By Krestin Bahr “I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”……Nathaniel Hawthorne Daylight hours shrink and temperatures drop, but before winter freezes the mountains of the Cascades: Mt. Rainier comes to life for a few weeks of painted glory, the beloved fall. The deep reds, bright yellows, and burnt oranges that give our town a festive flair have been dazzling local residents since long before the first European settlers developed our town. Though we have a modern scientific explanation for why leaves change color, some of us prefer to dive into the legends of Washington state’s first inhabitants. Unfortunately, written accounts of the legends are hard to come by – I would like to share one of my favorite Native American stories about autumn. Chasing the Great Bear In ancient times, three young men, the bravest hunters in the world, set out with their dog to track a bear at the first snowfall. The bear had made crisp paw prints in the cold, fresh crystals, leaving a trail that the hunters could track with ease. Each print pushed deep into the snow and covered a wide area: this bear would be huge, a worthwhile catch. After months of following, the men began to lose confidence. The bear had led them across the globe, from the east where the sun rises to the west where it sets. All of the best hunting techniques had failed them, and eventually, they realized the bear was leading them away from their homeland, up into the sky. The hunters called out to each other and tried to turn back, but it was too late to return to the ground. All they had left then was the hunt, so they vowed to speed up and catch the bear. After days of straining and fatigue, never stopping to eat or sleep, the hunters were on the brink of collapse when they finally caught up and killed the bear. It had been almost a year; autumn was upon them again. They slew and cleaned the bear, laying it on a bed of oak and sumac branches. Its blood stained the leaves red, and this is why leaves of these trees turn red in the fall. The hunters scattered parts of the bear they couldn’t use toward different ends of the earth. The bear’s backbone formed a constellation to the north, its head to the east, both of which can be seen on the midnight horizon in the middle of winter. I love this Native American story because it brings humans a little closer to the wonders of the natural world. Another version also explains the Little Dipper from a Native American perspective: three of the stars in the cup represent the bear, while the four that form the handle are the hunters with their dog in tow. The constellation is visible year-round because the hunters are eternally chasing the bear. The next time you’re atop a mountain in Washington or gazing at the stars, you can think back to this Native American story about autumn and remember that the bear and the hunters are keeping you company in the sky. Stories are made up to explain how we interpret the world. Stories that are told over time makes memories that become a legend. Eatonville schools has spent the last two months getting to know your child and spending time understanding strengths and areas to focus on for academic standards and social emotional supports. Our schools have been explicit about our mission ” and vision”. Over the last three years, we have added after school clubs and sports such as yoga, art and middle school and adopted and implemented new math and literacy curriculum. We have established new music curriculum and materials. As an Innovative District as identified by OSPI for 2016, our schools have had permission to add a variety of new classes such as coding, Computer Science at the middle and high school. We have added many new programs this year and many new faces in the classroom which has been exciting. To add to this excitement, the Eatonville School Board of Directors have been named as a Small School WSSDA Board of Distinction. The Boards of Distinction recognition program provides a multi-year approach to demonstrate alignment with the Washington School Board Standards, focusing on three benchmarks per year. For 2016, they reference: • A board that’s open, accountable, and seeking diverse perspectives • A district plan focused on the needs of all students • Employing and providing professional development for quality personnel A fourth area of focus, which remains constant year to year and shows up across the standards, is the opportunity gap. Congratulations to the Eatonville School Board for keeping students at the center of all of their policies and decisions. Krestin Bahr is superintendent of the Eatonville School District.