RadicalSchoolmarm

living The Education Revolution

2013 JOURNALS by Radical Schoolmarm


The Party continues…a brand new year! January 13, 2013
We closed out 2012 building candy houses & performing aWinter Solstice ceremony & celebration.  We shared things that we are good at and what we need to work on. We breathed deeply, honored our ancestors and lit candles together. Turkish delight, apples, and the traditional pinata–blindfold included– was enjoyed by all. Another lovely treat was seeing Emme, who graduated a few years ago & is currently off studying glassblowing & other fine art in Oakland, CA.
Now we are back from our 2 week break with new stuff, new students, and a whole new year to enjoy! We have a new class schedule starting next week and I am excited about some of the upcoming events we are planning. Our new friends bring their own flavor to the school which is always so fascinating to watch & feel them mix into the blend of our energetic group soup. 
Winter at SFS is hot peppermint tea and blankets, although kids still run barefoot like it’s summertime. Every couch is filled with someone reading and games are everlasting…Magic! (of course), Dice, Dominoes, Apples to Apples, Davinci’s Challenge, Uno, Chess, Word Exchange…the list is as long as Winter. Candle and candy house making, soup, bread, philosophy, and all kinds of knitting/crafting, make SFS the coziest place to be.
This week we started off right with Monday Morning Yoga Class. We read through the first six scenes of “Down the Rabbit Hole”. At Tuesday’s School Meeting we had a Job Lottery, meaning that everyone got new job areas assigned for cleaning duties. Otherwise, the meeting was short as we had just come back from break so nothing much was on the agenda, which was lovely. Mythology Class focused on Water Spirits including sirens, mermaids, harpies, sea serpents & ocean /river deities. We read “Manu & the Flood” (from India) and two stories about women and their adventures with water spirits from Native North America. On Thursday, many folks motored to the Physics Circus show on a field trip, which is always a fun, exciting adventure! Collage making, jewelry, painting, drawing, and other art happened throughout the week. I love the endless flow of creativity at SFS, it’s so inspiring. Book Club devoured more books, as I. would say. Herbal Studies made two kinds of bath salts–a respiratory blend (Deep Breath) and a relaxing mix (Ancient Secret Starsand) and they both smell delicious. Erin’s outrageously funny hats were a big hit all week!
This week I got to hear from two alumni who are both living in Washington now. Siloh is attending Evergreen college, writing stories and making music. Marissa is applying to be a resident intern at the Albany Free School in New York. I am so proud of all the great things SFS alums are doing in the world and so honored to know such amazing people!
We are prepping & planning for our big benefit at Hell’s Kitchen on Sunday, Feb. 17th. Be sure to check out UNCHAINED II: A Celebration of Liberation!

I just heard that some Seattle teachers are refusing to administer tests! With so much tragedy in the news, this is great to hear. I wish them the best. Speaking of tragedy, I leave you with these words from the late Aaron Swartz, the young genius “hacker” who died this week:
“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier. There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost. That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable. “I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back. Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends. Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends. But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy. Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies. There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture. We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?” –Aaron Swartz July 2008, Eremo, Italy
His words remind me of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books and how the Foundation was trying to preserve knowledge for the future generations…Rest in peace, we will not stand idly by.


Tamale Love & Facing February Shadows, February 4, 2013 
Where did the rest of January run off to? Suddenly it’s February (the longest-shortest month) and Groundhog’s day is already here. I heard the shadow was not seen this year. Will we face our own shadows? Will Spring ever come? It must, we have made it this far–only about 6 weeks until Spring Equinox.
So what’s been going on at SFS as the wheel keeps turning? So much is happening all the time it’s hard to remember everything. I’ll start with most recent & work backwards & we’ll see how that goes…Friday we had a cozy morning reading Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” with hot chocolate. I started the very scary beginning and then we took turns reading. I hope no one had nightmares! Despite having a creepy start, it is a really good book and I’m excited to read more tomorrow, although we will probably have peppermint tea instead of cocoa as I don’t want to sugar them up first thing in the morning every day, right?
S. sort of used the new “Think About Your Life Area” which is a brilliant new concept developed at the school meeting this week. The lower playhouse is now available for people to have a private space to be left alone if they need it. A crew of kids decked it out with blankets, a pillow, books, art supplies, and put paper on the walls to draw on. Just remember, if the occupied sign is facing, do not disturb!
It was (faculty member) Lara’s birthday so a lovely card was made, money collected & some brave kids went through the cold to get cake making supplies. Herbal Studies class watched part of a video & then we studied flower essences. By next week we should be ready to mix the custom blends and study any effects as we use them. Forts were built, art was made, minecraft played, and songs sang. A few of us were disappointed that the group soup was already gone. Surprised too–because it was so spicy we didn’t think it was that popular, but apparently it was a healthy hit. The little libras seemed to have a good time together but wow! are they a force to be reckoned with. Justice League is backed up with issues between them.
We celebrated Brigid’s/Groundhog Day with a ceremony featuring candles, crafts, charms, seeds, popcorn, and chocolate. We discussed the wheel of the year, the seasons, and the power of fire to heal and transform. We dreamed of what we want to manifest in the Spring–symbolically & physically. It was a lovely little party in the parlor. We ended the day singing “Happy Birthday” to Lara with our mouths full of coconut covered cake.
Other exciting events from the last few weeks include: Cat Club, Cooking with Rico, A visitor from Switzerland who wants to start a democratic school there, a guest teacher from TYSN, Riley, who led a great gender class in the kitchen, an awesome school newspaper (entirely kid created), mysterious egg experiments, playing predator & prey bingo, quizmo, chess, cardboard swords, and of course lots of music & art. In Full Moon Show & Tell we learned about 4 needle knitting, college classes, old people, and lady gangs, among other things. Mythology class has studied Native American and Norse myths, the Three Sisters, and more water spirits. Herbal studies made calming sachets, Spanish has been rocking! Computer class is still getting going and Energy Healing starts next week. It’s an EXCO class so it’s free & open to the public. You can find out more & register here: http://www.excotc.org/class/energy-healing-increasing-bliss
We also have 2 new students starting this week and some new volunteers have come along. Our community just keeps on growing in so many ways.
It’s impossible to capture the thousands of cool discussions that happen at SFS. I hear so many topics on the regular, including: ecology, Israel & Palestine, the nature of pyramids in geometry and culture, parenting, what we would want in a new physical space, gender, relationships, ethics, sustainable communities, monetary systems v. intrinsic value, racism, capitalism, commercialism, puppies, water, food & nutrition, the wonders of wool, dreams, the illuminati, new v. old science, media, just to name a few that pop into my head from recent days. Unfortunately we have also had to have uncomfortable conversations lately, to resolve a conflict between a couple students that affects the whole community. Things like that are really challenging to deal with in a participatory democracy, but it is vital for our community health to try and we are always learning…
Now that it is about 3 months away, we have gotten more serious about working on our play “Down the Rabbit Hole.” The script is almost done, the scenes are being rehearsed, the music practice has begun, and we are finally done casting & recasting, I hope. It’s going to be so much fantastical fun.  The costumes are absolutely amazing so far, thanks to Erin who arrives almost daily with new pieces to inspire us with. Seriously, we are so lucky to have such a talented costumer this year! It’s great watching the kids get into their characters more & more. The philosophical conversations about connections & meanings found in Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carol & The Matrix are pretty cool too.
Today was the Secret Cafe to benefit SFS & TYSN (Trans Youth Support network). It was hosted by the Rabbit Hole and they spent about 12 hours cooking over 300 tamales & creating a salsa bar. It was absolutely amazing and I am so touched to see so many alumni, parents & friends working so hard to help the school out. The place looked lovely and was filled with great company. I hope SFS & TYSN work together in the future, we are both unique organizations committed to youth empowerment so it makes sense for us to be good friends. I felt so proud of our beautiful free community and the food was fantastic. Our next event is only 2 weeks away–UNCHAINED II: A Celebration of Liberation & I am super excited for it!
One last thought for now–the brave teachers who are refusing to give the tests need support. If you are so inclined, feel free to tell Seattle Public Schools that you/your organization stand with the Garfield test boycotters ASAP.
Superintendant José Banda:   Phone: (206) 252-0180    Fax: (206) 252-0209
Email: superintendent@seattleschools.org
Until I write again: try to take care, stay cozy, take some Vitamin D, do some art, breathe deep, and may all beings everywhere be free & happy.  


