Before children can learn about the world, they need to know themselves.
In order to be sane and grounded in this dynamic, crowded world, we need a deep connection to ourselves. We want children to feel confident when they are alone as well as when they are in the company of others. We want children to know their own feelings, what is right for them, and to hear the truths that reside within them. Handling the push and pull between acting in the world and coming home to themselves is essential for the stability of children.
We begin each day as a whole school doing a communal or inner practice so that the children can start off “centered” and “awakened” (in their own words). The K-1 class has a daily quiet time guiding children to slow down and assimilate learning, ponder and wonder about life, or just relax and do nothing. Second through eighth graders do a daily meditation practice. To begin and end focused activities we focus on transitions using chimes, grounding stances, reflection time, or games.
Rituals are the glue that hold communities together. At Running River we use daily rituals to start the day, start hikes, begin our democratic councils, spend quiet time alone, express gratitude before meals, and end each day.
The Development of Qualities
What are the highest possible human qualities, and how are they developed? These are questions the staff at Running River asks as individuals and as teachers. We want children to be nourished by their own inner qualities, not just by their actions. Qualities stay with us as we change in life and are clearly manifested in all our actions.
Nature is a great teacher of qualities. For children to feel solid in who they are, they need qualities such as patience, receptivity, sensitivity, objectivity, stamina, joy, strength, gratitude and more. Since every aspect of nature is the expression of a universal quality or force, spending time in nature is one way we help children identify, develop and become attuned to qualities. We know that these qualities can take a lifetime to take root and flourish. By working together to develop these qualities, and focusing on them in our curricula, we hope to give children a strong sense of what qualities are.