The five guiding principles of the school are (1) academic and artistic excellence; (2) values, ethics, and spiritual development necessary for thoughtful citizenship in a pluralistic, democratic society; (3) service as a way of learning; (4) participation in the life of the school and the community through stewardship of the environment; and (5) creative partnerships in sustaining public education. Now entering its fourth year, the school is a thriving model of the school's vision, mission, and guiding principles and currently serves 180 students in grades K through 5.
INTENTIONAL SPIRITUAL EDUCATION
By intentionally incorporating spiritual education into the school experience of all who attend and are touched by EBCC, the school honors the discovery and pursuit of the core meaning and purpose of one's life; the pursuit of a vision of life that offers meaning and connection to others; the recognition that a spiritual vision becomes a center from which a person interprets and finds meaning in experiences of every kind; the development of a moral compass to guide one's behavior; and the capacity for experiencing wonder and humility in the face of mysteries.
The major tenets of the school consist in finding ways to encourage and foster the spiritual development of each child, to assist each child in understanding the historical community and family elements that have shaped him or her in this respect, and to be cognizant of the way this is modeled in the lives of faculty, staff, and parents. In a pluralistic, urban culture, students and faculty bring to the school community a rich variety of spiritual and moral traditions, some broadly shared and some not. The school seeks to build upon this richness, finding ways to engender core values basic to the school community: honesty, caring, courage, pursuit of truth, ability to listen with respect and empathy to those from different backgrounds. The school finds these to be common virtues for the flourishing of the school community and public life. Working to nurture these virtues and helping students to appreciate and practice still others constitutes the ethical dimension. The premise of nurturing these virtues is that to be a human being is to have moral propensities and a core spiritual vision. If one is not aware of developing and integrating this vision, if one is not clear and articulate about it, then one is not fully empowered as a person. The school is dedicated to bringing this type of spiritual literacy to the surface and seeing it as something essential to well-being and about which we become educated.
ESTABLISHING SCHOOL ROUTINES AND RITUALS
The task of the EBCC Charter School has been to develop a school culture-a balance of structure, discipline, and caring-that helps carry the vision and mission forward. Procedures and ground rules guide students in the hallways, the playground, and the classrooms. Routines and rituals engender a spiritual dimension and bring students, teachers, and families closer together. These include morning gatherings in silence, service-learning projects from reading with senior residents to planting neighborhood gardens, and weekly assemblies to honor the accomplishments of the whole school community.
The spiritual and ethical aspects of school life are embedded in the daily life routines of the school. As examples, the curriculum is integrated across academic disciplines; periods of silence center on important goals of the day; oral expressions of personal family stories and interests are shared; the stories of others and of various traditions are shared; play and creative activity are built into the school life through arts, physical activities, and special projects; and learning through service occurs in the broader community. In addition, students develop a clear understanding of their values and priorities; they build habits that support the community values of truth seeking, courage, caring, honesty, and respect; they gain knowledge of histories and stories from many cultures; they develop in writing and participation in music and the arts; and they gain knowledge and respect for the environment.
SPEAKING FROM THE HEART, PRACTICING THANKS
As the EBCC Charter School journey continues, putting the mission of spiritual development within the context of service learning and a solid, yet creative academic program into concrete practice will be the "ultimate test" of its success. Now in its fourth year, the EBCC Charter School is striving to fully realize its vision of spiritual development for all its students.
What is clear is that the school is moving in the right direction and provides a compelling example for other public schools. In the end, perhaps this is the heart of the EBCC Charter School's vision for all students-a simple sense of spirituality that is carried throughout their lives.