june monthly messenger
Hello Rock Tree Sky Families,
Happy Summer Vacation!
The solstice is upon us which means we are officially in summertime.
We are hoping that you are welcoming this break from RTS as a time for relaxation, resetting, and reflection.
And in the spirit of reflection would like to use this abreviated Monthly Messenger as a platform to share some year-end reflections from our learners. You will also find a brief video full of highlights from this year together, and, as per usual, a slide-show of photographs from the month of June.
We would also like to use this space to express our gratitude to each and everyone of you. Your involvement in supporting each other and supporting the well-being of this community is not something that we take for granted. We genuinely appreciate the ways that you as parents, friends, and family members show up for community building events, for helping each other out with car-pooling, for sharing your enthusiasm for Rock Tree Sky with the greater community, and everything else in between. Mostly we thank you for trusting us to be a part of the experience of rearing your wonderful children. We have felt so inspired and humbled by witnessing their growth this year.
During the May Monthly Messenger the notion of evolution was explored as a way to define this transition from the 2017/2018 year to the next. We do not consider this an ending as much as a time for breaking away from routine to gather energy so that when we come back together we can do so with fresh excitement for learning and deepening community.
With that we will say see you soon.
Stay tuned for information and updates regarding summer camp offerings and the like.
And as always, Be Well and Stay Curious,
With love from the RTS Staff
The following are reflections from the learners when asked to share a favorite memory, project creation, or moment of learning from this RTS year.
Viola: "Meeting all my friends and learning to play the ukulele."
Memphis: "My first solder project- an electronic bug that scoots along."
Walker: "Farm! It's fun, there's lizards and stuff..."
Leon: "Everything! Playing with Elan and Walker, catching lizards...pretty much everything."
Elan: "I have silly thoughts sometimes. Like when I'm just sitting by myself sometimes I think about jokes I have with Walker and I just start laughing."
Vida: "Wilber! That's my baby goat. I got a baby goat this year and just getting to learn more about the goats this year [was my favorite part]. Also the Water Project because I got to learn more about really making a difference in this world. For next year I'm excited to be with my friends and do farm chores and just see what next year is gonna be like. And hopefully getting a water refill station at the park."
Andre: "Making things for my mom and dad. Doing pottery and building with Tara."
Mina: "Well... I did something silly today...I slid off the bench when I didn't mean to but then I said that 'I meant to do that'."
Joey: "Making the indigo tie-dye."
Aaron: "Hanging out with Kim and Chrissy."
Sequoia: "I did lots of painting and stuff this year. That was pretty cool."
Luci: "Being able to create unique pieces of work with a mix of materials."
Julian: "Building the cardboard pinball game."
Amaya: "Being with Rennix. My favorite thing I made was my hat."
Conner: "Cooking, blacksmithing, making a knife, and just spending time with friends. Next year I'm looking forward to working hard and having fun."
Theo: "Everything! Next year is gonna be fun."
Eero: "All of it. Looking forward to moving on with it."
may monthly messenger
Dear RTS Families,
Welcome to June. Welcome to our final weeks together of this RTS year. As we look closer though, we recognize that this year is not really coming to an end, but rather we are simply approaching a marked transition point.
As one of our learners reflected, "It's been cool to see how Rock Tree Sky has evolved this year and I'm looking forward to see how it evolves more next year."
The use of the word evolve feels very appropriate here. For as a learning community we are constantly growing, changing, unfolding, moving together. There is not a hard line that will separate this year from the next. Sure, we'll take a break from the schedule that we have grown accustomed to over the past nine months. We'll enjoy a couple of months of heat wave and summer adventures. And, when we do come back together in September we will be joined by some new friends and we'll be missing some old friends that have chosen to move in a different direction. But these things contribute to the evolution. Reseting then reconvening. We will continue to unfold.
But before we get caught projecting the future, let's instead reflect on what we have already moved through. The month of May alone provided a myriad of experiences that will surely be cherished memories. In this Messenger we will recall some of the golden moments that occurred during the month of May, we will look towards the events we have scheduled for June, and we will be reminded that the work and learning that occurs at Rock Tree Sky is authentic, sincere, and truly very human.