The Dance of the Fish & the Ram (or Wake Us Up When It’s Spring Break)​, March 18, 2013 
We survived February and here it is March already, with the Spring Equinox River Trip and Spring Break right around the corner. There is a feeling in the air that Winter and Spring (or Pisces/Aries perhaps?) are battling for control as rain turns to snow turns to ice turns to slush all in a day. We mop up the melting snow, slip on the ice and claim our blankets, longing for the sun and sipping tea from our new dollar tree cups.
If you missed our big party at Hells Kitchen, UNCHAINED II, I feel sad for you because it was fantastic! The student talent show was really impressive, money was raised for SFS, and everyone had a great time. I loved seeing all the talent in our community–from back-in-the-day old school friends and newer students alike. It was an amazing display of community support and we are very grateful to all who helped make it happen–especially the performers, silent auction helpers & The Hub Bicycle Collective. Hopefully we will continue the theme next year with our annual celebration of liberation.
One of the coolest things happening at SFS since my last Journal are Energy Healing & Reiki classes. I just finished a 6 week session that was open to the public through our partnership with EXCO. I have already had several students ask about another set of classes as it was so popular. I enjoy hearing the kids talk about their meditation visions and ways they sense energy so much. Every class left me feeling energized and very proud of the amazing youth at our school. We are helping create a better world by supporting the idea of “A healer in every home,” as one of my teachers, Master Lin, says. The Reiki class is being taught by SFS Community Faculty member, D’Michelle and it has been wonderful to have her profound presence at the school. We also got a new intern from the U of M, Jage. She is a fabulous new addition to our motley crew. Last week she made delicious food and took some kids on an outing, which are sure ways to bond & make a good first impression at SFS.
Some cool classes have happened, including: Science & Baking w/ Mary, Shoe Tying, Tolkeinism w/ S., Gender Studies w/ Riva & Riley. Tre has been doing science tutoring on all sorts of cool subjects. Book Club focused on the Hunger Games series (which I really enjoyed reading by the way). I have been teaching Yoga a few times/week, which makes everyone act silly & feel good at the same time. Herbal Studies made Body Scrub and watched a distiller demonstration. We also studied Flower Essences and have been working on remedies. Justice League has been meeting to dispell any bad vibe. There was a major discussion on Pegasus versus Unicorns in Philosophy, the many great floods & meanings of muskrats were topics in Mythology, and an impromptu Astrology Class started up. Warhammer has been super popular with the “Middle” kids the last few weeks. Collages, painting, sewing, and other arts & crafts abound. Discussions on collectives & unions, the South High riot & walk out, environmental issues, genocide, eating meat, history, and secret societies are Social Studies in action. The gym has also had a lot of action with never ending bike repair, dodgeball, games of Cops & Robbers, along with Weddings, Dog Shows, and Caucus Races featuring Vampire Rock Stars, Dark Fairies, Corpse Brides and other crazy, creative creatures. Don’t forget the pinatas with cheezits inside. Forts get knocked down on the daily and the noises that emanate from the gym are other worldly. Every Friday we have been baking pie, crisp or quiche to celebrate making it through another week. I. loves to make us spice cookies. At Full Moon Show & Tell, E. & A. brought in benyas, the pastry treats from New Orleans.
Next week we have 3 Field Trips planned and after Spring Break we will add a few new classes and really buckle down on play rehearsals. We have so much on our list of things to do this Spring! By the way, please feel free to donate to our play at:
 
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1659718809/exploring-wonderland-and-down-the-rabbit-hole-yout


The entire month of Feb. we kept trying to plan outdoor activities but it was just too darn cold. Finally, just this past week, the long anticipated Ice Skating Field Trip happened and it was worth the wait. On our walk to the arena, it started to snow & we caught snowflakes on our tongues. Ice skating was challenging but fun. Some kids were really good at it (I’m not). Overall, it was a little ankle pain for a lot of fun and well worth it.
To prove our faith that Spring will come, we started seeds last week and hope to plant them in our garden when the time is right. Like I said, the forces of Winter & Spring are battling. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous about the plan to practice our long standing tradition of celebrating the Spring Equinox outdoors. As I watch the crows huddling and listen to the reports of yet another storm heading our way, I dream of a warm, sunny, but not too muddy day on Thurs. and right now it seems like that would take a miracle. The dance of the dreamy fish & the fiesty ram continues…and we are all swaying along in rhythm, waiting for the next song to begin. Wake us up when it’s Spring, ok?


​Life As School: Melting, Sprouting, Springing, March 31, 2013 
Last Journal I left you hanging, hoping for a miracle weather transformation so our annual Spring Equinox trip to the River could happen and guess what? It happened! Even though it was freezing early in the day, by the time we finished our indoor Spring cleansing ceremony (pictured below), it was warmish, sunny & lovely out. Before we left school we started seeds in the rich compost made from our worms. We also ate seeds & other yummy food. Our usual tradition is to stay outside & play for hours, but it was still a blast to rush down to the mighty Mississippi for a quick trip. We carried the negativity from the cleansing & a boat basket of offerings for the river on our walk. The first thing we saw arriving on the bank was 2 eagles, a very auspicious and beautiful sight! We performed a lovely ceremony waking up Earth and celebrating/welcoming Spring, collected seashells, climbed the sandstone “cave” and explored other natural delights. We weren’t really ready to leave but we had to get back to school. Some of us saw a huge wooden snake shaped tree trunk rising out of the river on our way back so that was a great distraction from the sorrow of leaving such a magical spot.

A big recent change is that we finally voted to split the Meeting into two groups, based on age. Now the 6 & Unders get their own meeting. They are still welcome at the All School Meeting but are not required to attend. It appears to be a good idea so far, as it seems that the SM is slightly less chaotic now. Speaking of “The Littles,” they have been busy with snow jumping, potions, sewing & making worry dolls. They have been keeping the rest of us busy too, of course. We finally got a Computer Committee meeting done and are trying some new rules after Spring Break. I’m always so impressed with our students’ smarty-pants abilities when it comes to technology and ethics.

Over Spring Break I had the pleasure of speaking to the U of M  Education Studies Student Group. I was flattered that someone who heard me speak last summer at a U of M Ed class recommended me. I love to babble about SFS (obviously) so I was excited for the event but when I got there and saw the flyer with my picture on it and free Mesa Pizza promised, I was even more thrilled! So while my captive audience’s mouths were busy with guacamole burrito pizza, I spun a stream of SFS yarns: how Creative Writing turns into Hip Hop Dance Class, Rainbow Unicorns invite you to play chess, and Dodgeball rules are serious business. I explained Apology Dances, student-led projects like the newspaper, last Thursday’s impromptu Spelling Bee, and how SFS might just change the world through worms. It was a lively and deep discussion with a great group of smart, young people who are passionate about Education and social change. It is increasingly clear to me that this is a time of huge potential for change in schooling. We talked about the strike & current protests in Chicago, the testing boycotts in Washington, and recent events at South High. I am still processing ideas raised on what SFS can offer other communities, how we can help teachers use freedom & democracy in various settings, and how Free School philosophy can help transform education & society on a mass scale. It was a stimulating and exciting conversation that gives me hope for the future. 

Tomorrow we go back to school and break is over. It will be good to see people and have Full Moon Show & Tell. We have so much to look forward to this Spring! All the things we haven’t crossed off our to do lists will be squeezed into April & May–lots of Field Trips, Sing From Your Heart Choir, an Art Show, another Spelling Bee, Yoga workshops, guest speakers, gardening, camping, new folks, new classes & of course, our original musical PLAY: “Down The Rabbit Hole” on May 17 & 18! Our kickstarter fundraiser for the show is only happening for 12 more days, and the video is absolutely hilarious, thanks to the tech savvy E. Here’s the link for your viewing pleasure:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1659718809/exploring-wonderland-and-down-the-rabbit-hole-yout

For 42 years before Gaia, there was a place named Second Foundation School. There are many stories about our shared memories and the past at our “parent” school. “Back in the old country” is a common reference for me. The final year of SFS I journaled every month. Here are those old writings.
Back to School Feels Good! (Fall, 2012- at the Old School)
Everyone is so glad to be together again & at the school! Our new students are wonderful and add to the excitement because it’s always great to have new friends. I love how I can never plan too much ahead because I have to wait and see what students want to learn about. Now I have my class schedule and this week I had a blast doing  Theater Arts, Creative Writing, Around the World Geography, Divination, & Philosophy. Classes are only half the fun though–then there was all the bike tag, sprinkler running, mine-crafting, Magic-the-gathering, Dragon Adventuring, clay sculpting, art making, straw arrow making, stuffy weddings, and laughing. I love the first day of school, it’s always so great to see everyone. I love when people share their favorite_________ during the introductions at the 1st school meeting. Every year it’s something–this year it was Animals. I love how the first week there aren’t quarrels on the agenda. Everyone is brimming with ideas for cool stuff to do and excited to learn and have fun together.

I hope to always remember how much fun I had playing “Mirror” with O, how hard I laughed when L said his favorite animal was a single cell organism, & how amazing D’s Lady Gaga show was. Wow. I think we were all entranced. What a fun week, welcome to school everyone!

FALL EQUINOX MISSISSIPPI ADVENTURE: 
SEPTEMBER 23, 2012
It was so cold & rainy when I woke up on Friday, I was struck with disappointment thinking our Mississippi River field trip would surely be cancelled. I did not want to make our crew (or myself!) sick. Still, I wore a bunch of layers and wrote it on the schedule with a question mark, but I also wrote Theater Class with a ? as we hadn’t gotten to do it the previous day due to moving in our new lovely piano and that was my back up plan if we couldn’t go to the river. We did some Morning Lessons (cool Word Exchange game which we lost the rules to so we were making them up) and I wondered how the day would go…
I had such little faith! The kids (except most of the teenagers, but that’s another story…) had no doubt about the outing. There was no discussion of canceling, only excitement about the trip. We voted on which direction to go as we have several options for river access within walking distance. St. Anthony Falls was the winning choice. Miraculously, the sun came out and clouds parted as two cars carrying the littlest & a crew of us walkers set off.
E. was tracking our route on GPS which I thought was funny. 15 minutes was the estimated trip time according to his device but we took a full hour for our walk. We stopped to climb trees and the angles under the freeway, watched the man on the motorized tricycle, admired Aldo’s metal mini-buildings and the glass murals, and identified plants and their medicinal uses all along the way. D. was rocking out to Lady Gaga on Riva’s phone so that was our soundtrack. S. made a beautiful sculpture/offering of the flowers & things we saw on our journey. We met up with the folks who got rides and played around. Finally, we went down the old steps to the big, gorgeous waterfall and admired that for awhile. We crossed the bridge where J.’s phone got dropped last year and after some brief exploration, made it to our ceremony spot. Some kids thought it looked like the water was a lot lower this year. It was lovely. Ducks and songbirds visited us, the weather was perfect, and the biggest problem was trying to keep kids out of the water. It made me sad that our rivers are too dirty for our kids to swim in. One of my childhood’s biggest highlights was swimming in the river I grew up near and it is such a perfectly natural instinct they have to want to go in the river. Also, the logs and rocks in the mighty Miss were super fun to jump and climb on. Some kids were frustratingly brave to the grown ups. Luckily Rita was wearing good boots and has the right energy to accompany our brave ninja.
Some kids pulled a tire out of the river. We collected some broken glass & other garbage. R. rolled a large stump over to the rectangular rock in the water and it made a great altar. Then kids lined it with stones and it was decorated. We started our Equinox ceremony making a circle. We talked about Fall and balance, used sage for centering, rice and beans to symbolize light & dark, threw bread for things we were releasing, and pooled our pocket change for prosperity. A beautiful raft of burdock leaves and cedar was sent down the river. We had roasted almonds and then packed up quickly realizing it was almost the end of the school day! We followed the path back up and encountered several wedding parties. The littles were having mini-meltdowns. We were much faster on the way back, trying to not be late for “job time”–one of our school’s longest standing traditions and everyone’s favorite part of the day (not). Again, Lady Gaga helped us walkers keep on moving. When we were about a block away from the school, the sky grew dark and the cold wind started blowing. By the time we got all the kids into the school, there were a few raindrops falling. I felt so grateful for the perfect timing with the weather. I also felt deeply touched by the beauty of Fall and watching kids exploring urban nature in freedom, or as free as we can be, anyway…
We call this School.
I can only hope that someday the unicorns of the world will unite and purify the polluted waters with their horns, for making dirty water clean is said to be one of the many magical uses for unicorn horn.
FIRST FULL MOON: HARVEST MOON UPDATE, 
SEPTEMBER 30, 2012
Last Friday was our first Full Moon Show & Tell of the year. As we sat in a circle outside, I watched the falling, colorful leaves & ate the delicious apple crisp that I. made and enjoyed the Fall sun and air. Suddenly, in a dramatic gesture, one of our youngers came out dressed in a shiny gown and a pirate hat. It was a striking sight and I felt so grateful for our vibrant community. When it was my turn in the circle, I shared my grandpa’s 4 inch wrench and talked about his death a month ago. There were stories of trips to NY and Mexico, a great picture of a girl under a bright sun, a braided yarn creation, a rose quartz, a Thunderbird turquoise ring, and a stuffed fish named Fins, among other treasures. There were also cool stories of climbing around the potholes, being banned from a store while eating ice cream, and finding real army clothes in an attic.
This upcoming week will mark 1 month since we started the school year. Time is so strange at SFS, for me it goes faster there than almost anywhere else…we have already done so much but we’ve only just begun. October is always a fun month at SFS. We traditionally visit a cemetery (Mon. Oct. 15), apple orchard/corn maze, wear costumes & go trick or treating (Wed. Oct. 31), make masks & sugar skulls, and play with the ghosts in the gym. Some of us hang around the Barebones Halloween Show too.
This October we have the honor of hosting a special class, Native America, with Lynn Braveheart. 2 guest speakers are also scheduled: Valerie on 10/12 and Richard LaFortune on 10/19. Class is on Fridays from 1:30-3:00pm. I am super excited about this!!! Last week, Anne took people on a Field Trip to the All My Relations Gallery for the reactions to 150th Anniversary of “Dakota conflict.” Z. has been reading a book with the same title as the gallery name & we have been discussing it but he had never been to the gallery before.
Speaking of Anne, she has been making salve & tinctures in Herbal Studies class. Last week we harvested herbs from the garden and started planning for Spa Day–October 12!  We had one last year & it was a big hit so I am excited for this year. Herbal face masks, foot baths, neck-rubs & fancy nails make for a lovely Fall afternoon at SFS.
Our WORMS have arrived and seem happy in the environments nurtured by the COMPOST CLUB! The remains from the 2 public Food Shares we have had (with our community partners Sisters Camelot) have given the club much to work with. If you want to get involved or meet the worms just ask Treana or a Compost Club member! We are so thrilled to have gotten a grant from Hennepin County to do a worm composting and waste reduction project. We have had two trainings and the project is off to a great start.

Bike Tag was fun while it lasted. The church folk noticed how much the bikes leave marks on the floor so now it’s banned. Oh well, it might save a few wheels, right? Still, it’s the end of an era.
When I think of the last month:
So much! Cooking (tortillas, soups, salsa, frybread, zucchini bread, apple crisp, & more!), Magic the Gathering, Minecraft, playing with clay, reading, gymnastics, games, painting, & Lady Gaga performances. Deep thoughts from Philosophy class have been blowing my mind and I have learned from my students about life in Ecuador, the medicinal uses of Red Oak, the differences between Apple & Google & Microsoft, and that rabbits spontaneously ovulate, among many other important lessons. I love that about our school: the wonderfully random nature of learning through life and the way we all learn from each other all the time.
There have been lots of Classes too so far: Philosophy, Art, Tarot, Creative Writing, Chemistry, Around the World Geography, Math, Theater, 2 Boxes Gender Studies, Chess, Spanish, Yoga, Morning Lessons, Herbal Studies, Conspiracies, Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction, & more! I love the enthusiasm of the school year beginning. S. is doing an awesome new class. “Mystery Class” is based on whatever gets pulled out of the suggestions box, which anyone can put ideas in during the week before class. The chosen topic is then researched in the class & it’s super fun. So far, the class has covered: Candy, Eyes & Dogs. What will the topic be this week? Tune in to find out, until then…it’s a Mystery!

IT’S BEEN A FANCY DANCING, TRASH INTO TREASURE, APPLE BUTTER, BAKLAVA, RABBIT BOY & THE SUN KIND OF WEEK! October 6, 2012 
Another week has flown by at school, where we all seem to agree that time flies faster than anywhere else on Earth! Last Saturday we had a blast painting faces and making origami pinwheels at the Southeast Learning Fest. It was a great event & I think we will participate again next year. I had the honor of painting Hot Cheetos & Takis on a kid’s arm who was in the infamous video made in North Minneapolis. The bright red glitter really worked well for that!

Art class made sculptures out of “found objects” which reminds me of our composting project–turning trash to treasure is indeed an act of magical transformation. The deep thoughts in Philosophy class brought us in winding spirals through discussions on trust, violence, abortion, sexuality, politics, religion, current events, civilization, evolution, and of course, lemmings. Mystery Class turned into Astronomy when the SUN was pulled out of the topic box. In Gender class we played a gender roles charade game & watched part of the series “TransGenerations” and had a very interesting discussion afterwards. Some folks have been on vacation and came back just in time to give presentations in Around the World Geography class. We learned about Turkey, Syria, & Mexico and shared a yummy “Middle Eastern Feast” picnic in the front play yard. Birthday cupcakes were a part of the celebrations this week, but unfortunately the birthday boy puked, poor guy! Creative Writers wrote dark & silly stories, L started a Dance/Movement class, A & I started a book club, Science class did some blood type testing, Compost Club saved gallons of food waste from the trash and there were several biking field trips. Mythology class focused on Native American creation stories and Z blessed us with his narration of Rabbit Kicks the Blood Clot and White Buffalo Woman, two of my personal favorites. I can’t stop thinking of the powerful symbolism in the Rabbit Boy story, especially his relationship to the Sun & the “mysterious power of movement.” Also, how his dreams were what prepared him for death and rebirth and Iktome the trickster’s special role in myth. In Theater class, we played with a morphing energy ball that became all sorts of various objects and actions. The kids are so creative & such great performers! We also started some choir stuff but I noticed we really need to get our newest piano tuned. There were so many delicious smells from the kitchen this week…at least 2 soups were made and eaten, along with many roasted red peppers, quesadillas, garlic bread & my favorite dish of the week–S’s homemade apple butter! The Herbal Studies class harvested more herbs from the garden & made tinctures too.

As if it wasn’t a fantastic enough week, Friday was the highlight. In the first of four in our October Native America Class series, Lynn Braveheart brought her friends Angie & Tia Thornhill, George & some others to visit. Angie works for the U of M and taught us about Native Foods and nutrition as well as Ojibwe cultural traditions. Angie’s daughter Tia was dressed in such beautiful regalia and is an AMAZINGLY TALENTED fancy dancer. We learned about different types of dancers. The drummers explained some of the stories and meanings behind the songs & dances. They were so powerful that I felt the gym was transformed into a sacred place as the drumbeat vibrated throughout the school and Tia danced & danced. It was breathtaking! Angie said our students were very well behaved and the best listeners she had ever had, which I thought was hilarious and also a testimony to how important it is for youth to choose what they learn. For the final dance, we all joined hands and learned an intertribal dance step. It was so fun and powerful! I was struck by how many cultures celebrate with circle dances–for example, in the Jewish tradition we dance the Hora and in my spiritual tradition we dance in a circle to call and honor the Ancestors. After the class, we fed our guests homemade soup & tea from our garden & offered a couple jars of apple butter. They seemed happy and I hope they come again. I think we may ignore Columbus Day this year and instead spend the month learning about & honoring the indigenous peoples of this land we walk on…


Children of the Corn (Mother) Celebrate Freedom & Coming Out Day! October 13, 2012 
Just another amazing week of learning in freedom at SFS…
We mindfully ignored Columbus day but the Word of the Day on Monday was TAINO. In Native America class we studied history of Pine Ridge, Leonard Peltier and ate Native popcorn, yum. Mythology & Tarot class got combined due to lack of time (where does it go?!) and the theme this week was Great Corn Mother & The Empress card. Chris is back from travelling & in Philosophy we discussed Deep Thoughts on Hope, Faith, Trust, Brainwashing, Politics, Dreams, Religion & Racism. That class blows my mind every time!
We also had a special Ceramics Workshop with guest artist Hannah Anderson, a Free Food Share with our community partners Sisters Camelot, baked delicious pumpkin bread & made pumpkin apple butter (yum!) and had a visitor from Naropa College come to promote their cool school in Colorado. Approximately a million games of Magic! were played, along with Dodgeball & Fort Building. Jay (Class of 1971!) stopped by which was a treat and Wiki the dog spent many days being loved up by his many fans at SFS. Herbal Studies planted plants & Mathy Math Time with Maggie was quite popular. Gender Class was a mix of discussion on personal expressions of gender, gender roles in different cultures & another episode of TransGenerations. We are so excited for Two Spirit activist Richard LaFortune’s visit next week & hip-hop performer Heidi Barton Stink visiting in the near future. Next week we will watch the excellent movie “Two Spirits” which features Richard. We have celebrities lined up to come to our little school, hooray!
We began work on our promotional video for theYouthprise contest. Hopefully E. is editing over the weekend. It’s so crazy to me what these fancy phones can do, right? So far, the students have done ALL the work on the video so we should extra points for that! I can’t wait to see the footage–especially from the highlight of the week in my opinion– which was:
the spontaneous COMING OUT DAY PARADE we staged on Thursday. First thing in the morning, a student shouted “Hey everybody. I’m gay” which was so cool I didn’t even say, “Hey–it’s Quiet Time, shhh!” as I usually would if someone was yelling before 11:30. Later in the day, some littles were playing with percussion instruments which somehow led to more instruments joining in and some funny hats put on and before I knew what was happening we were parading through the streets of Dinkytown with drums & offering free hugs. Some of us were chanting “Happy Coming Out Day, may all beings be free!” Most people were quite happy to see us & gladly accepted Free Hugs. It was a powerful, joyous, completely spontaneous field trip and I’m sure the video won’t totally capture the magic. The SFS students impress me over & over with their fearless fabulousness and I am so proud to be a part of such an inclusive, creative community. As heartbreaking as it is that students are bullied in schools for gender & sexual preference expression, at least in our little school we have created safe space for ourselves. As someone who was treated terribly in school for being “different” (understatement!) I can’t really imagine what would have happened to me if my mom hadn’t found SFS. I really might have been one of those youth who commit suicide. When I say SFS saved my life I am not even joking.
I have come to believe that the single most important thing about SFS is simply that people are unconditionally valued for who they are. That sounds too simple & corny, but corn was a serious theme this week and represents Great Corn Mother’s sacrifice & unconditional love for her children–us, the Children of the Corn.


Traditional Education, October 19, 2012 
As L. & I were discussing this week, SFS has many traditions and some of us are quite attached to keeping them going. Like many communities, the turning of the wheel of the seasons shapes what we do at certain times. One of my favorite Fall events is the annual Cemetery Field Trip which is always fun & exciting–but this year I got to go twice, which is a historic first. Monday we were missing half of our crew so we had to be flexible, change plans, & make it work. Some folks biked to Lakewood & met us there. First we visited the memorial chapel that is modeled on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. I thought it was perfect because J. & L. just visited the real Hagia Sophia in Turkey & recently reported to Geography class about it. I love the beautiful mosaic & sacred geometry of the chapel. E. loved the orange traffic cone. We let ourselves get freaked out on the mysterious scissors…then continued our adventure.
We walked on water, hung out by the lake, picnicked, swept off graves, decorated a pumpkin, made cool gravestone rubbings, talked about death & shared memories of people who have died. We made a magical mandala-wheel out of plants and brown, black, white & red beans. The weather was warm & lovely and everyone seemed to have a great time. On Wednesday, we went again with more of our crew and it was much colder. The wind was wild but somehow the gray day seemed fitting. We visited the pyramid, swung on the willow branches, and read the gravestones. Again, we picnicked, decorated a pumpkin & swept off graves. Some folks visited family graves, some went to the Babyland section, others wandered. I offered a prize (a slice of Mesa Pizza) to the Geography student who could get the most place names rubbed on their paper and I. won by one. I still owe her the slice, by the way. I’m sure I will be reminded.
Most schools had days off this week but we traded in MEA days for a 4 day weekend after Halloween. Brilliant planning, right? It was great to have so many visitors–old pals & new people alike. It’s cool that kids who go to other schools want to visit us on their “days off.”
We did mask making, baked cookies & pumpkin pies, made Rainbow Soup & shared Root Soup, wrote alphabet poems and cemetery-themed short stories, played dodgeball, fed our worms, made edible potions, did science experiments & built a haunted maze that was really scary!
In Mythology, we read an Inanna story (Sumer) and discussed the divine feminine. In Theater, we played games and performed an improvisational play of the Baba Yaga story. If you aren’t familiar with Baba Yaga, she is an old witch from Russian tales. There are many different stories but the clever children always win in the end. Some students put together a silent skit that was cute & funny. I laughed a lot in that class, it was so fun! Deep Thoughts/Philosophy covered names, meanings, numerology, discipline, spanking, overpopulation, babies, wheels & everything in between. We voted on a new name for our beloved Chris but I already forgot it. Again, I’m sure I will be reminded.
Exciting news! We got a Photography teacher, Alissa, who is also a musician, a glassblower, & fluent in Chinese too–score! In addition to the above, she is a barista at the Purple Onion coffee shop across the street. I’m pleased that I can now say my coffee addiction has helped the school by helping introduce me to Alissa. We have such an array of awesome volunteers, I don’t know what I would do without them.
There was a proposal that passed at the School Meeting to sell off the school’s collection of approximately one zillion cards to raise money. So they took a field trip to Monster Den & the offer was only $2 cash or $3 store credit. The person working ended up giving them $10 when the kids said they couldn’t take the store credit because they were raising money for their school. How cool is that? Thanks! 
In Gender class, we watched the incredibly powerful movie, “Two Spirits.” Our guest speaker this week was the amazing Richard LaFortune, who is featured in the movie. It was such an honor to have Richard visit and I loved every moment of the Native America class today. We learned about history, politics, genocide, psychology, biology, gender, philosophy & more all in one big fascinating conversation. I sure hope we impressed with our jar of pumpkin butter so they visit again!
Before I get too wrapped up in a busy weekend with another Fall tradition for many in the SFS community–the Barebones Halloween Extravaganza at Hidden Falls–I am glad to stop, breathe & reflect on the past whirlwind of a week.  I feel very grateful for how unique our community is and how much I learn there every single day. I am so honored to be connected to so many rich lives and to share traditions as we all grow together…
and eat pie. 
(Just don’t forget to wash your plate!)


​Urban Warriors, Running in the Snow, Natural Cycles & the Windigo Oct. 26, 2012
This week, we motored to the Ordway for music shows twice and saw Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Jazz Band and Delfos Danza Contemporánea. Nick Bucholz came in & started Botany Class on Tuesday, SET was played for Mathy Math Time, forts were build & destroyed, masks were painted, stories read & written, and Mythology class focused on stories of Life & Death. Our community partner, Sisters Camelot, brought us a pile of delicious bread, including chocolate bread which everyone loved. Squash, beans & roots were made into a delicious soup and we ate yummy frybread made the traditional Lakota way by our guest, Pearl BraveHeart.
Guest speakers, Rhiana Yazzie & David came in and scared the heck out of us with Spooky Native American Storytelling, followed by an awesomely educational discussion on colonization’s effects on traditional stories. The symbolism of the Windigo was a hot topic & has given me much food for thought. I love that a young girl was who defeated the Windigo in one of the stories. To me, it spoke of the power of youth to overcome and transform community problems. I hope the kids don’t have nightmares about flying, rolling heads! I am planning for us to attend Rhiana’s performance “2012: The Musical” at In the Heart of the Beast Theater next month, it sounds great! Thanks so much to Lynn Braveheart for organizing the Native America class series, I have been so honored to meet such cool new friends this past month.
Alumni Charlie (who played the lead in our Rocky Horror back in 1999) came by to visit, he has been working in Alaska, it was great to see him. Also, my dear friend China Martens (who was a teacher at SFS 16 years ago!) stopped in. She is in town on a tour promoting her newest book, “DON’T LEAVE YOUR FRIENDS BEHIND: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities” which I recommend highly! There is a reading tonight at Boneshaker Books– so if you aren’t going to Hidden Falls for the Barebones Halloween Extravaganza, check it out. China commented that the school seems more vibrant & alive than ever, which I appreciated hearing.
We also worked hard on our video for the Youthprise contest in hopes of winning $5,000. I promised E. that I will wash his dishes for 3 weeks if he gets the editing done by Monday. Kids amaze me with their technological knowledge on the daily. I am also incredibly impressed at how many of our kids bike to school even as the chilly weather has begun. They show up all rosy cheeked and wind blown, like urban warriors. Speaking of the weather, I believe it affects us all greatly & I will admit to feeling pretty unmotivated this week. I am blessed to be in an environment where natural cycles are honored and we can be more relaxed at some times than others. We are not based on a factory model that demands constant productivity and I wish more people could experience that level of unconditional support. Ever since my grandfather died two months ago, I have been thinking about “work ethic” a lot. My Grandpa Ed instilled in me a deep sense of the value of work and I am grateful for that, even though I don’t think our true value should be measured by our productivity. One of the things Public Schools taught me was to do the bare minimum & get away with it. That system was so oppressive to me that I simply learned how to cheat it. I hated that authoritarian environment so much that I became reactionary & could not accept teachers for many years. Because of SFS, I have come to believe that the only way to have true discipline from within is through freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. Personally, I work hard because I want to feel proud and good about myself, not because I will get in trouble with the boss/teacher/God (etc.) if I don’t. At SFS, you are held accountable to your own self and the entire community, but there is no dictatorship to hate or react against. This is actually harder than it sounds. I have even heard kids say they want to go back to public schools so they can hate on teachers again!
One last quick thought on the weather: the other day, a teacher friend of mine asked me how my day at school was & I mentioned the kids’ excitement for our first snow of the year. He said “oh did they all go running to the windows & cause trouble?” and I replied, “No, they are free kids so they all went running outside!”
Which is obviously the most natural thing to do.
I can only think of two places where windows are only seen as problematic–schools & prisons.


​Happy Halloween! Vote No or the little people might get you! November 1, 2012
We took this picture after we went through Dinkytown trick or treating. I am thrilled that the church put up a new sign after the first one was vandalized! We take Halloween pretty seriously around SFS, it dominated our week and we took a 4 day weekend afterwards.

At the School Meeting on Tues., B. won the pumpkin carving design contest. On Halloween, she did a stupendous job carving the pumpkin (and it isn’t an easy task). There was an epic dodgeball game and haunted locker room happening too. We made spicy chili and carrot cake and told scary stories in the parlor. The highlight, of course, was Trick or Treating in Dinkytown. It seemed to me like we got quite a lot this year compared to the past. I’m talking about candy, of course. 

It is interesting how the corporate places seem to have no idea how to deal with trick or treaters. Someone will go get a manager and then the manager will not know what to do and the kids will get nothing. I’m saying/thinking, “You have heard of Halloween right, Oct. 31st? You have heard of this tradition called trick or treat?”  It’s the locally owned places that give us something and the kids see this. Last year, they started chanting as we walked from store to store: “Down with McDonalds, Up with Mesa” because Mickey D gave them nothing and Mesa Pizza was great.

This year, Tony’s Diner might be the winner for Best Treats–the large HANDFUL of candy. Espresso Royale might have redeemed themselves from past offenses with the delicious strawberry chocolate treat. House of H and the Loring also passed our test this year. Maybe we are finally training Dinkytown in on how to be kid friendly. Then again, there was a woman at the bagel shop who said “We don’t get trick or treaters here” as if she wasn’t surrounded by a large, motley crew of them!  It was really fun when we ran into other people in costumes, like the Igor-ish guy who asked to borrow some brains. Magus gave us red tigers eye stones, they are always good to us. K took great pictures and helped me and S watch out for the littles. We had an awesome werewolf, a ninja, a creepy clown, a butterfly, 2 fairies, a butterfly fairy, little red riding hood, an 80’s girl,an IRS agent, a Hawaiian retiree, 2 witches and much more. I laughed so hard at O’s choice in a giant basket. It was such a gorgeous Autumn day, perfect for walking around in funny costumes, collecting treats, and laughing.


Democracy, Dodgeball, and Overflowing Bowls-November 10, 2012 
The last few weeks signs have been appearing all over the school saying “Vote for so&so.” Apparently, the signs are regarding an election for school “president.” One of my favorites said “Vote for B” with a picture of pie underneath her name. I’m not sure if it was meant to be a bribe or not but I thought it was clever as B is known for her pie baking abilities. Another favorite of mine was: “Do you love SFS? So do I! If you do, vote for J!” I am not sure exactly how this all started but I think it is interesting how our little SFS world mirrors the larger society in certain ways. I missed the debates entirely but the kids held them on their own. At the school meeting 2 weeks ago, a grown up asked what exactly the president does & it was a pretty funny discussion as no one really had an answer. The election was supposed to happen at this week’s meeting but by the time Wed. rolled around everyone was tired of politics and it was dropped. Democracy in action!
Last night we had our first big event of this school year: EMPTY BOWLS, where we offer free food & entertainment and hope people make donations for handmade ceramic bowls. Our community partner, Sisters Camelot, hooked us up with lots of organic food. Bad Dog Antiques donated amazing pottery sculptures. We also had super cool handmade hats & art for sale. The talent show was totally fabulous, highlights include: Drakey Gaga, the epic Baba Yaga play, Z’s prophetic story, & L dancing to Odin’s beatboxing. The VAST amount of food that we made was absolutely mind blowing. Facepainting & fishing for prizes was quite popular. DJ Miscellaneous & Z rocked the turntables and DJ booth. Luckily when our dumpstered disco ball fell it didn’t hurt anyone! I love the vibe of SFS events so much. To see people of all ages having fun and building community is such a treat.

In other news this week: Tre started teaching spinning, Spanish class played tag, Mythology focused on Aztec myth, the Tarot class theme was the Death card & Emperor, in Art we painted a collaborative spiderweb, Z & F started a Drawing class, Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction class made crossbows, Compost Club fed pounds of leftovers to our cute worms, Dodgeball continued to cause debates, injuries, and sheer joy!​


​​Giving Thanks on Stolen Land- November 22, 2012
The wheels keep turning as we roll along through the seasons…Another holiday is here and we have had some major discussions about the meaning of Harvest time celebrations and the history of genocide in this country. We don’t all agree on everything but I am GRATEFUL that we can have such deep, honest conversations at our school.
Last week we did testing, for those that chose to. I found it hilarious that students & parents alike seemed confused when I brought it up to them. Several folks asked, “why?” and I have to admit I didn’t have a great answer. “Um, because we are a school? and that’s something schools do?” I am impressed with the kids that stuck with the tests even though I know their best talents won’t show up and testing means almost nothing. I am grateful we don’t have to play that dumb testing game the way most schools do. Testing also brought with it discussions about race/ethnicity and gender as those are bubbles that kids must fill in. Of course there are only 2 gender choices on the forms. Mostly kids wondered why does this info go on our tests? Again, I had no good answers. Another interesting discussion was about the use of 3rd grade test scores to determine the number of prison beds in the future which I find so very disturbing. I interviewed a potential student recently that told me the cops follow him at school and supervise his bathroom breaks. This really happens. In 4th grade, for real.
To be honest, we had a really hard School Meeting yesterday. I even had nightmares about it! It is so challenging sometimes to solve conflicts as a group. In many ways, authoritarian dictatorship seems much more efficient! But by the end of the hour, I felt very proud of all who participated and so GRATEFUL for a community that can deal with serious issues using love, honesty, and compassion.
Since my last update we have also been working on: our HYPE grant applications, our 2013 calendar (for sale soon!), PSEO applications, and we finally made a decision about our school play! Also: Photography, Science, Math, Poker, Magic, Creative Writing, Art, Spinning, Chess, Spanish and a trip to Heart of the Beast to see the amazing production: “2012: The Musical” which was absolutely fantastic! I am now a huge fan of the New Native Theater Co. We also had some visitors from Hennepin County Waste Abatement come check out our worm composting program and they seemed very impressed by both our worms and our funky school. Hopefully we can begin to teach other schools & families in the near future.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing approximately 50 “old school” SFS folks at the Hard Times Cafe’s 20th Birthday Party and at a memorial for my friend Ellf. It was wonderful to see so many SFS connected people, even under the sad circumstances of a memorial. I am incredibly proud of the Hard Times and all the people who have helped it survive, many of them were also SFSers. A big connection (besides me being a HTC founder) is that both places operate collectively and against all odds! I got to hear several stories of how the SFS community continues to support people long after graduation and I was struck by how many people who met through SFS are still buddies. I am GRATEFUL for the hundreds of amazing people I have met in that church basement. And the kids were grateful for all the cupcakes left over from Ellf’s memorial!
The weather has been so beautiful we have gotten to be outdoors almost every day, what a treat! The teenagers love to bike around and the littles seem to have less conflicts when they get to be outdoors. I am so GRATEFUL for this beautiful planet, this stolen land, the privilege of walking on this sacred soil, the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than myself, the role I am honored to play in young people’s lives, and much more.


Spinning, Knitting & Germination Celebration, December 1, 2012
Here we are, December already, the wheel just keeps spinning! Speaking of spinning, Shellee brought in a super cool spinning wheel & Tre has been teaching folks how to spin wool. Knitting has also been super popular with all ages & several hats have been completed this past week. It’s lovely to watch people teaching each other, learning together, and making unique gifts! I have been able to avoid corporate shopping thanks to the talents of the SFS community.

Other highlights of the week include: Herbal Studies made WinterMint Balm (our own version of Vicks VapoRub), Cooking Class made a delicious pumpkin pie, Creative Writing & Theater Class have begun working on our play, Full Moon Show & Tell was super & Mythology Class studied the Golem from Jewish Folklore. In Mathy Math Time we learned about percentages and had a pretend store which was really fun. Art Class worked with watercolors. There was also an impromptu wedding yesterday and the participants looked like gorgeous goddesses! We also got some grants turned in & some of the High Schoolers got their college applications done. As usual, interesting discussions happened all over the school…topics such as: drugs, oppressive language, anxiety, politics, bullying, learning, deschooling, authority, spirituality, nursery rhymes as history, commercialism, eating meat, and puppies (just to name a few).

Horticulture Class began germinating seeds this week! Germination is so symbolic and mysterious to me… Check out these luscious pumpkin sprouts popping up in our Compost Club worm bins:


​Power & Peace, December 16, 2012 
This is not how I had planned to start off this week’s journal entry, so I am winging it, as is often the case at SFS. It seems important to express feelings & thoughts about the school shooting that happened yesterday right off the bat, but the implications & emotions are complex and there is already an overload of media focus on the tragedy. I do not wish to add to the flood of fear and hysteria. Just to be clear, I have no idea what exactly is true in this case, so I admit that much of my thinking is triggered by the media’s sensationalism.
On Friday, we had such an energetic day at SFS that I never had a free moment to be exposed to media. When parents started coming to pick up kids (some came early), they told me about it and expressed gratitude for being able to come see their kids right away.
At SFS we have always maintained a NO REAL OR FAKE GUNS rule (except on Halloween). Founded in 1970 by folks who were actively opposed to the Viet Nam war, SFS has always been pro-peace. We have participated in anti-war demonstrations and do not allow any military recruitment at our school.  We have had many discussions over the years about our anti-gun policy and I have seen various related rules change and/or be debated. As a big believer in imaginary play, I think it’s a really tricky situation to limit kid’s imaginative expressions. Our main explanation is: Guns don’t belong in school. Schools and guns do not go together. Period.
Most kids get it, but in any true democracy there is diversity in values so there also comes a million questions to bring out the shades of gray in my black & white statement. What about drawings of guns or clever cardboard creations/contraptions that the kids come up with all sorts of creative names for (to get around the anti-gun rule)? What about a popular class we currently have where they learn engineering by making miniature catapults, weapons, etc.? Where do you draw the line? How are swords and guns different? What’s different between blasting numbers in a math game, shooting animals in Oregon Trail, and first person shooter games (which I remember being played at SFS but have been banned since the 90’s)? Many a game has been debated as to whether it is violent or not and sometimes it can depend on HOW the player chooses to play the game. These are amazing and complicated conversations to have with kids. I have learned much on these topics from students over the years.
 There have always been many SFS students who supported our non-violence at school mission, but there have also been times that students have pushed to change the rule or make exceptions. In 2010 there was a vote to make some exceptions to the anti-gun rule. After the proposal was passed by 2/3rds vote, there was an XBox day and a Nerf battle happened in the gym. I remember pretty much hating both ideas, but the kids truly have power here and I must always respect that. In my memory of the two events, it seemed like the kids had fun at times but ended up upset & unhappy overall. I don’t remember there being support for either one to happen again so I like to believe people learned on their own, which is vital. Outside authority can’t always stop people from committing horrific crimes, only inner authority and wellness can ensure that people tend their communities with loving kindness.
SFS helps people develop internal discipline and health in so many ways. We learn every day about how to function and communicate with each other as a community. We try to compassionately hold people accountable for their actions when something causes hurt or harm to others or the community as a whole. We value each member of our school for who they are and that they bring their unique “energy” to the school environment.
So much of living within a democratic community is related to use and development of power. I truly believe that freedom is essential for developing personal power and the skills needed to use our personal power wisely. Young people who are encouraged to cultivate and use their power are less likely to need to exert their power in cruel ways. They have much less need to rebel or lie or cover up their behaviors than kids who are never allowed to feel or express their own power and even–yes, make their own mistakes.
Violence and misuse of power in built into every institution and the entire history of the USA. We must recognize that truth and the way our current power structures continue that oppressive legacy.  In our work to help youth develop their power and use it in healthy ways, we must remember our adult privilege and the way that affects all interactions. Models for misuse of power are many, and often glorified. We have much work to be done to help create a world where power is equally shared as we attempt to do at SFS.
You will be hearing a lot about the shooting in next few weeks. There will be many arguments about gun control and the causes of such tragic acts of violence. There will also be a push for more vigilant tactics in school security which will likely create a more prison like atmosphere for students.  There will be even more of an attempt to restrict school visitors, including parents. Elementary schools will institute security systems like the High Schools in inner cities have.
I do think it is worth noting that the killer was only 20 years old and therefore still, to some degree, a youth too. At SFS, the bigs help and  the littles and there are constant examples of this happening all the time. It is so hard to imagine a kid hurting younger kids like that, especially because of what I see everyday at SFS. Because our community is all ages, we learn to value a broad spectrum of people who are different from us, outside of our age group, etc.
At school, we will likely continue to talk about our feelings a lot. We will comfort each other & hug our kids. We will talk about other children being murdered around the world right now (or recently) and ask why they aren’t all over FaceBook and the international media? We will discuss how many African American youth were murdered on the Northside of Minneapolis this year. We will continue to take care of each other and do our best to solve our conflicts and create harmony in our community. We will carry on our tradition of encouraging non-violence and peace. We will continue to help nurture young people so that they know they are an important and valued member of the community and have the internal well-being needed to express themselves without violence.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Winter hit us hard this past week. On Monday, the snow made the buses a half hour late and many of the Usual Every-dayers stayed home. I think we had about 12 students & 5 staff. We also had a visit from Sage (they called a snow day at his school–so nice to see our dear friend!) and Eric, who will hopefully be a new volunteer. I was very impressed at the handful of folks who biked through the crazy weather to come in! The quiet was absolutely amazing & Jack said it was the best day ever. I brought in treats and we had a nice, cozy day.
The yummy-cozy theme continued through the week–we made Group Soup on Wed. and Shelly brought in home made toffee on Tues. We also made french toast out of chocolate bread which was too sweet & too, too good. Herbal Studies made hot cocoa from cacao nibs & studied the healing benefits of the cacao plant.
We are cruising right along on the play! Themes of Wonderland and the Matrix are floating around the school all the time. At the meeting I asked for control of the casting decisions and the group voted for that (as opposed to auditions or making group decisions through voting, etc.). I figured it was actually easier for people if it wasn’t long & drawn out & gut-wrenching as it has sometimes been in the past. Everybody is friends with everybody and it’s hard to be competitive or have discussions where people can be totally honest and no one’s feelings get hurt. The casting is fairly complicated this year, too. I also figured it was easier to have people get mad at me than their friends. There were some hard choices and I was really nervous to post the cast list but I think everyone is relatively satisfied and not too mad at me. I KNOW everyone will be fabulous performers. Speaking of fabulous performers, our one & only Riva is back and we are so very glad! Always with exciting adventures to share after traveling, it is great to catch up and I’m so glad to have enthusiastic help with the play.
We studied Shiva in Mythology class and some Mayan tales too- How Mice Became Bats, and–one of my personal favorites, How the Rabbit Lost Their Antlers to the Deer. We discussed the myths of the modern age, themes/images in contemporary entertainment and their morals, and archetypal power. Mythology class somehow turned into Philosophy and/or Psychology Class & it was a great twisting time.
On 12/12 at 12:12pm we gathered to meditate and make 12 wishes! It was quite magical.
We got two pieces of good news this week in the Grants department. First, we won a “Field Trip grant” so we can go to the Science & Bakken museums and some outdoor locations this Spring. It’s super exciting to be able to go without worrying about money! Next, our Youth Art Market (YAM) project proposal is a finalist in the Helping Youth Promote Empowerment full grant awards. We interview with the HYPE council later this month. Hopefully you will soon hear about our YAM project being fully funded & manifested.
Creativity abounds at SFS! Clay, sculpy snowpeople, ice marbles, knitting, paper & clay ornaments and candles were some of the projects I saw happening this week along with the usual drawing and painting. Next week we will continue candle making and candy houses, more December traditions. I’m looking forward to our last week of school before Winter break & the New Year, getting to know our 2 new students (welcome!), the Solstice ceremony on Friday, the smell of beeswax, and a hot cup of leftover Chai. I’m blessed to feel safe & cozy at our school.
If next Friday happens to herald a new era, I hope it is one where all beings everywhere are free & happy.