Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

Jenny Armocida – Team Highlight

There are some incredible things going on in 6th grade right now. Students are preparing to present on their businesses they created as part of our Rainbow Marketplace on April 27. Recently, 6th had Peace Awards Ceremonies, and have done other incredible things this year such as Pi Day, and a Mayan bartering marketplace, to name a few. We thought we’d take a moment to highlight Jenny Armocida for our Team Highlight this month. She’s our 6th grade teacher who will also be leading a “Staying Sharp Summer Camp” here at Rainbow. Cynthia recently sat down with her for a teacher interview.

You’re originally from Ohio. How did you end up at Rainbow?

It’s true – I’m originally from Ohio. I went to school in Sarasota, Floria but it was too hot. So I moved to Nyack, New York. But that was too cold. So I came “to the middle” to Asheville and it was just right! I had learned about this amazing school called Rainbow and I knew that wanted to teach there. In order to teach there, I had to move to Asheville. So yes, I moved here specifically to teach at Rainbow!

What made you decide to become a teacher? How long have you been a teacher?

I have been a teacher for nearly 12 years, specifically as a classroom teacher. I chose it as a profession because my favorite things are learning, asking questions, being curious, exploring the world around me, and I also like being with young people. They’re also really curious and creative. The best job I could have that would allow me to do all these things was to be a teacher. An added bonus is that you get to learn right alongside your students.

Jenny Armocida Team Highlight

What’s the hardest part of your job? The easiest?

The hardest part of my job is knowing that you’re never really finished with it. So if I’m at my house or on vacation, I’m always thinking about my job: ideas for lessons, new things to try, that sort of thing. That can be really fun, but sometimes it’s challenging to take a break from my “teacher self.”
The easiest part is, well, what’s most enjoyable, is definitely the relationships I develop with my students. I get to know them and enjoy being with them. I get to try so many new things.

You recently had Brother Wolf come to your classroom, as well as held a Peace Awards Day. In addition, students will be tackling their small business enterprises that are also socially beneficial. Where do you get all your creative ideas for lessons and units?

I think that I am really inspired by working with all my colleagues who are so innovative and inventive. I see them pursuing their interests, sharing the best of themselves, their ideas, and passions. That compels me to look inside myself to see what’s important. Then I think about how I’d like to share all that with my students. I also enjoy doing whatever small things I can to make the world a better place. The result is that I naturally incorporate those ideas into the curriculum.

You were also recognized in 2015 with the Leavey Award for leadership in entrepreneurship education. Can you tell us more about that?

The award came from the Leavey Foundation. They recognize teachers who develop entrepreneurship curricula. I shared with them the small business projects my Rainbow students created. I also let them know that our students present their businesses at the Rainbow Marketplace. The requirement is that these businesses are also socially beneficial. The Leavey Foundation liked that because I found out I had won their award.

As an award recipient, I got a chance to go to New Orleans where they held a social studies conference. I learned about other people who were teaching entrepreneurship programs. However, I was the only middle school teacher there – the rest were high school teachers. I was happy that I could share that it’s not just something that older kids can do. Middle school students can create businesses, too.

What is your favorite subject to teach?

That is hard! We’re fortunate here at Rainbow that we have integrated lessons that incorporate so many subjects – so it’s varied. But, my personal passion is literature. I’m a big reader – I love fiction and I like to write for fun. I also really love doing the entrepreneurship projects. I enjoy history and one of my favorite lessons is when we turn the classroom into a “middle ages feudal system.” There are so many things that I enjoy teaching. I can’t pick, so I’d have to say them I enjoy them all!

What book are you reading? (Or, what is your favorite book?)

I just got back from Cuba (over spring break). Because of that, I’ve been reading a lot of Cuban writers lately. Right now, I’m reading Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. The other awesome book I’ve read lately is called, Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. It was really compelling and a humorous read.

What is something that you’re interested in that most people don’t know?

I had a month where I was briefly interested in “tiny cooking.” That has since passed. But really, I love needlefelting. This is an art form where you use a “wad of wool” and a needle. You basically sculpt the wood and make forms out of it. I’ve made birds, tiny people, tiny hamburgers – they’re all very small. I love to make little creatures on a tiny scale. I once made a terrarium with tiny needlefelted animals inside and gave it away as a gift.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from home?

I would have to say that one of the farthest placed I’ve traveled was when I went to Iceland. I also went to Germany another time. Iceland, however, convinced me that I should only do beach vacations, though.

What is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives?

People should spend the day with a group of sixth graders. You will learn many interesting things and ponder questions you never thought of before. You will also laugh A LOT.

What are two items on your bucket list?

I’ve never done karaoke. Someday I’d like to try that. I’d also entertain the idea of owning a pet goat – just for the pure joy of it. I’d like a pygmy goat specifically.

If you could talk to any person, living or deceased, for half an hour, who would it be?

I would talk to the Dalai Lama. I feel like he’s very wise and seems to have a joyful sense of humor. I think it would be fun and enlightening.

What advice would you give to your 6th grade self?

I would definitely tell myself just to be authentic and true to who I am. I’d also say to follow my interests and passions and not to worry so much about what other people think.

Well there you have it, friends. A great interview with Jenny. We’re thankful she took the time to have this interview and share with our Rainbow family!

Social Entrepreneurship at Rainbow

Social Entrepreneurship at Rainbow

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:

  • Awake
  • Paying Attention
  • Offering Value
  • Trustworthy
  • 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!



Rainbow’s Going to State Odyssey of the Mind Competition

Rainbow’s Going to State Odyssey of the Mind Competition

Odyssey of the Mind

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:

Pandora’s Box:

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.

Silent Movie:

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. 

Winning It!

Team 1

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

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:

Awards Ceremony

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!


Celebrations, Plays, and Events Galore!

Celebrations, Plays, and Events Galore!

RCS Students Engaged in So Many Activities!

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.

First Grade

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:

Omega Students

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!

Omega Mythology

Second Grade

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.

Cherokee feast 3

Fifth Grade

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

Early colonial US

Song Circle

Students that weren’t part of another activity attended Song Circle around 11:50. They sang a few catchy tunes.

Song circle nov 12 E

Sixth Grade

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.

6th grade fundraiser

RCS students are doing some pretty amazing things!



Rainbow Receives NC Green School of Excellence Award

Rainbow Receives NC Green School of Excellence Award

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.

Green School Award

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.

nc green schools

The Water Cycle Song

First grade Rainbow students sing the "Water Cycle" song as they are filmed by WLOS.

First grade Rainbow students sing the “Water Cycle” song as they are filmed by WLOS.

nc green schools

Kindergarten students join the celebration.

Two executive directors converse while students are assembling.

Two executive directors converse while students are assembling.

green school award

Kindergarten and first grade students get ready for the celebration

green schools

Students and teachers look on as sixth graders read their nature poems.

nc green schools

Students get ready to celebrate

green schools

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.

green schools award

Left to right: Cynthia (who wrote the NC Green Schools application), Renee (Exectutive Director of Rainbow), Robin Cape and Katie Ferrell

green schools

NC Green Schools judges and Rainbow staff check out the worm composting bins.

green schools

Robin Cape, Executive Director of Reading, Riding Retrofit: NC Green Schools Programs – touring the campus