“The idea that the spiritual and the natural are opposed or that spirituality must always transcend nature is a culturally relative concept not shared by non-monotheistic religions or traditional societies. In indigenous cultures around the world the natural world is regarded as the realm of spirit and the sacred; the natural is the spiritual. From this follows an attitude of respect, a desire to maintain a balanced relationship…-in short, sustainability.”
The most extraordinary display of all is created by a tiny, drab male pufferfish. He builds a spectacular submarine 'crop circle' in the sand. It's the most perfect and complex structure created by any animal. The crop circles were only discovered in southern Japan in 1995 and the fish architect was only identified in 2011.
The Pufferfish (order of Tetraodontiformes) has a truly majestic kind of courtship, creating a massive ‘mandala’ on the sea floor with its fins. This project takes nearly a week of non-stop effort in which it works day and night. The result is evocative. Please enjoy this short video on an incredibly artistic fish.
“There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays to the devil…Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.”
- Alfred North Whitehead, Mathematician, 1929
How does a robin know to fly south? The answer might be weirder than you think: Quantum physics may be involved. Jim Al-Khalili rounds up the extremely new, extremely strange world of quantum biology, where something Einstein once called “spooky action at a distance” helps birds navigate, and quantum effects might explain the origin of life itself.
This is very much worth watching! Dr. Jim Al-Khalili is a noted quantum physicist, and has been recipient of several prestigious science awards. He is an important contributor to public discourse within the emerging scientific field of “quantum biology.” His work is helping to open new frontiers around the role of quantum phenomena in our understanding of the question “What is life?” This 16-minute TED talk is beautiful and profound.
“Disciplines, it now seems clear, are powerful but constraining ways of knowing. As conceptual frames, they delimit the range of research questions that are asked, the kinds of methods that are used to investigate phenomena, and the types of answers that are considered legitimate.”
- Dr. Lisa Lattuca, Creating Interdisciplinarity: Research and Teaching among College and University Faculty
Adventure Scientists equips partners with a global network of trained volunteers — from mountaineers to surfers — who collect research-grade, hard-to-reach data in extreme environments.
We had an inspiring day of learning and tending in Stewardship this past Thursday. We had rich discussions about microtrash and it's impact on the watershed both locally and worldwide. Students helped serve the land by spreading out to their stewardship zones and picking up as much trash as they could. We ended the day with some fun skits about microtrash impact and we started the day with the video above. Please watch this quick 2-minute video. We hope it sparks a conversation with your child about their impact on the world.
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
- Mary Oliver, Poet
A small group of high school students explore the wilderness of the eastern United States during a 6-month semester at Kroka Expeditions. Led by Kroka founder Misha Goldman, they discover peer connection, self-sufficiency, and themselves.
As noted above, one of our beloved high school juniors, Rubey-Grace Carey (who also happens to be Ms. Jennifer’s daughter), is traveling to Ecuador as part of Kroka Expeditions, based out of New Hampshire. Watch this excerpt from the documentary “Mother Nature’s Child,” which featured this segment about Kroka’s Vermont Semester. You will get a strong sense of the deep community this program generates for participating youth. Enjoy!
“Our education already suffers from a surfeit of facile, simplistic answers which serve to explain away the phenomena, and hence to deaden the imagination and dull the intellect…To me, science is a quest for the most intimate understanding of nature. It is not an industry set up for the purpose of validating existing theories and indoctrinating students in the correct ideologies…It is the enigmas, the mysteries and paradoxes that take hold of the imagination, leading it on the most exquisite dance."
- Dr. Mae Wan Ho, Biochemist, Geneticist, and Author
Transformative Experiences Need a Listening Ear. Having someone to listen, intentionally and with curiosity, deepens the experience, leading to the "aha!" moments. Those who are really listened to and are then asked good and thoughtful questions, grow to become leaders.
In each Manzanita Message, we provide a link to an inspiring video. These videos often relate to our unique curriculum, or simply help to inform our vision as a school. We encourage all parents to watch these videos. We build this community together by staying connected with the ideas, theories, and understandings shaping our school. In this short clip, one of our school’s mentors, Jon Young, speaks to a local Topanga audience shortly after the school opened in 2014.
“To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples who still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion. Nor is this power restricted solely to animals. The whispered hush of the uncut grasses at dawn, the plaintive moan of trunks rubbing against one another in the deep woods, or the laughter of birch leaves as the wind gusts through their branches all bear a thicket of many-layered meanings for those who listen carefully.”
- David Abram, Becoming Animal
When she found an injured bee in her garden, this woman took her in and was surprised when she got so attached to her. Today on Soulmates, watch how Bee and her mom developed such an unusual, special bond.
Many of us have had otherworldly encounters with animals, those touching moments when the ropes of connection with the more-than-human world are built. Please enjoy this sweet video about a woman who befriended a most unusual little creature.
