Arts & Culture By Joan Tapper
A different kind of school imparts old skills in new ways.
he initial class offerings have been rather eclectic— from learning about raising backyard chickens to mindful listening. But that’s all part of the strategy behind the creation of the California Folk School (cal-folk.com) in Los Alamos, say its founders, Jon and Jenn Hooten. In part, they want to cast a wide net and see what appeals to prospective students. But they also have an interest in building and strengthening a sense of community by showcasing the wide-ranging skills and talents of residents in this part of Santa Barbara County. Their interest in education is longstanding, says Jon, who grew up in Oklahoma, studied philosophy and theology in college, and got into college administration. He met Jenn, an Ohio native
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who was an educational administrator at the time, in Claremont, California, and in 2014 they moved to Los Alamos. Their daughter, Nelle, was born a year and a half ago. He traces the germ of their idea to open a folk school to a visit by his father, who offered to help build a pizza oven in their backyard. The construction plans came from Mother Earth News, and in the back of the magazine was a small ad for the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. Intrigued, Jon set out to research what it was all about, and in the process discovered an educational movement with roots in 19th-century Denmark. “Danish folk schools were democratic, practical, and intergenerational,” says Jon. They promoted a sound mind in a sound body. Immigrants brought the institution to the United
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Jon and Jenn Hooten (left with their daughter Nelle and dog Stella) are co‑founders of the California Folk School in Los Alamos, where locals share their talents, such as how to can fruit, make ice cream, and raise backyard chickens.