Rainbow Community School’s Holistic Education Model

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What is Holistic Education?

This question sits at the foundation of our goal as an educational institution. To begin to answer it, we must define the term Holism.

Holism is the understanding that life is an interaction of wholes, rather than a collection of individual parts.  These whole systems interact in synergy- what affects one system will not only affect the other integrated systems but will also affect the whole. Holistic principles can be found in health care, psychology, anthropology, ecology, economics, and other disciplines. Holistic Healthcare illustrates this concept well. For example, when evaluating a patient, a holistic doctor will take an integrative approach and consider all parts of the human “system,”  including diet, exercise, lifestyle, and stress.

Holistic Education follows this same premise, subscribing to the philosophy that the learning experience is a comprehensive integration not only of traditional academic subjects, but of the many facets that comprise a human being. The reductionist view that humans are simply a mind/body construct- a machine with parts that can be modified in isolation- does not fulfill the learner’s true potential.

Indeed, humans are far more intricate, subtle and mysterious beings. We are multi-faceted creatures with a range of complex emotions, deep connections to the natural world, seekers of the mystery, with an innate need to create, to share, to understand & to be understood. It is the Holistic view that recognizes this concept and the Holistic Education model that seeks its implementation- for the  enrichment of the “whole” learner.

Yet, before we can truly nurture the “whole” learner, we must define those individual facets, much in the way that a prism defines white light into seven bands of color. At Rainbow Community School (RCS), the  student is viewed Holistically through Seven Domains: spiritual, mental, social, emotional, creative, natural, and physical.  The purpose of this education model is to develop the whole learner into a healthy, intelligent, compassionate, creative, and productive human who is capable of leading an empowered and enriched life.

How are the Rainbow Seven Domains integrated into the RCS Curriculum?

The RCS school day does not follow the traditional schedule of 50 minute class periods. Rather, large instructional blocks that integrate the Seven Domains are implemented.  While some lessons highlight one domain more than the others, all of the domains are often integrated simultaneously into a lesson.  For example, a Math class will primarily focus on the Mental Domain. However, students may be practicing Math facts through kinesthetic learning games which utilize the Physical Domain. Students may also ponder the deeper meaning of infinite numbers through the lens of the Spiritual Domain, or they may demonstrate how a Math concept, such as the Fibonacci Sequence, is found throughout the Natural Domain, thus making the concept more memorable and relevant. Students who are skilled in the Social Domain are proactive in asking questions and are adept in working in groups on Math-oriented inquiry projects.

Learners are often drawn to one or two particular domains in which they have a natural proclivity or talent for. When a student is nourished in the particular domain they resonate with, their success often builds confidence and enhances growth in the other domains. Reciprocally, the holistic approach allows for learners to explore domains that may be challenging, but in a way that utilizes the strengths they have in other domains. This method is an intimate and nuanced approach, where the teacher will adjust their instruction and the learning environment based upon the individual needs and innate talents of the students. Students are encouraged to participate in this process, further bolstering the synergy of the unique learner and the interactive, perceptive teacher.

The purpose of this booklet

This guide is intended to help the reader understand what the Seven Domains Holistic model is, how it is implemented and evaluated in the classroom, and why it is so powerful.

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Rainbow Seven Domains Defined

Physical Domain
physical
Embodies kinesthetic awareness, fitness, holistic health & nutrition and positive body image.
Expressed through movement, dance, physical education, sports and tactile activities.
Natural Domain
natural
Embodies awareness, appreciation, stewardship, classification and communion with the natural world.
Expressed through time in nature, caring for the environment, gardening & animal husbandry, observation, inquiry and discovery.
Social Domain
social
Embodies interpersonal communication, character development, social responsibility and community organization.
Expressed through dynamic governance, peer relations, community celebrations, and collaborative learning experiences.
Emotional Domain
emotional
Embodies intrapersonal awareness, self-regulation, self-esteem, communication of emotions and empathy.
Expressed through reflective exercises, open dialogue, conflict resolution and the arts.
Creative Domain
creative
Embodies the visual & performing arts, design, aesthetic awareness, imagination and innovative problem solving.
Expressed through drawing, painting, dance, music, theater, sculpture, poetry, creative writing, storytelling, fine-art appreciation and play.
Mental Domain
mental
Embodies reason, mathematics, linguistics, academia, learning strategies and life skills.
Expressed through logic, engineering & technology, puzzles & strategy games, experimenting & questioning, reading, writing and research.
Spiritual Domain
spiritual
Embodies celebration & ritual, world religions & traditions, spiritual virtues, myth & story, mystery & contemplation and communion with the natural world.
Expressed through personal beliefs, myth making, ceremony,  religious studies, states of grace & jubilation, the ‘big’ questions and contemplative practices (ie; meditation, yoga, tai qi, blessingways).

Domain Profiles for Student Learners

Learning Domain Thinks Loves Learning Needs
Physical
physical
in movements and through somatic sensations moving, touching, running, jumping, dancing, building, and creating physical games, movement, hands on experiences, and opportunities to build create
Natural
natural
through the senses and through connection with nature being outside, observing, exploring and studying nature, caring for living things time in the outdoors, materials from nature
Social
social
through collaborative communication and action having friends, talking to people, social events, joining groups, leading and organizing people social learning opportunities-partner, small group and/or large group
Emotional
emotional
with their heart and deeply inside themselves reflecting on and talking about feelings, sympathizing and  listening to others ritual and routine, centering, class meetings, and conflict resolution
Creative
creative
in images, visuals, rhythms and melodies the arts-drawing, designing, sculpting, creating, singing, music, playing an instrument, dancing, acting, role-playing inspiration, time, space and supplies/materials to create
Mental
mental
in words, patterns, through reasoning and problem solving reading, writing, stories, word and number games, logic puzzles, problems to be solved, experiments academically challenging and  inquiry based learning opportunities
Spiritual
spiritual
through reflection and contemplation centering, mindfulness, contemplative and reflective practices time alone, quiet, space, and reflection

(adapted from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Multiple_Intelligences_and_Learning_Styles )

Domain Personas

Although we seek to foster a well-rounded individual, many people are naturally inclined towards one or two particular Domains, witnessing and engaging the world through their own unique lens.

The concept of the Domains is versatile and can be used not only for educational purposes, but as understandings of personality archetypes, much akin to Jungian archetypes or Rudolph Steiner’s 4 temperaments.

Each Domain persona perceives and communicates uniquely. Each persona is also presented with innate challenges. In understanding and respecting these differences, we can gain greater empathy towards others, form a stronger community and manage healthier dialogues. We can, as well, better understand and address the needs of our students.

