Educating Young Students From The Inside Out

Educating Preschool students from the "Inside Out"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Children and nature dancing together

This past month Nitai Deranja was visiting our school. Nitai is the founder of the Living Wisdom Schools and is currently on the faculty at the Ananda College of Living Wisdom in Gaston, Oregon.

 I had asked Nitai to join us, during our afternoon circle time. The children had been practicing a new chant and I wanted to share it with Nitai. 

It was late in our morning and we found the day zooming by.  All the children had not ventured outside yet when I realized we would be concluding our closing circle time outside in the playground  instead.

As a teacher, you try to plan spiritual activities daily for young children to uplift their consciousness and spread joy. Today was one of those times, when  Divine Mother planned her activity for us. We were just a witness to her beauty.

 See the description below written by: Nitai

 We walked out into a beautiful nature area for the close of the preschool session for the day. As we stepped onto the grass, the sun peeked around the clouds to give enough warmth for the children to begin shedding there jackets and sweaters. A slight gust of wind caused one of the trees towering over our heads to shed many of its bright yellow leaves. They came swirling down upon us in great arching circles. The children lifted their hands and began running and laughing in their attempts to catch the leaves. Their faces were lit with a sense of excitement and wonder. When the wind paused, everyone started picking up handfuls of leaves from the ground and tossing them up again over our heads. After about 10 minutes the teacher called everyone over for the closing circle. The children lead a song called “O God Beautiful”, complete with hand motions that emphasized the words, “In the forest, Thou art green. In the mountains Thou art high...” It was the perfect way to acknowledge and celebrate the children’s moment of communion with nature.

We all spotted a Northwest monkey.

 This day will be cherished and etched in my mind for many years to come. The pure joy of children and nature dancing together.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Photo Inspiration: Sing in the Meadows

Sing in the Meadows and everywhere
Sing out the blessings to everyone
Lift up your voices,
Lift your hands on high
Sing and the battle is one. 
Song by: J. Donald Walters

This is an inspiration photo entry today which was taken by one of our parents at the Living Wisdom School.
We had a double blessing in our meadow about a month ago. What an amazing sight for our children and a blessing for our new school location.

We were all singing in the meadows, when we saw this!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Peace gave us the seasons

Peace gave us the morning, Peace gave us the sun,
Bird songs that call us to welcome
Day and fresh labors begun. Amen, Amen
Peace gave us the seasons, Peace gave us the rain,
Cool clouds that gather to bless us,
Mist hands that soothe away pain. Amen, Amen.

"Peace" J. Donald Walters

Beginning a new school year always brings new rhythms, patterns and the challenge of combining an unfamiliar group of children together. At the Living Wisdom School this year another new opportunity arose. We moved our school into a new community, an older building, and for me it added a short distance of driving in rush hour traffic each morning. I was sad to give up my drive to the old school, a back road journey of driving through the local neighborhoods. 

As teachers and parents we often talk about being in a flow or a rhythm within ourselves and keeping our children in a systematic rhythm for the ease of their development. But the question came to me: What is a rhythm? I turned to Wikipedia and found a very inspiring quote: Rhythm is made up of sounds and silences. These sound and silences are put together to form a pattern of sounds which are repeated to create a rhythm.

Now of course this quote is talking about music, but rhythm also is part of our daily life. How often, though, do we really think about it? I know I spent quite a bit of time really concentrating on finding a  new rhythm and flow in driving to the new school. It is important that a Living Wisdom School teacher to be in a magnetic flow at any moment, not only when working in the classroom. 

One morning I was driving and felt a little rushed because I was running a few minutes late. I realized that I had not gotten my rhythm adapted to all the new changes. I felt my body start to become restrictive and tight. As I came to the first stoplight, I thought I would follow the route that others had told me was a faster way to drive to school.  As I was sitting at the light, I found myself beginning to visualize the shorter route. All it had was more cars, strip malls and stoplights. Was it shorter or not? And even if it was shorter, what state would I be in when I ended up in the classroom?  Immediately I realized, this was not a good route for me. I made a sharp turn and stayed on my original route. 

I begin each day with a morning meditation and my ultimate goal is to retain all that loving energy each morning to share with the families and children of Living Wisdom School. How would this stressful route help me? I might arrive a few minutes earlier, perhaps. But was it worth it?, “NO,” I answered mentally.
As I began to drive the longer route, I started to visually notice more around me. The new, slower route was like an extension of my meditation. A driving meditation of sorts.  It  traveled through the bedroom community of  Lake Forest Park,Washington and brought back my childhood memories of growing up in Bellevue, Washington in the 60’s.  It was so sweet to bring these memories into my thoughts. 

