ASIW banner

ASIW will be held June 11th-15th, 2018.  In nature’s classroom, children ages 6 to 18 are able to learn and have fun in a beautiful setting. Over the course of five days they will be taught the arts & sciences by inspiring artists, engineers, archeologists, scientists, survival skills instructors and more all while taking in the natural beauty of the outdoors. On the final day, family, friends & the community are invited to the Sun Foundation to celebrate their week of sharing & learning.


ASIW will be held June 11th to the 15th, 2018

The list of Major and Minor classes for 2018 will be posted in February, 2018

Online Registration:

Online registration will be posted in February, 2018

Thank you to all who help make Art and Science in the Woods a success!


We are accepting donations for scholarships to enable financial needs students to attend Art and Science in the Woods. Any amount you can give will help provide these students the opportunity to experience this special program–thank you so much for your support!

Click the button to donate to the Sun Foundation using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, or PayPal.

You will be transferred to the PayPal site, and from there you can enter the amount you wish to donate, and then either sign into your PayPal account (if you have one), or click on “continue” underneath “Don’t have a PayPal account?” to donate using a credit card.

Please put “ASIW scholarship” in the “Notes” section at the end.

You will receive a receipt after the payment is processed that you can print to document your donation for tax purposes.


Who Can Attend?
Everyone in moderate physical condition can enjoy being at ASIW.  It’s for ages 6 through adult.

When & Where?

June 11 to June 15th, 2018
ASIW is a five day program held Monday through Friday in June. Classes run from 9 am to 3 pm daily, RAIN OR SHINE at the Sun Foundation Center 25 miles north of Peoria. Sun Foundation Center is 9 miles South of Lacon & 2.5 miles East of IL Route 26. A sign on Route 26 marks the turn off.  See here for a MAP.
The Sun Foundation owns no land or facility. The Sun Foundation Center and Art & Science in the Woods are located on the property of Joan, Brett & Bob Ericksen – Blue Heron Farm, and neighboring farms.

How It Works
Mornings & all day Friday are devoted to in-depth study of one subject, called your Major. On Friday afternoon, you will share your learning with the rest of the group.
Monday through Thursday afternoons you will have a chance to do something different each day & learn a little bit about the topics that interest you. Afternoon classes are called Minors.

Lunch & Snacks
We recommend healthy, low sugar, nutritious lunch & snacks for AM & PM that won’t need refrigeration and a water bottle. Please, no Lunchables.

Bring & Wear
Wear comfortable clothing that can get soiled, wet, and painted. Long pants and long sleeved shirts are best for protection from plants & insects, and are required in some
classes. For comfort and safety, do not wear sandals. Flies & mosquitoes will not be as annoying if you wear socks, and hiking and exploring will be easier in shoes that tie.
Bring a cap, backpack and non-toxic, non-aerosol bug repellent, such as Avon Skin So Soft.

Financial Need Scholarships
A limited number of scholarships are available through the generosity of Sun Foundation members & community businesses for students with verifiable financial need. Need can be verified by teachers, scout leaders, church leaders or any adult or parent who knows of a childs interest in ASIW but is unable to attend because of financial considerations. Students should fill out the registration form & send it with a note or recommendation.

Adults who are interested in attending may call or write on their own behalf.

ASIW would not be possible without volunteers: they SHINE. We need teaching assistants, evaluators, nurses, & people to help with various duties before, during & after ASIW.  Adult teaching assistant volunteers receive a $50 deduction for one of their children and a free limited edition, ASIW t-shirt. A limited number of teen volunteers ages 15 and up are needed. Contact Sharon Obery, 309-251-2819 or email to get information about volunteering.

Our students come from many central Illinois communities. Bus service may be provided from Peoria, Metamora, & Germantown Hills. We can also share contact information for carpooling with your permission.

Please indicate interest in either of these options where indicated on the registration form.

First Aid & Insurance
Health forms should be sent in with registration forms. A nurse and/or a resident EMT will administer minor first aid. In the event serious medical attention is needed,
the emergency number listed on your registration form will be called. Please be sure to give a number for a responsible party. The Sun Foundation does not provide
insurance for coverage of medical expenses.

Please advise us when you register if the student has special needs.

NOTE: Parents may attend the same class with their student at no charge, but materials can only be provided to those actually registered for the class.

