"The state of quality of having roots, especially of being firmly established, settled, or entrenched; having a sense of place."

Disconnection seems to be such a relatable concept. We see this in families-busyness, separation, silence. We see this in consumption-agriculture, textiles, media. We see this in ourselves-mind and body. We see this in communities-race, economics, religion, politics. As the sense of disconnection grows, it seems to leave children in a vulnerable space. Not too far under the surface, we feel it. They feel it-the longing to belong, to be known, to be rooted.

As I traveled there was a notable difference in school communities seeking to help students be rooted in their identities, their bodies and their communities. This rootedness gave freedom to open dialogue, risk taking, failing, and belonging. There was a felt sense of ownership in their work, their classrooms, their neighborhoods, and their cities. This rootedness was releasing hope, was producing joy, and was bringing freedom.

While at Roots Elementary in Denver, I observed students talking through being rooted in themselves when they felt angry. They discussed how to be present with their feelings and their bodies while preserving relationship with their classmates. Roots was cultivating a safety in their school community which allowed students to be honest, present, and settled. 

Austin Discovery School took weekly hikes, had school gardens, and integrated eco-friendly practices to give students a sense of connectedness to the earth. Brooklyn Waldorf School used dance, knitting, and woodwork to cultivate pathways between the body and the brain. 

Schools like LREI, Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, and SF Schoolhouse spent time studying their communities. This invited children to know their neighbors, to be part of local commerce, to be place holders and place makers. They listened and learned. They saw ways to bring beauty, hope and change. They were learning to be rooted in a place, to care about what would grow up in their neighborhoods, and to let themselves be planted in ways that offered life.

Brightworks is giving their year to this narrative. They are inviting students to understand the history of our relationships with one another, with strangers, with the earth. They are exploring way disconnection has uprooted people and places, values and rituals. They are creating ways to return and reimagine what it would be to be a rooted community-connected to themselves, connected to each other, connected to the world.

As I think about Odyssey Young Leaders Academy, I deeply want our learners to be rooted. I want them to know deeply who they are and have the freedom to be and become fully themselves.  I want OYLA to be a community with such safety students are truly able to settle in and feel a deep sense of place and belonging. I want each learner to forego surface knowledge and fact memorization to pursue understanding which cultivates deep academic roots. I want them to really get to the root of things-of math, science, and history, of global dilemmas and innovative ideas-because that is the best starting place for things to grow up and not be easily swept away.  We are weaving this longing for rootedness into the rituals of our days at OYLA because we believe it is critical, in the midst of a generations suffering from mass disconnection, to cultivate a new generation so deeply rooted the life coming up in their lives offers a tangible hope to our world.