Domain Perception Communication Challenges
Physical
physical
  • Intakes information through kinesthetic engagement.
  • Perceives self as a physical being.
  • Experiential learner.
  • Interacts through physical engagement (dance, sport, physical play, acting, etc).
  • ”Doing more than Thinking.”
  • Action orientated
  • Needs to be engaged in body.
  • May be difficult to be in structured academic situations.
  • Must occupy body to be free of mind.
Natural
natural
  • Multi-sensory awareness of environment & surroundings.
  • Immersive learner- desires to be engaged in pursuits.
  • Observant & curious
  • Patterns, cycles & natural rhythms frame observations.
  • Collecting & sharing discoveries.
  • Making, building & crafting ideas.
  • Organization & pattern orientated.
  • Being indoors.
  • Especially abstract concepts.
  • Sensitive to plight of nature.
Social
social
  • Focuses upon connections & bonds.
  • Filters the world through a series of interactions / reactions.
  • Reflections of experience often focus upon interpersonal interactions.
  • Adept at interpreting social cues &
  • Flexible interaction styles allow for a more varied & authentic interaction among a wider & more varied populations.
  • Gregarious, affable & engaged communicators.
  • Needs confidence to be comfortable.
  • Needs to ‘fit in’ & has a hard time finding their own voice.
  • Being alone.
  • Can manipulate or be manipulated, as they are so engaged in social dynamics.
  • May lack empathy for those who are not as socially fluid as themselves.
Emotional
emotional
  • Empathetic observers.
  • Keenly aware of the ‘energies’ of their  environment & the moods of others.
  • Intuitive.
  • Compassionate.
  • Sensitive to intrapersonal forces.
  • Seeks to communicate with authenticity & validity.
  • Active listener.
  • Wishes to understand & reflect the many variables & perspectives that may be present.
  • Overdependence.
  • May need validation & approval.
  • May be overly sensitive / ‘moody’.
  • Leadership can be difficult.
Creative
creative
  • Perceives aesthetics:  composition, beauty, form, artistry & arrangement.
  • Curious & passionate.
  • Immersive in their art.
  • Learns through process.
  • Utilizes a multitude of mediums to share ideas.
  • Process orientated.
  • Communicate abstract ideas or emotions through artistic expression.
  • Seeks to be evocative &  engaging.
  • Can be seen as aloof or confusing.
  • Can be ungrounded.
  • Difficult to work within a structure.
Mental
mental
  • Seeks purpose: what is the goal? What are the steps to achieve this goal?
  • Prioritizes & analyzes.
  • Organizes information through structure & order.
  • Synthesizes tangible connections & utilizes formulaic methods.
  • Direct & Straightforward.
  • Explanatory.
  • Linguistic.
  • Symbols & Formulas can bolster ideas.
  • Unfocused discourse will challenge.
  • Communication style can be intimidating.
  • May be rigid in their thoughts & need concrete proof.
  • Not open to “fantasy” or other such esoteric explorations.
Spiritual
spiritual
  • Intuitive
  • Seeker
  • Asks the “big” questions.
  • Seeks the mysteries & the esoteric.
  • Questions often.
  • Contemplative.
  • Metaphor, myth & story all used to communicate.
  • Non-verbal.
  • Presence orientated.
  • Being grounded.
  • Structure.
  • The hubbub of modernity & social norms.
  • Can be seen as aloof.

Instructional Integration

The Seven Domains is  an all inclusive approach that nurtures the highest growth potential of each child that attends RCS. The Seven Domains underlay all teaching and the curriculum. We use robust tools and strategies for effective instructional integration of this holistic approach. Some of the ways the Seven Domains are incorporated into our education model are described below.

Unit planning guide

Cultivating a holistic learning environment takes intentional planning. Our teachers and/or teaching teams use long term units plans and short term lesson plan frameworks (See Appendix A & B). These frameworks encourage thinking and planning through the Seven Domains while also inviting   cross-curricular integration.

Teacher Observation Forms

RCS teachers strive to develop strong holistic teaching techniques. In an effort to support the growth and development of holistic teachers, mentor teachers and administrators observe and evaluate teachers using a Seven Domains Observation Form (See Appendix C).

Student Narrative Evaluations/ Progress Reports

RCS takes a balanced approach to assessment. Students are assessed using multi-faceted methods to create a well-rounded understanding of both the level of each child  and the type of learner each is. The information that is collected using a robust set of assessments is integrated into student narrative evaluations/ progress reports (See Appendix D). These narratives are completed each trimester and are structured in a way that the classroom teacher reports on student growth and development in all Seven Domains.

Personal Domain Reflections

As students become aware of the Seven Domains and their place within the RCS educational model, they begin to reflect on their own learning styles. These self-reflections vary in complexity across grades but all indicate the Domains with which the student most resonates and the Domains by which they may be most challenged. They are shared at Student Led Conferences (See Appendix E for a grade three example and & Appendix F for grade eight example).

Domain Days

A Domain Day is an opportunity for students to gather together in groups based upon a specific elected Domain and to spend the entirety of the Day engulfed in the experience of that Domain. Domain Days give an opportunity for children to be immersed in an educational experience relating to a Domain to which they are innately attracted.  As well, since the ages will be blended, it is an opportunity for students to interact in an educational setting with peers they may not generally mingle with due to the natural age boundaries of each class.

Appendices and Student Report (.pdf)