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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!