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Be the Change

Be the Change

In 2012 Rainbow Community School (RCS) was selected as an Ashoka Changemaker School, a network of schools that empower students as changemakers by prioritizing empathy, leadership, and collaborative problem-solving as student outcomes. They recognize the capacities of young people to make a BIG difference and highlight empathy as the centerpiece for all changemaking efforts. RCS was nominated as a changemaker School because of its belief that educating for the wholechild directly impacts humanity’s collective awareness and capacity for growth.

The Journey from I to We:
Gandhi’s wise words remind us that it all begins with our inner selves: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” At RCS, we believe that real change originates out of an individuals’ commitment to their own evolution. As a result, we strive to support all learners in becoming whole, finding purpose and then making change. Our educational model nurtures the holistic development of the child and by doing so, these whole humans are better equipped and more empowered to serve the needs of humanity and the planet through their positive change making efforts.

It is not uncommon for our learners to acknowledge that before they can show up for others they must show up for themselves and it is the emphasis on self-discovery and personal well-being that opens the doors to connection, collaboration and thus meaningful work. Our students explore, at a very young age, what it means to “know thyself” by recognizing their unique gifts and exploring practices that highlight self-empathy and self-gratitude.

By inviting a child’s inner life into the classroom we are awakening their spirit. A spiritually nourished child is not only ready to learn but it’s the child’s strong spiritual identity that is the catalyst for meaningful work. The catalyst for change!

There are certain stand out elements of the Rainbow Seven Domains Learning Model that help to create favorable conditions for spiritual identity development and the daily centering practice is one of them. This morning ritual serves to awaken the spiritual center of each child, opening pathways to learning. As a centering begins, the classroom is filled with ritual and reverence. These rituals vary from classroom to classroom but the essence of centering is such that the students gather in a circle on a rug, the space is set with intention, the lights are dimmed, a chime or bell invites silence, reverence fills the room, a pause is taken for audible breath work, the invitation of fire through candlelight is summoned- this begins the sacred work of the day. The results are often a harmonious learning environment in which focused thinking come naturally, trust among the group yield effortless work and innovative solutions are manifested.

Recently I joined Lucy and the preschool Dragonflies for centering. The preschool centering ritual leader began by asking his class to put on their mindful bodies and their mindful listening ears. He then told them that he would ring the singing bowl and wanted every person to actively and mindfully listen until they could no longer hear the song of the bell and then to raise their hand when its song was gone. He then used a breathing ball and guided his classmates in three deep inhales and exhales. As the ball expanded he said aloud “inhale” and as it contracted he said “exhale.”

Lucy, then invited the preschoolers to join her in a self-affirming morning verse that was paired with sign language. The kids spoke the words with confidence and enthusiasm… “May I be healthy, may I be strong, may I be happy, may I be peaceful.” I was happy to witness the use of self-affirmations with such young learners. Positive affirmations or positive self-talk are great motivators for self-reflection and self-change. Statements such as these can easily become identity statements. Thus, benefiting not only oneself but those that you interact with.

Lucy deepened the experience by extending the lesson. She went on to explain that each person would have the opportunity to choose a kind wish they have for themselves. She showed and read the kind wish cards aloud and asked to kids to be thinking about which kind wish they wanted for themselves today. When the kids were ready to share, they signaled to Lucy by placing their thumbs on their knees.

She invited each them to approach the altar which was filled with the kind wish cards, candles and the wishing water. The kids were asked to speak their kind wish aloud and in the direction of the wishing water. It was obvious that Lucy had worked hard to create a supportive and safe yet vulnerable space for the Dragonflies as each child spoke, the rest of the group held a quiet space.

Finally, Lucy reminded the children that much like plants need our care to thrive, our intentions and affirmations need that attention too. As the centering practice came to a close, she explained, that she would take the wishing water (filled with their wishes) and send the kind wishes in to the world by watering the plants and that the plant’s health and growth will be a visual reminder of our own personal growth.

If we feed our body, it can grow. If we feed our mind, it can be stimulated. If we nurture our spirit, it can flourish. What daily affirmations will help you flourish? 
Points of Connection

Points of Connection

Connection and community at Rainbow is often nurtured through rituals, traditions or celebrations that mark the passage of time. We begin the school year with an opening ceremony during which the entire school comes together to offer blessings and intentions for the coming year. On that same day we also host a Rose Ceremony. This ceremony happens twice each year; on the first day of school and on the last day of school.

The ceremony on the 1st day of school is designed for the oldest students (8th graders) in the school to welcome the 1st graders into elementary school. Each 8th grader gives a 1st grader a rose to symbolize their support as they transition. This important rite of passage is replicated on the last day of school as the 8th graders graduate. The 1st graders offer them a rose to mark their transition.

Also during the first week of school, each class chooses a mascot. Choosing a class mascot has been a community building tradition at Rainbow for years. This tradition yields many benefits. Students are using the mental domain to formulate logical arguments about their mascot choice, the social domain to share their ideas and participate in a democratic voting process, the spiritual domain by learning about symbolism of the mascot and/or striving to embody the qualities of those animals. The mascot provides the class a shared identity and deepens group cohesion.

We also gather for a weekly song circle. This is a simple and joyful way to engage in the universal language of music while also offering a special bonding experience across the age groups.

Additionally, throughout the course of the year, we hold fire circles that help us honor the seasonal cycles and our own inner cycles. The circles foster a support system for deep reflection, invite gratitude and, nurture the well being of all community members who attend. As we gear up for the Fall equinox, a fire burns on campus, extending the invitation to sit, to breathe and to connect.

These are a few of the community connection opportunities offered in the first few weeks of school. We invite you to find ways that integrate modified rituals such as these in your home, classroom or organization.

Team Highlight – Meet Tracy Hildebrand

Team Highlight – Meet Tracy Hildebrand

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!

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.