Learning about the Rock Cycle
First graders have been studying the rock cycle, and they’re learning it through the seven domains: the mental domain, creative, and natural, among others.
The story of Piedra
Have you heard of Piedra? She’s the main character in the story their teacher, Rachel, told. Students gathered around while they heard the tale of Piedra, whose journey spanned MILLIONS of years.
Rachel told of how Piedra lived in Appalachia, then made her way to a nearby river where she stayed for hundreds of thousands of years. Over the course of that time, she witnessed turtles, ducks and river otters going about their lives. Little by little, Piedra rolled and rolled downriver, eventually finding herself out at sea. Piedra saw sea animals that she’d never seen before swimming all around her.
Millions of years in the making…
Gradually sand and silt from the sea bottom began to cover her up until she was completely buried, taking about 20,000 years to happen. Piedra stayed there for another million years until she felt a warmth coming from the earth. She felt a whoosh and before she knew what happened, she erupted through a volcano as hot lava, and immediately cooled once she hit the air. She emerged once again as a rock upon a mountain. Only this time, she was a rock who had changed.
Through this compelling story, students learned about how a rock might go through the entire rock cycle. They talked about other cycles they might be familiar with: the lava cycle, the water cycle, and the butterfly cycle.
Illustrating the Rock Cycle
After students heard the story, they had an opportunity to create an illustration of the rock cycle. Miss Rachel led them through a guided drawing.
They began with a line.
Followed by a volcano.
Next they erased the left part of the line and replaced it with a wavy ocean line.
They followed that with a “lava ball”…
…that grew into a lava chute.
They erased the top of the volcano to allow the lava to exit the earth, and had some fun drawing globs of lava “splashing out and spilling over the side”.
Next came creative layers that represented millions of years of creation.
The final steps were to go over their pencil lines in marker…
…and fill in their drawings with watercolors.
Our first graders now can tell you all about the rock cycle, starting with a tiny little rock on the side of a mountain.
Words Have Power Summer Camp
In summer 2019, Rainbow Community School had the Words Have Power summer camp. April Fox taught this camp with such incredible results! This camp was for ages 10-13, with a total of 10 students attending for the week. The students who participated published an anthology of their work. April, their teacher, compiled all their writings and it’s now available on Amazon.
Anthology cover. We have a copy in the Main Office!
We interviewed April who told us the whole idea of the camp was to allow kids to explore writing “without all the rules.” She showed her students that there’s “school writing” and there’s also “fun writing.” April wanted her students to know that there is a world of writing outside of grammar, spelling and following conventional rules.
This was a camp that gave students a chance to explore writing in a creative way – possibly in ways they had never done before. They used words for nothing but the “pure expression of what was in their heads,” which allowed them to truly connect with the idea of writing on a different level.
Each morning, April would put up quotes from different writers or inspirational figures that had something to do with writing or succeeding. Students would pick their favorite quote and write in their journals, reflecting about how they felt, or scribbled other musings related to the quote they chose. These quotes came from different artists and writers, such as Maya Angelou, Tupac, Elvis Costello and many others.
How the anthology came about
Students studied different types of writing throughout the week. One activity they did was to use pictures to inspire their writing. If they saw a photo of a butterfly that inspired them, for example, they could write a poem in response, and perhaps “shape it” in the form of butterfly wings.
They did a lot of free writing, haikus and had the freedom to explore whatever type of writing style that interested them, from short stories to graphic novel layouts. They even explored writing a screenplay and all that went with it: writing, directing, rehearsing and performing their written words. Students were allowed to edit their work or not, depending on how they felt about it.
At the end of each day students could elect to turn their work in to be part of an anthology that April would put together later in the summer. After the camp ended, she spent time compiling and typing out each of the writings her students submitted. She remarked that some poems were funny, some were more serious, some explored serious issues and other poems touched on lighter subjects, such as smelly socks. In effect, these poems were a snapshot of this particular age group, and allowed their individual selves to come out. They had no filters. Their work reflects what was in their heads at that moment.