“Due to a complex variety of social and historical reasons, a core feature of the Euro-American psyche is a dissociative split between spirit and nature. We have a deeply ingrained belief that our spiritual life, our spiritual practices, must tend in a direction opposite to our nature. Spirit, we imagine, rises upward, into transcendent realms, whereas nature, which includes bodily sensations and feelings, draws us downward. Spirit is not only separated from nature, but incompatible and opposed. The human spirit is then always regarded as superior to the animal nature. By the time of the Protestant reformation, the idea was firmly implanted in almost everybody’s mind that we have to overcome our ‘lower’ animal instincts and passions and conquer the body in order to be spiritual and attain ‘heaven’ or ‘enlightenment.’ This image says that in order to enter into the city of God, the divine realms, you have to work against your nature; this was called the opus contra naturam… The idea that the spiritual and the natural are opposed or that spirituality must always transcend nature is a culturally relative concept not shared by traditional societies. In indigenous cultures around the world the natural world is regarded as the realm of spirit and the sacred; the natural is the spiritual.”
- Ralph Metzner, American Psychologist, Writer and Researcher
The Danish skylight manufacturer Velux, has produced an interesting (and somewhat sensational) promotional piece that highlights the challenges for human beings who spend so much time inside closed buildings. It has some provocative ideas, and I want to share it here.
“At the heart of every adolescent experience is an exquisite opening to spirit –an awakening of energy when larger questions of meaning and purpose, of ultimate beginnings and endings, begin to press with both an urgency and a loneliness too powerful to be dismissed as ‘hormones.’”
- Rachel Kessler, Writer
After viewing the 90-minute documentary "Inhabit," the 7th-8th-9th grade students at Manzanita School offered their spontaneous reflections on this film.
In the Spring of our opening year, Dr. Paul’s 7th-8th-9th grade class watched the documentary “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective.” This film inspired some of the first permaculture work by our students. As part of their studies, they described their feelings watching this film.
“By what name will future generations know our time? Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth’s capacity to sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet’s resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population? Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and Earth?”
- David Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (2006)
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Philosopher
The first “Manzanita Narrative,” will be sent home digitally this Friday, February 13th. This report constitutes our assessment of each child’s progress during the first half of the year at our school. The midpoint of the year is upon us (Feb 12th), and we have covered much ground, explored many miles, and encountered many thoughts, ideas, and possibilities. Manzanita is a new school, having opened its doors this past September 3rd.
We are committed to moving the educational conversation towards a more relevant and responsive educational paradigm. Our youth are not the sum of their cognitive competencies any more than a flower is the sum of it’s varied colors. We live in a world and time that asks us to become all that we are destined to be. The challenges that currently abound, and which are hurling towards us from a not-too-distant future are real and substantial and yet we hold tremendous gifts, powers, and potentials to meet them with resilience, creativity, and competence. We join together at Manzanita as families and staff with a common intention to prepare ourselves and our youth to be fully engaged, fully expressive, and fully activated people in this emerging world. We live in a time that will require nothing less of us all.
I offer this introduction to our Narrative as a challenge to the current and still-prevailing paradigms of learning that emerged in the last 120 years, and which sprung from an Industrial Era that defined the worth and competency of a person by their measured cognitive capacities. We still live fully imbedded in a time where an “honors student” need not have actual honor. Yet we also see within the world of business and higher education a growing appreciation for much a broader skill set than what K-12 schooling values and tests. Future employers and college admissions counselors are asking for creative, imaginative, motivated, inspired, and competent young people. They are looking for team-players and school/job applicants who possess interpersonal competencies. This is our world, and things are moving very quickly. In just the last 10 years, over half of U.S. colleges have become ‘test optional,’ meaning that ACT/SAT scores are not required to apply. As professor Christine Cozzens from Agnes Scott College explains, “our desire is to see every applicant as a whole, complex person with many gifts and qualities and not as numbers.”
As we explore outcomes of the Manzanita experience in the mid-year Narrative, we offer evidence for areas where growth is occurring, where obstacles are encountered, and where passions seem most engaged for each student. We value much more than what are often the narrowly defined purposes of education. To thrive in the present world, one must be articulate and literate, reading and writing complexly and skillfully. One must also be empathetic and a good listener, able to navigate an often abrupt and unpredictable human world. To explore the wonders of modern science, or to enter the ordered world of business, one must have strong number sense and mathematical skill, yet one must also be intuitive, inspired, and interpersonally engaged to fully embrace the promise of science or business. To appreciate the economic, ecological, and social challenges of our time, one must study history and humanities, yet one must also feel deeply that one belongs to this earth and that one is kin to the varied human cultures sharing our planet, as well as the myriad non-human species under our stewardship.
Stepping out of the old and into the new can prickle our senses, and even unnerve us. We must hold fast to the deep knowing that things are changing quickly, and new paradigms are the seeds for miraculous changes ahead. We all possess an old wisdom already, one that will foster the full range of gifts, beauty, and potential within our emerging youth, and within this unfolding world.
There is no substitute for a ‘well-rounded’ person in the 21st century, and yet ‘well-rounded’ must be imagined as a sphere extending fully outward into the reaches of both time and space, as well as inward to the core of one’s inborn genius and intrinsic gift. There is room there for stories of ancestors, myths of interspecies kinship, and dreams of a more connected and compassionate world. We are so much more than the monochromatic limitations of an education born and bred in the too-sterile world of the Industrial Revolution. It is time for a new way to educate our young. That time is now.