Exploring a Sense of Place evolved from the vision that as modern humans we are identified with our human constructs, but we have lost an intimate relationship with the natural ecosystem where we live.

The team of people who developed the program started in 2001 at the Foundation for Global Community (FGC) in Palo Alto, California, by reading the works of some of the great natural philosophers, such as Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and Wendell Berry. They reflected upon the words of Simone Weil, who said that “rootedness in place is the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

Karen Harwell, Director


Karen Harwell describes herself as an applied philosopher in that her attention quickly goes to how we might experience that which we are reading, thinking and speaking. Her early years were imprinted living in the beauty and majesty of the Colorado Rockies, where she always found the natural world intriguing as well as coherent.

Harwell describes her spiritual awakening as coming through scientific studies, receiving her bachelor of science degree at the University of Colorado. She has done graduate study in philosophy, cosmology and consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, completed a six-week Earth Literacy program at Genesis Farm in New Jersey, and was certified in the study of permaculture at Occidental Arts and Ecology in Northern California. Through these programs, Harwell became interested in bioregionalism and wanted to create the opportunity for people to experience their lives as part of an Earth community.

She currently lives in Palo Alto, California, and appreciates learning from her adult sons, as well as being part of the Foundation for Global Community and Conexions with a focus on creating a future that enhances all of life.

Joanna Reynolds, Guidebook Coordinator


Joanna Reynolds grew up in what is now called Silicon Valley, but which used to be called “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” for its fertile land and acres of fruit orchards. She and her husband, Thomas, live in Los Altos, in the Adobe Creek watershed, where they raised their family.

Joanna has spent many years working in education, developing curriculums and facilitating courses and programs designed to inspire participation in the conscious evolution of culture. When colleague Karen Harwell proposed creating a new program about a sense of place, Joanna immediately resonated with the idea as an opportunity to help people move beyond the talking, reading and theorizing about how the universe works and how humans fit into it, to their own authentic, direct experience.

As codirectors of the program, Karen and Joanna worked with a team developing the methods and curriculum, offering it to the public, honing it over the years and now, with this book, sharing the results with others everywhere.

Treat the Earth well. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
— Ancient Native American Proverb

Exploring a Sense of Place is a project of Children in Nature Collaborative, which is a fiscally sponsored project of Earth Island Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization.