There is a field, I’ll meet you there

There is a field, I’ll meet you there

Rainbow’s centering curriculum aims to support the spiritual identity development of each learner through various contemplative, mindfulness and meditative practices. It also serves to cultivate a strong class coherence and foster a collective wisdom through team-building initiatives and collaborative learning opportunities.

Omega Middle School students often take on the incredible responsibility of leading a centering for their peers. The student chooses a quote that resonates with them, shares it, asks for reflections, and then facilitates an extension activity. In a recent Omega Middle School centering, class coherence was nurtured through a team-building initiative rooted in the wise words of the poet Rumi. Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, was a Sufi mystic and an Islamic dervish, and is often regarded as a spiritual master and one of the world’s most popular poets. Interestingly, Rainbow founders, in addition to being innovative educators, were also spiritual Sufis with strong beliefs in universal peace and acceptance of all spiritual traditions. To that end, Rainbow’s 40-year lineage of spiritual curriculum is founded in Sufi mysticism, an arm of the Muslim faith in which the practitioners believe that a personal experience with a higher power can be achieved through mindfulness and meditation.

The Rumi quote below served as inspiration for this particular centering:

 

We can all acknowledge that judgments of right or wrong permeate our society and that societal pressures often yield citizens motivated by competition, achievement, success, winning and losing. Even the mission statement of the U.S. Department of Education emphasizes these. It states, “Our mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

All of us, I am sure, acknowledge the importance of setting and achieving goals. But do we always ask ourselves who or what loses if we win, or does my success come at the expense of who or what? As parents, educators and mentors, we absolutely want our children to experience goal setting, success and personal growth; but do we do everything we can to teach them to consider the bigger picture by reflecting in this way? Team building, if scaffolded properly has the power to do just that.

Rainbow recognizes the positive impacts that team building experiences have on classroom culture and morale and also on the development of the whole child. Team building is about working together to achieve a shared goal– one in which everyone succeeds. Team-building initiatives encourage perspective taking,  empathy and trust. Team building is about connection.

Team building anchored in spirituality or inspired by contemplation asks each person to turn inward first so that they can show up outwardly in a positive way.  What if, before we launched a team-building initiative or worked towards any common goal, we were reminded of the things that bind us? What if we were reminded of the greater good?

The Omegans spent some time reflecting on the quote. Then the group was tasked to cross a field, arms joined and with their feet touching their neighbors (a symbolic bond). The collective goal was to stay connected throughout the entire journey.

Ultimately, they were asked to enter Rumi’s field of consciousness and to move beyond right and wrong, success and failure, and to focus on what is truly important– the things that bind each of them.

The Present Moment is All You Ever Have

The Present Moment is All You Ever Have

The centering rituals, although all rooted in mindfulness and in sacred spirit, vary from Rainbow classroom to Rainbow classroom. For example, the middle school, known as Omega, opens each centering with a reflection on a quote, a lyric, or a blessing. As centering opens, the students turn inward by recording the quote, which is displayed on a whiteboard, in their centering journals and connect with it through silent reflection.

This daily “food for thought,” sets a reverent tone, encourages contemplative thinking, nourishes class coherence while reminding us that learning is scared. A volunteer is asked to recite the quote and then the facilitator fishes for any reflections, questions, insight or comments. Students are encouraged to offer their own wisdom, tweeze out meaning, make connections, share personal stories, and/or give an emotional reaction to the quote.

On one particular morning, Freddie, an eighth grade student lead a centering inspired by the words of spiritual teacher, Eckhardt Tolle,

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”

Freddie paused after the quote and waited for responses. One student offered,  “that we are often caught up in our past memories and mistakes or are thinking about what will happen next, that we dont realize the important things that are happening right in front of us.” Another student responded with “the past is full of memories, the future of hopes or dreams and the present- the present is where the two collide. It is important to savor that.”

Interacting with students in this way, keeps me in constant awe of the wisdom that is alive within them. What if every child had the opportunity to be contemplative, like this, each day? How would their inner potential and their inner wisdom reveal itself?

After a round of sharing, Freddie attempted to put the quote’s wisdom into practice. He asked that we each find a comfortable position somewhere in the classroom, close our eyes, and begin to focus on our breath. He began to ring a bell and noted that the bell would serve to anchor the breath. He said that if our thoughts wandered or drifted, each time he rang it, it would remind us to come back to our breath and to the present moment.The students seemed to relax into the meditation with ease and Freddie held space for this practice for about five minutes. Each individual student emerged from the practice relaxed, calm and focused and the group’s energy seemed more bonded or in a higher state of flow.

Overall, I feel that the mediation succeeded in supporting the transition from home to school, supporting class coherence and in opening up additional pathways to learning.

Meditation is one crucial tool that our children access…it allows them to focus on their breath, their bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase. In today’s fast paced society, it has become increasingly challenging to direct attention or efforts to a single point of reference or action. Alarms, meetings, deadlines, chores, commitments and to do lists can make it hard to embrace a mindfulness practice, a mediation or any deep relfection. A mediative practice, like the one described above has the power to turn attention away from distracting thoughts, past memories, mistakes or regrets, or future obligations and into the present moment. It is not only empowering but powerful.

