All The Beautiful Trees

All The Beautiful Trees

First Grade Studies Beautiful Trees

We stepped into first grade recently, into a veritable classroom forest. There were displays of books about trees, nature artifacts that reminded us of our natural roots, and artwork that featured patched trees and their individual parts. First grade is studying beautiful trees in all their splendor.

The first grade “wolves,” as they call themselves, were contentedly reading to each other. They quietly tried out new words and soaked up fun ideas from illustrated books.

beautiful trees     beautiful trees

The Story of Trees

Their teacher, Rachel, guided them into a circle where they recited a poem about trees. They swayed like leaves, or dropped to the floor like apples. They sang and recited verses from the song, “I’m a Tall, Tall Tree.” At the conclusion, students huddled together to hear a story.

beautiful trees beautiful trees

Ms. Rachel read about many different trees that grow. She asked her students about all the different varieties they might have already known: “Apple tree!” one said. “Maple! Peach! Magnolia!” chimed others. First graders are about the same age as it takes for an apple tree to mature: 6-10 years, depending on the species.

The Four Elements to Make a Tree Grow

They arrived to a part in the book that detailed the four elements of what trees need to grow big and strong.

These first graders already knew:

Air. Water. Soil. Sunlight.

A Little Space

But there was just one more thing that trees needed to grow. What was it?

Rachel called up one student. Then another and another until there were four, standing so close together they could hardly breathe….

All these students were “trees that hadn’t fully grown” and they quickly figured out what that last thing was. Trees need space.

These four students spread out and demonstrated how having a little space made it much easier to spread and grow.

So many life lessons in that statement: having a little space makes it much easier to spread and grow.

The Natural and Physical Domains

There was more. Each student became an “element.” Rachel handed out cards of either air, soil, water, or the sun. Students wore them as badges of honor as they imagined they were air, water, soil, or sunlight. They lined up to head toward the outdoor classroom to incorporate two different modalities of learning: the natural and physical domains.

Rachel’s instructions were to run around the outdoor classroom, but when they heard, “1-2-3-GROW!” each person had to find the other elements that would make a tree. When all four students – elements – were joined, they’d make a circle, giving themselves some space. As they successfully “grew into a tree,” they’d exclaim, “I’m a tree! I’m a tree! I’m a tree!”

After several rounds of finding the different elements, students returned to their classroom. This space is a peaceful oasis that peers out to the Gnome Village below, giving the impression that they are, in fact, in a tree house. We knew they were secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t soon forget what makes a tree grow from a seedling into a sprawling giant.

first grade trees

Solar Power On Our Campus!

Solar Power On Our Campus!

Rainbow Has Solar Power

Have you seen what’s over on the roof of the auditorium? Getting solar power was one of those far-off dreams until…it became reality!

solar power and solar panels

In 2017, an anonymous donor awarded Rainbow the funds to get solar panels installed. These are located on the east side of the auditorium. This donation will help to reduce the school’s reliance on fossil fuels.

In fact, the installation of these solar panels will provide a benefit of 60+ years. The bulk of Rainbow’s utility bills go toward the auditorium. It’s a big space. Heating and cooling can get expensive.

There’s also the environment to consider. Rainbow will reduce its carbon footprint by huge margins. The solar panels help to reduce the school’s utility expenses while helping the planet. In about 30 years, the panel efficiency will go down some, but will still yield significant energy savings.

Interconnection

Over the course of the process, one of our Rainbow parents had been in touch with representatives from Duke and other organizations to get the interconnections turned on. “Interconnection” means how a “distributed generation system, such as solar photovoltaics (PVs), can connect to the grid.” (Source)

A local solar installation company, Sugar Hollow, installed the solar panels late in 2017. The school had to wait until 2018 to turn on the interconnection. This was due to a rebate from Duke Energy, which also helped with significant savings for the school.

When Sugar Hollow installed the solar panels, they felt really connected to the school and what it stands for. Sugar Hollow is a living wage certified company and their philosophy parallels Rainbow’s mission:

At Sugar Hollow Solar, we care deeply about moving our society towards a more sustainable future – not just in the environmental sense but in how it relates to overall quality of life, now.

The panels they used for installation were manufactured in the US, as well. As a company, they work hard to source everything here in the US.

installing solar panels for solar power

The Sugar Hollow team installing solar panels on top of the auditorium.

Because this was the first year that Rainbow started the interconnection process, it took awhile to get the power systems connected, approved and ready to go. When it came time to “flip the switch,” the whole school community was so thrilled and the anticipation was palpable. Rainbow elected to have a school-wide celebration to commemorate the event.

song circle celebration

Students gathered at the auditorium to view the solar panels and have a “solar song circle” – it was RCS’ first song circle of the year.

Sugar Hollow also joined us for that celebration. Now, students will be able to tell exactly what the solar panels are doing moment by moment that demonstrate power output and usage. Check out the Solar Power Resources  section on our website. It has the link to the energy performance of the solar panels.

Since the founding of Sugar Hollow, they have surpassed 1.5 gigawatts hours of energy generation – from the sun! That’s like planting 28,931 trees!! We have so much gratitude for these folks and the work they do!

solar panels at rainbow

Kate Chassner – Team Highlight

Kate Chassner – Team Highlight

As we gear up for the school year, we thought it would be fun to highlight one of the first faces you’ll see on campus: Kate Chassner! She is Rainbow’s Office Manager.

She seemingly knows the answers to everything. Need keys? She’s got ’em. Need to know the schedule? She can tell you. Need to find someone on campus? Kate will know. Need to locate a form? Kate’s got you covered.

We gave her a set of questions to answer, interview style. It’s so fun to read the answers of these team highlights.

Kate_team highlight

You’re originally from Florida, right? How did you end up at Rainbow?

After I graduated from Florida State University, I moved to New Orleans with my sister. On a trip back home to Florida one Thanksgiving I ran into a friend from college and we started dating soon after. He lived in Asheville. I then decided that I should move here, too. We have been together for 10 years and have two kids. I’m glad I moved.

How long have you been in Asheville? At Rainbow?

I have been in Asheville since January 2010, and I have been at Rainbow since August 2011.

Why did you decide to do the work you’re doing now?

I was teaching preschool when I first started at Rainbow (and I taught preschool for years before coming to RCS). After I had my first child, coming back as a full-time preschool teacher was very challenging. I knew I did not want to leave Rainbow but I needed a change. At that time, the current Office Manager was transitioning out and I was able to begin helping part-time in the office. I was thrilled to train for the position.

What is the favorite part of your job?

I love getting to know everyone in the school and make connections with teachers, staff, parents and students.

Kate_chassner_team_highlight

What do you like to do when you’re not at Rainbow?

I love my family time! Going on hikes, bike rides, swimming, making forts, dance parties, cooking, painting and really anything with my family is what I look forward to most.

I am making more time for art lately, too. In addition, I have been taking marimba with Sue Ford.

I also try to run a few times a week and get into a good book.

You’re taking an art class on campus. What sorts of art do you like to create?

I am currently taking a drawing class, and I every time I take an art class I find out a new style or medium I love. Currently I create a lot of mixed media pieces (collage with my drawings layered in). Most of my art has a message about something I am passionate about. (You can see my art on my Instagram page @k8couture.)

What’s the best way to start the day?

My 2 year old wakes me up most mornings, earlier than I would like. But ideally I would like to wake up (after the sun has come up) and sit on the porch with a cup of coffee or go for an early run. Still, I know I will miss my sweet early mornings with my kiddos as they get older.

What irrational fear do you have?

As a parent I have all sorts of irrational fears for my kids. To that end, I have to find a balance between letting them be adventurous and keeping them safe.

What book(s) are you reading?

Right now I am reading, The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro and Conversations Worth Having by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres.

I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche earlier in the year. I loved it and really enjoy anything by her.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from home?

