November 18, 2009

What’s your Power Animal? Eastern Sun Academy students explain.

A charming video of Eastern Sun Academy students, via Boulder’s The Daily Camera. Contemplative education—education focused on the whole child, not simply on the learning and recitation of knowledge—is the key to becoming a well-balanced, well-adjusted grown up. It’s also more fun.

I grew up attending Vidya, a Buddhist-founded school open to all. We studied flower arranging, Japanese meditative archery, meditation…and we excelled in academics and sports. We wore uniforms—a surprise to some of those who would think such a school would be “hippie”—and we were kind to one another. I, for example, was a proud, sensitive nerd—and yet I had plenty of friends…until I went to a normal school, after Vidya, and had to learn how to toughen up, swear, and fight back.

Via the Eastern Sun Academy web site:

Education is a journey that has the potential to draw forth the tremendous potential that lies in each and every one of us. In our educational model, the three journeys – intelligence, compassion and confidence – are perceived on two levels. On an ultimate level, the journeys are the inherent qualities in each individual, entirely perfected in their own right. On a relative level, the journeys are the path one travels toward full understanding of one’s own qualities. At Eastern Sun Academy, the students’ educational journey is supported by that of the parents and teachers, who must embody and model a life long desire to grow and fully manifest their own potential if the students’ are to become passionate about their education.


In order to function skillfully in the world, one must have a strong mind. The journey of intelligence cultivates the mind of each student as he or she progresses through the different stages of cognitive development. Cognitive growth starts as in infancy with a mind inseparable from the world. As a student journeys through stages of concrete, critical, and systems thought, the potential to understand oneself and the world is progressively illuminated. Ultimately the student understands and experiences both the particulars and the relationships between all things with depth and insight.


In order to have a connection to the world, one must have an open heart. The journey of compassion cultivates emotional and social intelligence through an understanding of how human beings experience themselves and their world through successive stages of life. Human development begins with being at one with the world and organically unfolds out into wider circles of individuation and, ideally, with an ever widening sense of belonging as well. When a student individuates without the context of community, the potential for isolation can create a threat to a child’s connection to the world and ability to stay open-hearted. Opportunities for self-awareness and to be touched deeply by the world are harnessed by an education that keeps students bonded within a community. At Eastern Sun Academy, seeds of compassion are nurtured so that students never lose their connection with the world and always keep a heartfelt wish to make a difference.


To be able to take action with a clear mind and open heart,one must have a sense of being able to stand on one’s own feet and to take one’s own counsel. The journey of confidence connects students fully with their own experience and their own sense of who they are. Through contemplative practices and disciplines that correspond with the child’s developmental stages, the student begins to have a self-assurance born from realizing the workability of all situations. The student becomes familiar with self-reflection and confident to face themselves and others.

“A group of third and fourth graders at Eastern Sun Academy took after school lessons for 9 weeks in the spring, in addition to their regular in school marimba class. The students are playing the song Dudaluza, by composer Dumisani Maraire on the marimba. The marimba is basically a giant wooden xylophone from the African country of Zimbabwe.

Eastern Sun Academy is an independent non-profit elementary school for contemplative education. All students learn marimba during the school year, starting in first grade. Diane Michel is the instructor, and is also part of the local Boulder marimba group, Pick Up Sticks.”

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