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? 

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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.

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2nd Annual More Than Mindfulness Conference

2nd Annual More Than Mindfulness Conference

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!

Omega Students Score Higher Than Any School in the Nation Tested on Cognitive Development – Lectica

Omega Students Score Higher Than Any School in the Nation Tested on Cognitive Development – Lectica

Dr. Theo Dawson and her team at Lectica have spent over two decades designing formative, standardized educational test that can assess student’s complexity of thinking and ability to reason ethically. This work is based out of research from the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the work of Kurt Fischer, a Lectica board member. After testing 25,000 students Dr. Dawson found the jackpot to their research – Rainbow Community School. Rainbow’s scores shows higher student development than any school tested. See graph. (Note that Lectica has graphed out the projected developmental levels of students older than 8th grade)

This February, Rainbow’s fourth through eighth graders took the Reflective Judgment test, which reveals how they think about inquiry, evidence, learning & the mind, truth & certainty, conflict resolution, persuasion, and deliberation. The test consists of open-ended questions about dilemmas, such as ethical dilemmas or societal issues. Students must write essays in response, and must defend their thinking. Lectica has a complex scoring system that codes each response and examines lines of reasoning in order to determine cognitive development.

Omega-Lectica

From Dr. Dawson, “Lectica has tested many other private schools – very good ones–and also public schools of high socio-economic level, but we have never seen scores like Rainbow.  We had to create new language to describe students’ thinking – embedded learning.” (Remember also that we accept a much broader demographic of students than most private schools. So our Lectica test scores include students with diverse learning needs, too.)

Not only were Rainbow students’ levels of development higher on average for their age than any school they had tested, but their level of coherence was higher than they had ever seen. Coherence is the ability to connect thoughts intelligently and develop a persuasive argument. Additionally, she said our students have incredible “perspectival” abilities to take the perspective of others — empathy, essentially.

Dr. Theo Dawson’s blog post about Rainbow Community School’s Lectica test results includes an excellent, easy-to-watch video explaining Lectica tests.

We never thought it would be feasible to have quantitative data that shows the true value of a Rainbow education, since what we do is very sophisticated.  Sure, Rainbow students score very well on traditional standardized tests, like the SAT10, but those tests only show a small sliver of rote skill attainment, without showing complexity of thinking or affective skill development. Those tests only show the achievement of our students, but Lectica’s tests show development.  Lectica has done the impossible – produced a way of giving a numerical score for holistic development – they’ve come as close to looking at the whole child as any quantitative test could.

What does this mean for your child?  It means your child is incredible.  We are so proud of the students here at Rainbow.  They are truly motivated, empowered, and sophisticated learners who love learning.  It means that with the collaboration between family and school, we have created a curriculum and school design that is, in fact, supporting the achievement of all seven domains…  It means that the incredible sacrifice you have made to send your child here is paying off.

Rainbow students’ high level of social/emotional skills will also serve them very well when applying to colleges. The most prestigious universities are now changing their application processes to make the SAT optional, and to stress empathy as the most important quality– and this trend is going to become much stronger by the time your kids are applying for college.  The Washington Post has a great article on this.

What does this mean for Rainbow Community School? Rainbow’s holistic program creates kids who are highly ethical, empathic, and cognitively developed to a level of sophistication that is beyond their years, and now we have quantitative proof. The researchers from University of Texas, Columbia, and LSU that have visited this year is only the beginning of what is to come.  Our Seven Domains model of education will be sought out for research, in the hopes of it being implemented in more places and accessible to a broader demographic.  Thank you for investing in the vision!  We are providing hope for education and for a better world.