The trees were so beautiful, luscious and expansive. These qualities all expanded my thoughts and brought me back to my morning meditations.

How could I ever think of starting my day by driving any other way? I just love it. It adds a melodious rhythm to my morning, the, sounds of the streams, peace, and tranquil memories.. I am so blessed now to have this drive to work each morning and to begin my day with these patterns of light and sounds that bring me into my inner state of rhythm.

Everyone can try it. Let me know how it goes. May we all find that sense of rhythm within our day so we may share our peace with all whom we meet.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Technical world here I come.


This year I have become more savvy, with finding new technology in this fast pace world we live in. I thought I would share with you the latest video of my class activities for this autumn. What fun this is. The teachers at Living Wisdom School are keeping our parents informed with this amazing tool from "Smilebox". Life just became a little easier and more professional in half the time.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Another digital slideshow by Smilebox
Blessings friends,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guest Post: Susan Tara Meyer, from River Bliss


 My Photo This month I want to highlight a new friend, Susan Tara Meyer, River Bliss that I have recently met through "Fairy Dust Teaching". We both have taken courses with Sally Fowler Haughey. 

Susan's photos and bio have touched my heart and I wanted to highlight her on my blog. Here is a glimpse into her profile.

Greetings from the Upper Hudson River! "River bliss" is my name for the state of consciousness I experience while floating on the river in my kayak. It is my medicine for inner peace, clarity, and creativity. This blog is my attempt to share beauty, peace, and awe through images and words that greet me in stillness on the river. I also will share the creative endeavors in which I engage back on shore. May you be inspired and uplifted.

Susan Tara Meyer teaches kindergarten in a public school in Upstate New York and finds lots of inspiration for teaching and life in general on the Upper Hudson River that flows in front of her house. In addition to teaching, she is a photography enthusiast, a published poet, and the mother of two teenagers. She is married to a children's musician and music educator and has partnered on projects with both her husband and his band, The Zucchini Brothers. Susan launched her blog, River Bliss, two months ago as a vehicle for sharing beauty, peace, and awe through images and words that greet her in stillness on the river.

 She wrote such a beautiful entry for September, I felt so moved to share it with you. Susan is a kindred spirit. Each day, she fills my heart with love, beauty, and joy as I read her blog. I hope you can follow her writings, photographs, blog entries and be as inspired as I have been.  Please support her. 

Joy to you Susan!

 Many Blessings, Chandi


Monarch Magic

When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown we must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.   -Patric Overton

Ever since I began teaching kindergarten, my husband and I have made a tradition of searching milkweed plants for monarch caterpillars over Labor Day weekend, right before the school year starts. The goal is to collect a few caterpillars so my students can observe the dramatic and colorful  transformation from caterpillar to butterfly; however, it is an activity we truly enjoy doing together each year. My husband has fond memories of his mother packing him a picnic lunch before he headed out to look for monarch caterpillars as a child, and he cherishes the opportunity to continue this tradition with me. Observing the monarch life cycle is a magical way to begin kindergarten and a powerful reminder of the potential for transformation and transcendence. There are so many metaphors to be found in the monarch life cycle, and it is interesting to notice which ones resonate most strongly each year.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed leaves, and when the caterpillars hatch they begin eating the leaves, which is their entire diet. During August, we note the locations of the most promising milkweed patches. Some years, despite a great deal of effort, we come up empty handed. Last year was such a year. We didn't find any monarch caterpillars but returned home with a great story. After combing all of the known milkweed patches, we expanded our search along the country roads near our home and noticed an impressive field of milkweed across the street from a farmhouse. Feeling both desperate and adventurous, we decided to knock on the door and ask permission to look for monarch caterpillars in the field. The old man who came to the door obliged our request; however, the grass was so tall that we gave up soon after beginning. On our way back to the car, the man came back outside to ask us if we had any luck, and we ended up having a lovely heart-to-heart conversation with him about life in this day and age. I wish we could have filmed him talking. He was a retired dairy farmer and spoke about how much better farming is in Canada because farmers get paid better and can afford to maintain their property and equipment, which is not the case here. He really opened up to us and talked about his perception that too much damage has been done to this country by greed, and said he is not sure we can fix it at this point. It was such a joy to interact with this kindhearted man and to hear an old farmer share his wisdom. A couple times during the conversation, I actually found myself choking back tears because I felt my grandmother's spirit coming through him quite powerfully. (Her urn is decorated with a pastoral farm scene, paying tribute to her Vermont roots and her love of Vermont farm life, which was an important chapter of her life.) Without ever mentioning this to my husband, as we were driving home he remarked that he felt my grandmother's presence during that conversation. That is one caterpillar mission I always will remember.

