Mission and Vision
Our Core Values and Mission
To inspire each other to do our best in service to all relations.
1st Value: Service To All Relations
Our school community members will develop the character, skills, self-awareness and attitudes to live in balance in the world, and to serve all our relations. Since this value is built into our name as a school, it is clearly one of our foundational values. "Service To All Relations" recognizes, that we have many relations that matter -- and that being helpful in those relations is a worthy goal. In fact, it recognizes, in the indigenous way -- that, we are related to all things in nature: plants, animals,, rocks, rivers, mountains, the sun and the wind. Referring to our home planet and the atmosphere that sustains us -- as Mother Earth and Father Sky - are two ways of recognizing this, that are taught in Navajo culture.
Navajo kinship and clanship (K’e’) is also a way of recognizing this. "Service To All Relations" helps us to remember that we are all interconnected. So, while it is certainly true ,that Service To All Relations is about being kind and compassionate to ourselves, and one another -- the deeper understanding is that, since we are all interconnected: "Whatever we do to others, we are doing to ourselves." Navajo elders -- as well as elders of many other indigenous peoples -- have frequently taught us: that we are connected to all of nature; that we have a very real relationship with our home planet, and with all the animals and plants that live with us on this planet, and, we ignore that relationship at our peril.
2nd Value: "The 4 R’s" = Respect, Relationship, Responsibility, and Reasoning
Respect is demonstrated by: active listening; (SLANT) allowing the expression of emotion without ridicule; honoring each other’s ability to make up our own mind about something; acting to make sure that personal space and possessions, are treated with dignity; Respect allows us to recognize that each person has something to offer; each person has value - even if we don’t see right away what their value is. At its highest level, Respect may be thought of as the ability to see and acknowledge the light and beauty in each person’s face -- including our own.
Relationship is demonstrated by: exercising K’e’ (acknowledging to one another how you are related by clan and that “my relations are my medicine”); doing your best to “love your brother as you love yourself"; doing your best to communicate clearly and empathetically with one another; helping the group you are working in, to progress toward a worthwhile goal. At its highest level, Relationship is recognizing that the other person or being, is not separate from me -- but that we are interconnected.
Responsibility is demonstrated by: doing what you say you are going to do; continually working to improve your performance; willingly taking on a job or duty that you believe is going to help someone; showing others that you are “able to respond” if a need arises for someone to help; going “the extra mile” when someone needs help; looking for ways in which you can make a situation better and then acting on it without being told. Sometimes we show our being responsible by protecting, those who are weaker or in danger; sometimes we show our being responsible by nurturing, those who need to know they are cared for. In order to be responsible, we need to be able to either protect or nurture -- depending on the person and situation.
Reasoning is demonstrated by: thinking things through, before you act; talking things through, instead of resorting to violence; trying to clarify what the facts are, in any problem-solving situation; continually making efforts to improve -- when presented with facts, or another viewpoint that makes sense.
3rd Value: "Expecting Excellence in Preparation of our Students for Life"
As a school, one of our main purposes is to prepare our students academically for further success in school (in our case, in high school or college). This means, doing our best to meet students’ learning needs, so that they can perform at or above grade level, in all major subjects. We also strive to keep challenging our staff and students, so that we can help students discover what they are passionate about learning, and help them get truly excited about learning . We keep striving to improve our teaching techniques , teaching materials, and classroom management -- so that we can see steady improvement in students’ academic skills and knowledge. We pay attention to data, and we do our best to respond to the data, with meaningful ways to enhance student performance, within the context of our school values. One of the recent outcomes -- of looking at our data -- has resulted in the extension of our highly successful math instruction program in the preschool, using Montessori materials -- into grades K through 3. We are convinced that high-quality early childhood education is a vitally important part in the success of our students.
We must consider the development of the physical, emotional -- and, yes, spiritual aspects -- of each child, in addition to their mental development.
The spiritual aspects we must consider: Although, as a school, it is not our job to teach the students in any particular spiritual set of teachings -- we recognize that students who do have this guidance at home or in the community, tend to do better in school -- so we welcome opportunities for students to express themselves spiritually, in whatever way they choose.
The physical aspects we must consider include: the food students eat at school, the amount of exercise we involve them in, the amount of outside activity we involve students in, how safe our environment is for students, and, healthy habits we help students develop.
The emotional aspects we must consider include: the ability of students to work cooperatively with one another, the ability of students to resolve conflicts peaceably with one another, and, the emotional safety students feel at school (free from excessive teasing and taunting).
All of these social-emotional and physical factors contribute to students’ readiness to learn.
