Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Innovation and Collaboration

I recently sat down to read an essay by my friend and colleague, Ginny McGinn, co-director of the Center for Whole Communities. Her writing on leadership and how to create new pathways to collaboration (in the Winter 2010-11 Whole Thinking Journal) touched on something which really resonated with me in thinking about what makes Yestermorrow such a special place.

"Recently on the Canadian Broadcasting Company radio show Spark (an ongoing conver­sation about technology and culture), researcher and author Steven Johnson was talking about his new book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. He spoke about the concept, perhaps the myth, of the “eureka moment,” the instant when an individual is struck by an idea, a lightning bolt of brilliance that will change the world.

What Johnson’s research shows is that such moments are rare. More often what happens is that over time an individ­ual develops an idea in collaboration with one or more other people whom he or she has regular contact with and input from. Rarely does innovation happen in isolation. Just as plants and animals adapt to be better fitted to their environment as a result of what they come into contact with so, too, do human beings. Our best thinking happens when we bump up against other people and their ideas. Johnson’s research reveals that when we humans have relationships with individuals who have different skills and come from different fields, our capac­ity to innovate increases. Specifically he found that inventors typically had social connections to people with very different backgrounds. What fed their new thinking was listening and learning from people with different ideas."

For me, this is a huge part of what Yestermorrow is all about. Bringing people together to share their ideas, their experiences, and their visions for the future. The result is never something that can be predicted, but inevitably the “eureka” moments come when students are working together to help each other figure out a solution neither would have come to on their own. Yestermorrow is a place where people who want to make the world a better place and who are hungry to learn can bump elbows, chat over dinner, and spark innovations that transcend the subject matter of any one class or topic. Good food for thought (thanks Ginny!).

-Kate Stephenson

South Studio Transformation!

During a 3-day design and 4-day blitz build session Design/Build Interns under the supervision of Dave Warren completed the final phase of the south studio transformation. The south studio morphed from a difficult, limited working place to a design-school level, multi-purpose room. New convertible drafting table work benches, conceived to increase the functionality of the space, were designed by current D/B intern Andrea Kelchlin. Images of the full process can be found on Facebook.

The south studio before.

The desk/bench coming together.

Tada! 1-2-away, bench-desk-storage.

And after - the final magic. Thank you Dave and Interns for the gumption and extra hours involved in rejuvenating this space!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Carey Clouse and Josh Jackson Will Lead Inaugural Undergraduate Semester in Sustainable Design/Build

Yestermorrow Design/Build School and the Architecture+Design Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are pleased to announce that Carey Clouse and Josh Jackson will be leading the first Undergraduate Semester in Sustainable Design/Build program next fall.

Carey Clouse is an educator and practitioner with a body of work that addresses the intersection between sustainability, social justice, and design/build. After graduating from MIT with a graduate degree in architecture and urbanism, Carey joined the faculty at Tulane University, where she has taught architecture as an adjunct assistant professor for the past four years. In her time in New Orleans she also spent three years as a Rose Architectural Fellow, working closely with the city to establish green building guidelines, with local grassroots rebuilding groups to share resources and ideas, and with a non-profit housing developer to oversee the sustainable design and development of more than 1,500 units of affordable housing. She is partner and co-founder of CrookedWorks Architecture, a small design/build firm in New Orleans which addresses the tough issues of urban identity, food security, and environmental stewardship. In addition to her architectural background, Carey also taught as an outdoor instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) from 2001 until 2007.

Josh Jackson received his Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Yale University in 1989 and promptly bicycled across the country to San Francisco where he pursued an interest in alternative energy and worked for Pacific Gas & Electric on energy conservation programs. A desire to bring head, hands, and heart together led Josh to the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Massachusetts where he fell in love with timberframing and ecological building during two summers as an apprentice. He has pursued these paths exploring a wide variety of natural materials, handmade paper, stained glass, and timbers of all shapes, sizes, and species. Josh co-founded the firm Humble Abode in the Berkshires, and is now a partner in TimberHomes LLC, a timberframing company based in Vershire, Vermont. Josh teaches timberframing workshops at Heartwood School, Yestermorrow, and Rocky Mountain Workshops and has been a core faculty member of Yestermorrow’s Natural Building Intensive program since 2007.