As always Be Well and Stay Curious
With love from the RTS Staff
Looking Towards JUNE
Friday June 8th: On Friday June 8th our Forest Friday will be convening at Lake Casitas. Rock Tree Sky learners have been invited to spend the morning on a pontoon boat on the lake. Learners will then have the opportunity to meet a park ranger and enjoy the afternoon learning more about Lake Casitas and exploring it's beauty. Please check email for more details.
Tuesday June 12th: On Tuesday June 12th a small group of learners will have the opportunity to visit the Turtle Conservancy in East Ojai from 10:30am until noon. We encourage learners to begin doing some research about turtles and tortoises and come prepared with questions for the experts that we will be meeting.
Thursday June 14th: On Thursday June 14th we will celebrate the year with a final Exposition. The learner Expo will begin at 10:30am at the Makerspace where learners will be displaying work and creative projects. At noon families will be invited to transition to the Farm for a lunchtime potluck and aerial silks demonstration.
Reflecting on MAY
The month of May was absolutely bursting with activity.
A major highlight this month was witnessing the interplay of learners following multiple threads of inspiration to generate imaginative creations.
For example, early this month community member, Sharon Damarell, offered a demo on growing crystals. Many of the learners were excited to engage in this activity. Mentor, Casey Murphy, shared in this excitement and felt inspired to learn more about growing crystals. Casey's interest captivated many learners and together they all have by experimenting with different chemical combinations and have been growing crystals on small animal skulls.
Loom weaving has also captured the interest of many learners this month. During the first week of May learners built their own looms with Tara in the wood shop. Then, Ojai local, Anna Mahar, offered a tutorial on tapestry weaving with yarn. Throughout remainder of the month young weavers have been engaging in this activity and teaching each other how to create different patterns and techniques.
This month Rock Tree Sky also began exploring lessons in sex ed. and human development. Each week we were joined by human development specialist Ellen Sanchez who offered age appropriate seminars for our younger learners on topics ranging from friendships and relationships, to human bodies and changes that occur during puberty, to awareness of sexual identity. Casey and Natasha also began offering sex ed for the high school cohort.
Another activity that has felt inspiring this month has been witnessing several learners partake in a self-regulated, self-governed judiciary system. During Forest Fridays we have noticed learners engaging in a game that has been made safer by the creation of this court of law which serves as a platform for airing concerns and making decisions about what behaviors are okay and what behaviors feel harmful. Somethings that I have heard said during these court proceedings include;
"No consensual rough housing, but consensual rough housing is okay."
"What does that mean?"
"It means no rough housing unless the two people that are doing it say it's okay and are okay, then it's okay."
"[So and so] is crowding my space!"
"That's a felony!"
Hearing these dialogues fills me with a sort of peace of mind and the sense that these kiddos are competent and caring. This judicial system has been entirely kid-created and kid-driven. And hearing them passionately express the need for affirmative consent and respect for personal space fills me with the faith that these young people will grow into engaged and compassionate citizens of the world. There is a real excitement there- evidence that while the working of Rock Tree Sky may seem unconventional, the work that is happening here is real, good work.
And of course a major golden moment, or series of golden moments this month was the Rock Tree Sky Camp Out.
During the third week of may RTS learners, mentors, and families enjoyed several days and nights of camping at Carpinteria State Beach. The week was filled with fun activities from exploring tide pools, to body surfing and boogie boarding, to sculpting a sand mermaid, to playing beach soccer. But what really made this week special was the bonding that was able to occur. As families and learners came and went throughout the week, learners had the opportunity to share time with people outside of their usual social group and deepen connections with friends. The whole experience felt like a family affair. It was peaceful, wholesome, and fun to occupy a different space together, to share three meals a day, to say good-night and good-morning, and simply be together.
The photos bellow were captured by parent, Brian Kuhlmann. Thank you Brian for sharing these beautiful photographs!
Quotes From the Kids:
The quotes bellow are Rock Tree Sky learners' responses to the question "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?"
Keenan: Elementals - the ability to control all the elements. Like if it's natural, I can bend it.
Cooper: Elementals are pretty cool but I would think teleporting cause you could get out of any situation.
Julia: To have supervision. It'd be useful to look in cars to see if my keys are in it. Or to look in my purse to find my pone. Or to look in people's bodies.