I lived in Tokyo, Japan for 2 years when I was young (6 years old).

My family lived in Geneva, Switzerland when I was in college, so I visited there often. I also studied Art History in Paris, France. All were super interesting and wonderful. Traveling is such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to travel more as my kids get older.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

Travel to another country.

What is an item on your bucket list?

A long overdue honeymoon with my husband

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pablo Picasso

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Take risks. Stay true to yourself. Tell the people you love how wonderful they are… as often as possible.

You have been granted one wish that WILL come true. What do you wish for?

I would wish for a greater understanding throughout the human race to treat people with respect and to celebrate our differences.

Team Highlight: Peter “Wind” Motika

Team Highlight: Peter “Wind” Motika

For this team highlight feature, we wanted to share about our “Custodial Ninja” as he calls himself: Peter, or Wind Motika.

We asked him some interview questions and the responses are pretty awesome. Next time you see Wind, be sure to give him some gratitude for all the hard work he does in keeping our campus running smoothly.

peter wind motika team highlight

Where are you originally from? How did you end up at Rainbow? How long have you been at Rainbow?

I’m from a small rural township in northeast Ohio called Newbury. It’s about 40 miles outside of Cleveland. I went to school from Kindergarten thru grade 12 in the same building. I graduated in 1977. I believe I’ve been in the Rainbow community since 1997.

My son Allijah went to Rainbow for Kindergarten thru 5th grade, and then came back in 8th grade and graduated from Rainbow. Allijah had to leave Rainbow in 5th grade because we got behind on tuition. The school had an opening for a custodian and the Director at the time, Jane Stanhope, offered me the job. Half of my salary went to pay off the tuition. After it was paid off I decided to keep the job. So I’ve been the custodian since 2002 – 16 years!

What’s the hardest part of your job? The easiest? What title do you give yourself?

The hardest part of the job is cleaning toilets. Not that it’s hard, but I clean an average of 100 toilets per week while school is in session. Ultimately that’s a few thousand a year for 16 years.

I am also starting to have a problem with my shoulder from repetitive motion from all the vacuuming I have to do now, so that’s probably the true hardest part of the job.

The easiest part is working in a quality community of people. Eddy once called me “The Custodial Ninja” a few years ago. I like that title a lot!

What was the funniest thing you saw a teacher do?

Not sure if this is funny, but we had a past Omega teacher named William Harwood, who used the campus for his personal gym! He had weights in a spare room, (the current 3rd grade room). He would run also around the campus and use the play ground equipment for his workouts.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Hmm, favorite teacher…I’d hate to hurt feelings! I have many for different reasons. Some of the teachers have become my friends over the years. So I choose not to answer this question.

I will say the teacher I respected the most, and those who know her would agree, would be Mary Virginia.

Are you reading any books? (Or, what is your favorite book?)

I read books in waves. Sometimes I might go a year without reading much and then I’ll read 3 books at a time for a year. Overall, I read a lot. My favorite authors are Paulo Coelho, Barbara Kingsolver and Richard Bach who wrote probably my favorite book called Illusions. I identify with the main character.

The last books I read were the Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

What is something that you’re interested in that most people don’t know?

I kinda keep to myself, so there’s probably a lot folks don’t know about me. Most likely that I am a screenwriter and I follow NBA basketball. Go Cavs!

peter wind motika team highlight

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I am an avid disc golfer and I love it although I found the sport later in my life. I am a member of several clubs, one of which is WNCDGA, a 501(c3) non-profit. For the past 4 years, I have been a member and served as vice-chairman for a year. We just donated two baskets to rainbow!

I was on Asheville’s Parks and Rec Advisory Board and served as Vice-Chairman for 2 years. “Interspecies Internet” was another organization in which I served on the advisory board. I worked with people like Peter Gabriel, Vint Cerf, Sue Savage Rumbaugh and other interesting folks who focused on creating ways for humans to communicate with animals.

I also spent a number of years volunteering at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University working with Bonobo apes! I mostly played music for and with them.