April considers the most successful part of the week to be when she witnessed an increase in student confidence with regard to their writing. They produced some insightful, heartfelt, and well-written work. They learned that even though they might struggle with specific aspects of writing academically, they can still be incredible storytellers, and write pretty remarkable content.
All photos courtesy of April Fox. We have a copy of the anthology in the Main Office!
Collaboration and Renewal
Collaboration and Renewal: two key words that describe what it is for faculty to come back together for ten days of training before the start of school.
Faculty and staff began their August workdays with something that is so integral to Rainbow: Centering and an Opening Ceremony. The next few days were filled with division meetings, team collaboration time, and safety training. They delved into the their goals and intentions for the year, working with Dyad partners, themes in equity, and more. Reneé led an incredible training around this year’s theme: Wholeness.
The Path of Authentic Learning
Reneé’s training about wholeness is part of a year-long training series that she is offering the staff entitled, “The Path of Authentic Learning,” which is based on her doctoral research. All RCS staff learned about strands in “an educator’s model for spiritual development” and “teaching as a spiritual practice.” They explored “the field of connection” and the idea of vulnerability – both with the student and the teacher, tied in with authentic learning. They had a chance to do some journal reflections throughout their training days.
Continuing collaboration and renewal in Hot Springs, NC
It was with that theme, and with this new knowledge, that all RCS staff embarked on an overnight retreat in Hot Springs, NC. They had a chance to engage in additional trainings that would benefit the classroom. They engaged in nature games that involved all the senses, positive discipline, and a module about “aliveness.” Staff investigated topics like awakening the senses, infinite learning, imagination, and even Oneness.
Positive Discipline training, led by Eddy and Josie
To be sure, all community members had a chance to go to the hot tubs, camp in a tent, or stay in a rustic cabin. They enjoyed fellowship and visiting with each other after summer break. In fact, every moment of these training days was intended to create a sense of wholeness and groundedness. That helped prepare everyone for a new school year.
Time in nature and participating in Restorative Circles was another component of the retreat. So many mentioned how sights of the forest, the running river, listening to the cicadas, and taking in the earthy scents of surrounding trees were incredibly uplifting and healing. They paired that with communicative circle activities in which folks shared about their “authentic self.” This was a path to forging vibrant, lifelong friendships built on a solid foundation.
The overnight retreat ended with Closing Circle, in full practice of the year’s “wholeness” theme. Everyone stood together, at times holding hands, sharing in song and in moments of vulnerability. This concluded with a final sounding of the singing bowl. Now, they were almost ready. With this session of renewal came the energy to return to campus. Teachers finalized their first-week lesson plans. They put the final touches on decorating their student-centered classrooms. Still, they arranged desks and furniture just so, printed out any necessary materials AND….
The singing bowl at Closing Circle
The first day of school began. It promised to be the best year ever!
Photo credits: Cynthia Calhoun
This month’s team highlight: Tracy Hildebrand
We’d like to introduce you to Tracy, Rainbow Community School’s art teacher. We found her in the art room and asked if she’d agree to answer questions for a team highlight. She has some fun answers to our questions. We hope you’ll enjoy!
You’ve taught in Virginia before. Are you originally from there?
I was born in Norfolk, Va , attended college there and taught art in Norfolk Public Schools for 7 years.
I took a break from teaching in 1992 and moved to Western North Carolina to work at Nantahala Outdoor Center where I worked teaching kayaking, guiding river rafting trips and working in the outfitters store.
I realized soon after moving here that this area is my true spiritual home.
How did you find Rainbow?
When my husband and I were looking for a kindergarten for our daughter, a friend recommended we visit Rainbow. We knew right away it was the right fit for her. Emily attended RCS from K through Omega and is now a sophomore in high school.
What do you like to do when you’re not at Rainbow?
Mostly I love to spend time with my family hiking, paddling rivers, and camping. I also enjoy gardening, cooking, yoga, and taking walks with our dog, Teeka.
In addition to teaching art, it looks like you make jewelry. What sorts of art do you like to create?
I don’t make jewelry anymore, actually.
What’s the best way to start the day?