Friday Evening-Come Celebrate with us

Family, friends & the community are invited to the Sun Foundation Center on the Friday ending Art and Science in the Woods week to celebrate our week of sharing & learning. Bring a picnic dinner (blanket
or lawn chairs are a good idea) & enjoy music in the woods from 5 to 6 PM. At 6:00 classes will begin exhibits, demonstrations, and performances that exemplify the
work they have concentrated on during the week. With written permission from a responsible adult, students may remain at the Sun Foundation Friday Only, and be
picked up by parents at 5 on Friday. During this time special activities will be provided.
Friday Silent Auction to Benefit Art & Science in the Woods
Bidding from 9 am to 5:45 pm on Friday. The Auction is held in the Sun Foundation Center. Auction pieces are displayed in the pavilion & are marked for
silent bidding. Works by artists and scientists, students, & friends of the Sun Foundation are available for purchase.
The Auction results are announced at 6 pm outside the pavilion.

Lost & Found Policy
Check the Pavilion Lost & Found Box each day. Items will be held following the program for up to 2 weeks and then donated to the Goodwill.

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Daily Schedule

8:30 – 8:45 Registration for Monday only
8:45 to 9:00 Morning Major class grouping at pavilion
9 to 11:45 Major Class (Everyday)
11:45 to 12:15 Lunch with Major class (Everyday)
12:15 to 12:30 Minor class grouping at pavilion
12:30 – 3:00 Minor class (Different class each afternoon, Mon. thru Thurs.-Friday afternoon is spent with Major class)

“Friday Celebration Schedule”
For families, friends, & the public

9 AM to 6 PM Silent Auction bidding in the Pavilion
3 to 5 PM Student activities for students staying for the evening program

“Responsible adults” must pick-up students at Sun Foundation Pavilion no
later than 5 PM

5 to 6 PM Picnic and Silent Auction

6 PM Performances & Exhibits & Auction results

THANK YOU to all of the 2018 sponsors, Dick Blick Materials, Blue Heron Organic Farm, Community Foundation of Central Illinois, Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois

Additional listings of 2018 donors will be coming soon!

Art & Science in the Woods Staff

Program Coordinator……………Sharon Obery
Development Director…. Joan Root Ericksen
Executive Assistants ………………. Danielle Kreie

Assistant Coordinators ………… Shari Malson, Libby Verkuilen
Artistic Director……………………..Bob Ericksen
Site/Program Dir./Naturalist..Brett Root Ericksen

 Art & Science in the Woods Instructors 2017-

2018 Instructors to be posted in February, 2018

Sharon Bladholm

Sharon has pursued her singular vision with a variety of disciplines, including cast glass, bronze, and ceramic in the sculptural realm, plus printmaking and works on paper. For over 30 years she has explored the intersections of art, science, conservation and the natural world. She has run Opal Glass Studios since 1983 and continues to complete many important commissions and show her work in galleries and museums, as well as creating public art installations at a wide variety of venues. She is currently working on a sculptural “Tree of Life” that will honor the profound contributions of Carl Woese to the scientific Universal Tree of Life based on his groundbreaking work with Archaea.


James Semmelroth Darnell

James is a native of Peoria Heights, and was active for several years with Peoria Players and Cornstock Theatre. He works for the United Nations Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he performs with the St. Mark’s Players. James earned a BA in theatre history from Illinois State University. He is a long time ASIW participant and has assisted with theatre classes here for many years.


Douglas DePauw

BS, ISU, Art Ed & Studio Art. Doug is a second generation, professional fine arts printmaker. He studied and apprenticed with his father, Master Printer Robert DePauw. Currently, Doug has his own studio near Metamora, IL.


Ella Brown Dunn

Ella Brown Dunn is a graduate of the University of Illinois Fine Arts department. She has spent the last 16 years teaching artists of all ages and assisting in gallery exhibits, as well as showing her own work in various galleries and private collections. Ella sits on the Advancement Council Board at the Krannert Center for the performing Arts at the University of Illinois. She currently heads the Fine Arts Department for Next Generation Primary School in Champaign, IL, sharing her love of the arta with students from K-8. Mrs. Dunn resides in Champaign with her husband Chad and their daughter Zoe.


