed in Dubai, and of course had seen the Burj Khalifa as we approached from the air.  We took a pristinely clean train from the Dubai airport, exited at the great mall train stop, and walked along the never-ending corridors of moving sidewalks until we finally reached our destination and discovered a cafe where we could sit, relax, and take in this new environment.  As we sat in the sun listening to the ambient music surrounding us, I felt all of the worries, the stress of travel, the concerns about anything at all, completely melt away.  We sat there in wonder, experiencing together that feeling that can only be had in Dubai.

My purpose for visiting this incredible city was to connect with my Website Design client, Celebrity Persian Chef Ariana Bundy, who is opening a Persian restaurant, “Ariana’s Persian Kitchen” at the astonishing Royal Atlantis Hotel & Residences.  Her Persian cuisine is infused with rose, saffron, pistachios, and will feature an amazing menu of ancient recipes.  She is also renovating a 300 year old residence at a separate location to serve as a cooking school and destination inn.  Her story is one that reflects the story of Dubai.  It is a place where you can dream, and make those dreams come true.  It is a playground for architects and developers, chefs and designers, artists and travelers, and absolutely anything that you can imagine is possible, including creating a map of the world with islands.  Future Bright has been so honored to have accompanied her on this journey, and as a boutique website design agency that specializes in food, this was an incredibly special visit.

We were able to easily take Uber everywhere, and every driver we had was kind, friendly, and open to share about their origins and family.  We also felt completely safe.  Like most of the residents of Dubai, the drivers were all from somewhere else, which is very much like our residence in California.

Our gracious host Paul Hughes, husband and partner of Ariana Bundy, gave us a tour of the area around where we were staying, and it was simply mind-boggling to suddenly come upon another and yet another cluster of 100 skyscrapers.  The construction of new buildings was happening everywhere, and it was exciting to see and imagine how they would be when they were finished based on the impossible angles that seemed to be emerging beneath towering cranes.  We had dinner at Jumeirah Al Qasr, a five-star resort, and sat in a lounge overlooking the canals lined with palm trees.  The entire structure was built of beautiful marble and granite.  The food was incredibly flavorful, and the wine completely unfamiliar, which is disorienting and wonderful at the same time.

The always futuristic World Expo is to be held in Dubai in 2020, and construction has already begun, with countries building astonishing representations of their most creative architecture.  It is tempting to list all of the details of our time spent exploring the amazing city of Dubai, but it is so much more fun to discover it yourself.  We will definitely be returning, and can’t wait to taste a saffron infused ice cream from Ariana’s restaurant overlooking the salty expanse of the Persian Gulf waters.

Wendy Louise Nog, MSTMWendy Louise Nog is Founder and Digital Strategist for Future Bright Interactive, a website development agency based in Silicon Valley, CA.


New Website For CANORML




The CaNORML Website

The organization has worked tirelessly for the rights of cannabis users in California, and because of their lobbying, we now have the largest potential cannabis market in the world.  The previous design reflected the beginnings of the movement, and when we met with the client we saw that there was a fear of updating the look, because it would somehow wash over all that they had sacrificed, and all of the work that they had done.

I explained to them that what we wanted to do with this new website was to turn their work into a celebration.  They are still one of the most important resources for drug testing information in the state, and they get 3 million visits per year.  We wanted to show the dignity in the use of medical marijuana, and a celebration of the state-of-the-art facilities and gorgeous designs that are coming out of the industry.

We also built a directory for cannabis brands, and those businesses that provide services to cannabis entrepreneurs.

We are so excited to see how they use their site over the next few years as we are all transformed by these changes not only in our legal system, but in our societal and business norms.
Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

Earth Focused Greenwood School – Mill Valley – Enrollment time K-8!

Weekly outings, organic lunches, fine art, music, math, & science – tuition assistance!  It’s school enrollment time for next year!  It is a good time for me to marvel about the amazing elementary school my two daughters attend, Greenwood School in Downtown Mill Valley.  Now, more than ever, it is important for young people to have a connection to the planet.  They will be the ones to create the solutions to the problems that ours and past generations created, and the solutions will require working with and understanding our ecosystem.  This will require not just a love for nature, but a deep understanding of science, mathematics, and engineering.  There are many ways to present these subjects, and many philosophies of teaching.  The Waldorf method is exploration based, and as kids move up in the grades, they gradually move towards more formal methods, with a goal of entering high-school slightly ahead of what is required.

If you are like me, I yearned for a school where my children could thrive, that would allow their minds to explore a wide range of curiosities, connect them to this planet, and that would have challenging, even above average mathematics and science woven into the curriculum in a way that felt natural and workable.  I wanted a tech-free environment that got them away from the classroom and out into nature where they could learn how things work by experiencing them, rather than from a workbook or video.

My kids started out at a Waldorf inspired school in Minneapolis.  When we moved to Mill Valley, we put them into the local schools for the obvious reason that they are free, and are known to be some of the best public schools.  As time went by however, we began to miss what they had been getting from the hands-on natural world focused curriculum that they had received at their previous Waldorf school.  We also missed the richness in the projects, and the fieldtrips that I know gave them a deeper understanding of how the world works.  We looked at Greenwood, and knew that this was the right place for our family.

