The goals of meditation can vary from practitioner to practitioner. A practitioner may meditate to calm themselves, regulate emotions or reduce stress. They may also engage in meditation as a strategy for deep reflection, connection or intuiting. In its traditional form, it is practiced by sitting still and focusing on the breath or bodily sensations. This traditional practice shows up in Rainbow classrooms and centering practices but just as the goals of meditation vary, so can the form it takes.
At RCS, meditation takes on many shapes and often engages various learning domains. Creative meditation, for example, is explored through expressive ways such as mindful drawing or writing. Students may also embody a kinesthetic meditation by mindful walking, yoga or interpretive dance. Additionally, solo time communing with or observing nature attends to the natural domain.
Meditation at Rainbow, regardless of form begins by slowing things down, bringing awareness to the body and aligning each activity with the breath. The rituals of a 2nd grade centering often begin with a gentle reminder from their teacher, Eddy, to still their bodies, hold a silence for the candle lighting and three deep communal breaths. Eddy also recognizes the boundless physical, mental and emotional benefits of collective singing and to that end, it too has become part of these cultural rituals. Ultimately, communal singing in this reverent and celebratory way has become a meditation for these students. Simple melodies paired with profound lyrics aim to deepen the already sacred tone, nurture a transcendent experience, strengthen their bond and invite a bit of whimsy.
On this day, once the centering rituals are complete, Eddy begins describing the meditative drawing activity the students will be participating in. He explains that they will be using shapes and forms to create a collaborative sculpture, meditate on it and then draw what they see. He explains that the goal is to bring mindfulness to their observation and their drawing skills.
He invites the students to choose a three-dimensional shape from the tray and then asks them to place their shape on the silk that covers the center of the rug. This communal creation resembles a city of sorts. He prompts the kids by saying “imagine walking through this world. Let your imagination allow it to come alive, look at it from all angles, what do you see, what is around you…meditate on it.” He then rings the singing bell and tells them that when they can no longer hear the song of the bowl that will serve as their signal to begin drawing.
Eddy emphasized to the kids to just… draw what they saw. Those simple words became so freeing for the kids. Those words evoked a sense of autonomy that set the stage for a pure meditation. They were able to fully embrace the practice- free from perfectionism, free from concern for mistake making or being right over wrong. The tone of the classroom settled into a calm inquiry, a collective focus, and a creative meditation.
How can your traditional meditation practice take on a new form? Try something different today? Mindful eating, tea meditation, deep listening, walking meditation…
Make a list of 5 daily activities that you can bring some mindful presence to and take a pause for those each day. Try it for a week. What do you uncover or discover? REFLECT.
In 2013, Rainbow Community School was the first school in North Carolina to be honored as a Green School of Excellence. Recently, we have been awarded this designation for the 4th consecutive year. The NC Green School of Excellence designation honors a school that shows the highest level of commitment to a sustainable campus and environmental education curriculum. Go to the Center for the Environment website by clicking here to learn more about the designation and to read how RCS is featured on the site.
After a renewal application process, Katie Ferrell of the Center for the Environment toured the school and presented us with our certificate of designation. She thanked us for our continued dedication “to teaching students about the interconnectedness of humans and nature and showing the students how to take care for the environment all school year long and especially for empowering students to take on leadership roles in the school, for actively creating community engagement and partnerships, and nurturing the students’ natural curiosity to dive deep into their experiences in the outdoor learning environment.”
As you are probably aware, the natural world serves as an important teacher in the lives of all our students. For example, connection to the natural world is celebrated in our mission to “develop accomplished, confident, and creative learners who are prepared to be compassionate leaders in building a socially just, spiritually connected, and environmentally sustainable world” and as one of our guiding principles “through understanding nature we understand ourselves therefore the learning environment extends into the natural world, the greater community and children spend as much time outside as possible. Children who have a relationship with nature will take care of it.” Additionally, environmental sustainability and stewardship and nature appreciation and education are part of our daily rituals and routines. The Natural Domain is emphasized as one of Seven RCS Learning Domains. From eco-conscious and green building practices, time spent in learning in the out of doors, to earth based celebrations, to Citizen Science, to recycling, composting, water conservation and gardening, to participation in Strive not to Drive Week, Screen Free Week and Blackouts, RCS actively strives to build a compassionate and environmentally sustainable school. Moreover, RCS is recognized by Ashoka to be a Changemaker School. The Changemaker Schools Network is a community of schools that as part of their mission and method support children in developing skills that aim to solve challenging problems and effect positive local, national and global change. To that end, elements of every grade’s curriculum integrates these changemaking skills and efforts and often children have opportunities to discuss, research, and design innovative solutions to many environmental problems. Indeed, Rainbow’s mission and vision incorporate learning that has, at its heart, a desire to instill a love for self and a love for the planet in a changing world.
