Learning Excursion Reflection: The Great Sand Dunes

Learning Excursion

Our Great Sand Dunes adventure was truly phenomenal!  The students were well behaved, and I was truly impressed with the depth of learning, sharing, playing, and building community.  What a blessing to be at a school that allows this type of learning!

Below are several quotes we shared, analyzed, and responded to the past few days. I hope you enjoy. – Lance
Nature Quotations
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir (1838–1914)

What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, and never see the Dawn! ~Logan Pearsall Smith

Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. -Unknown

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Khalil Gibran

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. Cummings

In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. ~Charles A. Lindbergh

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks — the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. — Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world. ~John Muir

Student Responses:

Sand  Dunes The  towering  dunes.  The  flowing  stream.  The  loud,  fun  van  rides.  The  awesome  prank.  The  gas  station  stops.  The  falling  tent.  The  warm  fire  with the  star  lit  sky  above.  I’d  say  this  trip  was  one  to  remember.  Friends. Community.  Determination  and  perseverance.  Nature,  solitude,  peace. Sand  Dunes,  had  it  all  for  us.  This  trip  was  amazing.  The  tight  knit community  plus  the  ineffable,  serene  location  was  absolutely  unique  and fantastic.  There  was  so  much  that  we  saw  and  did  there,  but  getting  to  the top  of  high  dune  definitely  was  remarkable.  “Forget  not  that  the  Earth delights  to  feel  your  bare  feet  and  the  winds  long  to  play  with  your hair.”  (Khalil  Gibran)  At  the  top,  the  dunes  felt  as  if  they  went  on  forever. The  winds  would  play  with  us  and  I  realized  how  worth  it  is  to  persevere. The  experience  to  do  this  was  phenomenal  and  I  hope  to  go  to  the  Sand Dunes  again someday, hopefully  with such a great  group. – Megan

This trip was one of my favorites. Some things that I liked were the Sand Dunes. We hiked up the Sand Dune and went sand boarding and sledding that was so much fun. Also the van rides it was fun jamming to music and laughing with friends. We also took a hike up to the waterfall. The waterfall was enviable. While we were up there we had quiet time that was so powerful to me listening to the stream and talking with God. It was fun sitting around the campfire as a community playing games and laughing. Over all I loved this trip hanging out with friends, laughing and being a community.  – Alli

I enjoyed coming on this sand dunes trip for many reasons, you may ask me “Luke what was your favorite part of the sand dunes trip” and you would probably hear an answer like sand boarding. That was my favorite part of the trip, but there was more to it than just that. God spoke to me in many ways on this trip, and seeing his beauty out in nature was incredible. That’s what I enjoyed about our sand dunes excursion. – Luke

I thought that this trip was the best school trip I have ever been on so far. One of my favorite parts were just camping and being with my friends, my other favorite part was playing a prank on the girls and Mr. Fink. I also thought being out in nature helped me reflect, and come to know god better. The sand dunes were amazing as well, the only bad part was that it was super windy and sand got in my eyes, but other than that my trip was amazing. – JP

I had such a fun week in the Sand Dunes. One of my favorite parts was the waterfall, the crashing water splashing on my face. The waterfall was so serene. I like how I can get closer to my friends and class. When we went to the Dunes I felt so accomplished because I went to the highest dune. It was also so fun when I went sand sledding. I crashed but that’s the fun of it. – Lauren

My favorite part about the camping trip, was running around in the forest. I felt like that it was so peaceful at night in there. Just the laughter and nature brings a whole new camping to the trip. It’s like the trees soaked up my worries and stress, and the grass cleaned it off. Stars seemed to be having a great time, shooting across the sky. Nothing that is man built could beat this appearance. No remotes to see this on Tv, no pictures from the past, man built resources that showed it, could still not beat the creation. – Jack

Nature is filling to the soul. The trip to the Sand Dunes was an amazing experience. Camping is refreshing and is an escape from everyday life and business. Hiking to the Sand Dunes was accomplishing. It was hard but the view was worth it it look like a painting of the museum. My favorite part of these trips are the nights. Pranking each other, talking, and getting to know each other are an essential part of these trips and will be memories that I will look back at. These trips help us become one with nature and each other. – Isabella