Sitting on our front porch sipping coffee, reading a good book, and watching the birds visit our bird feeder. I love observing them and seeing how they interact with each other.
What book(s) are you reading?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and I highly recommend it!
What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from home?
I traveled to Rio de Janeiro with my Mom. She was born and raised there until she was 20. I was able to see where she lived as a girl.
If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?
I would love to spend time with Georgia O’Keefe. I admire her strength as a woman and that at one point decided to lay aside what she had been taught in art school and developed her own technique and style. In addition, she lived a very unconventional life for a woman in her time. I admire that she lived her life on her own terms.
What is something your friends would consider “so you”?
My husband and daughter consider anything to do with flowers a ‘Tracy thing’. I especially love wildflowers – to find them along a woodland trail brings me great delight. I grow native wildflowers in our yard.
One of my dearest friends shared all kinds of native flowers from her yard with me years ago; mayapples, ferns, soloman seal, columbine, and many more.
One of my favorite quotes is “Earth laughs in flowers” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
We hope you enjoyed Tracy’s team highlight. Don’t forget to tell her that “Earth laughs in flowers” when you see her!
Opening the Heart – Reflection and Centering
At a recent admin meeting, Cynthia shared a centering designed to bring awareness to, and open the heart. Renee asked her to share it on the Director’s Blog for others to enjoy, as well.
Point to yourself
Take a moment to close your eyes and relax into the rhythm of your breath. When you feel more relaxed, go ahead and point to yourself.
Notice where you are pointing. Chances are, you’re pointing toward your heart, or somewhere near your heart chakra.
This is on purpose. We humans point to the heart because we intuitively know our truest selves are not the brain, but the heart. The heart serves as a secondary brain and even has its own magnetic field.
What we do with the heart
We do a lot with the heart. We have heart-to-heart conversations. When we’re happy, our heart swells. When we’re sad, we’re heartbroken.
In the presence of beauty, we say we’re heartened. When we like someone, we say that they have a kind heart. A trustworthy, well-meaning person has a heart of gold. Conversely, a cold, unforgiving person has a heart of stone. When we feel bad for someone, we say, “bless their heart.” When we experience surprise, our heart skips a beat.
When we see someone’s heartfelt actions, we know it’s them expressing their truth. Furthermore, we send heart emojis when we mean to send loving thoughts.
Some of us wear our hearts on our sleeve.
Caring for our “heart self”
Our culture values the relentless pursuit of knowledge. We feed the mind. We feed the brain. We spend decades educating ourselves. But how often do we remember to feed the heart? How often do we remember to care for our heart self?
When we focus on the heart, our communications improve. Our relationships flourish. Still, our hope for the world turns rosier, as if we put on rose-colored glasses.
Pink and green
The color pink is the representation of the heart and a symbol of romantic love. On the other hand, the heart chakra is green. It’s the opposite of rose. Green is a color of expansion, growth, openness and unconditional love – love for self and love for others. The heart chakra sits in the center of the chest, not at the heart as many believe.
As a centering, we can do a little care for the heart – the heart itself, and the heart chakra.
A heart-centered breath
This is a practice that you can do at any time: while going about your day, while meditating, while exercising, or wherever.
Sit with your feet flat on the floor, or in a comfortable position. Hands can rest on your lap.
Relax your body. You can keep your eyes open, capped (open half-way) or closed.
Bring your attention to the breath as you breathe through the nose. Feel the cooler air as you inhale, and warmer air as you exhale. Don’t control or regulate your breath. Just observe.
Focus your attention…
Now bring your gentle attention to the rise and fall of the chest. Gently move your attention to the heart. Visualize your breath moving in and out of your heart space, filling it with soft green light and exhaling that same green light into the air around you.
Move into silence for three or four breaths, with each inhale and exhale taking in the easy green light and filling your heart space. Your exhale fills the air with this same light.
If you notice your thoughts wandering, just bring them back to the heart, and the light. Be kind to yourself.
After a few moments, bring your attention back to the breath. When you’re ready, open your eyes if you had them closed or capped.