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John's Legacy

The John G. Santos Memorial Fund will ensure that scholars of all ages will continue to experience the magic and legacy that is Nature’s Classroom.

In early July 2023, John Santos, the founder and president of Nature’s Classroom, spent his last day in the office.  The good doctor who claimed he would never retire had kept his word.  It was a “normal” day in the office.

This last year was a special year.  Nature’s Classroom had recently celebrated 50 years of leading outdoor environmental education. All the positive momentum had John walking a little lighter.  He was excited and he seemed reinvigorated.


When he left the office on his last day, he was lingering.  He was normally gone by 3:30PM, but now it was past 4PM, and we were delaying a meeting because we couldn’t really turn down extra time with John.  We were glad we did.

After that, he went to swim at his local YMCA for the last time.

Even though he is gone, we still find inspiration in his daily routine.  This is a man who created something truly special.  He knew it was special and for that reason, he wanted to share it with as many as he could.

Back in 1973, he created a space where children could understand the importance of learning, a message that he admitted to having obstinately missed in his youth. His goal was to engage students before they had become turned off to the idea of learning within the formal education system, and to have them recognize that there is a much larger world of learning than what is found inside the walls of a classroom.  An amazing success, indeed.

John had many lofty ideals for what concepts students should be exposed to week after week. He felt it important that we impress upon the youth the concept that there is a limited, one-earth perspective. It was of grand significance that we pass that message along to the children, and that we also live by that ideal ourselves. One of his grander philosophy’s was that the NC environment was a microcosm of a community where everyone works and lives together with respect and love.  Working and living in community gives the students an understanding that this community can be enlarged to the global scale.


John, was a visionary. He was the kite and those of us who knew him often felt like the grounding string.  We still like to picture a cartoon mustache kite flying proudly into the wind…


His impact has reached millions and will continue to.  Please consider a donation in his honor.

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