Know Thyself

Know Thyself

In many cultures, tribes and soceities around the world, children engage in various rites of passage. Often these are times when a child is recognized for passing though the threshold toward adulthood. Graduation at Rainbow Community School serves as an integral rite of passage for our graduating Omega Middle Schoolers.

Preparation for this rite officially begins as they join the Omega program. Subtle and more obvious practices support each Omegan’s readiness. For example, each day that middle schoolers pass through a physical threshold. As enter the building, they pass under a wooden panel inscribed with “Know Thyself.” Additionally, their arrival is also marked with a sacred time called Centering; this time is used for grounding, centering, pondering life’s big questions. Lessons, activities and learning experiences throughout the day not only foster a culture of connectedness but support the work of nurturing the child to individuate- to

These opportunities, although grounded in the safety of community, encourage personal identity development, person spirituality and ultimately- wholeness. According to decades of research by Dr. Lisa Miller, head of clinical psychology at Columbia’s Teachers College, teens who have the benefit of developing a personal spirituality are 80% less likely to suffer from ongoing and recurring depression and 60% less likely to become substance abusers. To that end, it is reasonable to suggest that spirituality is indeed the cornerstone for mental health and human well-being. Intentional rites of passage are but one way to nourish that health.

To KNOW THYSELF is to answer these questions:
Who am I?
Who are you?
Why am I here?
What is my purpose?

Graduating Omegans write commencement speeches that reflect on their time at Rainbow and acknowledge their gratitude, growth, challenges, hopes and dreams. Each student, as part of the rite, share these speeches publicly. This public sharing is an amazingly brave yet vulnerable challenge.

They are informed by years of social, emotional and spiritual engagement and learning. They are guided by opportunities to explore life’s big mysteries and ponder personal purpose. They are rooted in a a collective AND personal identity.

If you are curious what happens when soul is invited into the classroom, please click here to listen to Noah Mraz’s graduation speech.

Please also consider:

  • What are the implications of integrating rites of passage, existential questioning and the spiritual domain into your own work with children?
  • What are you already doing that serves the spiritual development of your students? What more can you do?
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Charleston Chronicles – The Annual Omega Trip

Charleston Chronicles – The Annual Omega Trip

The Charleston Chronicles

Our Omega 7/8 students are on their annual trip to Charleston – and this post entry is “The Charleston Chronicles.”

Their teachers have been updating all of us with emails of their trip, including details of what they have been doing.

As they chronicle their voyage and educational experiences, we wanted to share them here with you. These entries are courtesy of Susan Waddell.

March 26

We had a FABULOUS first day! After getting ice in the coolers filled with snacks and breakfast foods at the first rest stop we came across, we were on our way. We watched The Princess Bride when en route. Many kiddos enjoyed seeing it again, quoting it, and even, for some, seeing it for the first time.

We arrived at Bull Island at 1:00PM and boarded a boat/ferry that took us across the Intercostal Highway to the barrier island, Bull Island.

We experienced many different ecosystems, and we saw a variety of life forms. Almost immediately, we spied some chilly alligators trying to soak up the few sun rays that made it through the clouds today. Additionally, we traversed the barrier island and made it to the ocean where we all played and explored the windy landscape for just over a half an hour.

Once we returned to the main land, we boarded our bus and headed out for dinner to finally settle into our home for the next three nights.

Thank you to everyone for getting your Omegans to us on-time this morning. Gratitude for the Kerns who grabbed some milk jugs of water. Additionally, a huge thank you to the Tintingers for getting out snacks and breakfast items. They then sorted them in the most efficient way. Finally, they also created a special homemade treat we all enjoyed after dinner tonight.

It takes a village!

Enjoy the photos, and if I didn’t get a close up of your Omegan today, don’t fret, more photos will be coming each evening.

Until tomorrow!

March 27

Wow, what a LONG and incredibly fulfilling day! Alarms (that had been left set for a normal school day) started to chirp, buzz, and play at 5:30AM in some cabins this morning. Even though that was earlier than necessary, with sleepy eyes, our Omegans started to stir. By 8:15, we were able to circle up and center before our adventures.

We began with a tour of the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown. Next was the destroyer, the USS Laffey. Afterward, we went to see a submarine, the USS Camagore. Students (and teachers) marched up and down stairs, and across grates and steel. They experienced the day in the life of our veterans.

From there, we moved to the waterfront to enjoy lunch and quality community building time in play. Students saw dolphins in the bay, and practiced their latest gymnast tricks. Of course, they also showed off their ninja moves, and laughed (a lot!).

In the afternoon, a small group of students ventured to the Charleston Museum, and a larger group investigated the Aquarium. From sea turtles to stingrays, tea parties to dress-up, smiles were infinite.

Dinner was at the Screen Door, and everyone had their fill, for we had all worked up quite an appetite.

Our final destination was the beach where students jumped waves, enjoyed a sweet treat, and eventually formed a HUGE volleyball game.

All is quiet in the cabins now as we rest for Day 3.

