We have officially entered the final month of the year and the last month of the fall season at Rock Tree Sky.
It is that bustling time of year where kids scramble to complete projects and practice performances in preparation for the highly anticipated Winter Exposition.
The upcoming weeks are bound to be bursting with energy, and I recognize that many of us might feel overwhelmed with too much to-dos. So, I would like to offer a reminder to breathe deeply, drink some herbal tea, and take a step back. We can still find ways to celebrate all that 2022 has brought without burning ourselves out.
My hope for the community is to reject our culture's sense of urgency at this time of year and to instead enjoy a peaceful transition into the reflective winter season.
If it feels good for you to participate in community gatherings we'd love to gather with you. But, if it's starting to feel like too much, it is absolutely okay to say "no thank you." You have my permission to opt out ;)
In the rest of this letter you will find calendar items for December, reflections and photos from November, and an article from the Education Reimagined online magazine.
As always Be Well and Stay Curious,
With love from the RTS Staff
Looking Towards December
Sunday December 11th: Family Work Party 10am-12pm
Farmer Kelly is asking for parent volunteers to help with some native plant planting around campus. Remember, many hands make light work! *Please note, there will be no parent discussion group this month. Instead of the originally scheduled Parent Discussion Group we are asking that parents join us on campus for an active morning of campus beautification. Snacks are still encouraged :)
Wednesday December 21st: Winter Solstice Exposition 5pm-7pm
Join us for an evening of potlucking, art viewing, aerial silks, and musical performances. Our annual Winter Exposition will be taking place on campus on the night of the Winter Solstice, Wednesday December 21st. Please bring a dish to share!
Monday December 26- Friday January 6th: Rock Tree Sky is closed for Winter Break
News from the Community:
On Saturday December 10th RTS Staff members Chrissy and Maka are hosting a Holiday Market at Greater Goods. The Holiday Market will feature over 20 local artisans including some of our very own Rock Tree Sky Learners, live music performances by our very own Ella Hubley and friends, and rumor has it that beloved Roots mentor, Ella Gamm, will be selling baked goods!
Please come out and support your community of makers and shop local this holiday season.
The Holiday Market will take place from 3-8pm at Greater Goods, 114 N Padre Juan, Meiners Oaks.
Reflections on November:
Between a week of half-days and family conferences and a week of Fall Break, time spent on campus was abbreviated during the month of November. Yet there was no shortage of activity on the days we were here.
Fashion design has been a popular activity this fall so early in the month of November, learners strutted their stuff in a fashion show that featured kid-created wearables. It was fun to see the creations move down the runway and even more fun to witness the robust turnout of audience members and how each leaner supported one another with applause and encouragement. Hopefully we will be seeing more such fashion shows in the future.
This month, Rock Tree Sky received donations in the form of five young oak trees. The oak trees were consciously planted in the lower field with wishes for healthy growth and a future full of daydreaming in the shade and joyful tree climbing.
During the month of November, friend of the community, Sage Stoneman, began laying the foundation for a cob bench that is to be built on campus. Sage spent several days on campus teaching learners how to make bottle bricks. For those who don't know, a bottle brick is essentially a plastic bottle that has been filled with enough trash so that it becomes dense and strong like a brick. The bottle bricks will be used as foundational building material for the base of the bench. Many learners enjoyed participating in this activity. It was fun to witness a certain exuberance as kids rushed to find more trash to stuff into the bottles. I overheard one leaner exclaim, "who knew trash could be so fun?!"
Sage also facilitated an afternoon of rock collection as rocks will be another essential material for the foundation of the bench.
There will be more opportunities for participation in the cob bench project throughout the month of December.
Family conferences were another highlight from the month of November. The family conference week is a welcomed time each year during which mentors and parents can drop in to discuss every parent's favorite subject; their child. As a mentor I truly do enjoy family conferences as the conversations that we have are usually filled with positive reflections and affirmations.
In the week leading up to Fall Break, many learners participated in the Rock Tree Sky tradition of making stone soup. Learners were invited to bring vegetables from home to integrate into a community made soup in a tradition of celebrating harvest and sharing abundance.
Also during the days leading up to Fall Break, Rock Tree Sky was invited to participate in a conference in Washington D.C. hosted by the organization, Education Reimagined. Jim and Peter along with a group of four of our teens were flown out to D.C to participate in the conference. The conference was attended by eleven child-centered learning programs. Highlights from the conference included meeting and hearing from other facilitators about their experiences with child-centered learning and hearing from other learners about the life-changing nature of child-centered and self-directed education. It was also inspiring to connect with members of other groups and to gain a real sense of knowing that the SDE movement is expanding.
According to Peter, "our learners shined." By that he was alluding to the fact that our learners participated deeply and fully in the conference and were able to represent the best of RTS. Peter shared that our learners proved to be very inspirational to others in attendance and, Kai and Maxwell were even invited to participate in a national Zoom call days after the conference to share more about what SDE has meant for them.
It was clear to those who participated that RTS made a big imprint at the Ed Reimagined conference. Jim has since been called back to Washington to participate in another national conversation about child-centered learning. Rock Tree Sky could very well be setting an example for other communities of how Self-Directed and Child-Centered Learning can be made accessible.
Some final highlights from the month of November include Peter's facilitation of the classic "egg-drop challenge," loads of engagement around ceramics with Holland, fort making with the large building blocks, embroidery, cooking and baking, and making music.
We are looking forward to carrying this momentum through December.
Photos From November:
Parent Education: An Article from Education Reimagined
Since Jim will be traveling back to Washington D.C in a matter of days to participate in more conversations with leaders about child-centered education, I thought it fitting to share an article that was published in the Education Reimagined online magazine. The piece that I linked bellow really poses more of a question than an answer but I felt compelled to bring it to you because I wonder if this question is one that any of you as parents have considered.
The question essentially is this, "How can this nation make self-directed, child-centered education the norm?"
It is so easy, especially here in Ojai, for us to be complacent in our quaint learning community. Our kids are happy and healthy at Rock Tree Sky, life is good for us. But do we every stop and think about all of the other children who would be benefit from and have their lives change for the better if only they had access to a learning environment like this one?
It is my invitation to you this month to spend some time with that question and then ask yourself if you have the space in your life to do something about it.