Brian “Fox” Ellis

Fox is an internationally renowned storyteller, actor and author. He has published 16 books including the critically acclaimed “The Web at Dragonfly Pond.” He is the artistic director for Prairie Folklore Theater. Since 1980, he has been traveling the world collecting and telling tales with an emphasis on earth wisdom and Native American folklore. Learn more about Fox @


Sue Fischbach

Sue graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Special Education. Recently she went back to school and received a certificate in Sign Language Interpreting from Illinois Central College. Sue is a Mom, Girl Scout leader and science lover. She is currently living in Nashville, TN and working as a freelance Sign Language Interpreter.


Gretchen Fitzpatrick

Gretchen is a Henna Artist and Art Teacher. She received her B.A. from Colorado State University, concentrating in Art Education and Drawing. She has been practicing Henna at local fairs and events for 5 years and teaching art K-12 for 17 years. In addition to teaching art she is also owner of Paint by Friends (paint parties), a licensed Massage Therapist and a certified National Archery in the Schools instructor.


Merrill Foster

Ph.D. Harvard University. Dr. Foster is a retired professor who discusses his subject as enthusiastically with an 8 year old as he did with his college students. Dr. Foster’s classes are always popular and fill up fast. Dr. Foster taught geology at Bradley University for over 40 years.


Frank Hitchell

Frank has been the president of the Peoria Academy of Science for 15 years and the vice president of the PAS board for 8 years. He has been collecting in central Illinois for 25 years and has been lecturing to groups for 10 years.


Douglas Holmes

AA, Illinois Central College. Doug has been a herpetologist on staff at the Peoria Zoo for the last 28 years and a Sun Foundation instructor for over 30 years.  Currently he is the president of the Central Illinois Herpetological Society and is actively involved on the boards of the Peoria Academy of Science and the Sun Foundation. He has worked with many endangered and threatened species. He is very interested in amphibian and turtle conservation. He feels it is environmentally important to get kids interested in the sciences and the natural world.


Susie Grana Ingram

Susie is a Program Coordinator at Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights, where she enjoys sharing her love of nature with people of all ages. She grew up in Chicago, where her mom (a physicist) got her interested in science by taking her to museums and nature centers. She has a B.A. in biology from Illinois Wesleyan University and M.S. in Conservation Biology from Illinois State University, and is an active member of the Peoria Audubon Society.


Mike Kershnar 

Mike grew up in the Southern California world of skateboarding, surfing, graffiti, and primitive skills. He has designed skateboard graphics for prominent youth subculture brands such as Element, Toy Machine, Volcom, Obey, Baker, and Ecko. Kershnar is also a huge lover of rock poster art and has done posters for bands such as Morrissey, Wilco, Midnite, Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead,) and the Beastie Boys.


Oba William King

“The Poetic Storyteller”, Oba is entertaining, inspirational, incredibly fun, exciting and engaging. Audiences are introduced to a land of rhythm and rhyme.  Parents and teachers are inspired by the educational quality of this prolific performer. Children are encouraged to follow their dreams, try their best, respect the elders, respect each other, and most of all respect themselves.

Kathy Knapp

Kathy received her BSN from Illinois Wesleyan University. She has taught origami to people of all ages for over 30 years at libraries, schools, museums and an art gallery and with private students. Over 10  years ago she founded Origami Peoria Area. She is currently a master trainer for Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, makes banners for her church, and is a member of Origami USA and the British Origami Society. Kathy is the 2010 recipient of the Ranana Benjamin teaching award from Origami USA. She has been part of a juried World Origami program for children. Kathy is a long time volunteer and supporter of the Sun Foundation.


Fiona Lake

Fiona is a native San Francisco photographer and hair stylist. Her inspirations include the beauty of nature as it interacts with humanity on a day to day basis. Fiona has a keen natural sense of beauty and captures people and nature in uplifting ways. She has collaborated with Lowcard Magazine, Everyday SF, Element Eden, and Pabst Blue Ribbon for photographic expositions in the U.S., France and England.


Jimmy Lakota

Jimmy is a drummer, dancer, singer and speaker. His performances reflect the ever evolving native culture while preserving traditional ways.


Jo Lakota

Jo is a teacher, flute player, storyteller and artist.