Here are some shots of the day, and (lucky us!!) we have more to come from Sheila!

Look out for an update tomorrow night.

Thank you for trusting us with your kiddos. We are enjoying the time with each of them!

March 28

What an amazing last day.

We had a late start, which was nice, so we didn’t circle up until 9:15 this morning. We started in circle and by stating the following quote:

“The more often we see the things around us- even the beautiful and wonderful things- the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds- even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” –Joseph B. Wirthlin

A quote to remind each of us to listen deeply to those who had information to share with us today: information new to some and known by others, regardless, information and ideas easily and often taken for granted.

We boarded the bus for the 40 minute trek to the Birds of Prey exhibit. It is beyond words. From bald eagles, to baby owls, we were reminded of the impact humans have on our planet and the creatures on it, and how truly incredible ALL birds are.

After our 2 hour tour, we boarded the bus and headed back to Charleston. We ate lunch on the bus while we were entertained by the Gullah Tour founder, Alphonso Brown, who opened our eyes to some of the history that doesn’t make its way to traditional history books. After he serenaded us through the East side, we switched to a second tour guide and headed off to the Angel Oak. It was majestic and this tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable.

We returned to the city for dinner at Mellow Mushroom ~ and some time in community. It is so great seeing these kids eat a meal while laughing and sharing tales from our week.

We then returned to the water front to play before our haunted tour. The guides were fantastic story tellers leaving many of our Omegans a tad frightened to go to sleep tonight!!

Take a look at the gallery to see the photos that illustrate our adventures.

I hope to send another message out before we get home tomorrow. Again, thank you for letting us spend this time with your children. Memories have most certainly been made and will be cherished for a long time to come.

Until tomorrow,
The Omega Team

Rainbow Student Memorizes 220 Digits of Pi

Rainbow Student Memorizes 220 Digits of Pi

The Number Pi

Do you know about the number pi?

Aside from being the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet – 𝚷 – it is also a unique number.

If you take the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, no matter how big or small a circle is, this number is the same. That is, dividing any circumference of a circle by its diameter, you’ll still get the same result: pi.

Before we share the number, we need to explain that it’s an irrational number. Its decimals are infinite. They go on forever, though they do not repeat, such as when you get the decimal form of 2/3: 0.66666666…and on to infinity.

Here are the first 100 digits of pi: 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679

A Pi Day Tradition

Each year in 6th grade Omega, on March 14, students have a “Pi Day” showdown. Students who want to participate in Pi day spend time memorizing as many digits of Pi (after the number 3) as they can.

Students get up and recite them in front of their classmates. Even if they have memorized hundreds of numbers, the added challenge of doing this in front of peers doesn’t guarantee that a person will be able to flawlessly recite their memorized numbers.

Some students memorized the first two digits (ha!). Some memorized 30 digits, 61 digits, 71 digits, 73 digits, 103 digits, and one student kept going…and going…to 220 digits!

Why Memorize Digits of Pi?

It may seem at first glance that memorizing lots of numbers in rapid succession for “rote memorization” isn’t a great use of time. Besides, why do that when you can just search that number on the web?

You might not know about the real benefits of doing an exercise like this.

First, let’s talk numbers.

In 1981, Rajan Mahadevan (of India) correctly recited 31,811 digits of pi. Eight years later, Hideaki Tomoyori (of Japan) would recite 40,000 digits in competition. In 2005, Lu Chao (of China) broke the world record for correctly reciting 67,890 digits of pi.

Impressive, no?

But get this. Those folks don’t have extraordinary memorization powers. Oh, no. It’s strategy.

These people simply learned different methods for effectively memorizing large amounts of information. It’s not hard to see how this would translate to the classroom. By learning how to memorize numbers in various ways, students can apply those skills to memorizing other important information, such as historical dates, social security numbers, drivers license numbers, and more.

They also start to understand their own process of learning and what is most effective.

Memorization Strategies

Mind Palace or The Method of Loci

Basically, this method uses location as a way to trigger the memory. Let’s say someone wants to remember 24 digits. Standing in front of the kitchen sink, for example, they would memorize four or five digits. Then they could move toward the window and memorize a few more, and move again to the couch, then to a door, each time memorizing a few more digits of a number.

To recite the numbers, the person then starts again at the kitchen sink, moves toward the window and retraces the path they first took – essentially moving “through the palace” to visualize and remember the numbers.


This method calls for memorizing numbers in smaller chunks. To make it more effective, a person could put them on cards, write them on paper on different lines, or write in names of people and “assign” a chunk of numbers to them.

Major System

This is another memorization technique in which numbers have consonant sounds and memory aids.

In fact, there are many ways to do this! The website The Art of Memory has many different techniques of improving memory skills and resources for learning how to memorize large amounts of information.

Here is a fun video on “How to Memorize Pi the Easiest Way Possible” by Memorize Academy:

At the very least, anyone looking up resources to memorize pi naturally gains research skills and cognitive reasoning skills to sift through all the information!