I love to cook! It’s important to me to make myself a healthy and organic breakfast and dinner everyday! I like to garden as well.

peter wind motika

We hear that you published some music. Tell us more about it.

I have been a musician since 8th grade. Even though I was from a tiny school I was a two-time all state vocalist, and I sang with the Cleveland Orchestra. We toured Europe with “America’s Youth In Concert” in 1976.

When I was young, I was part of a band that played at all the Cleveland and Akron venues. Many bands like Devo, Chrissy Hind/Pretenders, Joe Walsh/James Gang, U2 and many others had played there. I have been the front man for a couple of rock bands that played my original music.

I’ve had 2 popular bands in Asheville, as well. We put on multi-media music and dance shows. The recordings that came from some of my solo work, as well as from my Asheville bands, allowed me to make a CD. I released that in conjunction with an article written about me in the July 2003 issue of The New Yorker. I played music with Peter Gabriel and the famous Bonobo Apes from Georgia State University. We made it onto Spotify. It’s called “Connected.”

I’ve also done a lot of busking in Asheville. Native American flute music is another passion of mine, and I have 2 CDs that you can download in a number of places. I have also made about 1500 bamboo flutes and even made the flute that Renee plays at school.

There’s a rumor that you’re writing a screen play? Is that true? Tell us about it.

I just got my IMDb page for a movie I co-wrote called Mercy Kill. We hope to film it in the fall for a 2019 release. I have been co-writing for about 15 years and have written 5 screenplays in the last 3 years. I have 5 other screenplays I’ve written, as well.

What was your favorite subject in school?

My favorite subject in school was music. I liked history, too. English became another favorite once I got that life-changing English teacher in 10th grade.

What’s the best way to start the day?

I start everyday with a shower, a healthy breakfast and a big glass of water.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

I think everyone should pursue their dreams and not give up on their Creator-given talents. One particular thing people should try is growing their own food.

What are two items on your bucket list?

The first is to move to southern France and win an Oscar for screenwriting. And, okay, a Sundance award for writing would be cool, too!peter wind motika team highlight

Do you have any irrational fears? What are they?

My biggest irrational fear is that I will die alone without being with my soulmate. Ah, melancholy right?

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

I’ve met and hung out with 2 of my musical idols, Peter Gabriel and Peter Hammill. I’ve also associated with some of the top primate, dolphin and elephant researchers in the world. But if I could have a half hour with John Lennon or Kate Bush, I’d be in heaven!

What advice would you give to yourself as an elementary school student? A middle school student?

My advice to my younger self would be to have a better prosperity conscience, not be shy and take a risk.

Anything else?

I built a geodesic dome home in Madison County from a cardboard model! It’s still standing and a wonderful family is living in it.

I think I was the first Rainbow employee to attend Building Bridges.

Another fun fact is that Renee is the 4th director I’ve worked for at Rainbow.

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

There are some incredible things going on in 6th grade right now. Students are preparing to present on their businesses they created as part of our Rainbow Marketplace on April 27. Recently, 6th had Peace Awards Ceremonies, and have done other incredible things this year such as Pi Day, and a Mayan bartering marketplace, to name a few. We thought we’d take a moment to highlight Jenny Armocida for our Team Highlight this month. She’s our 6th grade teacher who will also be leading a “Staying Sharp Summer Camp” here at Rainbow. Cynthia recently sat down with her for a teacher interview.

You’re originally from Ohio. How did you end up at Rainbow?

It’s true – I’m originally from Ohio. I went to school in Sarasota, Floria but it was too hot. So I moved to Nyack, New York. But that was too cold. So I came “to the middle” to Asheville and it was just right! I had learned about this amazing school called Rainbow and I knew that wanted to teach there. In order to teach there, I had to move to Asheville. So yes, I moved here specifically to teach at Rainbow!

What made you decide to become a teacher? How long have you been a teacher?