This year, however, we saw several monarch caterpillars and butterflies the week prior to Labor Day and knew we would be successful in fulfilling our goal of collecting caterpillars.

Sure enough, when it was time, we ended up collecting seven caterpillars. We begin by looking for tender, green milkweed leaves that have some holes eaten through them. We also look for droppings. Often, the caterpillars munch on the underside of milkweed leaves and thus are cleverly hidden, so we need to look for clues suggesting their presence. We squat down low to the ground to see the underside of the leaves.

This year, we found three large, plump caterpillars that looked like they were nearly ready to turn into chrysalises and were likely to do so before school started. We also collected four very small caterpillars so the children would be able to observe the active larva (caterpillar) stage.

We put the caterpillars and some milkweed into a butterfly tent with mesh sides and a transparent top that zips open. The very hungry caterpillars munch their way through leaves until they have had their fill and somehow know it is time to enter the next stage of their life cycle. I am amazed and inspired by this part of the process and how the caterpillars know when it is time to change. I wonder how often the human capacity to think suppresses an inner knowing that it is time for us to change. How often do we convince ourselves to resist doing something different that would result in living a more authentic life because we are so used to a particular way of being - and it feels too risky to do otherwise?

Each in his or her own time, the caterpillars climb up the walls of the tent to the top, and eventually begin making a silk button from which to hang. The caterpillar hangs in a "J" shape for a large portion of a day before turning into an emerald-jade green chrysalis by molting its skin. The skin, which has become too tight, begins to split around the bend of the "J," and the caterpillar wraps itself into a chrysalis. It wiggles and jiggles its way into the chrysalis stage.

This year, all of my caterpillars managed to turn into chrysalises when I wasn't looking. The link below will bring you to a wonderful, real time video of a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis. My students have asked to watch it over and over again:

Monarch Metamorphosis: Caterpillar to Chrysalis in Real Time

The monarch chrysalis is an elegant sight - an emerald green case embellished with numerous, patterned golden dots, like a jeweled crown.

For about ten days, the green chrysalises hang, quiet and still. The children check the butterfly tent every day when they enter the classroom to see if a butterfly has appeared. Throughout the week, the chrysalis fades gradually in color until it becomes transparent, like a window. Although this is the time when the least activity appears to be taking place, it is a powerful time of metamorphosis. It reminds me of the human potential for great transformation to take place during periods of stillness.

In time, the chrysalis splits open, and the butterfly emerges. This was just beginning to happen when I entered my classroom this morning, and I grabbed my camera quickly!

The butterfly lowers itself out of the pupal case, extends its legs, and clings to the pupal case.

The abdomen is swollen with fluid that needs to be pumped into the tiny wings to help them expand.

Eventually, the wing tips will fill with fluid.

And then the butterfly will wait for its wings to stiffen and dry.

After several hours, the adult butterfly will be ready to fly. The monarch butterflies born in our area at this time of year will migrate to Florida, Eastern Texas, or Mexico and gather on trees that are literally covered with monarch butterflies. It is amazing to think that such small, delicate wings will carry them thousands of miles on a rigorous journey and that each butterfly somehow is able to find his or her way!

When it is time to release a butterfly from our butterfly tent, I gather the children on the playground outside our classroom and let the butterfly perch on their fingers if it is not in too much of a hurry to try out its wings for the first time. The expressions of wonder and joy on the children's faces are priceless, as is the gentleness with which they pass the butterfly along to the next classmate and the sincerity and hope with which they wave and exclaim, "Fly, butterfly, fly!" This is an authentic learning experience that leaves an impression on the soul that no assessment tool could ever measure.

It is a truly magical way to begin the year, and I continue to be inspired and fascinated by the process every year.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"All the World is my Friend" Starting the school year right.

We begin the year in our classroom with a song:
"All the World is my Friend
When I learn how to share my love
When I stretch up my hands and smile
Then I live from above...".

Below is the link for the song:

Each year I begin the month of September with this song. The children are beginning to recognize each other after a long summer break and this is a familiar children's song that we sing often at the Living Wisdom School. The lyrics reminds them about kindness, friendship, and acceptance. During the month I also plan activities around being reacquainted with their former friends and meeting new classmates as we begin our new school year.

