Mwe: You, Me, and All Our Relations

Mwe: You, Me, and All Our Relations

 

Getting the Next Generation to Fall in Love with the Planet

Check out this interview with Dan Siegel on the psychology and sociology of our environment. At Rainbow I often stress that helping students cultivate a deep and personal relationship with the natural world is our only hope of saving it, as they will only protect what they love. Dan Siegel shares that same sentiment adding the notion of “mwe.” When we learn to see ourselves as integrally connected to all things and to one another, we will end the destruction of our time and begin taking care of one another and the planet that sustains us. It all begins with love.

Kaleidoscope – March 2016

Kaleidoscope – March 2016

Kaleidoscope: The many colorful things happening at Rainbow, from the Executive Director

Hello beautiful Rainbow Community.  I am so happy spring is here!  It was a mild winter in terms of weather, but emotionally speaking, I found it hard to keep the ol’ disposition sunny during the dark days of winter.  How about you?  Was it a little harder to be patient with your family or community?  At school, the kids seem fine with the darker days. In fact, in our fast-paced, extroverted world, the slower, inward days of winter are a time for the children to focus on academics.  At your child’s conference, you will find they have accomplished a lot over the winter months.

No matter what one’s age, the gloriousness of spring lifts the spirits, and it is good to see everyone outside more often.  Every grade, K-8 is busy with their citizen science outdoor projects.
What is citizen science?  It’s the collection and analysis of data that is contributed to national scientific projects.  So essentially, our students are participating in collaborative projects with professional scientists throughout the year to help identify trends or changes locally, regionally and nationally!  Here are the  projects our students are participating in:

  • Kindergarten and 2nd grade – Nature’s Notebook – recording observations of local plants and animals.
  • First grade – Project Squirrel – tracking our squirrel population.
  • Third, fourth and fifth grade – Project eBird – tracking bird populations on our campus and other local areas.
  • Omega –  Project Budburst – tracking plant phenophases throughout the year.

Speaking of science, did you see the cool one minute video that Michael and Ange made from the Design Fair and Science Fair? If not, CLICK HERE, and be sure to share it on social media!

Keeping Tuition Affordable: Help Crack the Nut! It sounds like there is going to be good attendance at this Community Circle meeting coming up on Tuesday, March 22nd, 4 – 6pm in the 4th Grade Classroom.  Child care is free during the meeting. Please be a part of this important discussion.  (More information is at the bottom of this Kaleidoscope.)

YOU make all the difference in the world
One of the strategies for “cracking the nut” is to raise grant funds, but this requires proof that our program works.  That requires lots of data, and YOUR data counts, literally!  PLEASE CLICK HERE NOW, and complete the research survey that PhD candidate, Alan Bush, has created.  Alan is tabulating all the answers and providing us with a report.  What an awesome opportunity – don’t miss it!

YOUR CHILDREN make all the difference in the world
Our Rainbow kids never cease to amaze me. I recently received this message from the highly esteemed Dr. Theo Dawson:

Hi Renee,

I’ve been checking out your students’ Reflective Judgment scores today and I think they may well be the most impressive results we’ve ever seen. It’s making my heart sing!

Warmly,
—Theo

Dr. Dawson, and her team at Lectica, has spent almost three decades creating tests that can assess student’s complexity of thinking and ability to reason ethically. This work is based out of research from the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the work of Kurt Fischer.  Rainbow’s fourth through eighth graders took the Reflective Judgment test, which reveals how they think about inquiryevidencelearning & the mindtruth & certaintyconflict resolutionpersuasion, and deliberation.

As you can imagine, I was pretty thrilled to get a personal email from the head of the Lectica saying our students’ scores may be the best they have ever seen!! Soon, we will be receiving the formal score reports and sharing them with your children and with the world.  It is so exciting to finally have real scientific evidence proving what we already knew – Rainbow’s holistic program creates kids who are highly ethical, empathetic, and cognitively developed to a level of sophistication that is beyond their years. (Of course, Rainbow students score very well on traditional standardized tests too, but those tests only show a small sliver of rote skill attainment, without showing complexity of thinking or soft skill development.)

Rainbow students’ high level of social/emotional skills will serve them very well when applying to colleges. The most prestigious universities are now changing their application processes to make the SAT optional, and to stress empathy as the most important quality– and this trend is going to become much stronger by the time your kids are applying for college.  I recommend clicking the link for the following Washington Post article:  To get into college, Harvard report advocates for kindness instead of overachieving. 

Everyone a Changemaker!
Rainbow’s new Director of Equity, Kyja Wilburn, and I attended an Ashoka Changemaker Summit in February. CLICK HERE to view Kyja’s presentation on our experience at the summit, information about the Changemaker network, and some of her thoughts about building equity in schools.  If you haven’t met Kyja yet, this is a great introduction.  Incidentally, Kyja and first grade assistant, Clarissa, also coached Odyssey of the Mind this year, and our team is going to state!

