Fourth graders figure out their favorite Greek deity
We headed over to 4th grade recently where our students were immersed in the world of ancient Greece. They learned about mythology and creative arts. Their teacher, Kurt, said they really loved learning about the Greek gods and doing hands-on activities related to their learning.
Because of that, Kurt let them do a special activity that would further their learning with Greek mythology. They investigated their favorite god by reading a story, and created designs using paper shaped like pottery. These designs were based on what they knew about the deity they studied.
Hercules – probably the most famous Greek deity
They started off their lesson with a short video about Hercules. They talked about how the story of Hercules is from long ago when “chaos reigned.” Students realized there were many references to pottery and design, as well as other historical events.
Fourth graders had a chance to look at examples of ancient Greek pottery. They saw references to Achilles, a centaur, minotaur, war and peace, Hercules and more. Once they had a chance to look at different examples, their teacher explained that stories they were about to read would also inform the designs they’d create on their pottery.
Stories about Greek gods
Each student paired up with another and chose their favorite Greek deity to study. They were allowed to read the story to each other, silently, or alternate between silent reading and reading aloud as they liked. Once finished, each student created their paper pottery. Essentially, they created a stencil using one piece of paper, cut it out, and finally glued it onto paper with a brown background.
After students finished gluing their stenciled piece onto the background, they could begin drawing designs. They worked with pencils and black markers. Some designs were quite eloquent and detailed. One requirement was to reference the story they read within their pottery design.
These pottery designs complemented the rest of their unit on Greek mythology. Intricate and detailed, each pottery piece reflected each student’s drawing style. As students concluded the unit, they did further research on their chosen Greek god. This research led to a one-page report, which they later presented to their class.
This one lesson touched on several different domains: the social and emotional, in which students were able to collaborate with one another, and worked together to complete their stories and pottery projects. They engaged in the mental domain in researching more about Greek deities. They were able to use the creative domain with their pottery designs and even touched on the spiritual domain with regard to Greek beliefs and mythology itself. All teachers at Rainbow create units that incorporate the seven different domains at least once.
Classification of shoes to teach valuable lessons
We headed to second grade recently to find students doing classification of…shoes! There is a very interesting reason why.
As students started out this lesson, they began with some silent reading time. These quiet moments helped get them ready for what was next.
It was so quiet you could hear their minds “thinking.” Little did they know, they would need their sharp minds and their shoes for the subsequent portion of their lesson.
Their teacher, Eddy, had them take their paired shoes and separate them. They put one on the checkered green rug in their main classroom, and the other on the green rug in the library/centering room.
Classification of shoes in different ways
The kiddos separated into two groups with the following instruction: to group or separate the shoes according to a system they would create. In other words, students could separate shoes by color, brand, size, or some other determining factor. They brainstormed different ideas of how they might classify their shoes within their groups.
Each group chatted and came up with a plan that all could agree with and implement.
Neither group had any idea how the other was classifying their shoes. However, they each came up with very different ways of grouping and organizing their shoes.
In the library room, students grouped shoes by their overall color. In the main room, students grouped them by how they “closed” or secured to the foot, such as with velcro, slip-on, shoestrings, etc.
Once they did that, their teacher asked them to reclassify their shoes and come up with a second way to group them all. Students in the library decided to group by the “purpose of the shoe,” such as hiking or running. The other group classified all the different shoes by size.
Why classify shoes?
Why would students do this?
They brainstormed about labeling and classifying things to make sense of the world and understand it better. Eddy asked them, “aren’t there lots of different kinds of trees?” All students agreed that there were. He asked them about animals, plants, and seeds. Everyone agreed that, yes, there are many different varieties of each of these. It is in classifying and grouping plants, animals, and seeds, humans can identify what they are and understand what they do and their role in the world ecosystem.
Learning about the animal kingdom
After everyone got their shoes back, they began talking about the scientific system of classification. They learned about the five main kingdoms of living things: plants, animals, fungi, bacteria (monera), and one-celled organisms (protists). Later, they went more in-depth with the animal kingdom. Eddy gave each student a piece of paper with the name of an animal on it. Each student had to determine if the animal they had was a mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, or a type of bird. Some of them were tricky! Did you know that a whale is a mammal? Or that a skink is a type of reptile?
Students walked away with a broader understanding of why people classify the world around them. They explored a number of ways in which it’s possible to do so. What a fun way to use methods of scientific thinking to reason, deduce, classify, as well as integrate other skills such as collaboration, discussion and reaching a consensus.
We love how Eddy integrated elements of the 7 Domains. Students were able to move around the classroom. They worked together to complete their tasks which reinforced the social domain. This process of reasoning and classification touched on the mental domain. Talking about organisms in nature brought in the natural domain. One lesson with multiple approaches. That is a day in the life of a Rainbow student.
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