We began the year with our own self-portraits. These were hung in the hallway above our cubicles to introduce our class to
the Living Wisdom school community. I was so pleased to see how well they did and how they remembered the key points of drawing their own Mother's portraits from May.  These are so sweet!

The next project is based around all the families being acquitted with each other. The activity begins with clay that is self drying. The children mold the beads into round shapes. The clay dries for several days and the children then string their necklaces. Each necklace has world beads and their pictures of each friend that is attached.  They are so excited about their necklaces and sharing stories with their families about their new friends.

The third project we made in the classroom this year are prayer earths.
We start with styrofoam balls and layer masking tape all around the ball. 

This is such a good project for small little fingers and building small muscle development.

 The next day after the ball is completed, I cut art plaster in small pieces.

It is then placed strip by strip into a container of fairly warm hot water.

The strips are then wrapped by the children around each one of the balls.
The balls are completely covered and left to dry for about three to four days.
We also attached a small paperclip down into the ball for a ribbon hanger.

After they are thoroughly dry the children paint their worlds.

The worlds are taken home to hang in their room.

When working with the preschool child these simple projects build on the direct experience of remembering, " All the world is our friend" and we can all joyfully live together in peace and harmony on this planet.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The well of spirit

There is a saying: "Stop and smell the roses," but sometimes other things are worth stopping for as well. As I was beginning to write this entry this morning, I was mentally uplifted by a small wishing well that sits on the path next to my home that I pass daily.

As a young child growing up in Washington, there was a small wishing well that most of the children in our small town would throw pennies into each week when we went shopping at the neighborhood variety and hardware stores. Stopping at the wishing well made us feel rested, dreaming of the future and refreshed as we watched our nickels and quarters drop to the bottom. Similarly as a teacher I often have to take time out to refill my spirit so I have boundless inspiration for the coming school year. 

 On one of my last posts in June, I wrote that my summer had almost been planned out magically for me. Divine Mother had arranged the summer, and also filled the small crevices with sheer awe and delight. I was able to travel to California and Oregon where I participated in two large events for the Education for Life Foundation. These events were also sprinkled in with my service and love for children, nature, and cooking in the kitchen.

I was honored to deliver a presentation for the Education for Life 40th Anniversary this summer.

On my drive to California I was presented with a task that seemed like I would be climbing a long mountain all summer. We had currently outgrown our space at our current Living Wisdom School location was was challenged to pack up all our belongings and move to a new location. A large surmountable task.

 However ,as I was traveling to the Education for Life celebration and family camp in California  I was presented with a task that seemed very daunting. I felt that if I excepted the task, it would be like climbing a long mountain all summer. We had outgrown our current Living Wisdom location and I was being challenged to pack up all our belongings with all our staff, and move to a new location. My husband and I had moved our home last summer after 17 years and this was going to be a larger, if not insurmountable task, indeed.

As first, I was quickly taken to a lower, fearful space in my mind. "How can I possibly pack up my classroom and still be able to dip into the wishing well of spirit?" I wondered. Fear rushed through my whole being. But then, with a simple turn of my mind, a small voice said inside of me:" Enjoy, each moment as a way of dipping into the well of spirit. Take each moment deeper inward to fill your heart, mind and soul."

 As if on the turn of a dime, a wave of energy filled my being. I could have given in to the frustration, but what I chose to do was refocus my spirit. As I was able to refocus my attention, our car was traveling over the border of Oregon to California. As you drive down the valley it is a breathtaking sight. When you enter California from Oregon the weather immediately switches, and fills you with warm rays of the California sun. The warmth of the sun filled my body to its core reminding me that I could trust Divine Mother to take care of all my needs.

My goal for the summer was not only to let go of anger and fear, but also to let go of wishing and waiting for things to be different. All I had to do was open my arms to each moment and fill my soul with Divine Mother's love deep within my being. I needed to let myself be refilled by that inner well, rather than wishing to control things outside me.

 Even after my realization, I was still challenged with packing up my classroom, but you know when I let go of the resistance and my ego's wishing that things would be a certain way, the moving process took over.  Every box, every rock that a child had given me, every pencil that a child had used in learning how to write, filled me with such loving memories that in the end, the work of moving bathed my soul.

 How did you spend your summer? Were you able to dip into the well of spirit and all the beauty that lies before us?

We all can make our choices in life. This summer has been one of the most beautiful I've ever experienced, filling me with a deeper sense of gratitude in every moment.