It’s More Than A Friendly Competition

Students who choose to get up and recite these numbers face some challenges. It’s not easy getting up in front of peers. But at Rainbow, teachers and students spend time on developing the “whole child,” and this includes developing those empathy skills that allow students to be supportive of each other as they go up and present in front of the class.

Everyone received an applause, a little hedgehog sticker for participation and support from classmates.

Then They Ate Pi…Er…Pie!

Though Rainbow has a policy on not eating sugar during the day, teachers will make exceptions for special occasions. This was definitely a special occasion: not eating pie on pi day amounts to…mathematical error.

Instead of regular pie, however, Jenny, our 6th grade teacher, got “cookie pie” as it was easier to transport. What would a celebration be without 3.14 candles?

We’re not sure which memorization method students used, but one thing is for sure: students learned about how they learn, and figured out different memorization techniques.

Design Challenge, Omega Style

Design Challenge, Omega Style

Experiential Learning With Simple Tools

In Omega, teachers often incorporate ways to make a lesson come alive. Students embarked on a design challenge of sorts, one in which they challenged themselves, worked against the clock, and figured out how to quickly problem-solve for a solution.

Rocket Launching

Using a piece of paper, tape, and a straw, students were challenged to make a flying object. The idea was to repeat the process three times, except they had less and less time with each round.

Round One

Students had five minutes. They collaborated in groups and could talk about what sort of rocket they’d like to build. When time was up, they only had one chance to launch and measure how far their paper rocket traveled.

rocket launching

Collaborating in groups. Round One.

The results for this first round would help inform students as to what trends they spotted, what modifications they might need to make, and what they could do to make their rockets go farther.

After all students launched their rockets, the range was from 0 inches all the way to 168″!

measuring flight distances

What’s so incredible is that students were extremely supportive of one another, and they immediately got to work on the second round to make iterations. In essence, they were using failure to inform their next decisions.

Round Two

The next round meant a shorter time: three minutes. Students concentrated furiously and worked to design better rockets.

student collaboration

The biggest challenge was not having the amount of time they did on the first round. But, using experiential data, they tried to figure out what would sail through the air the farthest.

rocket launches

The results were as varied as the first time! Flight paths ranged from 0″ to 176″!

Round Three

This time, all students only had one minute thirty seconds to build their rockets. The time constraint created the ultimate pressure! In fact, time went by so fast that they had only enough time to quickly put together something and line up for the final launch:

final competition

Older rockets were left in place so students could compare and contrast their results. They began to analyze results, as well. All the scores ranged from 0″ to 159.5″.


Interestingly, it was the second round where someone got 176″. Perhaps it was the sweet spot between time and thinking to pull off something that would sail farther through the air.

Student observations included things like how it seemed like all the rockets formed a bell curve, how longer and narrower rockets seemed to go through the air more easily (though they didn’t always fly the farthest), and that being “smaller” wasn’t necessarily an indicator of how far an object would go.

Some students stayed with the same design all three rounds: one student built small paper airplanes and attempted to refine the configuration on each round. Other students modified their rockets based on their observations. Rounds two and three saw more slender rockets.

This incredible lesson helps students learn to innovate. By doing so, they’ll come up with ideas for an incredible Design Fair later in the semester.

Flashback Bowling Fundraiser

Flashback Bowling Fundraiser

Have Fun, Go Bowling, and Help Omega At the Same Time

Every year, Omega students go on an end-of-year trip. In the spirit of making sure every student has the opportunity to participate, Omega parents are hosting a bowling night, with all proceeds going toward the trip. What does that mean? Get your bowling gear ready, gather some friends, grab those 80s clothes hanging in your closet, and get ready to roll…a bowling ball.

Flashback Bowling

Details: Join us for an ’80s themed evening! You can register individually or with a team, dress up in your favorite ’80s costume and you’ll have the opportunity to win different prizes for the best-dressed team and the best bowling score. We’ll also have a silent auction

Date: February 23, 2018

Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Cost: $25 per person. Price includes cost of bowling, rental shoes, a beverage, and a raffle ticket. This event is for folks age 21 and up.

Sign up by filling out this form and registering your team! Please note: only one person can register a team.

Flashback Bowling Fundraiser

Bowling fundraiser for Omega End-of-Year Trip
  • If you would like to be part of a team, we'll do our best to get you on the team you'd like to be with. Please indicate the other folks' names with whom you'd like to form a team.
  • Please fill in your best email address
  • Please enter the best phone number to contact you
  • Price: $25.00
    If you would like to contribute an extra dollar amount to the fundraiser, we would be most grateful!
  • $0.00
    Once you register, no refunds can be given.

Teachers and RCS Staff – Register Here!

Flashback Bowling - RCS Staff

Bowling fundraiser for Omega End-of-Year Trip
  • If you would like to be part of a team, we'll do our best to get you on the team you'd like to be with. Please indicate the other folks' names with whom you'd like to form a team.
  • Please fill in your best email address
  • Please enter the best phone number to contact you
  • Price: $10.00
  • $0.00
    Once you register, no refunds can be given.