Consciousness, Connections & Life Skills (CCLS)

What is CCLS?

This subject, originally called SCI or the Science of Creative Intelligence, has been part of the school since its inception and has gone through many changes over time. Eight years ago, there was a major overhaul of the curriculum based on alumni response. In 2018, the curriculum underwent a further change with the addition of SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and Comprehensive Health lessons to the curriculum. The name of the subject changed from SCI to CCLS (Consciousness, Connections, and Life Skills) to reflect this change. To expand on the name: Consciousness (the understanding and experience of consciousness through Transcendental Meditation), Connections (between different areas of life; interdisciplinary), and Life Skills (practical skills useful to everyday life, including SEL and sexual health).

The mission statement of the school is: To create an innovative, consciousness-based educational environment, where students think deeply and become creative,project period maharishi school compassionate, contributing citizens of the world.

There are four components of CCLS that directly teach to this mission statement: SCI (Science of Creative Intelligence), SEL (Social and Emotional Learning), the Comprehensive Health Curriculum (called Rights, Respect, and Responsibility), and Positive Discipline. We also have incorporated Restorative Justice talking circles.

What is SCI?

SCI (Science of Creative Intelligence) is the study of creativity and intelligence and principles found in everyday life that allow us to make connections between different fields of study and human experience. SCI deals primarily with the experience and understanding of consciousness.

  • The experiential part of this subject is that all the students practice Transcendental Meditation as part of curriculum every day in the morning and afternoon. (Students begin practicing TM starting in 4th grade. From ages 4 to 10, the students practice a simpler technique that is preparation for sit down meditation. Included in this program is a series of yoga asanas (postures) and a simple breathing exercise which serves to prime the nervous system for meditation, pranayama.
  • The theoretical or intellectual component involves an examination of the nature of consciousness, the relationship of consciousness to the physical world and the laws of nature. This exploration of consciousness is age-appropriate and occurs at all grade levels throughout the school, beginning in Preschool with more concrete activities and becoming more complex and theoretical in upper school.

What is SEL?

SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) in our Upper School consists of five main competencies as formulated by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). SEL is implemented differently at various grade levels, including the Preschool, Lower School, Middle School and Upper School.

  • Self-Awareness: the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.
  • Self-Management: the ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations.
  • Social Awareness: the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  • Relationship Skills: the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.
  • Responsible Decision-Making: the ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions.

Comprehensive Health Curriculum

We use the K-12 curriculum from Advocates for Youth called Rights, Respect, and Responsibility. This curriculum includes age-appropriate lessons that cover a wide range of health areas, including relationships and consent, STDs and contraception, dating abuse, etc. In Preschool, the students are taught early consent, boundaries, and becoming comfortable with using anatomically correct words to describe their bodies. In upper school, we do a couple lessons a month and design our own slide presentations to supplement the materials.

Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline is designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their communities. It teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for children and adults. In the summer of 2018, the school adopted Positive Discipline as part of our professional development program and invited a specialist to provide in-depth training. Our overall goal for positive discipline is to culture mutual respect between peers and adults, and to make sure all children are heard, respected, and intrinsically motivated.

  • In Preschool, the focus is on conflict resolution, but also includes understanding feelings, recognizing their own voice, making sure every child is heard, and maintaining boundaries, with class meetings or circles to facilitate communication.
  • In Lower School, the emphasis is on classroom management and conflict resolution.
  • In Middle School, communication skills and conflict resolution are the main focus.
  • In Upper School, many aspects of Positive Discipline (such as effective communication and problem-solving skills) are covered in the SEL curriculum and practiced in the classroom. Upper school also utilizes Restorative Justice talking circles and practices, which are much in line with Positive Discipline.

 

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Hands-On Learning in Middle School

Sheila Higgins gets Middle Schoolers hands dirty with hands-on learning

In my experience, middle school students naturally resonate with the open-ended structure of hands-on learning. They’re more excited about, engaged with, and invested in the learning process when they’re given the freedom to actively create their own knowledge, rather than passively consuming it.  Hands-on learning is an immersive experience that enhances a student’s ability to think critically and take ownership of their inquiries. Hands-on projects offer a safe space to make mistakes and learn organically through trial, error, and iterative thinking.

I love this approach to teaching because it creates the conditions for play, which is such a natural (and important!) way of engaging in authentic learning. While a hands-on model can take many forms, it’s essentially “learning by doing”–a practice that not only develops competency, but also strengthens the
qualities of curiosity, creativity, and collaboration within the learner. Students retain more
information about experiences that are memorable; for instance, investigating Newton’s Laws of Motion becomes much more engaging–and impactful–when they are physically explored in the context of a design challenge…rather than a traditional textbook lesson. In my 8th grade class, students design Balloon-powered Race Cars for a competitive engineering experience. Through this, their learning becomes a dynamic process in which scientific principles are explored in a real-world, immediate context.
I believe that learning is a lifelong process. Through hands-on projects, I hope to cultivate a sense of wonder and empowerment in my students’ approach to school.
Click here to watch Sheila’s Middle School class in action!

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Interviewing Science Teacher Asha Sharma

asha sharma

Asha demonstrating a lab to her students.

