Grand Opening of our Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School!

The public is invited to celebrate the grand opening of the Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership (SOL) School on Sunday, September 7, 1 – 5pm.  Located on the campus of Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA), the event will feature hands-on activities that will be part of Mountain SOL’s curriculum, guided hikes on the nature trail, kids’ crafts and face-painting, harvest activities in the MLA school garden and a presentation by the Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) Youth Advisory Board about how kids can get involved in mapping their own watershed.

The grand opening is an opportunity for the public to learn about not only Mountain SOL programs, but also the school’s mission, philosophy and vision for the future.  Mountain SOL School is opening as a partnership between Aurora Lights, a state-wide environmental non-profit, and Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA).

The event will also highlight other partnerships, including:

  • The new Wild Yards! area of the MLA campus, a partnership among MLA, FODC and Master Naturalists of Morgantown
  • The MLA School Garden, a collaboration with MLA Friends of the Garden and Aurora Lights
  • The Youth Watershed Connections project, developed by FODC’s Youth Advisory Board

The Mountain SOL School is a brand-new, outdoor education program focused on nature awareness, stewardship and outdoor leadership.  For the 2014 – 2015 academic year, the school is offering in-class environmental education programs to all students at MLA and afterschool, outdoor education classes to all local students ages 2nd grade and up.  Future programs will offer high school students the opportunity to mentor younger students, as well as internships for youth and young adults.  Adults can get involved, too, through Clean up the Creek!, a group of youth and adults working together to clean up the MLA stream.

Mountain SOL is about connection – connection to self, connection to friends, to community and to a greater circle of life.  Classes are hands-on and allow for unstructured time in the woods as well as experiences in stewardship and self-led exploration.  Classes are more than just lesson plans taught outside — they’re fun, fully immersed experiences.  The emphasis on passion, personal responsibility and leadership skills equips Mountain SOL students with the tools to make real changes in their communities and the world at large.

In addition to the values of stewardship and outdoor leadership, Mountain SOL classes and programs also teach the values of environmental and social justice.  In every class, walk and conversation, students learn the importance of equality and rights of all peoples to health and happiness.  Older students have the opportunity to be mentored in community organizing, and provided internships with local non-profits.

Morgantown Learning Academy is a non-profit, non-church affiliated, private school for children from preschool to 8th grade.  Since 1998, Aurora Lights has supported educational opportunities, locally-based projects and collaborations between academia and activism that strengthen the connections between human communities and their natural environment.

Partnerships and projects highlighted at this event were made possible with funding from GreenWorks! and Project Learning Tree, the Whole Kids Foundation, and the WV Geological and Economic Survey.

Come learn more about Mountain SOL School’s innovative programs on Sunday, September 7 from 1 – 5pm!  Morgantown Learning Academy is located off Easton Mill Rd at 123 Discovery Place.

Contact Info:

Elizabeth Wiles, PR & Operations Manager

Mountain SOL School


Aurora Lights Announces Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School!

July 1, 2014

For Immediate Release

Contact Info: Elizabeth Wiles, PR & Operations Manager

Aurora Lights & Mountain SOL School



New Environmental Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School in Morgantown

Aurora Lights, a state-wide environmental nonprofit, is proud to announce the opening of the Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School (Mountain SOL) for Fall 2014 in Morgantown.  Located on the campus of the Morgantown Learning Academy, Mountain SOL will be offering in-class environmental education programs to the students at MLA and afterschool outdoor education classes to all local students. Morgantown Learning Academy is a non-profit, non-church affiliated, private school for children from preschool to eighth grade located in Morgantown, West Virginia. 

All MLA students will be going outside at least once a week for hands-on, outdoor lessons that build on what they’re learning in the classroom, whether it be science, grammar / reading, the arts or social studies.  These classes will meet state CSO standards.

For the 2014-2015 school year, afterschool programs are offered weekly — Mountain Mallards for 2nd thru 4th graders and Mountain Jaguares (Mountain Lions) for 5th grade and up.  Future programs also will offer high school students the opportunity to mentor younger students.  Tuition for afterschool programs is on a sliding scale to make these classes as accessible as possible to all interested families.

Adults can get involved, too, through Clean up the Creek!, a group of youth and adults working together to clean up the MLA stream.  Mountain SOL also offers internship opportunities for youth and young adults.