When planning daily centerings Rainbow Community School (RCS) teachers strive to align the lessons, practices or activities with one of RCS’s spiritual, social and/or emotional learning goals. One of the longest standing spiritual learning goals (see below) recognizes celebration, tradition and ritual as sacred acts- acts that offer our students links to other cultures, ancestors and the past while laying a foundation for their future.
Class and Community Celebration and Ritual: Shared celebrations, ceremonies and rites of passage that empower students to be a part of an integral community
These shared celebrations, ceremonies and rites of passage are held as sacred and in some cases magical. They are symbolic and are infused with great care and reverence. Some specific milestones include Move Up Day, The Rose Ceremony, Mysteries Council, Graduation, school wide monthly gatherings that align with seasonal celebrations and Birthday Celebrations.
Recently I was invited into the 1st grade classroom to participate in a centering honoring a birthday. Our students experience at least once collective centering each school day, but for one very special centering each year, it becomes extremely personalized- The Birthday Celebration. As we know, a birthday is such a special and exciting event in a young person’s life, this special day holds a different, personal meaning than do other holidays or celebrations. Birthdays are celebrated for various reasons, from honoring or reflecting on personal growth, to acknowledging new opportunity, to encouraging fellowship. We may associate cake, ice cream, presents, parties with them but at Rainbow this personal milestone is meant to invoke a sense of the sacred- The child is cerebrated as a uniquely spiritual being.
Rachel, the lead teacher opened the centering circle by lighting the candle for “Judah and his new trip around the sun.” She first asked the kids to bring awarenss to their bodies by “finding a space that was grounding for them.” She then help to guide them in three deep breaths by ringing a chime between each breath. As the kids engaged in these typical centering rituals, the energy of the room settled into a more mindful state.
Rachel continued,…”We have all been part of Judah’s life for many days…many of us met Judah the first day of this school year, others have known Judah for many years now. We are also blessed to have two people in the circle that have known him for his entire life and we welcome Judah’s parents. Regardless of how long we have known him, we have all come to love and appreciate him and would like to honor him with appreciations.”
At this point Rachel asked the kids to warm their hands by rubbing them together and then invited them to cover their eyes so that they can fully picture Judah’s face and invite a sincere appreciation to the front of their minds. As the appreciation circle began, she reminded them that “when we speak from the heart, we point our hearts at the person we are speaking to.” The appreciations, as well as smiles and even happy tears began to flood into the room. Judah’s parents were also invited to tell Judah’s birth story and to share pictures and memories through the years.
Rachel has, for years, been carrying on a 1st grade tradition of a birthday bead necklace. At his time, she asked the children to choose a bead from the basket and to think about a wish they have for Judah as he embarks on this next journey around the sun and let the bead represent a wish they have for him during this next trip. Each student strung his/her bead onto the necklace and named the wish. As a closure, Rachel reminded Judah that he was loved by his 1st grade family and if there were every a time that he needed to be reminded of the love that surrounded him to wear the necklace so that his heart could be filled.
SAVE the DATE! Join Rainbow Institute and Rainbow Community School staff, faculty and students on October 6th and 7th for the 2nd Annual More the Mindfulness Conference, in conjunction with our 40 year Alumni Party. Click here to learn more and to register for the event!
Winter time is a perfect time to come together in community! The whole family is invited to this free funky fun dance party at the Rainbow Community Center in the auditorium at 60 State Street, from 3pm to 5pm on Saturday, February 4th. Preschoolers through Middleschoolers are encouraged to get up on the stage and boogie to their favorite tunes. Rainbow students don’t often get the chance to romp and sway, groove and bounce on the auditorium stage. This is the perfect opportunity to let your kids move their bodies in whatever authentic ways they are inspired to while we gather and mingle in community!
Welcome to our two new Student Support interns, Brittany and Lydia! Brittany Wagner and Lydia Rose are students in the Occupational Therapy program at AB Tech. We are so lucky that they will be working with Student Support students on Tuesdays for the next 9 weeks. After doing farm to school and food systems work for a local non profit for the past five years, Brittany decided it was time for a career change and fell in love with occupational therapy. Lydia has been a preschool teacher on and off since she graduated from Appalachian State in 1994 and now lives in Asheville, her new found soul home, with her son. Both are so grateful to be interning at Rainbow and can’t wait to get started. We hope you have a terrific first day!