Water Teaches


I’m Zoe Nelsen and I’d like to introduce a film I’ve collaborated with others to make called Water Teaches. The film is the culmination of an evolving exploration in how we, as a global community, can consciously weave together education and economy within the ecology of place.

In 2008 the opportunity arose for me to work full-time with my father Michael Nelsen’s landscaping company, EcoScapes. I focused on operational processes of the business and enjoyed seeing our environmentally conscious projects, such as water harvesting and xeric design, come to fruition both residentially and commercially.  Though interesting, it did not fulfill my deep-seated passion for educational transformation.

Around the same time a mutual friend introduced me to Aaron Stern, founder and president of The Academy for the Love of Learning. Together we planted a seed for a project that would help to show the interconnectivity of life within an watershed, ecologically, socially and economically.

At the time, The Academy was constructing their Gold-Certified LEED building in Seton Village, on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Richard Jennings of Earthwright Designs quickly became an integral part of this collaboration, as he was the water systems designer for The Academy and also as a close associate of EcoScapes.  The film project broadened and truly took form when Richard and I discussed other local educational institutions that had invested in the design and installation of a large-scale water harvesting system. Salazar Elementary and Monte del Sol Charter School  were two we decided to include in the film story, as they were not only designed and installed by EcoScapes and Mr. Jennings, but they also maintained the vision of experiential education and increased ecological awareness through active school garden programs. I am grateful Aaron Stern suggested we work with their filmmaker, Nicole Lewin, to help bring this relationship between place, people and pedagogy to the screen.

Water Teaches tells the stories of these 3 organizations in Santa Fe (The Academy for the Love of Learning, Salazar Elementary and Monte Del Sol Charter School) whom are committed to slowing down the water that falls on the property so that it may slowly seep into the soil and remain in the watershed longer.  The film also highlights how garden programs in schools act as catalysts to learn about one’s position within the ecology of all living things, and empowers people to care for and maintain this balance. The educators, artists, organizers and activists interviewed in the film passionately share their truths for why they continue to act as change agents. The youth provide the evidence that such programs can elevate an awareness and connection to the food we eat, water we use and a reverence for all life needed in future generations.

The project was born from my vision to connect my work with EcoScapes with my passion as an educator interested in systemic change. The overreaching insight I’ve gathered from  making this film confirms the wealth of available catalysts to connect people – of all ages–  to place, and thus promote the type of care and connection needed to shift our cultural consciousness about how we live. When organizations invest in the technologies and programs that support life and respect the natural systems of local and global ecosystems, they act responsibly today – and respectfully – for tomorrow.

In 2010, I returned to a position at Monte del Sol as the Assistant Director of the Mentorship Program and a classroom teacher, and just this year, 2014, I began a PhD program in Sustainability Education from Prescott College.  I also moved back to Durango, Colorado and am currently working at Animas High School as the LINK Program Coordinator, and collaborating with other programs such as the Montezuma School to Farm Project. I look forward to further bridging my passion for transformative sustainability education, with regional solutions for our local landscapes. Be sure and check out the film Water Teaches, and email me at zoe@ecoscapesnm.com if you’d like to share any thoughts with me.