Since 1998 Aurora Lights has been leading programs in a variety of environmental stewardship and outdoor leadership topics.  Aurora Lights originally formed as a school in Ecuador, and since has led “International Perspectives on Environmental Issues” for WV college students, survival and stewardship classes for high school youth, basic survival skills for elementary and middle school students, and adult education classes in wild edibles and preserving food.  

Mountain SOL is the brainchild of Aurora Lights co-founder Jen-Osha Buysse, who has over 15 years’ experience of teaching, developing and supporting outdoor and environmental education programs that strengthen the connections between human communities and their natural environment.

ALSO, please note that we have already started offering outdoor education classes as part of the MLA summer camp.   

Please stay tuned for more details, and email if you would like to go ahead and get on the waiting list for classes. Please also learn more and get involved at our Indiegogo site:

Aurora Lights brings students from West Virginia to learn about the impacts of oil extraction as well as share the lives of the Huaorani people.  We are forever grateful for their kindness and openness with us.

Another class of West Virginia students, spending time at the San Rafael waterfall in the highlands of Ecuador.

Aurora Lights hosts the Youth Advisory Board from Friends of Deckers Creek
for a five day survival class on Cheat Mountain!

With the opening of the Mountain SOL school, we will be able to offer many more classes such as these.


Donate to send relief supplies to families affected by chemical spill

Update :  At this point, we have stopped sending trucks of water to affected counties.  However, many families are still without clean water.  We are working now to help provide rain catchment systems and portable jugs to help support long term recovery from this disaster.  Please donate or share your skills with us!


Two more vehicles left on Sunday 1/19 or affected areas.  More trucks leaving later this week and weekend depending on how much supplies we can raise.   Please organize your community, your church, your school,  your work and help us to sustain the relief.  This is going to be an ongoing situation and we need a wide network of people to keep helping.  Thank you for all that you have done, and all you are doing now!  We are keeping the Aurora Lights' Facebook page updated with pictures and stories.


Aurora Lights sent another flat-bed truck of supplies on Thursday 1/16 to for folks in affected areas of southern West Virginia who have not been receiving sufficient water, liquid baby formula, etc., after the chemical spill last week that has poisoned their tap water.  Your donations ensured the truck was packed with as much water and other supplies as it could handle.  We also supported three other runs that daay, please see facebook for more details.

Thanks to your generosity, on Sunday 1/12 we were able to fill a 20 foot trailer, an SUV, a truck bed, and a smaller trailer with water to help the folks in southern West Virginia who are affected by the coal chemical spill.  We were also able to send money to Coal River Mountain Watch to support water purchase and local delivery.  

 Let's work together to help out the people in need and make sure that we never let this happen again.  More information is available on Aurora Lights' Facebook page.  If you live near the affected area and have a spring, well or other clean water source that people can draw from, the West Virginia Clean Water Hub has been set up to coordinate such drinking water mutual aid.

Please donate tonight to ensure our flat-bed truck leaves Morgantown full of supplies:

Thank you everyone who has supported this effort after Freedom Industries' tank leaked 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the Elk River.

— The Aurora Lights Crew


Aurora Lights welcomes new staff members!

Hannah Spencer started her first day today as President-in-Training with Aurora Lights! Hannah is a West Virginia native with a passion for the outdoors. Her love of the outdoors led her to receive a B.S. in West Virginia University's Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources program. She is active with West Virginia's chapter of the Sierra Club and serves on the local chapter's executive committee. Her interests are in environmental issues, local ecology, and connecting children with nature. In addition to her work with Aurora Lights, Hannah currently works with Friends of Deckers Creek and volunteers with other local non-profit organizations.

We also are very excited to have Courtney Altice as our Community Education and Outreach Coordinator! She already put together our successful Pickin for Progress concert fundraiser! Courtney is a mountain enthusiast. Raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southern Virginia, she moved to West Virginia for college and became passionate about figuring out ways in which communities of Appalachia can thrive. She seeks to bring solidarity to Appalachia through collective roots in music, art, wildlife, and culture. At Aurora Lights, Courtney handles community outreach and seeks to raise awareness on the issues facing the region while remembering the heritage of the mountains. Courtney has a B.A. in International Relations from West Virginia University.