Yestermorrow’s Semester in Sustainable Design/Build will draw undergraduates and recent post-baccalaureates from diverse liberal arts colleges and architecture schools. Students will be exposed to design fundamentals, principles of sustainability, and a hands-on experience in design/build―designing and constructing a “tiny house” from start to finish. Under the guidance of Clouse and Jackson, they will explore what sustainability looks like in practice. The program is geared for students considering a career in the fields of sustainable design, architecture, planning, construction, engineering and landscape design, including liberal arts students in search of an immersive and unique “study away” opportunity, and students in professional architecture programs looking for hands-on design/build experience. The 16-week semester runs August 21-December 9, 2011 and offers 15 credits from the UMass-Amherst Architecture + Design program.

Applications are currently being accepted for the Fall 2011 class. For more information visit or contact José Galarza, Director of Semester Programs:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A few signs of spring...

A few small signs of spring around campus...
rhubarb emerging (so cool looking!)Seder plate at lunch

Monday, April 04, 2011

What College Students Are Saying About Yestermorrow

"When I design something, I always wonder how it can be built." -Theo

Theo can't remember a time when he wasn't helping in his dad's shop. He grew up tinkering with bicycles, old cars, and built a kayak when he was fourteen.

Now that Theo's studying architecture in college, he longs for more. "I want to explore all the social issues that impact design and gain the hard skills required for building."

Theo isn't alone. Ever since Yestermorrow announced its Semester Program in February, I've heard from college students from Louisiana, Ecuador, California, Washington, Texas, and across New England. One settled on a course of study "because I couldn't find a college teaching what I wanted to learn." Another, well into her architecture degree, has yet to pick up a hammer. A future engineer faces "limited options to study environmental sustainability and less chance to participate in actual practice."

Talented, committed, curious—these young adults are in an educational system that hasn't addressed their learning styles or their interests. Hasn't allowed them to test out what they learn. Until now they've had limited choices.

Yestermorrow is changing all that.

In August, 15 undergraduates will begin Yestermorrow's Semester in Sustainable Design/Build. Design studios, seminars, and training in basic carpentry while they design and then construct a tiny self-sufficient house. They'll earn credit from UMass Amherst.

We're establishing a second campus for undergraduates in the fall and graduate students in the spring. I'm asking you to contribute today so we can outfit a studio, seminar room, shop, dining room, kitchen, and dorm rooms. We don't have much time.

Donate Now

We have to be ready when Theo arrives here on August 21st. With your financial support, we can welcome and nourish the students' minds and bodies. Transform their future. Fuel their passion. You can give Theo an educational experience he couldn't find anywhere else.

He and his classmates already have the desire to build a better world, it's up to you to make sure they have the tools to do so. I invite you to be part of that journey.

Donate $300 before May 1, and I'll add your name to a Founder's Plaque. Contribute more than $150, you'll receive updates about the students' progress throughout the semester. If $150 is too much money at one time, consider making a recurring monthly donation.

I hope you will visit this fall and see what we've created together.


Kate Stephenson
Executive Director

P.S. If you believe this is one of the coolest innovations since sliced bread (we do), share this appeal with friends on your Facebook page Like What college students are saying on Facebook or tweet about it . If you can’t afford much, make a monthly donation. $15 a month will go a long way toward paying for a fast internet connection at the new campus. Or get a group of friends to pitch in $20. Be part of making the semester program a success.

P.S. If you'd prefer to send a check, write it to Yestermorrow, and send it to: Yestermorrow, 189 VT Route 100, Warren, VT 05674.

Find out more about the Semester Program.

Making Ladderback Chairs

Last week our Woodworking Intensive students were hard at work making green ladderback chairs, led by instructor Mark Krawczyk. Not only is Mark a skilled natural builder and permaculture teacher, he also crafts beautiful furniture, functional objects and traditional tools from green wood under his business RivenWoodCrafts up in Burlington, VT. This type of woodworking is also called green woodworking because the materials are generally shaped while still wet or ‘green’.

This class is a bit of a change of pace from the other sections of the Woodworking Intensive, which incorporate lots of power tools.
Rather than using sawn lumber from a mill, this course begins with a fresh, raw log, splitting it into parts shaped by hand with a draw-knife and shaving horse (a brilliantly simple foot-operated vice more than four centuries old). Because wood that has been split retains the natural strength and integrity of its fibers, they create strong, lightweight chairs that are beautiful as well as comfortable.

Check out the video below for a taste of what students learn in Mark's Green Ladderback Chair course. He's still got space in his next course, which starts October 2, 2011 and runs for 5 days.