Dave Shaw

Dave’s deep connection with nature has been generously and skillfully expressed throughout his learning and teaching journey.

In his early adulthood, Dave explored the mysteries of the natural world through small group wanderings and field studies focused on plants and people. Through these experiences he understood nature as teacher, and also developed an appreciation for the ways his mentors brought people together for these transformative learning (and unlearning) experiences.

After many years practicing ethnobotany and developing his homesteading skills independently, Dave decided to expand his awareness for land tending and teaching nature-connection through a focused apprenticeship with master gardener, Orin Martin, and the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the University of California Santa Cruz. During his second year at the UCSC Alan Chadwick Garden he became UC Santa Cruz staff, and has since taught undergraduate courses on designing and implementing community gardens on campus, and initiated a weekly World Café program, which brings together campus stakeholders for conversations about their most meaningful questions. These projects have taken on lives of their own, and are thriving examples of regenerative community design.

In 2008 Dave received an MSc in Integrative Ecosocial Design from Gaia University, with a concentration in Organizing Learning for Ecosocial Regeneration. It has been a lifelong dream to co-create a nature school in Santa Cruz for fostering beneficial relationships amongst the people and places of his home. He appreciates the power Gaia University International holds for organizing nature-connected centers across bioregions, on a global scale, and supports Gaia University International as an advisor and teacher, and for curriculum development. Currently, he is an association organizer for the newly developing partner association Gaia Santa Cruz.

In addition to his work at UC Santa Cruz, Dave also teaches at the Regenerative Design Institute and Free Skool Santa Cruz in fields such as farming and gardening, ethnobotany, permaculture, fruit tree care, community organizing, communication, hosting, and the art and practice of loving. He also recently began organizing santacruzpermaculture.com, in order to create a permaculture network with courses available in central California. 

Dave lives happily and humbly on a 2-acre homestead in Santa Cruz, California.

Perhaps what I appreciate most about being an advisor at Gaia U is listening to people’s stories. My best role is really that of a questioner. The deepest mentoring is not giving advice or assignments, but listening and helping people to uncover their gifts. The right questions can help people discover where their real curiosity lies, what their sacred questions are, how to move forward with their life ambitions and how to live in their highest integrity – while taking care of themselves, their communities and their relationship with nature.

It has been such a powerful experience to weave Gaia University’s core principles and models into my own thinking, and then see the organization have the agility and openness to weave aspects of my thinking into its own emergent design. It is a co-creative process. I appreciate that Gaia University is an organization for action-learning that is being 'action learned', that is, it changes based on what we co-learn over time. This is so hopeful. Most conventional Universities do not change that quickly, or with as much ease and grace.