Aurora Lights to provide outreach support for

As part of Aurora lights mission to build solidarity for a Healthy Appalachia through education and outreach, we have partnered to provide outreach support for a group of concerned citizens under the name NoInjectionWell.Org. NoInjectionWell.Org was started because of Energy Corporation of America’s proposed injection well within 500 feet of Deckers Creek near Masontown, WV. The well would be in close proximity to the creek and the Deckers Creek Rail Trail. This injection well would be storing fracking wastewater, which would be detrimental to aquatic life and water quality if the creek were to become contaminated. Over the last 20 years, city, state, and federal agencies have invested over $10 million in restoring the Deckers Creek Watershed and creating a natural recreational destination. This injection well would be located just upstream of one of the most scenic areas of the creek which provides swimming, fishing, and other recreational opportunities. Within the past few years, there has been a success with stocking and sustaining a brown trout population in this same area. Needless to say, wastewater contamination threatens the restored qualities of the creek.

NoInjectionWell.Org is committed to protecting the Deckers Creek Watershed and its recreational and ecological resources by ensuring the Energy Corporation of America’s proposed fracking wastewater injection well is not built. The group has created a petition for the cause which can be accessed at At this website, you can also find more information about injection wells and the work being done by this group.

New Mini-grant given to support Lone Mountain

Aurora Lights is pleased to announce the award of a Still Moving Mountains minigrant to support the publication of Lone Mountain. Lone Mountain is an illustrated children’s story book created to educate youth about mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Set in central Appalachia, this 32-page book presents beautifully illustrated full color pages that will compel and educate youth and adult readers alike. Focusing on Appalachia’s rich cultural and natural heritage- from its biodiversity to its clean water, food sources and medicinal plants- Lone Mountain presents a framework for learning about the valuable gifts of the Appalachian Mountains while raising awareness about the threats of mountaintop removal. A collaboration between Appalachian artists and activists, Lone Mountain is planned to be published in the winter of 2013-2014.

Please remember to help sell Still Moving Mountains Cds…they are still making a difference!

Aurora Lights takes members of FODC Youth Advisory Board on summer trip

Friends of Deckers Creek’s Youth Advisory Board explored Cheat Mountain near Beverly and learned survival skills along the way. From July 23 to July 27, Friends of Deckers Creek’s Youth Advisory Board went on their summer trip with Aurora Lights, a local nonprofit whose mission is to support locally-based projects that strengthen the connections between human communities and their natural environment by promoting environmental and social action. YAB traveled to the home of Aurora Lights' Instructors Ivan Stiefel and Maureen Farrell who run Cheat Mountain Wild Foods in Beverly, W.Va. Their home is located on Cheat Mountain, directly bordering hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest, including the area that is the proposed Cheat Mountain Wilderness. On our trip YAB explored the vast red spruce forest. We hung out among lush streams, beds of thick moss, yellow birch, red spruce, and several rare and endangered species. YAB learned a variety of survival skills including wild foods, building shelter, building fire, compass navigation and finding potable water. YAB also learned about our local ecosystem, the organisms that live within it and how to work together to be excellent stewards of the land.

Comments from Allan Nelson in Scotland on our Still Moving Mountains CD!

Many thanks to Allan for sending us these comments about our CD:

The initial write-up on this project, I must say, had me intrigued !! Most of the discs which I normally receive for my radio show have strictly commercial aspirations, but this cd was endeavouring to highlight a problem that was blighting not only the lives of individuals but indeed whole communities and that,more than anything else, captured my attention. Not only that but here were a group of highly skilled musicians and others who were prepared to take a stance against this environmental destruction and for that reason alone they enjoy my wholehearted support !

My name is Allan Nelson. I have a weekly one hour programme and my show is called – Twangfest. I broadcast on – Cuillin FM – a radio station sending out a wide variety of music, chat and discussions (on local topics) from the town of Portree on the Isle of Skye, up there on the west coast of Scotland.
I have been broadcasting for almost fourteen years and feature exclusively the roots music(in all it’s various forms) from the North American continent and from Canada too. We also stream live on the web at – although having said that, anyone tuning in from the UnitedStates -it might be as we say here in the U.K -“LIKE TAKING COALS TO NEWCASTLE” (n.b. Newcastle already has plenty of coal) ,but at least all the introductions would be in my Scottish accent !! I cover a wide variety of styles and genres,including new release and archive material. I have a penchant for
old-timey,blugrass,early country,blues and gospel music. Any way,enough about me !!