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

The boat Freda
Spaulding Boatworks in Mill Valley

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

Nurturing Confident, Global Citizens

I heard some alarming statistics that in a survey of students, Mill Valley middle schoolers suffer some of the worst bullying, self-harming, and nicotine use in the state of California.  In an area of such abundance, where these kids are getting such a head-start from most children in the world, it is they who have the greatest chance at making an impact, creating the biggest change, reaching the highest peaks.  This is why we live here.  I know that we all have this vision for our children.  To observe what goes on when we release our children in the morning to the schools can be frightening, and as a parent it is easy to feel helpless and frustrated.  There is a choice.  We chose Greenwood for our daughters.  Our son is in MVMS in sixth grade, and so-far is mostly oblivious to anything beyond “am I hungry” and “where is my homework”.  Our daughters switched in third and fourth grades when we started to sense a change in the dynamics of the kids at school from innocence to something that felt harmful and having subject matters beyond their age.

The Greenwood school has a Waldorf inspired curriculum that combines play based learning, earth-centered history, and the mathematics and physics of the universe, solarsystem, and our physical world.  The children have weekly educational field trips that include hikes and visits to nature-oriented organizations.  Children begin to learn to play the violin in third grade, and they learn classical as well as folk songs.  Before learning to read or write, they learn about the idea of language, the skills of drawing beautiful patterns that prepare their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills for writing.

Greenwood, Mill Valley
Exercise in using the compass to measure distance, angles, and a study in patterns.

Hands-On And Fine Motor Skills Projects

When I first visited Greenwood, the third grade classroom had finished a project where they had gone to a sheep farm, acquired wool, collected plants in the fields, and brought them back to their classroom to create dye, dye the wool, spin it into yarn, and then knit scarves.  While this may seem like an antiquated skill, it actually entailed understanding the care of animals, the science of dyes, the way fibers work, and intricate, mathematics-based hand-work.  Going back to artisan crafted goods is a rising solution to the waste that has been produced, and will be an important way forward.  As the children get older, the field trips become more involved.  My seventh grader is going to the Spaulding boat works each month to sometimes sail, sometimes work with wood.  In two weeks they are taking a week long trip to a nature camp in where they will need to create their own shelters.  This wide range of experiences creates a sense of confidence and teamwork that will last for the rest of their lives.

Greenwood School, Mill Valley
Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA

And The Food!

Since this is my food blog, then let me talk a bit about Greenwood, Waldorf, and food.  I have to admit now here that one of the major benefits of attending a private school is that they serve wine at the functions!  I mean, not just occasionally, but every…single…one.  Having an earth-centric focus means that the food served at these functions is beautiful and incredible!  The dishes are real, the wine glasses are real, and it feels for just an hour or two like we have been transported to the countryside in Sonoma County.

The founding Waldorf philosophy about how children develop is based on ensuring that the child has nourishment that sustains them.  The earliest traditions children experience at a Waldorf school revolve around food.  When we were in Minneapolis, all three of my kids attended a Waldorf inspired school, and from toddlers all through elementary school, one day per week the children made vegetable soup one.  Walking through the vegetable aisle with my little ones so that they could select a vegetable from all of the beautiful colors on display is one of my favorite memories from that time.  Children each brought a an organic vegetable, helped peel the vegetables, chopped them with kid-safe choppers, and the soup was cooked in a big pot right in the classroom, filling the room with wonderful aromas.  Soup is served as a mid-morning snack, and the children sit around a beautifully set table, sharing a meal with their teacher.  In preschool and kindergarten and sometimes even first grade, the other weekly activity is the making of bread.  The kneading of bread, learning to fold it, rolling out, and forming it is more than just play, their brains are being activated in very particular ways that involve folding, counting, texture, material, moisture, and the bending and forming of a malleable substance.  The bread is baked, and they sit together and eat the bread that they just made, often with a locally made butter, and local honey.

These hands-on experiences of preparing food nourishes not only their bodies, but creates a beautiful, positive relationship with food and cooking.  At every turn, the children are experiencing the possibilities of living in concert with our eco-system.  Lunches at Greenwood are prepared by Good Earth Grocery, and are entirely organic and waste-free.  What a gift to be able to give our children this healthy break from in their day!

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA
Greenwood School, Mill Valley, CA, Making Bread

The Greenwood Families

Like many parents who send their children to a Waldorf (inspired or fully) schools around the world, we are engineers.  The parent community at many Waldorf schools include tech folks, artisans, craftspersons, musicians, and of course those in the natural or environmental sciences.  There are single parents, mixed families, mixed cultures, and families who heard about the school and it just struck them as the right place for their child.    There is also financial aid available for those who need it.

The entrance to Greenwood begins with a two-day visit, and the children get to meet their classmates, and see how they feel.  It is a wonderful experience, and it is amazing how kids seem to just settle in and feel at home.  If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to reach out to Greenwood or if you are in another area, find your local Waldorf school.  You may just find a beautiful path that alters your child’s future forever.

About The Author:

Wendy Louise Nog is the mother of three, and the owner of Future Bright, a digital agency in Mill Valley California.  Her children have attended Waldorf inspired toddler, pre-school and elementary schools since they were small.  Wendy has a highly technical job, but recognizes the importance of creativity in finding solutions for technical challenges, and wants her children to have access to those creative pathways in their brains.

Greenwood School, Mill Valley, Kindergarteners