It’s a brand new day at the three StarShine Academies in Phoenix, Arizona and CEO Trish McCarty and Principal Jan Shoop are a long way from home. Back in Arizona, the children are all learning, the teachers are teaching and the sun is shining brightly.

Here we were in England, training the first group of StarShine facilitators, at Broughton Castle, where Shakespeare in Love starring Joseph Fiennes was filmed, and whose near relatives are the current Lords of the Manor.

There was a roaring fire. Everyone sat around in armchairs and lounges. And the interactive computer system was displayed on a portable screen, mounted on a table. More like morning tea than a training room.

The StarShine teacher enhancement program is now offered on the Zing platform to make it easy for new facilitators to learn to apply the 16 StarShine Principles, to use brain science to get students in the mood for learning.

Here are the principles:

  • Every person born is unique and perfect and on their own road to discovering their dreams and highest calling.
  • We are on the planet to help one another toward achieving individual goals for the Greater Good of All.
  • We each do the best that we can on each day, depending on what we know and understand, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy.
  • Music is the first language.
  • Beautiful, safe environments that are clean and include art, music and nature inspire creativity and help to secure man’s sustainability.
  • Teaching and learning gardening is a necessary part of becoming one with nature and the environment and is a means for personal health and community building.
  • Celebrating local culture and global diversity allows for a rich life.
  • Practice Connect versus Convince; Exercise Compassion versus Judgment, Love versus Fear.
  • Individuals practice being ambassadors for their own country as well as a country other than their own.
  • Co-learning demonstrates that every person is a teacher and every teacher is a student.
  • Financial literacy fosters hope, belief and abundance as it facilitates a wise use of assets.
  • Partnering and mentoring fosters interdependence toward building common ground, as in “the world agrees on time so everyone can communicate.”
  • Holistic explains that each event reinforces all. The pursuit of success and happiness, both individually and collectively, must include body, mind, spirit, health and wealth.
  • Leveraging technology facilitates connecting people; personal contact is vital.
  • World peace is a result of individual peace.

StarShine kids are very special. Many left their previous schools under a cloud. Most come from poor or dysfunctional families who live in what used to be some of the most problematic neighbourhoods of Phoenix.

Every day, StarShine celebrates new possibilities and achievements as a community. Each morning, everyone attends an Opening Ceremony. Every afternoon there is a Closing Ceremony before going home.

StarShine focuses on hope. Teachers and students work together in Mastermind groups to help each other build on our strengths and achieve our goals. Everyone creates a personal Visionboard and leafs through a dozen or so glossy magazines, to find pictures or headlines that resonate with what they would love to happen differently in our lives. Teachers work alongside their students, to update their Vision Board and share their dreams.

In this way young people develop a sense of purpose in their lives and confidence in meeting people. When  you go to a StarShine school don’t be surprised to be greeted by a student who offers to shake your hand and introduce him or herself. “Good morning. I’m Paul Smith and I am going to be a scientist. How can I help you?”

Everyone on the course at Broughton Castle was encouraged to use one or more StarShine principles as part of a learning activity they would facilitate for the group. One participant chose Music is the First Language, and asked us to describe how music has made an amazing contribution to our lives. As the contributions were read aloud and acknowledged, tears welled up in many eyes. Here’s what some had to say:

* Music has often been my friend when all other things seemed to go.  It is what I dance to, clean to, relax to, cry to, motivate myself often to, and even work with.  To me music is my emotional companion and friend.
* Classical music slows my thoughts down and expands my mind. popular music can be uplifting. anthems make me cry.
* Music is definitely my first language, I love to listen to uplifting powerful music and also calming meditative music, I love singing and dancing to music, music that is full of life.
* I love to dance and I feel the rhythm through me
* I use certain rock songs for energy and inspiration…lyrics matter to me as much as the ‘sound’.  Some are profound and really connect me back to myself.  Also use chanting music regularly  for relaxing and meditating, boosting energy and refocusing.
* Music is a mental and historical anchor. At different moments past, certain songs have an emotional significance as you feel certain feelings.

Here’s a sample of some of the activities from the StarShine Teacher Enhancement program that speaks to the 13 StarShine principles and is available on the Zing platform.

1. Thumbprints – ask another person “What five things about you are really unique? Report what you have discovered/learned.
2. Help one another – Turn to the person next to you and ask what they currently most need. Discuss how you might be able to achieve their goals in some way. Report back – their goal and how you could help them.
3. Thinking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what for could/should we focus on today that might better meet your needs?
4. Thinking about each of the points of the star – body, mind, spirit, health and wealth – describe an activity where we could practise all or most of the aspects at the same time.
5. The garden is at the centre of StarShine. In what ways could gardening and nurturing connect us to nature and our community?
6. What kinds of activities/events/ceremonies could we engage in to celebrate local culture and global diversity e.g. 11 days of peace and sustainability, 9/11 to 9/21, taking care of animals?
7. How could you convert shame, blame and victim stories into proactive life stories, where you decide where your life is going instead of reliving the past?

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