Learning about Asha

Growing up in a rural town in Rajasthan, India, I was a typical small-town girl. I cared for my family’s cattle and did many household chores, including making dung cakes for fuel. But I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to become more than a housewife. I wanted to learn about and explore the world of science. Even though girls were not encouraged to pursue education, I worked diligently to become the first girl in my large extended family of over 165 people to pursue a career in STEM and to attend a co-ed college. I graduated first division in my undergrad degree and was the only student selected from my state for the prestigious honor of working at AIIMS with one of India’s three electron microscopes.

Teaching science

asha teaching

Asha teaching.

When I worked at the Children’s House at Maharishi School, I loved watching the preschoolers explore the world around them with awe in their faces. They reminded me of my younger self and I felt elated to be able to feed their curiosity. As time went on, my role at Maharishi School changed, and now I’m teaching those same toddlers much more advanced topics in their high school science classes!

This year, I plan to focus on hands-on projects and labs rather than working through a textbook, because I know from my personal experience that exciting, tactile learning helps students retain the knowledge they’re learning for longer. They also enjoy seeing what they learned be put into action, allowing for a better understanding of the material.

maharishi school students wearing mask

Asha’s Science students working.

My long-term goals for teaching are to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with new skills and to give my students a memorable experience which will bring them joy, not sadness. Like everyone else, the biggest challenge I am currently facing is managing technology and tri-brid teaching (in-person, online, and remote). Because I teach 4 different classes and 3 different subjects where I keep switching between different classes and labs, I need multiple sets of technology (computers, webcams, microphones, etc.) for each period. I knew this would be a hassle both practically and monetarily, so I worked with our wonderful custodian to create a portable cart that transports all the necessary equipment between my classes. It’s like science on wheels!

Covid-19’s impact on her classroom

asha sharma science

Asha and her science cart, it says “Science is everywhere for everyone.”

As a teacher, when I think of school, I think of the joy of seeing students’ bright faces as they walk into my classroom, of watching the kids as they plan something mischievous (and maybe even joining in), and their excited faces as they work in the lab. When the Coronavirus hit, my lesson plans were thrown out the window and I was forced to find something fun and engaging that would prompt my students to hit the unmute button. Online, there were a limited number of projects and labs we could do, and I struggled to find the right balance between work and leniency in my lessons to fit everyone’s different workloads at home. So, it was a relief when we started hybrid learning, but in-person learning came with another set of problems.

Now, I had to figure out how to keep both students in person and online engaged all while dealing with new technology. I tackled the first challenge by joining many online webinars and finding many free online resources, like virtual labs. The second problem was a bit harder to fix due to the fact that I had four different rooms that had to be visually accessible to students, but with a little inspiration I came up with the solution of my science cart. Now, this cart is like my super handy tool and making my life way more easy and manageable.

To watch Asha in action, click here.

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Meet Our New Teachers: Michael Fitzgerald

Meet our new teacher

micehal fitzgerald computer teacherMichael Fitzgerald came to Fairfield in 2012 to attend MIU for his Bachelors in math with a computer science track and finished in 2016. Over the next several years he worked for a digital marketing company and went back to school to get a masters degree in software development. Michael saw that Maharishi School was looking for someone in tech support, however as soon as his skills became evident to the administration, we realized he was overly competent for the job. He was asked to teach a computer course, which he has now introduced to the middle school students as Technological and Digital Literacy 101.

 

What is Technological and Digital Literacy?

This is not your traditional computer science course. Technological and Digital Literacy focuses less on why computers do what they do but how to computer lab at schooluse and manipulate what’s in them for efficacy in learning. TDL is a class that teaches students how to interact in the tech world and use what’s already available in order to become fluent in technology. This is so important as we go further into schooling entirely online. Michael explains, “this course will prepare you for life. I look at this course as a woodworking, or home economics class, because once you learn that skill you will have it for the rest of your life. The more tech literate you become, the more you will understand new technologies with ease.”

 

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Why is STEM education important?

What is STEM

Why is STEM important?

STEM education helps break the traditional gender roles by increasing the amount of women and minorities that are able to access STEM-related careers.

“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” –National Science Foundation

STEM at Maharishi School

I got to speak with Kaye Jacob who is both a teacher and academic director of the Middle and High school students here at Maharishi School. Her thoughts on STEM skills are that they need to be seen as ends in themselves but for most students they are means to an end.  In other words, knowing how to use technology to access information and incorporate it into your life and work is essential to any student.

kaye jacobs talks about STEM

Kaye Jacob

“The S in STEM is apparent when the 7th graders drop containers out of windows to see if the egg inside will break or not–and equally when the upper school rocketry students send a rocket up into the air with the same objective–to protect the “payload” (an egg) which actually represents a human being in space travel.
I am writing this in my English class as three students are collaborating from their homes (one of them in Ecuador) in a Zoom break-out room and the rest are working in small groups on presentations for class tomorrow. They are sharing documents and resources related to a literature topic (Transcendentalism) but updating it with videos and powerpoint presentations.  To me, that is the T in STEM applied to my subject area.
I also like to emphasize that STEM should actually be STEAM, because the A needs to represent Art.  This year, we are offering traditional studio art with Susan Metrican to our Upper school students and also a more technical course in digital photography with Camille Morehead, who has a graphic design background.  We are hoping to combine forces with various applications of technology and art design in the future.”
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