The mission of the Wildwoods Foundation is to equip the children, families, and educators of Los Angeles to practice the principles of ecology in creating sustainable, harmonious communities.

Michelle Dornfeld

Head of Business Integration, Farmers Insurance Group

Bryant Davis

Vice Chair
Vice President, Comerica Wealth Management

Gail Killefer


Alex Henderson

Director, International Strategy, Mattel

Catherine Coleman

Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills, University of Southern California

Tara Gardiner

Business + Marketing Consultant, Gardiner Connections

Andrew Lucas

Director of Capital Markets, Trion Properties

Donesh Olyaie

Associate Group Planning Director, David&Goliath

Dwain Wilson

Executive Director, The Wildwoods Foundation

Dwain Wilson

Executive Director
The founder of the Wildwoods Foundation, Dwain serves as our Executive Director.  Dwain has been active in outdoor and environmental education in the Los Angeles area for two decades, beginning with the National Park Service Volunteer Naturalist Program at Franklin Canyon Park.

Dwain holds a masters degree in education from Antioch University, Los Angeles. He has studied Human Ecology, Child Development and Environmental Ethics at Santa Monica College, Field Biology at the California State University at Northridge and Environmental Education & Systems Theory and Nonprofit Management at UCLA.

Dwain has also completed the Gang Awareness and Training Education with the Southern California Counseling Center, plus training with the Wilderness Awareness School, Sunbow Ecology, Earth Skills and noted naturalist and author Joseph Cornell.

Passionate about professional development, Dwain occasionally gets back in the classroom to work with teachers on integrating ecological principles into their lesson plans and with corporate or nonprofit groups around the issues of organizational development and systems operations.

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Carol Peralta

Senior Program Instructor
A native of Los Angeles, Carol is pursuing a Masters in Environmental Science at Cal State LA. In between classes, studying and exams, she conducts A Drop in the Bucket, runs our Paseo program, and provides our weekly after-school (Eco)Literacy Hour with the Children’s Bureau at the Magnolia Place Family Center.

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Courtney Frystak

Social Media Coordinator
Courtney is a California native, with a BA in English Literature, and a background in the arts. Growing up in beautiful Ojai, Courtney spent countless hours hiking, camping, rock climbing, and communing with nature.

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Ellen Elphand

Special Event Coordinator
Ellen is the magician responsible for pulling off the feat of our annual Wildwoods Wine Tasting.
From auction items to vendors and volunteers, she throws a heck of a party.

Ellen also handles all sponsorship opportunities. If your business wants to help support our work, connect with her.

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The overall goal of the Wildwoods Foundation is to foster an urban population that is aware of, and concerned about their surrounding environment — both the natural world and their urban community — and mindful of their impact upon that environment.

Denny Under TreeExploration

Exploration that inspires a “fresh perspective” and a sense of awe and wonder is an essential piece of all of our programs. After all, our motto is “Building Community by Exploring Nature.” This is accomplished by first developing awareness skills and putting them into practice by exploring the natural world around us. The lessons and skills acquired there can then be applied back in our everyday lives. As we are able to look upon the familiar (our friends, families, co-workers or neighborhood) with “new eyes” we begin to see and appreciate things unnoticed before.

Systems Thinking

Employing a successful organizational development perspective used for many years in the corporate and engineering world, the Wildwoods Foundation’s programs bring the framework of systems thinking to the classroom. By definition, systems thinking is an understanding of the inter-relatedness of all of the components of any given group of items forming a unified whole.

In other words, it is “big picture” thinking, taking consideration of the myriad of possible connections in any given situation.

Equipped with this perspective, students develop an understanding of systems principles (or as one student phrased it “How things work”) and are able to then apply those principles in a spectrum of situations and circumstances. They learn that the principles that govern nature’s ecosystems –diversity, interdependence and sustainability– are equally important to our neighborhoods, social institutions and workplaces.

