Putah Creek Nature Days & Homeschool Mornings
OLIVIA BADALAMENTI (Forest Mentor, she/her) was born in San Luis Obispo, and she grew up hiking, camping, and tidepooling along California’s Central Coast. She was always outside as a child, either collecting tadpoles, playing with her family’s pets (they once had fourteen animals at the same time!), or reading in a hammock. Olivia discovered a love for working with children through teaching swim lessons while she was in high school, and she has spent the past eight years working as a swim instructor and preschool teacher. She is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard and Lifeguard Instructor, and in her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her cats. Olivia recently graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Human Development and a minor in Education, and she plans to focus her career on early childhood education. She is thrilled to be working with a program that allows her to share her love of nature and that values children’s self-directed exploration, play, and joy.
DIEGO BOCANEGRA (Lead Forest Mentor, he/him) was raised in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California alongside a large family. He grew up spending summers in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley where he found a love for the outdoors. Daily hikes in the Rocky Mountains, picking huckleberries and jumping into Flathead Lake helped to form core memories. Returning to urban LA county, he quickly realized that his peers did not share this same love for nature and realized that it was something that needed to change. At 18 he packed 13 family members into a van and went on a road trip across the country to various National Parks, an experience they wouldn’t have had otherwise. He went on to study Wildlife Conservation Biology and Music at UC Davis, graduating in 2022. He is a plant and reptile enthusiast, but in general loves learning about how parts of nature interact. Diego wishes to attend graduate school to help him to break down the accessibility barriers surrounding the outdoors. Some of his interests include playing the drums, foraging, and rock climbing.
MARIA DE LOS ANGELES CEJA (Forest Mentor, she/they) was born in Mexico and immigrated with her family to America when she was seven years old. She has six sisters and four brothers and several nieces and nephews that she loves. Maria has fond memories of growing up in Paredones, Michoacan, playing outside with one of her brothers. They would run, climb, and take long walks and reach places to jump in water pools, sometimes they would run open fields to fly kites they made. Maria was drawn to be active so she played sports like soccer and volleyball. Growing up a farmer worker Maria was drawn to learn about the history of farmer workers. She studied Chicano/a Studies at UC Davis and for her curiosity about the natural world obtained a minor in History and Philosophy of Science. Maria’s journey in college and now was made rich by finding contact improvisation, a form of movement with awareness and listening. She continues to practice contact improvisation and practicing with concepts from Moving Rasa. Maria has a few balcony plants and enjoys tending to them, watching how they can be so unique and intricate. Maria also enjoys expressing herself through drawing and keeping a daily practice of writing.
MOLLY DAMORE JOHANN (Lead Forest Mentor; Events & Community Outreach, she/her) was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She spent her summers camping, backpacking, and exploring nature with her family. Some of her most fond childhood memories include playing in the Yosemite rivers and making fairy houses in the garden. These childhood experiences in nature have shaped her love and appreciation for the outdoors and continue to influence her day to day life. Molly has over seven years of nannying experience working with children of various ages from infants to middle school. Her favorite activities as a nanny were taking children on adventures through San Francisco, especially Golden Gate Park, where they could discover, connect, and play in nature. Molly is graduating this quarter from UCD with a BS in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity. Before completing her undergraduate degree, Molly spent a year living and volunteering at Coyote Family Farm in Sonoma County where she learned valuable agriculture and community building skills. She has been working for the past two quarters at the UC Davis Arboretum Nursery, learning to propagate, prune, and care for plants. Some of Molly’s interests include flowering plants, species biodiversity, creating art, spending time in nature, writing, practicing yoga, playing guitar, and rollerblading.
NAT LEFKOFF (Forest Mentor, he/him) Born and raised here in Davis, Nat has recently returned after living and traveling along the west coast from Olympia, WA to San Diego. Nat has worked a variety of jobs centered around child development ranging from behavioral therapy to summer camps and outdoor education. He believes in the value of kids getting outside and exploring their environments freely and enthusiastically while respecting others, themselves, and their ecosystem. Putah Creek was Nat’s favorite stomping ground throughout his youth and he still enjoys running, dog walking, swimming, and admiring its natural beauty on a daily basis. Along with being a bird and bug enthusiast, Nat is also a career musician who performs, tours, and records original songs. Nat was eager to be a part of the Davis Forest School after bumping into a group of kids and instructors along the creek and was reminded of how fun and fulfilling it is to help connect children to the natural world.
ANNA LOPEZ (Forest Mentor, she/they) Anna Lopez is a newly established Davis resident. Having spent the past 6 years residing in South Dakota, she returned to California a little over a year ago.
During her time in South Dakota, Anna had the incredible opportunity to serve as a mentor at a summer science and Lakota camp for three consecutive years. This camp involved camping out for 5 days in the Black Hills, where she would guide children ranging from ages 3 to 17. The activities focused on science-related topics and highlighted the connections to their Lakota culture.
Presently, Anna holds the position of Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Davis Food Co-op. In this role, she imparts knowledge by conducting monthly cooking classes for children and leads tours of the co-op, specifically designed for kids from various elementary schools in Davis.
Anna is excited to embark on a new venture as a Forest Mentor at Davis Forest School. This position enables her to blend her love for the outdoors with her prior experience working with children. She firmly believes that children possess unique wisdom and perspectives that can be shared and valued, and she looks forward to learning from them in return
MATT MOKSKI (Assistant Forest Mentor, he/him) Hi, my name is Matt Mokski. I am a freshman in the Redwood SEED scholars program at UC Davis. My brother also goes to UC Davis. I am part of the Aggie Golf Club. I play a round of golf on a Saturday or Sunday. I sometimes go to the driving range on Fridays to hit a bucket of balls and practice some putting. I enjoy playing golf with people. I’m from Petaluma, California. I grew up being outside. I enjoy hanging out with some kids. In my free time, I love hiking, biking, playing golf, spending some time with my family and friends, and going bowling. I love being outside because I like enjoying being in nature. Over the summer, I like going swimming, going to San Diego, going on an adventure, going to Yosemite, going to San Francisco, and going to Point Reyes.