Karen Logan

Karen Logan received her B.S. from Illinois State University in Elementary Education and Special Education, and her Masters from St. Xavier in Chicago. After 32 years of teaching, she retired. She has always enjoyed nature from hiking to gardening. Butterflies have been a favorite interest since childhood. Currently, she is co-chair of the Monarch Butterfly Task Force which meets at Forest Park Nature Center.


Yona Lunken

Yona cares deeply about the environment and the world that we liv in. As a result he teaches, because that creates a long lasting effect. Yona is also a solar photovoltaic project developer and focuses mainly on places of faith and educational institutions. Solar is bright in your future.


Adam Maas

Adam has taught in the Peoria area over the last 10 years, both at the CAC of Peoria and Lakeview Museum. He keeps a painting studio in Geneseo, IL. His degree is from Illinois State University and he was mentored by Preston Jackson and Jere Allen. Currently he is the IT director for a school in the northern part of the state while teaching and practicing painting on the weekends.


Jana Maxwell

Jana shared her love of nature in art with elementary children for 26 years at a public school in eastern Pennsylvania. She was awarded scholarships with the Japan Fulbright Foundation, Barnes Foundation and Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Arts Educators. She recently designed the pollinator and vegetable garden for the Peoria Riverfront Museum and teaches for their summer camp. Currently she works with Peoria Garden Club Monarch butterfly task force. She is an avid hiker, backpacker and birder, and raises vegetables, chickens and cattle on a small historic farm near Dunlap.


Bill McConnell

Bill McConnell is a primitive wilderness survivalist and lifelong outdoorsman. He has been teaching primitive skills professionally since 1996. He founded the Past Skills Wilderness School in 2006 in Bozeman, Montana. Bill recently co-hosted a season of “Dual Survival” for the Discovery Channel and is currently writing a book on primitive archery in North America.


Tom McElroy

Tom has spent the greater part of his adult life studying indigenous/hunter-gatherer cultures and teaching these skills to a myriad of students throughout the country.  During his early 20’s, Tom was an instructor at the world-renowned Tracker School, from there he went on to obtain a double major from Rutgers University in Anthropology and Geography.  Currently, he is pursuing a Masters degree in Policy and Human Rights of Indigenous cultures while also traveling to remote areas, learning from isolated tribal groups.  Tom is an avid surfer, climber, potter, photographer, wilderness survivalist and tracker.


Therese Miller

Therese is a graduate of St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, IN, with a degree in Elementary Education. She is also a graduate of Science Concepts classes at Bradley University. She taught in parochial schools before staying home to raise four children. She has taught kindergarten in Germantown Hills for the past 10 years.


Jim Morrissette

BA, University of Illinois. Jim has extensive experience as both a professional videographer & technical consultant. He was the principal videographer on the highly acclaimed Frontline documentary “The Farmer’s Wife” and “Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City”. Currently, Jim is the Technical Director of Kartemquin Films in Chicago and teaches Digital Cinematography at Columbia College. Jim is a long time veteran of Art & Science in the Woods.


Fran Moss

Fran is an Emmy award winning singer, actress, storyteller and puppeteer who has taught thousands of children and adults across the U.S., including appearances at Carnegie Hall (for a First Lady) and seven years on CBS-TV’s children’s show The Magic Door. Fran is the co-creator and a faculty member of the Maggid Storytelling Workshop. As a Ready to Learn Educator with PBS TV, she has given hundreds of workshops and training sessions. Fran’s passion is to nurture creativity in others, and through the music of many cultures, inspire all to make the world a better place.


Damien Noll

Damien is an artist living in France who burns intricate designs into wood and bone using a magnifying lens and the sun. He travels around the world following the sun and collecting local bones and wood “canvases” to “solar tattoo”. He is a graduate of University of Illinois Art & Architecture Program and has had recent exhibits in France, USA, and the Philippines.


Nicholas Neddo

Nick is an artist, author, naturalist, primitive skills educator, and craftsman. He has been teaching people wilderness skills professionally since 2000. He makes his art supplies from materials that he gathers from the landscape, which is the topic of his new book: The Organic Artist. Nick enjoys clean air, water, food and dirty hands.


Dean Poignant

Dean works as a teacher and library media specialist for the Midland School district. He also practices law and farms with his family in the Lacon area.