The roots of the Wildwoods Foundation stem from the school shooting at Columbine in 1999. That tragedy moved a handful of volunteers with the National Park Service to explore the possibility of expanding traditional outdoor programming to include the components of character development, personal growth and community involvement. The Wildwoods Foundation is the result of those efforts.

March 2016

Seeds of STEM

Launched the Seeds of STEM education program which introduces basic scientific principles to early childhood students. 
August 2015

Magnolia Place

Magnolia Place Family CenterThe Wildwoods Foundation opens offices at the Magnolia Place Family Center and joins the Magnolia Community Initiative, a collective impact project of more than 70 organizations serving a 500-block area south of downtown Los Angeles. 
April 2015

A Drop in the Bucket Returns

 To address the California drought, the Los Angele Department of Water & Power awards a contract to the Wildwoods Foundation to revive its conservation education program at Vista Hermosa Park in downtown LA. This incarnation of the program features a mobile unit delivering the program to schools.
October 2013

Oakgrove Expands

The Wildwoods Foundation launches Oakgrove at two new schools: Marshall High School in Los Feliz and at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in downtown Los Angeles.
November 2012

Oakgrove Turns 40

The Oakgrove program celebrated its 40th anniversary.
January 2012

King Middle School

Wildwoods begins Full Circle programming with the Environmental Studies Magnet Program at King Middle School.
April 2011

A Drop in the Bucket

Wildwoods launches its water education program at Vista Hermosa Park in downtown LA.
April 2010


Wildwoods pilots the urban ecology program at 10 sites with LA’s BEST.
October 2008


The Oakgrove program (active at Venice High School since 1972) joins the Wildwoods Foundation family.
November 2007

Web of Our World

Wildwoods launches Web of Our World, the online learning component of the Full Circle WOW_logoprogram.
November 2000

Full Circle

The pilot for the Full Circle curriculum (our flagship school program) was conducted with Dr. Barbara Moreno of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Open Magnet CharFC logoter School.”
March 2000

Community Partners

The Wildwoods Foundation was accepted as a project of Community Partners.

Following is a sample of the books and authors that inform and inspire our work.

Fritjof Capra: The Tao of Physics, The Web of Life, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living

(Also consider Mindwalk, a film about Capra’s theories, available free on YouTube.

David Orr: Earth in Mind, Ecoliteracy

David Sobel: Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities

John Stilgoe: Outside Lies Magic

Joseph Cornell: Sharing Nature With Children, Journey to the Heart of Nature

John Dewey: Experience and Education, Democracy and Education, How We Think, Experience and Nature

Paolo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Donella Meadows: Thinking in Systems

Peter Senge: The Fifth Discipline, The Learning Organization

Joel de Rosnay: The Macroscope

We are proud to name the following individuals and institutions as past and present supporters.

Aaroe & Associates

Adams Legacy Foundation

Alston & Bird

The Annenberg Foundation

Capital Group Companies




The Dwight Stuart Youth Fund

Edison International

The Entertainment Industry Foundation

The Honorable Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council, District 13

The Honorable Mitch O’Farrell, Los Angeles City Council, District 13

The Honorable Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles City Council, District 4

Los Angeles National Bank

The Louis L. Borick Foundation

The Max Factor Family Foundation

The Metabolic Studio

The Metropolitan Water District

The Neusteter Colorado Company

The Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation

The Pacific Design Center



Roll Giving

The Roth Family Foundation

The Sierra Club Foundation

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council

Sotheby’s International Realty

The Southern California Gas Company

Toyota Motor Sales

The Vons Foundation

The Weingart Foundation

Weston Benshoof

The Wolfgang Schumann Fund

We celebrate our friends doing good work in the community.


Belong Campaign

Wilderness Youth Project

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

Friends of the Los Angeles River

CREEC Network

Imagery For Kids

LA Conservation Corps

North East Trees

State Education & Environment Roundtable S.E.E.R

Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education

The Orion Society