JESSIE OSTROVE (Forest Mentor, she/her) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. Apart from a few causal camping trips, she didn’t get her nature fix until college time when she and her friends would go on backpacking trips, float in Lake Berryessa, or ski in Tahoe, to name a few. Throughout college, Jessie worked in a research lab studying how nature can help strengthen the bond between parents and their children, utilizing “care farming” techniques such as therapeutic gardening and hanging out with donkeys. Besides her job working on a flower and citrus farm, Jessie is planning to attend law school, pursuing either public defending or environmental law, after just graduating from UC Davis with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management, and is currently an intern at the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office. In her (very limited) free time, Jessie can be found playing the trombone or piano, competing in a triathlon, playing with her cat “Boots,” or skiing over the winter weekends in Tahoe.
NATASCHA PAXTON (Lead Forest Mentor, Program Coordinator, she/her) was born and partially raised in Germany, though she calls California “home.” Some of her favorite childhood memories include spending hours on end playing in the forest near the home she partially grew up in, equipped with only her imagination and what the woods had to offer. As she grew older, she would also look after her younger cousins, taking them on nature walks and playing imaginative games with them. Natascha graduated from UC Davis this past spring with a degree in Plant Biology and loves plants! She also has a fascination and appreciation for ecological relationships which she loves to explore and share with others who are also curious. During her undergraduate studies she worked for the Botanical Conservatory, the campus Herbarium, and a plant ecology lab group. She also has experience working as a farmhand for the Earthbound Farms Farmstand, where she helped lead workshops and other community events. She especially loved working with the children who visited the farm and getting to see the vegetables, berries, flowers and insects through their eyes. These experiences combined have contributed to her interest in pursuing a career in science and nature education. When not working, she likes rock climbing, reading, listening to podcasts, and practicing yoga!
LINA WOOD (Forest Mentor, she/her) was born in Germany and is the eldest of five siblings. She grew up playing in the woods behind her family’s apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden with her sister and their close friend. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 8 years old and although she no longer had the forest at her fingertips, she and her friends found little nature spots wherever they were to be found, with the consensus that the more expansive, and wilder, and freer, the better. She earned a BS in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution at UCLA where she also taught outdoor education seminars as a guide through their Outdoor Leadership Training Program. After working in environmental consulting for three years in downtown LA, she moved to Davis to continue her education in ecology at UC Davis. She co-taught at Kindergruppe Waldwichtel, a German immersion forest school in Davis from 2017-2020 and became a certified California Naturalist in 2020. She finds great joy in getting outdoors with children, including her own two, and believes that a personal connection with nature fosters well-being and a sense of global responsibility.
BINUTA SUDHAKARAN (Program Lead/Mentor; she/they) spent her early years in the lush tropical land of Kerala in India. The rain-soaked smells and sounds of the monsoons are her favorite memories of her childhood. As she grew older and moved to the Middle East, she missed the rich landscape of her homeland, but learned to appreciate the desolate beauty of the deserts and the oasis that surrounded the cities.
Having finally settled in Davis in 2007 to raise her family, Binuta soon recognized how much of our identity as individuals is rooted in the land we live on. She is drawn to the immense role that Putah Creek played in Indigenous culture and the evolution of agriculture and farming in the area.
Binuta has a degree in Architecture and Sustainable design. In addition to being mom to two unschooling kiddos, Binuta is also a yoga/meditation teacher, a minimalist, a visual artist, and is passionate about the role of self-guided nature explorations in early childhood. Her aim is to have every child go through a Forest School program in their community — awakening them to the deep bond they share with the land and recognizing the healing power of that connection.
Founder & Director
CANDICE WANG (she/her) spent her childhood years in Los Angeles, and there was a piece of land that separated her family’s backyard from the freeway. Candice and her siblings called this space “Neverland” and they spent hours every day engaged in imaginative play between the woods and wildflowers that inhabited this land. As a mother raising two young daughters in Los Angeles, Candice realized the landscape of “play” had substantially changed from when she was a child, and found raising children in a city very limiting. After her family learned about forest schools, their lives completely changed. Candice discovered her mission of creating accessible nature programs for her communities, and founded Davis Forest School in early 2018. Candice also co-founded Atlanta Forest School in Atlanta, Georgia in 2019. Candice attended UC Davis as an undergraduate student and managed the local teen center for the City of Davis during her college years. She also volunteered as a camp counselor for several summers through the City. Candice has her MBA with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior from California Lutheran University. She is Wilderness First Aid and CPR certified, and trained in nonviolent communication.
ROSEMARY ROBERTS (she/they) grew up on Kalapuya lands in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and has lived in a variety of bioregions, including in western Europe, eastern Canada, and southern and northern California. With a background in cultural anthropology, midwifery, permaculture, wilderness awareness and herbalism, Rosemary ran Davis Forest School from Fall 2018 to Spring 2020, and deeply enjoyed putting into practice a great passion: helping kids get outside and get dirty (a rather sneaky way of fostering awareness and care of our more-than-human world). Having moved back to Oregon in 2020, Rosemary is grateful to be able to continue supporting the program and community from afar. In addition to parenting and unschooling with two wild kiddos, Rosemary is a freelance sexual/reproductive health educator, and handcrafts herbal tea blends from a rural intentional community near Eugene, OR.