Listening Session Paintings

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look To The Mountain

A few months ago, one of our most gracious and ardent supporters, Linda O'Toole gave me the book "Look To The Mountain", by Dr. Gregory Cajete, Ph.D (written in 1994).  

Dr. Cajete is the Chair person of the Native American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico.  A Tewa Indian, his work is "dedicated to honoring the foundations of indigenous knowledge in education." (Source UNM website)

"As Stella and I read the book, we were deeply moved by its wisdom, its scope of vision and its balanced compassion for all people and particularly native American youth.  The book discusses in detail Dr. Cajete's views on the need to radically transform education for native American youth.  What is so beautiful about his book, is his stated recognition that the system of education he is proposing can easily be adopted to all young people anywhere in the world.  If you care deeply about education, this book is a must read.

Here is a marvelous excerpt highlighting his vision:

"American education must forge educational processes that are for Life's Sake and honor the Indigenous roots of America. A true transition of today's American educational orientations to more sustainable and connected foundations, requires serious consideration of other cultural, life-enhancing and eclologically vialble forms of education...Tribal education presents models and universal foundations to transform American education and develop a "new" paradigm for curricula that will make a difference for Life's Sake.

American education must rededicate its efforts to assist Americans in their understanding and appreciation of spirituality as it relates to the Earth and the place in which they live. It must engender a commitment to service rather than competition, promote respect for individual, cultural, and biological diversity, and engage students in learning processes that facilitate the development of their human potential through creative transformation."


This Friday, we will be meeting with Dr. Cajete and we are most excited to have the opportunity to sit down and commune on our views about educating young people today.  He is a wonderful writer whose work is expressed clearly, thoughtfully and quite poetically.  He recognizes and advocates the need for education to begin by focusing inwardly. In his book, he wrote: "Hah oh is a Tewa word sometimes used to connote the process of learning.  Its closest English translation is to "breathe in."

We will post more about this meeting after it has concluded, but here is a brief bio of his life's work as stated on the UNM web site.

Gregory Cajete, is a Native American educator whose work is dedicated to honoring the foundations of indigenous knowledge in education. Dr. Cajete is a Tewa Indian from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. He has served as a New Mexico Humanities scholar in ethno botany of Northern New Mexico and as a member of the New Mexico Arts Commission. In addition, he has lectured at colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, England, Italy, Japan and Russia.
He worked at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 21 years. While at the Institute, he served as Dean of the Center for Research and Cultural Exchange, Chair of Native American Studies and Professor of  ethno science. He organized and directed the First and Second Annual National Native American Very Special Arts Festival held in respectively in Santa Fe, NM in 1991and Albuquerque, NM in 1992.  In 1995, he was offered a position in American Indian education in the University of New Mexico, College of Education
Currently, he is Director of Native American Studies and an Associate Professor in the Division of Language, Literacy and Socio cultural Studies in the College of Education at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Cajete earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from New Mexico Highlands University with majors in both Biology and Sociology and a minor in Secondary Education. He received his Masters of Arts degree from the University of New Mexico in Adult and Secondary Education. He received his Ph.D. from International College – Los Angeles New Philosophy Program in Social Science Education with an emphasis in Native American Studies. 
Dr. Cajete has received several fellowships and academic distinctions, including the American Indian Graduate Fellowship from the US-DOE Office of Indian Education (1977-78); the D’arcy McNickle Fellowship in American Indian History from the Newberry Library, Chicago, IL (1984-85); and the Katrin Lamon Fellowship in American Indian Art and Education (1985-1986) from the School of American Research in Santa Fe, NM. 
Dr. Cajete also designs culturally-responsive curricula geared to the special needs and learning styles of Native American students. These curricula are based upon Native American understanding of the “nature of nature’ and utilizes this foundation to develop an understanding of the science and artistic thought process as expressed in Indigenous  perspectives of the natural world."
Dr. Cajete has authored fivebooks: “Look to the Mountain: An Ecology of Indigenous Education,” (Kivaki Press, 1994); “Ignite the Sparkle: An Indigenous Science Education Curriculum Model”, (Kivaki Press, 1999); “Spirit of the Game: Indigenous Wellsprings (2004) ,”  “A People’s Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living,” and “Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence” (Clearlight Publishers, 1999 and 2000).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deep Wisdom from Orcas Listening Session

Orcas Island Participants Samara (our host!), Willow, Stephanie, Sebastian, Liam and Iris
In mid-March, Stella and I conducted a Listening Session on Orcas Island, WA and I want to share the stories found in the paintings done by Stephanie, Iris, Sebastian, Willow and Liam.  Though the group was smaller than usual, we had fun together and in the end, what emerged was beautiful.

This painting was done by Willow and Iris with Samara's help.  Their vision, which we call Waterfall, was as follows:

The whole picture is the school.  The waterfall is the stream of learning and all students are in it.  The rainbow signifies the school's connection to the community - with lots of diversity flowing both ways.

The soil at the bottom is the family.  The quote says Nurtured by the soil of my parents I blossom and grow.  Bee says, "My assistance is valued." as it means that contributions to the community are valued (Bee Pollinating!).

The grey rocks on the right and the tree on the left stand for mentors and teachers as solid, framing and holding the education (the waterfall).  The salmon are swimming upstream which represents being challenged in their learning and the fish (students of all colors) are returning to their natural habitats, using their natural instincts.

The flowers, blossoms in the tree, and the fish all represent the different way every student is and how differently they learn.  

The next painting was done by Sebastian, Liam and Stephanie and we call it Glass Dome:

There are many qualities to our school:

There are evaluations and no grades
There are applied knowledge skills so that we know how to use what we learn when we leave the school
It encourages courage
Children know they have a voice
They learn by doing
Mandatory yoga
Supportive teachers
More freedom/more choice
Quiet room
Infinite Snacks!

The school is self-sustaining as evidenced by the solar panels on top of the glass dome and the compost pile in the lower left side of the painting where a long pipe runs to the glass dome carrying the heat from the compost pile into the dome which is made of glass. 

All is built on a Foundation of Love

There is a lot of education in nature

The community in the school is strong and the community outside the school is supportive and safe

A portfolio is required for graduation, not specific exams, etc.

We also have our own garden and our own observatory.

It is such a gift to be able to be present with these young people as they create from within their hearts.  Given a chance in a trusting, caring environment - without constraints as to what their vision can be about - you can see that their wisdom emerges in beautiful ways.  We are excited about the opportunities that are emerging on Orcas and thank each one of these beautiful young people for their contributions to Imagine Learning!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Imagine Learning Shares in Asheville, NC

Last week, we had the honor of presenting on the future of education to a audience of teens and people in their twenties. There was a wonderful discussion about how the framework we are proposing could work, as well as some stories shared about their school experiences in comparison to the material we presented. Once again, we were embraced and asked what they could do to help! It was most gratifying.

Following the discussion we solicited their input on the presentation itself. Together, we explored how effective our presentation was and whether there were other ways to make the material easier to understand. They were full of suggestions and extremely helpful.

On a personal note, all three of my children were there and it was wonderful to share with them the entire scope of our progress to date. So often, they have heard bits and pieces but being able to show them the entire scope of what we will be presenting around the country meant a lot to me. I thank them for coming as well as thank the other young people who attended for their listening and their input. And Chelsea, thanks for making it happen. Onward!