I particularly like this cd because there is a wide spread of material and all the contributing artists have done a magnificent job in bringing these songs to life. There’s passion,skill,enthusiasm and compassion in abundance which just oozes out from between the covers of this cd. The spoken words from the local inhabitants are put across with clarity and honesty and with some trepidation as
to what the future will hold for them. In combining these various aspects it has resulted in almost all of the tracks being aired on my show over the past eighteen months or so. Unfortunately,the last track,if broadcast,would result in me being taken off the air. The remainder are excellent and i will be happy to broadcast more from the album in the future. It’s also a timely reminder that we must all be wary of these Plutocrats,wherever and whenever they show up – not just in your country – but in ours too. I sincerely wish you every success with this project and even if it doesn’t result in the ceasation of the denuding of that beautiful piece of West Virginia,which i have seen with my own eyes – it will
leave behind the strong message that local people and their interests won’t lie down in the face of such blatant commercialism and exploitation.

Aurora Lights continues support of outdoor program at local school

AL is very proud to offer support for the outdoor education program at local school Morgantown Learning Academy. AL participated in a school wide celebration of its relationships with local non profits on May 28th. AL is happy to see that the small seed money donated to support the outdoor program has helped to encourage the participation of more community groups and volunteers in the development of a trail, garden, and outdoor classroom at MLA. This press release was written by a MLA Middle School student Lev, with just a little bit of help! What a fantastic job!

By Lev Ivanov and MLA staff

Morgantown Learning Academy celebrated its relationships with local non-profits with a school-wide afternoon outdoor learning event. We worked in our garden, sponsored by Aurora Lights and Gardener’s Supply, learned about water quality from the Friends of Deckers Creek Youth Advisory Board, and enjoyed our new outdoor classroom spaces created by the Master Naturalists of Morgantown!

The organizations have combined to help students build their garden, improve outdoor learning spaces and nature trails, and teach students to protect and preserve their environment for the future. Ellen Hrabovsky, Coordinator of the Monongahela Chapter of the Master Naturalists, said that the group’s goal in partnering with MLA is train young people about the outdoors. “At the very least, (students) can appreciate nature. At the most, we can end up with scientists who work on research projects, teach, and educate everybody about nature.”

Members of the Master Naturalists and Decker’s Creek Youth Advisor Board have come on several occasions to share their specific areas of expertise with MLA’s afterschool outdoor adventure club, the Mountain Mallards. Tristan Dennis, a Youth Advisory Board member, says that they hope to mentor the Mountain Mallards in the future. Their organization’s goal is to inspire youth to help clean up the Deckers Creek watershed. They teach kids to identify the healthiness of the stream and the insects and other wildlife found there.

Aurora Lights and Gardener’s Supply contributed towards the new school garden. Aurora Lights is a locally based nonprofit whose mission is to support projects that strengthen the connections between human communities and their natural environment by promoting environmental action. Gardener’s Supply, a progressive, employee-owned company, is supporting our school garden all the way from Vermont!

We also want to thank the men working for the Morgantown Utility Board for their contribution to our outdoor learning area as well as 2013 Miss Central West Virginia Kirsten Brown for her contribution to our garden. MLA is a private, non church-affiliated school for grades PK-8.

Aurora Lights hosts “I Can Can” class to teach about food preservation

On September 30th Aurora Lights, in conjunction with Gardener’s Supply, hosted a “I Can Can!” class for residents of Morgantown, West Virginia.  Laurie Ross, a homesteading mountain momma with more than 35 years of experience, came to guest teach our home canning class.  We shared information about how to use a pressure canner, prepare jars and lids, and showed examples of home canned food.  We prepared and canned vegetable stew with all local ingredients, and then made fresh salsa which waiting for the stew to can.  Participants were sent home with a How to Can booklet, vegetable stew, salsa, and Deluxe Canning Tools donated by Gardener’s Supply.  We all loved the beautiful Bormioli Canning Jars also donated by Gardener’s Supply.

One participant commented, “I really enjoyed the class. Although I had done a little canning over the summer I really lacked the confidence to do pressure canning or can anything other than tomatoes.  After the class I feel much more confident to do some pressure canning on my own, so thank you!”

We are grateful to Gardener’s Supply for supporting this class, and for the opportunity to work together and learn from each other as mothers and gardeners.  We look forward to doing it again soon.

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