The trip we took to the sand dunes was remarkable in many different ways. I really enjoyed being out in nature, away from the classroom, experiencing the wilderness. I will never forget those moments in the outdoors, whether it was the view from the highest sand dune, or the canyon waterfall. The moments spent in community were also extremely memorable. I loved being with my friends sandboarding, in a tree, or even in the van ride. It is so awesome that we have the opportunity in our school to go on this amazing trip. Everything we did was super awesome, the Garden of the Gods was gorgeous, the sand dunes were wicked cool, the camping was fun, and the gator farm was epic. Overall it was an incredible learning experience. -Joseph

On this camping trip I felt in nature. There were only a few things we did inside. I felt like God was right with me the whole entire time. My two favorite parts of camping were the sand dunes and the waterfall hike. Reaching the highest sand dune was such a success for me. Seeing almost everything in Colorado was breath taking. I absolutely loved the waterfall hike. When I first walked in the cave and saw it I was amazed! The way the teachers put this trip together was great! I know I got closer to God in nature!  (Samantha )

One of the things that I really liked was the hike up to the waterfall and stream.I really enjoyed the walk up there for me that was the perfect amount of walking. When we got up there you could be one with nature. one thing that stuck out to me was when I got to talk to some of the new kids to the school like JP and Grace. I got to hang out with them some more. I loved stargazing.Where I live you only see ten or fifteen a night was really cool.I really liked hanging out with Ella,Kayleigh, samantha, Makayla and Grace. They always had a happy attitude and were ready to help and serve and they were all so sweet. (Gabby )

My favorite part of the trip was hiking the Sand Dunes! The reason why the Sand Dunes were my favorite part was because I was able to climb the tallest or second tallest Sand Dune. I had a huge open blister on the bottom of my foot but that didn’t stop me from hiking all the way up. Even though it hurt a little I wanted to succeed and I did. While we were hiking up the dunes I was able to hang out with friends and I also meet some new teachers and kids. I loved when the wind was blowing even though the sand hurt sometimes. You could feel the wind playing with your hair. It was phenomenal! I also liked sledding down the sand.  It was so much fun to fall off the sled.  Then I would get back on and sled the rest of the way down. A lot of people were extraordinary at boarding and sledding like Angelina Hogan, Dylan, Samantha and others. (Maddie)

We traveled to a beautiful camp ground where we set up camp… There was something special about it. Oh yeah, we’re right next to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! My goal was to get to the top of the second highest dune in the park. The dune is called High Dune. We rented sand boards and sand sleds to take to the top with us. Some of us went to the top of the dune. It felt really good to be up there except for the sand in my eyes. I felt so accomplished up there looking out to the other HUGE piles of sand. It was a great trip. After we sand sledded down from the dunes, we went on a hike to a great waterfall and took some time to think about how great our God is. He created the mountains that stand strong today. He created all animals that roam around in the grasslands or swim under the water. He made us so we can do all the things we do today. Thanks to Him we can climb to the top of the sand dunes or play sports with others. Also we can have a good time talking and hanging out with our friends. I’m so glad I got to go on this trip. It’s an experience I will never forget.    (Ben)

I thing the best part of the trip was the time we had at the waterfall to just listen. I know we learned that God can talk to us in a whisper or a loud voice, but I did not understand that it could be even smaller then that. I was sitting listening to the waterfall, when I decided to pray to God to ask him for a whisper. I wanted him to tell me something. Now that’s not bad. But when we started to get back together, I got mad because he had not talked to me at all. Then I got madder and madder. When realized that maybe he was not going to talk to me in plain English. Maybe he had tried to talk to me by giving me signs in nature. And I had not understood him because I thought that there was only one right way to hear God and because of that I missed him. My heart was not open enough for him to get in it a way that I would understand. I am sure that he wanted to tell me something, but my heart was not ready to understand it. So he gave me something to grow on and something to learn from so the next time my heart might be ready to hear him in the way he wants.    (Makayla)

Toasting the Arts…and YOU are invited!