Smart People Strategizing
On Wednesday, March 16, one of my professors from Columbia University Teacher’s College, Lyle Yorks, and his colleague, Harold Penton, are consulting with the Rainbow board on something called Blue Ocean Strategizing, and they will be interviewing various people on campus for research they are conducting.  (Another great opportunity for Rainbow!) I hope you get to meet them.

I can’t wait for Domain Day!
Domain Day is Friday, March 18, and the whole school is celebrating.  Children will spend almost the whole day “specializing” in one of their favorite domains in multi-age groups. I am one of the leaders for the spiritual domain.  Chris Weaver and I will be taking eight young children on a magical hero’s journey for the day.  I LOVE my job!

Rainbow-ize everything!
It will take many years before the new section of campus is “Rainbow-ized” like our old campus, but we make creative progress little by little.  This weekend, community muralist, Ian Wilkinson is painting a rainbow and a sun on the front of the Rainbow Community Center (auditorium) building.  Ian has created more than 40 murals in Asheville. His most famous is the chess player painted on Lexington Ave underneath Highway 240.

As promised above, more information on the upcoming Community Circle:
On Tuesday, March 22nd from 4-6pm, in the Fourth Grade Classroom, RCS will hold a Community Circle meeting. No fee for childcare during the meeting. As a community we have such amazing ideas and we each have incredible contributions to make to our school. We work together to solve so many challenges.  At this meeting, we need the collective wisdom of our community members to “help crack the nut!”

Rainbow Community School needs to solve the largest puzzle that we have.  The board calls it “the nut we have to crack.”  Essentially, the “nut” is that we charge tuition and that makes it hard to serve a wide array of families.  The “nut” is trying to figure out how to keep tuition as low as possible, so that Rainbow education isn’t just for those in the highest social-economic demographic. At the same time, we need to have enough revenue coming in to pay our staff, maintain/improve facilities, and to keep a low teacher/student ratio and all the quality programming that we have. Currently, we do it by paying our staff very low salaries.  Rainbow lead teachers make, on average, about $7,000 less a year than Buncombe County teachers and North Carolina ranks 46th in teacher pay in the US.

The board has decided that we have two major equity issues to tackle – racial equity and teacher pay equity.  There are only two ways to solve the teacher pay equity issue – either save money by staffing more kids per teacher or increase revenues.  Doing the former would compromise our quality, so that means focusing on the latter.
So, how can we increase revenues?  Tuition is our only consistent source of funding, and it makes up 95% of our revenues. Currently, tuition goes up quite a bit every year, just to keep up with the 3%-6% salary raise teachers receive annually.  If we started providing larger staff raises, tuition would have to increase immensely.

How else can we raise more revenue — A LOT of revenue, like $200,000/year more– without making Rainbow totally unaffordable?  We could have a much larger annual campaign, but the $80,000 we currently have is not easy.  We could raise tuition steeply, but on a sliding fee scale.  This has its obvious drawbacks.  People have also suggested we have an additional fee each year and families below a certain income wouldn’t have to pay it.  Again, this has some major drawbacks. While we may have to consider some of these options, the ultimate goal is to get creative and find funding – consistent annual funding — from outside the parent body.

COME TO THE COMMUNITY CIRCLE MEETING ON MARCH 22nd TO HELP US FIGURE THIS OUT AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

We need the collective wisdom of our community members to crack this nut!

We hope to see you there.

Blended learning sounds great….or does it?

Blended learning sounds great….or does it?

With the intense budget cuts and challenges in public schools, get ready to hear the term “blended learning” more and more. Blended learning is simply a mix of face-to-face classroom time with the added use of technology. The hype and selling point of blended learning for parents is that it potentially provides more self-pace and self-directed learning as students move through materials on a computer. The selling point for politicians and school administrators is that it cuts costs, which is really the driving force behind this trend. In her article for The Washington Post Valerie Strauss speaks to the myth of blended learning:

“These adaptive learning systems (the new teaching machines) do not build more resilient, creative, entrepreneurial or empathetic citizens through their individualized, standardized, linear and mechanical software algorithms. On the contrary, they diminish the many opportunities for human relationships to flourish, which is a hallmark of high-quality learning environments.”

What is the purpose of education? It isn’t to blast through the content. It is to build a better world with empathetic, critical thinking citizens who are able to shape a society that is fulfilling, ecologically sustainable, and just. So far the blended classroom system is simply one of many tools available to a teacher (and Rainbow teachers certainly takes advantage of some blended learning); but there is zero evidence that blended learning improves even traditional content-oriented learning, much less that it meets loftier goals. Beware of the slippery slope.

 

Blended Learning: The great new thing or the great new hype?

By Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post

By Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post