Staff Members Must Create This Atmosphere
In order to create a school-wide atmosphere to support this, all staff members at the school must seek to create this same atmosphere -- in how we treat one another. One of the attributes of The STAR School that may make it unusual, is that we firmly believe, that we adults must treat one another in a way that reflects -- not only how we would like to be treated -- but also, how we expect the children to treat one another.
In the words of Ghandi...
“We must BE the change we wish to see in the world.”
4th Value: "Honoring our Place and Place-Based Education"
We are a little rural school, located on the edge of the Navajo Nation, serving a population of students that is almost entirely Navajo. Since the late 1800’s, this area has been the scene of much interaction -- and some conflict -- between Navajos, Hopis and Anglos. It is on the interface between cultures. The area where the school is built, is also the edge of the pinion/juniper forest, as it turns into the high desert, about 20 miles east of Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks, which are known in Navajo as "Dook’o’oosliid". The whole area is part of the Colorado Plateau -- which extends not only across the Navajo Nation, to the north and east, but also to the west -- including the Grand Canyon. It is an area of incredible cultural, botanical, and geographic diversity -- and awesome beauty.
The STAR School ‘s location in this place is purposeful -- so, it is part of our core values to honor this place -- the people, the plants and the animals who live here, and have lived here -- as well as the cultures that have grown out of this land.
How Do we Demonstrate "Honoring Our Place"?
Even though our area is quite arid -- and farming and gardening is challenging -- indigenous people have lived in this area for many centuries, and have successfully supported their families and communities, without food being brought, from anywhere else. Thus, one of the goals at STAR, is to weave into our curriculum:
lessons in the uses of native plants, in the area
local knowledge, in how to successfully farm and garden
how to provide nutritious food to the local population.
As technologies develop, however, it is entirely appropriate to gather and use local knowledge that is more recent.
For example, the co-founders of the school lived for 20 years on a ranch near the school using only solar and wind power. This knowledge and experience has been utilized -- and expanded -- at the STAR School, in the form of robust solar arrays and wind turbines. The most recent three wind turbines at the school, were in fact first designed by a man who developed them, while he lived only a few miles from where the school now stands.
Thus, not only is it an expectation that the STAR curriculum will utilize knowledge developed locally -- but, that we will help students advance that knowledge -- and share it with the community.
Learning to Love Learning
Learning doesn’t stop when students walk out of the school. To be truly successful, we all need to continue to learn throughout our lifetime. We want our students to become enthusiastic and independent learners with a healthy thirst for knowledge and ability to find answers to their questions. Therefore, STAR School teachers assist students by example and through planned activities to develop their intrinsic motivation to learn.
This aspect of learning also recognizes the importance of emotions in our learning and focuses on the development of character. Students learn through both school and community activities at all grade levels. They practice giving and receiving respect, honor, and compassion for themselves and others. All staff members contribute to the STAR School environment where students give and receive emotional support for learning.
This aspect of learning focuses on individual and team problem solving. Students will learn, through academic and physical activities, how problems can be identified, clarified, and solved through teamwork and the application of each person’s skills. All staff contribute to the STAR School environment where confidence is developed to solve problems by working together.
Learning Through Communication
This aspect of learning focuses on the importance of skills in reading, writing, speaking, and the use of technology to communicate. Students will learn to acquire information from others by developing their research skills. Students will also learn to communicate to others what they have learned or what they wish to learn, by developing skills in writing, speaking, and use of the Internet. Teachers will teach the skills necessary for students to be active participants in the information age.
Community Based Learning
This aspect of learning emphasizes that the STAR School is focused on place-based learning and sustainability. The unique geological characteristics of the Little Colorado River Valley and the volcanic hills east of Flagstaff, Arizona define the physical location. The impact of Navajo traditions and history, the history of sheepherding and cattle ranching accompanied by the many families in the area living without support of public utilities, many using alternative energies , define the culture of this area. The wildlife in the area, like the pronghorn herds, coyotes, and eagles, as well as native plants and trees, the limited precipitation and abundant sunshine, define the natural resources of this place. All of these factors, as well as the specific characteristics of families in the area, form the context of place-based education for the STAR School. Educational efforts to teach sustainability are rooted within the physical, cultural and natural characteristics. Science and social studies instruction are particularly influenced by community based learning.
This aspect of learning emphasizes that learning can be creative and exploratory. Students are encouraged to express themselves in arts and crafts, sports and martial arts, music and theater, service learning activities, and in projects of their own choosing. Teachers facilitate situations in which students learn from artists and musicians and performers who share their creativity with the students.