Dear Friends of Running River School,
It’s been fifteen wonderful years since we launched Running River School, and its guiding vision remains stronger than ever. We believe our job as educators is to balance a child's inner and outer development. We believe education is about more than just test scores: it is about helping children discover who they are, and helping them develop all the skills necessary to manifest their gifts in the world.
Our students love to learn; they are excited about coming to school every day. They feel empowered by having a voice in their education, starting with their first day in kindergarten. They learn to value and enjoy hard work – not just academic work, but real-life skills like gardening, cleaning, cooking, and even taking care of chickens. They blossom by developing their physical capacities. They look forward to being challenged because of the confidence they gain.
Students at Running River know what it feels like to be part of a true community. They learn how to listen and how to express themselves. They grow in respect, compassion, and empathy. Through daily contemplative practices they nurture self-knowledge. They become deeply connected to nature.
Sadly, the culture of education in America today is obsessed with grades, test scores, and constant assessment. Many parents I meet despair that the light in their child’s eyes is going out; they don’t want to go to school, they are stressed, disconnected, and losing their curiosity and interest in learning. The American educational model has not yet understood the crucial link between internal motivation and personal meaning. J.W. Wilson, a personal friend and author of “Cracking the Learning Code,” explains that “meaning is the holy grail of learning.” When something is meaningful to us, internal motivation kicks in: the neurological structures and chemicals that support learning, creativity, and fulfillment are stimulated. The result is that we want to learn. When that desire to learn is met by an environment that supports curiosity and individual exploration, the neurons responsible for long-term memory formation become highly activated. In short, not only does learning happen, it happens joyfully.
How does Running River's approach stack up in the “real” world? We are encouraged by the following statistics: The year 2008 saw our first graduates. 98% have attended, or are attending, college. Two of our students will graduate from college this spring with 4.0 GPAs, and will be going on to get their master’s degree. One of them completed their undergrad degree in just three years. Many of our graduates have received college scholarships, and have high GPAs in a broad diversity of majors: Math, Biology, Education, English, and Russian, to name a few. One student is getting a masters in coaching and plays college baseball.
Of the Running River graduates currently in high school, many are honor students; many are enrolled in AP courses and have high GPAs. Our students report having broad interests outside of school. (One student is a pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter; she had the lead in the school musical as a freshman and has performed on Broadway twice.) Our graduates have received awards in civics, sports, publishing, music, and education. They are being accepted into multiple colleges, often with scholarships.
Parents of our graduates tell me their children spend time in nature hiking and camping, have good relationships to their bodies and to food. And, most importantly, they have a lifelong love of learning.
I am deeply gratified every time parents tell me stories about how the vision of Running River School — supporting children’s passion for learning and cultivating their natural, inherent love of nature — has prepared their children for the real world of the 21st century. This vision takes a village, and we have one: a dedicated community of educators, parents and students. Stop by and see for yourself. When you watch kids of all ages playing together on the playground, or parents talking after school or helping in the classroom, or when you visit our monthly parent forums, you will feel our village, our community, our joy, our connections.
Thank you for your interest in Running River. Parents tell me that it's more than just a school; it’s a life changer.
Founder and Director, Running River School