YEAR 1: CENTERING OURSELVES
As we embark on a new journey of creating a strong elementary program that embodies the values held by Abundant Beginnings we want to take this first year to center ourselves so that our work may be true to the heart of what we want to create. This year we ask ourselves: As a learning community, what is our core that holds us together? How can we create balance between the needs of each child and family such that everyone in our community is held with grace? How can we create balance between freedom and accountability? Between developing skills and developing intellect, creativity and passion?
With the children we will be exploring, “What does it mean to center ourselves? What helps us find equilibrium within our mind, body and spirit?” These are the questions that will tie together our inquiry topics this year of Roots, Home, and the Gut.
Roots are what keeps a plant’s center of gravity at its base, allowing it to grow towards the light without falling over. The more expansive the root system, the taller and stronger the plant can grow. Some root systems even communicate or connect with each other in ways that support the growth of a whole community of plants. The roots that anchor a plant in the ground also nourish the plant with the water and nutrients it needs to grow, sometimes also acting as a storage unit that helps the plant survive harsher environmental conditions. We are surrounded by roots in our daily lives, yet rarely pause to contemplate them. Roots hold their mysteries out-of-sight; to uncover them we must intentionally look.
As plants have roots that anchor them in the soil, so too we have roots that ground our spirit in the culture, stories and past of our people. We will wonder with the children: What are our roots? How does knowing our roots help us feel strong and centered? How do our cultural roots connect? Can we find ways to connect with the cultural roots of others in a way that - like the root systems of the mighty redwoods - the connection can strengthen our community as a whole?
Our second inquiry topic will be the concept of home. Home, at its most basic, is the place that we live - a center from which we may venture forth, but always return. Animals and humans alike need a home that offers us the promise of survival: protective shelter, nourishing food and sufficient water. How do animals find the shelter and food they need? What adaptations and strategies allow them to survive in their environment and call a place home? What about for humans? What shelters have housed our ancestors from the elements in the past? What is needed in today’s world to meet the requirements of protective shelter, nourishing food and sufficient water? Do the people in our community have a home that meets their basic requirements for survival? Why or why not?
The concept of home, however, embarks much more than the structure that offers us shelter or the place that provides us with food and water. “Home is where the heart is,” is a common saying to explain the emotional connection people have to the concept of home. Home, then, is more than a place where we can survive, but also an emotional center that allows us to thrive. Where are the places that we feel “at home?” How do they make us feel that way? How can we carry with us our feeling of “being at home” when we are not in our houses? How can we help make our communities feel more like home for everyone?
Our last inquiry topic of the year will be the Gut. When we stand or walk naturally, our center of gravity is at our core. While much of our culture places great focus on the brain or heart, the true center of our bodies, then, is in our gut. How can we move our bodies such that the muscles of our core are strong and supportive? How can we take care of our gut such that it offers our core a center of health and strength? With the children we will explore the complex functions of the digestive organs of the gut in both humans and animals.
To “have guts” or to “listen to your gut feelings” are common sayings, but what do they mean? In a culture that is focused on the dominance of the brain, it is only recently that the scientific studies have caught up to our inherited ancestral knowledge: the gut is a center of emotion, intuition and knowledge. In fact, many scientists now name the gut as the body’s second brain. How can we practice calming our mind so that we can listen to the intuition of our body? How can we use the wisdom of our emotions to learn? How can we fortify our bodies and spirits to have the guts to be our best, true selves in the world?