I have been a teacher for nearly 12 years, specifically as a classroom teacher. I chose it as a profession because my favorite things are learning, asking questions, being curious, exploring the world around me, and I also like being with young people. They’re also really curious and creative. The best job I could have that would allow me to do all these things was to be a teacher. An added bonus is that you get to learn right alongside your students.

Jenny Armocida Team Highlight

What’s the hardest part of your job? The easiest?

The hardest part of my job is knowing that you’re never really finished with it. So if I’m at my house or on vacation, I’m always thinking about my job: ideas for lessons, new things to try, that sort of thing. That can be really fun, but sometimes it’s challenging to take a break from my “teacher self.”
The easiest part is, well, what’s most enjoyable, is definitely the relationships I develop with my students. I get to know them and enjoy being with them. I get to try so many new things.

You recently had Brother Wolf come to your classroom, as well as held a Peace Awards Day. In addition, students will be tackling their small business enterprises that are also socially beneficial. Where do you get all your creative ideas for lessons and units?

I think that I am really inspired by working with all my colleagues who are so innovative and inventive. I see them pursuing their interests, sharing the best of themselves, their ideas, and passions. That compels me to look inside myself to see what’s important. Then I think about how I’d like to share all that with my students. I also enjoy doing whatever small things I can to make the world a better place. The result is that I naturally incorporate those ideas into the curriculum.

You were also recognized in 2015 with the Leavey Award for leadership in entrepreneurship education. Can you tell us more about that?

The award came from the Leavey Foundation. They recognize teachers who develop entrepreneurship curricula. I shared with them the small business projects my Rainbow students created. I also let them know that our students present their businesses at the Rainbow Marketplace. The requirement is that these businesses are also socially beneficial. The Leavey Foundation liked that because I found out I had won their award.

As an award recipient, I got a chance to go to New Orleans where they held a social studies conference. I learned about other people who were teaching entrepreneurship programs. However, I was the only middle school teacher there – the rest were high school teachers. I was happy that I could share that it’s not just something that older kids can do. Middle school students can create businesses, too.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

That is hard! We’re fortunate here at Rainbow that we have integrated lessons that incorporate so many subjects – so it’s varied. But, my personal passion is literature. I’m a big reader – I love fiction and I like to write for fun. I also really love doing the entrepreneurship projects. I enjoy history and one of my favorite lessons is when we turn the classroom into a “middle ages feudal system.” There are so many things that I enjoy teaching. I can’t pick, so I’d have to say them I enjoy them all!

What book are you reading? (Or, what is your favorite book?)

I just got back from Cuba (over spring break). Because of that, I’ve been reading a lot of Cuban writers lately. Right now, I’m reading Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. The other awesome book I’ve read lately is called, Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. It was really compelling and a humorous read.

What is something that you’re interested in that most people don’t know?

I had a month where I was briefly interested in “tiny cooking.” That has since passed. But really, I love needlefelting. This is an art form where you use a “wad of wool” and a needle. You basically sculpt the wood and make forms out of it. I’ve made birds, tiny people, tiny hamburgers – they’re all very small. I love to make little creatures on a tiny scale. I once made a terrarium with tiny needlefelted animals inside and gave it away as a gift.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from home?

I would have to say that one of the farthest placed I’ve traveled was when I went to Iceland. I also went to Germany another time. Iceland, however, convinced me that I should only do beach vacations, though.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

People should spend the day with a group of sixth graders. You will learn many interesting things and ponder questions you never thought of before. You will also laugh A LOT.

What are two items on your bucket list?

I’ve never done karaoke. Someday I’d like to try that. I’d also entertain the idea of owning a pet goat – just for the pure joy of it. I’d like a pygmy goat specifically.

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

I would talk to the Dalai Lama. I feel like he’s very wise and seems to have a joyful sense of humor. I think it would be fun and enlightening.

What advice would you give to your 6th grade self?

I would definitely tell myself just to be authentic and true to who I am. I’d also say to follow my interests and passions and not to worry so much about what other people think.

Well there you have it, friends. A great interview with Jenny. We’re thankful she took the time to have this interview and share with our Rainbow family!