The focus on community and teamwork brings us back to one of our greatest needs as humans: to know that who we are and what we do matters, and that we can make a difference.
Our goal is to give every child the skills and tools to communicate clearly, consciously, and from the heart. When children become part of a school community, they form many different relationships. The ability to navigate these is a model for all future relationships. One of the most pressing needs of our times is for honest, objective, direct, heart centered communicators, in all areas and facets of life. To this end, we dedicate as much time as needed to helping children participate fully in friendships, projects, problem solving, setting, planning and organizing goals, both individually and for the school. Our methods include:
The model for our councils is taken from the Albany Free School in New York.
Councils are held 1-2 times a week, or called when needed. A child or teacher (or parent) can bring a problem to the council. These problems can include difficulties in friendships, school concerns, and community issues or with anything a child might be having trouble. The problem is stated, and each child takes a turn expressing his opinion, feelings, or experience of the problem. Then the children brainstorm solutions, which are listed on a board. At the end of this process, the solutions are reread, sorted and organized, and then voted on, with every person at the council having one vote. Children are much more likely to make changes when their peers are involved, than directives just coming from adults. The solution is then put into writing and posted, and must have a specific plan of action (which is usually part of the solution). In this way the children become skilled in listening, giving and receiving feedback, expressing feelings and opinions, understanding different points of view, problem-solving, compromising to find solutions, and sticking to a plan that can often involve an ongoing process that must be revisited. Adults are rarely alone in creating rules, consequences or even in supporting children.
For our younger grades, children begin by having councils to share feelings, fears, experiences, frustrations, and opinions. As they get more comfortable speaking in a group, the councils move towards expressing feelings directly to others and then to more complex personal problem solving.
Founded by Marshall Rosenberg, NVC is a tool for helping children express feelings, needs and requests, rather than to express blame (in its various forms), or to shut down or withdraw. We use NVC with puppets, in role-playing, in mediation or in councils. The teachers have attended workshops, read books, and done in-services to learn NVC.
The ability to work as a team is a powerful and vital experience. We accomplish so much more together than we do alone. How many of the problems in the world could be solved if people learned how to live and work as a team with a common aim?
Running River is a community of teachers, parents and children. We use multi-aged classrooms and parent involvement to create our own village model. The children feel they belong and are valued in community. Throughout the year, the entire school participates in group projects (such as hatching chickens, theater events, all-school hikes and camping trips) and engages in service projects as they arise.
Teamwork is truly what makes a successful community.