Rainbow’s Omega Middle School sixth grade class studies Social Entrepreneurship every year. In the spring the students come up with business ideas that reflect their passions, skills and support making the world a better place, whether at home or on the other side of the globe. By May they have a prototype ready to sell to family and friends on campus and based on feedback, will refine it and present at the West Asheville Farmer’s Market on May 30th.
Every Friday our Fundraising Manager and Nonprofit Development Consultant, Sara Stender, works with the sixth graders. She shares about the past week:
It has been so rewarding working with the 6th grade social entrepreneurship class this spring. This week we learned more about consciousness in business. We reflected on values – how to build businesses that represent what we believe in – and how to communicate them to our customers. Many of you saw how this is reflected in the student’s businesses that were set up on the deck last Friday. Thank you for supporting their work and for offering feedback during the final stages of research and development. The class will be selling at the West Asheville Tailgate Market on Tuesday, May 30th, from 3pm-5pm so please stop by and say hi! Some characteristics of a conscious company as defined by our sixth graders this week include:
Connected to the People
Certifications (Organic, Fair Trade)
We had a compelling conversation with Chipper Bro, who has been with Patagonia since they started in 1973! He explained the importance of transparent business practices and encouraged us to get involved with the company’s Traceable Down project. Chipper also helped us to remember that even big companies like Patagonia often start with one person and their passion. 43 years later the company is influencing other large global corporations to implement environmental and social practices that help shape a brighter future for all of us.
On Tuesday we took a field trip to The Hop ice cream factory where owner Greg and manager Gretchen really honed in on what it means to be community-driven, and how to know if a company is walking the talk. Greg shared that building relationships with their suppliers and customers is the most important thing – more than just a sale – and sourcing clean and local ingredients (even the unicorn poop!) to support the environment and the local economy. Thank you social entrepreneurs of all ages for being a beacon of hope!
A special thanks to Asheville Tourists owners and Rainbow parents, Brian and & Kali DeWine. Their gift of game tickets helped raise funds for the 6th graders to start building a Conscious Commerce Cart that will showcase social entrepreneurship for years to come!
Imagine, if you will, a creative competition that allows students to express themselves artistically, physically, emotionally, spiritually – basically, this expression is in alignment with Rainbow’s Seven domains of child development.
Now imagine the pressure of performing for judges, parents and against other schools.
Add to it elements of the creative problem students tackled that students had to include, or otherwise they’d lose points.
Coaches were allowed to advise and guide the teams, but the students had to do all the work. In fact, they had to sign a contract saying that they would not accept outside help as they worked through their projects.
This year at Rainbow, there was so much interest in Odyssey of the Mind or OOTM!
Creative Problem Solving
We started out with four teams in grades 6-8 – they were considered Division II. When it came time to go to competition, we ultimately had two teams that headed to Enka High School to compete against area schools.
There are two parts to the competition. There is the “spontaneous” problem where students get a question and have to answer creatively. The more creative they can be, the more points they can get. Students do not know what question they will get, so they will usually practice a variety of problems beforehand to get used to coming up with answers “on the fly.”
Then, there’s the “long-term” problem. Earlier in the school year, students will choose one of five problems put out by the OOTM folks. They spend every practice session working together to come up with a solution to the problem, working within the limits and parameters that the problem encompasses.
One team did “Pandora’s Box” and one team did “Silent Movie.” Each had an eight-minute time limit.
From the OOTM website, here are the problem synopses:
In this classics problem, teams will put a video game spin on the story of Pandora’s Box. A gamer character will take on this multi-level game inspired by the Greek myth. The game will include a prologue that depicts the original story of Pandora’s Box, three characters representing different evils that escaped the box, and a power meter that represents the gamer character’s health. To beat the game, the player will advance to the final level where it will release hope into the world.
Lights, camera…action! In this problem teams will create and present a performance depicting a Director character that produces and presents a silent movie featuring a humorous villain character that commits three silly acts of “villainy”. Characters that are in the movie may not speak as part of the presentation of the movie. Instead, like classic silent films, the team will use music played on a team-created instrument and creatively displayed subtitles to convey its story to the audience and judges. Also, teams will use a signal to indicate when the movie begins and ends.
Team 1 placed 3rd in their Division, addressing the Silent Movie Problem. After competition day, the team performed for a Rainbow audience. This team really did a great job creating a wonderful and funny “movie.” Take a look at some photos of their performance:
(Click on any image to start a slide show):
Team 2 came in 2nd place which means they are going to the state competition!!
They addressed the Pandora’s Box problem and you could tell they really had a lot of fun using their creative talents to put it all together.
Take a look at some of the photos from their performance at Rainbow:
After the performances came the Awards Ceremony. First, special thanks went out to Edward, the OOTM coach, and all the parent volunteers who helped with all the OOTM meetings.
Gratitude goes out to other Rainbow staff and teachers who gave up space, time and otherwise contributed to the success of the groups: Jenny, Justin, Melissa, Pamela, Rachel, Tracie, Jason & Susan.
The 2nd and 3rd place trophies and certificates were incredibly special!
If you were on campus this past Wednesday, then you’d know that we were bustling with so many events centered around experiential education and holistic learning.
Then first grade was hosting the Cold Mountain Cloggers. They have been studying a unit on Appalachia, learning about food, customs, food and dancing! They had a great time learning the steps to effective clogging, a true mountain tradition. Here’s a video of our cloggers:
At the outdoor stage Omega students were rehearsing for their play. They’re doing a mythology unit, and we caught them on camera. The class was divided into three groups, each one doing a scene from Clash of the Titans. Here was a snapshot from the scene, Story of Perseus. Students were working on lines and their acting, and by the looks of it, they were doing really well!
Next stop was second grade. They were celebrating the culmination of their unit studying the Cherokee. They had a feast, and the students presented on their knowledge of the Cherokee Native American Indians. They demonstrated how to make a fire, and shared various crafts they learned how to make.
The fifth grade also had a feast. Students had to make a meal based off of a recipe from colonial times. They had just finished studying the early colonies, making crafts, maps and sharing their knowledge of early U.S. history.
Early colonial US
Students that weren’t part of another activity attended Song Circle around 11:50. They sang a few catchy tunes.
Over in sixth grade, students have been working on a project with Homeward Bound. They are trying to furnish an apartment for a homeless family in Asheville. Yesterday, they picked up a couch in north Asheville and delivered it to the school. Students are storing furniture on campus until they will take it to the apartment that Homeward Bound will provide.
They also held a fundraiser recently to help with the costs of furnishing the apartment.
RCS students are doing some pretty amazing things!
Yesterday, the NC Green Schools team from the non-profit organization Reading, Riding, Retrofit came to Rainbow to give us a plaque with our award. We are now an NC Green School of Excellence.
At left, Robin Cape (Executive Director of Reading, Riding, Retrofit), center is Katie Ferrell (Program Director) and Max Mraz – Rainbow Builder and Groundskeeper Extraordinaire.
The Reading, Riding, Retrofit: The NC Green Schools Programs organization strives to recognize and encourage schools that practice sustainability. They work to support school initiatives to become more “green” in their practices. For schools who want to participate, they list on their website various goals that schools can try to attain to help green their campuses. They have a five-part rubric: 1) Culture and Community, 2) School Sustainability, 3) Healthy Schools, 4) Curriculum Integration and 5) Innovation.
Rainbow tackled all five parts. Many schools only try to hit two or three parts of the rubric but we already know that Rainbow strives to go above and beyond with is vision of sustainability.
Joining in the fun was WLOS and Tammy Watford. They came to see the celebration and created a “Never Stop Learning” video documenting our all-school celebration.
They also interviewed two of our Omega students and their perceptions of being “green” and leading sustainable lives.
The first graders performed their “Water Cycle” song and 6th graders shared poems inspired by nature. Take a look at the photos to see all the wonderful students and staff enjoying a beautiful award on a beautiful day.
The Water Cycle Song
First grade Rainbow students sing the “Water Cycle” song as they are filmed by WLOS.
Kindergarten students join the celebration.
Two executive directors converse while students are assembling.
Kindergarten and first grade students get ready for the celebration
Students and teachers look on as sixth graders read their nature poems.
Students get ready to celebrate
Max, Robin and Torin (an RRR judge) check out the wooden “balance beam” trails on the preschool playground. The NC Green Schools team toured the school after the celebration.
Left to right: Cynthia (who wrote the NC Green Schools application), Renee (Exectutive Director of Rainbow), Robin Cape and Katie Ferrell
NC Green Schools judges and Rainbow staff check out the worm composting bins.
Robin Cape, Executive Director of Reading, Riding Retrofit: NC Green Schools Programs – touring the campus
Interested in tie-dyed hats? How about some goat milk soap?
Those are just two of the many entrepreneurial ideas happening in the 6th grade Alpha classroom. In fact, they’re starting their own businesses!
Starting the Entrepreneurial Project
The sixth grade began reading articles about other students in Asheville who started their own businesses. From there they categorized various businesses into those that provide a product and those that provide a service.
Once they did that, the ideas started flying. Of course, with so many ideas comes the process of narrowing down the possibilities to something concrete and specific. In fact, teachers helped students assess their talents and passions to create a business that was in line their interests and values. This part of the project certainly involved a lot of personal reflection and sharing to help students determine the best course of action for their businesses – such as to “go it alone” or to create partnerships.
Creating a Business Plan
The next stage of the project was to generate business plans. The first step was in writing a mission statement. Students looked at Rainbow Community School’s mission statement as a starting point. They learned that a mission statement needs to be short, but also clearly communicate the goals of the business.
The Alphas went on to do market research and learn how to identify their customer base as well as looked at other businesses in Asheville that provide a similar service.
Finally, the students wrote up their business plans that included how to advertise, promote and and secure business loans. In fact, students had to present their business plans to a Loan Committee (that included parents, 6th grade teacher Jennifer and assistant Justin) to see if they would qualify for a $20 loan.
Learning from Established Businesses
In order to help students understand what it is to start a business, members of the Asheville community visited the 6th grade to share their stories. The owners of Chai Pani shared the story of its creation. Other business owners came, too. The message they wanted to drive home?
It’s important to identify your passion and to work for your dream wholeheartedly. There’s a feeling of flow and serendipity to identifying one’s dream and then taking the steps to make it happen.
They also shared that by recognizing and using your talents, you take your place in creating a better community and world.
Highlights of Alpha Businesses
The sixth grade Alphas are thrilled about their projects. They talk about them in the mornings when they come to school, and leave filled with new ideas of how they’re going to try new products in their businesses or offer a new service. Still, others talk about their first sale. One student made business cards to advertise his company. It’s entirely possible that even after this project ends, many students will continue working on their businesses. The following are a sampling of what students are doing:
The Spiritual Center: Maia and Sunshine’s Cleaning and Organizing Company
The Spiritual Center: Maia and Sunshine’s Cleaning and Organizing Company. Their mission: “Using the philosophy of Feng Shui, we organize and clean your home in order for you to have an enjoyable, energy-filled and healthy environment.”
Belle is selling eggs from her chickens, and compiling a cookbook of favorite family recipes. She is polishing her business plan to present to her father to secure a loan to purchase five goats. She plans to sell goat’s milk and cheese, goat milk soap and lotion at local farmer’s markets.
Clay and Ryan sell tie-dyed items such as fez hats, ball caps and bow ties.
Annika has created a business selling animal tails that attach to a belt. On the side, she’s creating posters and fliers to help promote her classmates’ businesses.
Pet Snaps is Ben’s pet photography business. He’s designing his own website to attract customers.
Hugh and Juliana have a naturally scented candle business. They make and sell the candles themselves. They have already been door-to-door in Juliana’s neighborhood selling their creations.