Bella S.: To change probability. Because what are the chances a million dollars will fall out of the sky? I could change that to 100% - Then I could pretty much do whatever I want.
Tyler: Invisibility - you could get away with anything.
Alev: Turn myself into anything.
Hunter: Super speed - fastest man in the world.
Elan: To shoot a web out of my hands.
Ryder: Spider man webs!
Walker: Shooting lighting or a web out of my hands.
Riley: I'd be a teleporter.
Vida: To be able to move things with your mind cause then you can move yourself and also fly. And to talk to animals.
Zuzu: Be able to control other peoples minds...but I wouldn't use it a lot. Not really control but more like...mind tricks.
Savannah: To either breathe under water or fly. I think those would be fun.
Amaya: Water. Like water power. You could control water.
Lana: I don't know...To fly probably.
Sequoia: You can't just ask me a question and expect an answer! I don't know. Nothing. Nothing is my answer!
Parent Education: Exploring "normal" in our "weird" world.
As we prepare for the final weeks of this Rock Tree Sky year, we begin to reflect on the growth and learning that our children (and perhaps even ourselves) have experienced since September.
And as we transition into June and the "last day of school" buzz flutters about the air I can't help but recall memories of "last days of school" of past.
Like many, I was reared in the conventional school system. I so remember the buzz and excitement that filled the halls as the final day of confinement approached and summertime freedom was at long last on the horizon.
I also recall certain mixed feelings as I looked towards the upcoming academic year with the awareness that certain friends might be in different classes and any special bond that I had with my present teacher would likely fade away with the assignment of a new teacher for the next grade level.
There were also feelings of anxiety as final exams were administered, final projects were due, and report cards were handed out.
For on that piece of paper- the report card- my worth would be defined in single letters. My competency would be subject to be compared to and measured against that of my peers.
For many of my peers who were not as academically inclined as I was, there were also feelings of dread and fear that that piece of paper would bear the unholy judgement, the lowliest label -- failure.
And now, as I look forward to the last day of this RTS year I am so happy to report that virtually no signs of dread, fear, or anxiety can be detected within the community. On the contrary I am hearing learners express that they do not want RTS to be over. I am hearing learners say that two months of summer break is too long.
We don't have report cards or exams. When we reconvene in September we will essentially be picking right up where we left off. And the prospect of coming back together in September, picking up where we left off, continuing to grow and evolve together as a community feels wholly joyful. It feels good. It makes sense.
But I would also like to acknowledge that since we don't have report cards or exams or formal assessments some of you may be wondering How do I know if my child's growth and learning is on track? Are they learning what they are supposed to know? Is my kid normal?
And to respond to those questions I would like to say YES. If your child is happy, if your child is asking questions about the world, if your child plays or explores then they are creating their own track and chances are it is the right one for right now.
Education analyst and director of the film Schooling the World offers her perspective on what is "normal" in this talk, Alternatives to School, given at the Economics of Happiness conference hosted in Portland, OR, 2015. (GO WATCH IT!)
Speaking from years of experience and the knowledge of how a vast array of cultures from around the globe rear children Carol Black examines and critiques the conventional school system in the United States. Black makes the claim that while American's have come to view compulsory school with all of its grading, measuring, competitions, and authorities as "normal" - this way of child rearing is actually counter intuitive to how humans evolved to learn and be together as social beings.
Black explains that human beings evolved as participants in small, mixed age communities where immersion in nature was an indubitable part of life. Engaging with and exercising the natural tendencies to play, observe, explore surroundings, follow curiosities, and imitate the behaviors of others continues to be a fundamental part of life. (Sound familiar?) However these fundamental experiences are so limited in the conventional school system that children in this nation are required by law to attend.
Carol Black asserts that many children cannot adapt their natural tendencies to operate within this system. These kids are then labeled as failures (or worse) and those labels so easily become adopted by the child and carried over into the rest of their experiences. Within the confines of a conventional school it is so challenging, near impossible, for children to grow to be sincere versions of themselves.
All of this then supports the notion that what we are doing at Rock Tree Sky is more normal or more aligned with what human beings were born to do. With how human beings were born to be. And it is my belief that if we agree to continue trusting the process, our kiddos will grow to become intuitive, compassionate, community oriented, passionate, curious, and fully competent human adults.