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

Dear Colorado Friends…

I was lucky to grow up in a home where I was taught how to “see.” My parents are artists in their own right, my dad most often did his art in the form of woodwork or writing, my mom through cooking or sewing or gardening. Because they saw this art, they were quick to help reveal it for my little brother and me. While wandering through a castle in England, my mom, brother, and I were exclaiming over the incredibly intricate tapestries on the walls and painted ceilings. We couldn’t get over these amazing tapestries that told stories and had been created, without technology, by hand. And the painted ceilings with gold leaf inlaid…truly breathtaking! As we were talking about each piece around us and pointing out the specifics that we all saw, my dad kept saying, “but you guys LOOK at the floor!!” The floor was hardwood. It was hand scraped, hundreds and hundreds of years old and completely awesome. In this room packed full of creative thought, my dad had honed in on the woodwork. “Can you imagine how they managed to cut these trees down and keep this board, this long completely intact? WITHOUT machinery! Look at the dovetail joints! I mean you guys, LOOK at the floor!!” We all in turn told my dad to look up and see the rest of the room and the specifics of what we saw but, undeterred, he again said, “but LOOK at the floor!” This has become a joke in our house, “Look at the floor,” but in a lot of ways, in that moment, my dad was helping us see. He was revealing the art that he saw and in that instant giving us a glimpse into the way he thinks about and approaches the world.

This is what we want for Anastasis students, an exposure to art in all of it’s forms. We want to give our students the opportunity to “see” as someone else sees. This is what makes the Anastasis Arts Program so unique. It isn’t a quick introduction to some artistic principles, as so many arts programs are. This is a collection of opportunities to “see” the world through the eyes of artists. This is an invitation to see the world from new vantage points. The Anastasis Arts Program seeks to introduce students to a variety of arts, artists, and mediums. To notice the world around them through a new lens. To help them recognize that we are all artists. To realize that art is your being, not just a drawing or creation. That we are all artists. To appreciate the bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness that it takes to be an artist. That artists live the journey and follow curiosity, much in the way Anastasis students do every day through inquiry.

We are SO excited to kick off our new art program with the Toasting the Arts Fundraiser evening including hors d’oeuvers, drinks, and a silent auction. Not only will this be a fun night with friends, this is the first opportunity to raise the funds to make such an endeavor possible. We’ve got a Facebook event here https://www.facebook.com/events/1627683074136414/  (please invite all of your family and friends to attend as well!), we’ve got snail-mail invites (please let us know if you’d like a few of these invites to give out to friends/neighbors), and we’ve got an email invite (easy-peasy, just copy and paste the message below to send your own email invite…or forward on this email!).

Email invite:
Toasting the Arts

Please join us the evening of Saturday, September 12th at 7pm for hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a silent auction.

In lieu of purchasing tickets to the event, we ask that you consider making a monetary donation to the Anastasis Arts Program. Suggested donation range is $25-$500. Please give as you are comfortable.

Please RSVP by adding a comment to the bottom of this page: https://itrulycare.com/events/toasting-the-arts with your name and number attending.

We kindly ask that you keep this an “adults only” event and make other arrangements for your children for the evening.

If you are unable to attend please consider donating to our schools’ new program via the link above. Thank you!
Location: Anastasis Family and Friends Welcome!, 375 Shadycroft Drive Littleton Colorado 80120

The Power of Yet

|Kelly Tenkely|

I used to think that there would be an age where I would suddenly have it all figured out.  A certain age that I would turn and suddenly be “adult” and know exactly how to make investments, and do my job, pay taxes, change a tire, negotiate a deal, what to wear to a “business casual” event, what to say to someone who is hurting. I often observe others and find myself wondering, how do they have it all figured out? You know these people (maybe you are one), those who seem to know what to do and how to fit into any situation. The older that I get, the more I recognize that none of us really has it ALL figured out.

We are all in process.

There is freedom that comes with that realization and I find myself wondering how different the future would be for kids if they understood the power of yet.

We don’t know it…yet.
We haven’t mastered it…yet.

Yet is a powerful word. It allows for failure and mistakes, but it is a mistake with a promise. We will get better. It will become easier.

If kids recognize this as part of the learning process, failure doesn’t feel like an endpoint. It becomes part of the “yet” process.

Yet is a wonderful place to be. It is where possibility exists. It is where we find flow. It is the place learning happens. We shouldn’t be afraid of yet, but instead look at the hopeful optimism driven by yet.

So, when a child struggles, it isn’t because they can’t, but because they haven’t mastered it…yet.

At Anastasis we’re are declaring the last semester of school the “semester of yet.” We will challenge kids to think about what they will do to move their “yet” forward. How will they keep their “yet” from laying dormant or becoming stagnant?