Zack Roh

Zack has been teaching nature awareness, primitive skills and tracking with various organizations intermittently for the past 20 years. Trained under Tom Brown Jr with the Tracker School and Jon Young,  Zack strives to instill a fire and passion for the natural world and her mysteries through nature connection and immersion.


 Luke Scalise

Luke is a strength coach, stone mason, and wilderness guide. He has been on a lifelong journey to explore the workings of mind and body through movement, environment, sport and work. He draws his training from a childhood of New England woodlands, Wyoming expansive plains, and multiple martial arts. He was a collegiate decathlete before heading west and exploring the Rocky Mountains. At 23, he was the youngest strength coach in the state of Colorado with over 100 athletes at Emergent Fitness, CO. Currently he’s working animal conservation with cheetahs and wild dogs in Africa and leads jungle trips tracking jaguars in Cost Rica.


Julia Schwass

Julia is a former ASIW camper who is a graduate of Illinois Central College, where she studied American Sign Language for the deaf. Currently she lives in Chicago, and she is a sewing and knitting instructor for Joanne Fabrics in the Bucktown area.


Lorraine Schwass

Lorraine is a retired school counselor. She learned to make jewelry for fun and to be creative. Lorraine also serves on the Sun Foundation board.


Dennis Sparr

Eastern Illinois University. Retired teacher of 35 years (elementary science). Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast assisting with the Creek Walk for Conservation Camp at Lake Thunderbird in IL. He continues working for conservation practice as past President of the Putnam County Conservation Board of Trustees. Dennis participates in IVCC’s summer program, Outdoor ED’Venture, as rocketry instructor and is also Judge and Launch Supervisor for the Marshall-Putnam 4H Fair Aerospace division.


Jody Tockes

Jody owns the Hive Studio & Gallery on Peoria’s riverfront, and has taught for 30 years in both Districts 150 and 309. She received her Masters Degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Olivet Nazarene and her BS from Bradley University. She enjoys creating art with her children and grandchildren, and working with students of all ages – preschool through adult.


Hiram Toraason

BS, SIUC. Hiram lives and works in Peoria, Illinois. He uses glass as a medium to create one of a kind artwork in his downtown studio. He is also currently an art educator at Washington Grade Middle School. He is recognized as a “Maker” by the State of Illinois. He is a long time supporter of ASIW and this is his first year to participate as an educator.


Libby VerKuilen

A volunteer with the Sun since 2005, Libby continues to work on several of the Sun’s programs, including roles in ASIW and the Winter Warming fundraiser. Originally from WI, she has a BS from UW-LaCrosse. She currently works with Kindergarten & 1st grade in a local school.


Michael Wiant

Michael has served as the Director of the Illinois State Museum at Dickson Mounds for 12 years. He received a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in anthropology. An archaeologist, Wiant has explored the long history of Native Americans in the Illinois River basin for more than 40 years. He shares his insights on the subject through public lectures, teaching and publication. His research interests range from stone tool technology to changes in the landscape of Illinois.


Travis Wilcoxen

Dr. Travis Wilcoxen is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Travis is also the Chair of the Zoology Division of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences.. His current research focuses on immune defense and disease in Illinois songbirds and birds of prey.. Travis is originally from Lewistown, IL and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Eureka College and Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Memphis.


Anna Williams

Anna is a creative professional living in Los Angeles, California. Her work has appeared in Juxtapoz magazine and on She taught writing and creativity workshops at the Hammer Museum (at UCLA), Pandora Media and 826LA to name a few. When she’s not working, she enjoys making scrambled eggs for her Chihuahua, Sadie.


Guest Artists

Preston Jackson

MFA University of Illinois. Recipient of the State of Illinois Lincoln Award.  Nationally exhibited sculptor and professional musician. Chairman of Sculpture Department, Art Institute of Chicago. Sun Foundation Board Member and Arts Ad

Perrin Hendrick

Growing up in New England, artist Perrin Hendrick cultivated a love for both the wild places of the rural northeast landscape and painting and drawing those places. A deep connection to the natural world has strongly shaped his approach to painting, both in terms of landscape and the human figure. Influences such as aboriginal art, expressionist painting and urban graffiti have inspired works which take on a dreamlike quality and speak of both the fleeting moment and the eternal, the sacred and the profane. His works are shown throughout the Northeast.