What if alarms were used to remind us to be present, to pause, to notice- instead of to wake us up or get us somewhere on time? What if our to do lists became to be lists? What if every child was equipped with these tools and resources? What if…

The Three Questions

The Three Questions

Daily centering practice is a part of every Rainbow classroom. These practices, although all anchored in the Rainbow Spiritual Domain Learning Outcomes, take on many shapes and forms and evolve based on the learning needs of the children and the passions of the teacher. From journaling, meditation, dance, yoga, creating art, team building, time in nature to mindfulness practices… regardless of their format, this is a special time where children are encouraged to find their center and their source of personal power and wisdom before undertaking the lessons and explorations of the day.

Oral myth or story often set the stage for a centering or in many cases a children’s book can serve as inspiration for a particular theme. In each RCS classroom you will certainly find a bookshelf designated for those special “centering books.” One that touches the heart of many is Jon. J. Muth’s The Three Questions. This book is an illustrated adaptation of a story by Leo Tolstoy in which a young boy Nikolai, goes on a quest to find the answers to these three questions.

What is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important?
What is the right thing to do?

Nikolai’s interaction with various characters inadvertently lead him into the answers to those three questions.

If the purpose of a holistic education is to nurture the whole child, we do this by aiding them in uncovering their inner wisdom and truest, most authentic self…

As holistic and spiritual educators we explore existential questioning, meaning making, developing connection, leaning into discomfort, encouraging a questing for purpose and embracing awe and wonder.This special book is a gift that has the capacity to do all that for its reader. Happy reading and happy sharing.

Finally, as you gear up for a new school year, new chapter, new job, or just simply a new day. Consider your own three questions. What questions can guide you as you strive to be your best, most authentic self, most divine self?

Maybe these:
What is the best time to do things?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

Or:
What am I doing? Why am I doing it?
Does it bring me joy or purpose?
Is it allowing me to be the best me I can be?

 

Gratitude Jars

Gratitude Jars

The beginning of an RCS school year serves as a rite of passage for every student and their classroom community. This time is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, a new beginning- a fresh start. RCS teachers begin by creating a sacred and safe foundation in which the students can explore their role as integral community members. Teachers strive to foster shared ritual and ceremony and aim to nurture a culture that embraces the spiritual virtues such as mutual respect, deep connection, appreciation and gratitude.

Daily centering practices aid the teacher in establishing this culture through themes that are inspired by the various spiritual virtues. For example, fourth graders begin their year by building Gratitude Jars. The purpose of this centering activity is to meditate on the power of gratitude and serve as a model for giving and receiving appreciations. These jars also serve as grounding resources to return to on days that are particularly hard or challenging and/or when a child may need to refocus on a positive energy. “The struggle ends when gratitude begins” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Our teachers are well aware of the many benefits of cultivating gratitude in their personal lives and in the lives of their students.

Click here for a great article on The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life. 

This activity is launched by an email to families requesting a personalized gratitude for their child. This can be as simple or complex as a family would like it to be. Once the gratitudes have been collected by the teacher, the students participate in a centering practice in which they create their jars.

The opening of this centering focuses on the power of gratitude and the sacred practice of slowing down and appreciating the special people and experiences in our lives.- maybe by reflecting on a quote about gratitude.

The teacher then explains that the jars will serve as year long collection vessels for various gratitudes and appreciations.The students are then guided to use tissue paper to personalize their jar (It works best if pieces of tissue paper are no bigger than a square inch and applied to the outside of the glass jar with the glue solution) and this introductory centering concludes as they jars are left to dry overnight.

The next day, during a follow up centering, students are again encouraged to meditate on the power of gratitude and are prompted to share in a partnership the following considerations…

Why might gratitude be considered contagious?
What type of energy does gratitude spread?
If gratitude were a color what color would it be and why? 

The students regroup and the teacher hands each child their jar (at this point the teacher has secretly placed the family written gratitudes inside each jar). The teacher sets the tone for exploring the jar and encourages the children to use it as a sacred time to personally digest the gift of gratitude from their family. This is not a time when sharing is necessary…instead encourage the students to place the notes back in the jar when finished reading them.

These jars are reintroduced throughout the year with notes from teachers and others students as deemed necessary and appropriate by the teacher.

How can what we do at RCS inspire your own personal or professional work? 

Consider these questions…
Why might gratitude be considered contagious?
What type of energy does gratitude spread?
If gratitude were a color what color would it be and why? 

Rainbow Community School: 40th Anniversary Announcement

Rainbow Community School: 40th Anniversary Announcement

Our Executive Director, Renee, has created a video inviting all students, staff, alumni and families of Rainbow Community School to join us in celebrating 40 years of holistic education.

Below is a summary of the video, with invitations to the 40th Anniversary Celebration and the More Than Mindfulness Conference.

Celebrating 40 Years of Love!

Rainbow is 40 years old. We invite you to celebrate with us!

Some great leaders and healers gathered together in 1977 to found Rainbow Mountain Children’s School. Now known as Rainbow Community School, it was founded on love.