Over the spring break, I’ve read two incredible books (both very much recommended): A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger and the smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley
Both books emphasize the importance of this idea of yet. Both books note the power of questioning to move that yet forward. Anastasis is a school powered by questions. The more I engage in the art of questioning, the more I recognize the importance of being a questioner. Questioning isn’t taught at most schools, nor is it rewarded (only the memorized answers are). There is an enormous amount of research that shows just how important the ability to question [well] is. “Questions are the engines of intellect-cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.” – David Hackett Fischer
Paul Harris, a child psychologist at Harvard, notes that children ask on average 40,000 questions between the ages of 2 to 5. These questions lead to a quadrillion connections (synapses) in the brain. This is more than 3 times the number of connections in the adult brain. Harris speculates that this decline is related to the decline of asking questions. Of recognizing the power of yet. Too often we begin to think of ourselves as experts. When you are an expert you stop thinking because you already know. Those who believe in yet know that there are always more questions, new angles and lenses to think about.

What makes Anastasis teachers unique among educators, is their understanding of the power of yet. They believe (with good reason) that your children are capable beyond a set of standards. They see genius in the yet.

As we enter into the last semester of the year, may you recognize the power of yet. It is what keeps us going as scientists, inventors, writers, artists, mathematicians, geographers, historians, and change makers. If you notice your kids running out of steam (it’s too hard, the expectation is too much, “I can’t”), remind them of the power of yet!

This year I’ve been reminded again and again by “experts” in education, parents, and visitors to Anastasis just how revolutionary what we do with your kids is. This is the school teachers dream of, reformers wish they could duplicate, and parents stretch to afford. Thank you for being such an enormous part of what makes Anastasis the amazing place that it is. We couldn’t do what we do without your support! As a school, we too continue to live in the power of yet.

Bring Me the Sunset- Student poem

Bring Me The Sunset
Morning Pages #48

By Katie Anderson

Bring me the sunset in a cup,
Fill it with pinks and oranges until it’s filled up.
Serve me a full moon onto a nice plate.
Some constellations on the side sure would be great.
Give me rain and snow into a bowl,
Some thunderclouds and lightning wouldn’t be dull.
I want rainbows and sunshine in my spoon,
Next to my fork with a little room.
These days come with weather, good and bad,
They can make you happy or drive you mad.
But at this moment, my life’s at halftime,
After all you always get rain before sunshine.

Becoming Fully Alive

|Kelly Tenkely|

Big, sweeping changes don’t seem to happen overnight, as quickly as we might like.  Thirty, forty, or a hundred years go into those sweeping changes: race relations, animal testing, women’s rights, recognition of addiction as a disease.  And yet, in each case, there was a turning point.  Those handful of pivotal moments when someone(s) decide it must be different and that in this moment in time, change will begin.

For me, this pivotal change happened in October of 2010.  Two years ago.  That moment of “it must be different” led to this school, Anastasis Academy.  In many ways, Anastasis feels like it happened over night (we started a school in 4 short months!) and in other ways, it feels like it will take years before the vision of Anastasis is realized.

Sweeping changes happen over time.  Often, they are hardly noticeable as they are happening.  This explains the 5 year old, struggling through their ABC’s who is ‘suddenly’ reading.  When did that happen?!

People often ask why I don’t write more about Anastasis.  The whole process has been incredibly organic and hard to describe to someone who isn’t seeing it unfold with us each day.  I can tell you about students who are becoming fully alive and discovering that they love learning.  Until you see this happen before you, until you hear the students talk about it, it is really a weak representation of what is happening.  Here we are in year two. In a lot of ways, it has felt like a harder beginning.  This is strange in light of what happened last year…starting a school in 4 months from a place of zero.  I think it feels harder because the vision of what could be is being more fully defined and dreamed up each day.  There is this sense of frustration that it isn’t here yet.

The change is hardly noticeable as it’s happening.  It is organic and creeping.  Sometimes I overhear students talking animatedly about figuring out ratios, and exclaiming over learning what portion of the population lives on less that $1.25/day, the change is happening.  The vision is being realized one moment at a time.  These kids are becoming fully alive.  Those teaching them are doing the same.  We hear parents and students describe what we do to others:

This is community.

This is family.

This is church.

This is Anastasis.

This is the beginning of sweeping change, where students can be fully alive and learn how to properly manage their freedom.

So, we will go on wishing that we could already see the full realization of this vision, but we will also rest in the hardly noticeable moments of change in this journey.  We will appreciate the moments in time that keep everything from happening at once.  We will rejoice as we watch it all unfold in it’s perfection. We will wait anxiously for the day when this type of learning is available to children everywhere in the world.

***While we wait, consider joining in this mission to help students be “fully alive” in their learning.  Donate and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.  This is the vehicle we will use to share this vision with ALL children.