The world becomes what you teach.Zoe Weil

The school’s founders envisioned a curriculum that taught love and mindfulness, so that the world would become more of these things.

40 years later, we’re doing a two year celebration.

This is because school leaders began shaping their vision for the school in 1977 through parent meetings, gathering ideas, and research. The school opened its doors for the first time in 1978.

This year, in 2017, you’ll begin to see a lot more information about the history of the school, interviews with alumni, and more. In the fall of 2018, we would like to put together a celebration involving all members of our community, both past and present.

Rainbow alumni are invited to the first annual alumni gathering on Friday, Oct. 6th, 2017 from 7-10pm at Rainbow Community School.

RSVP for the Alumni Event

Looking For Volunteers

To that end, we are looking for volunteers for a 40th Anniversary Committee.

If you’re interested, please contact Kate in the office at info@rainbowlearning.org.

You can also contact Renee directly at 258-9264 ext. 111 or you can email her at renee.owen@rainbowlearning.org.

The More Than Mindfulness Conference

mindfulness

We believe that getting the word out about love and mindfulness is so incredibly important. Because of that, we also want to invite you to the More Than Mindfulness Conference.

RCS has an adult education component where we train parents, teachers, and other adults in using holistic education practices, and mindfulness practices. It’s a great opportunity for folks to deeply understand what we are about here at Rainbow, and the larger purpose behind what we are doing.

Register for the MTM Conference Here

Thank you for celebrating 40 years of love with us. We know it’s a great education for your child and a great education for the world.

A Welcome Letter to All Families

A Welcome Letter to All Families

Dearest Families,

Welcome to the 2017-18 school year at Rainbow Community School and Omega Middle School. This is a very special year; it is Rainbow’s 40th anniversary.

In 1977, three visionary, highly educated women, who believed that education had the power to enlighten the world, decided to open a school founded on love.

 

Teach Love

Love — what a revolutionary theme for a school! It was so radical that these women spent a year educating parents about what a holistic school founded on love truly means.

Our founders began every school day – just as we do today– with centering, a mindful and heartful time used to create a compassionate classroom and support children in building a relationship with their higher selves.

 

Grow Love

Love is such a necessary part of being human that when love is nourished, children feel they can be themselves, freeing up their intellectual and creative abilities to become geniuses.

Children thrive when surrounded by love!

Because our children have thrived, our school has flourished.

Little did our founders know that 40 years later, the little school they had opened in a Sunday School room at All Souls Church, would have 222 students enrolled and be located on five and a half acres of central, verdant land.

 

Inspire Love

Love is contagious!

Not only does it spread from person to person, but when children feel loved, they in turn fall in love with learning.

What these founding women knew intuitively has since been empirically proven.

Thanks to MRI and other neurological technology that didn’t exist in 1977, we now know that emotions are deeply embedded into the brain’s learning processes.

Motivation is fueled by positive emotions, and when children are motivated to learn they can embody their whole selves, expressing their unique passions and sharing their diverse gifts.

 

Spread Lovewelcome

Still today – 40 years later – we believe, just as our founders did, that an education based on love builds a solid foundation for strong communities.

Recently RCS founded Rainbow Institute with the purpose of spreading the Rainbow model of education.

This October 6 and 7 we hold our second annual More Than Mindfulness Conference.

This being our Fortieth Anniversary, one of our founders, Nura Laird (aka Ashrita Laird) is traveling from the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism in California where she chairs the Department of Peacemaking, to give a keynote address on founding a heart-based school.

We are inviting all friends of Rainbow – including all of our former parents, students, and faculty – to attend the conference.

Alumni will also have a special opportunity to share stories about the fascinating and successful lives they now lead.

You are invited too! Register for our conference today.

 

Learn Love

Love is not to be taken for granted.

Like all good things, it must be learned, cherished, and practiced – at all ages – in order to strengthen it.

This year we begin our new parent enrichment program (PEP).

PEP will give parents and teachers the opportunity to learn from one another.

We will be exploring the science of childhood development and supporting one another in building compassionate understanding for our children and for ourselves.

 

Celebrate Love

This year, we celebrate 40 years of love.

We celebrate a vision of love that came true through forty years of service.

For forty years, teachers who chose Rainbow have dedicated themselves to enriching the lives of the children and families who chose love.

 

Serve Love

Ten years ago, I myself chose Rainbow.

And I chose Rainbow, like many of you, in large part because of our legacy of love.

I’ve seen our community grow and change dramatically over the last ten years, and always come back to that foundation of love.

I have learned that love often looks like service, and service is the best way to spread love.

I welcome your visits, insights, and questions as we continue to build on our foundation.

Let us each serve, in our own unique ways, so as to better extend ourselves into a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and spiritually fulfilling future.

 

Choose Love

I am so glad your family chose to be a part of our 40 year legacy of love.

A school based on love becomes an extension of home. We are honored to be a part of your loved one’s home, and by extension, part of your family.

To a year filled with love, inspired by learning, and committed to service.

 

Love,

Renee Owen Executive Director

Please also check out our welcome video: