What's Really Good for Kids?

Erika Christakis will be speaking at the Waldorf School of Lexington on Thursday, October 20.
Details and tickets.

As controversy and debate continue over the Common Core, parents can understandably find themselves torn about what is best for their children. While many decry tough state and federal standards, learning to read at the age of five can easily seem like an important advantage—especially in a system where academics now often begin in preschool. 

Sand tables and dress-up clothes seem quaint and outdated. If kids don’t get used to homework in kindergarten, how are they going to buckle down in third grade, never mind get into college? How are they going to get ahead in a competitive global economy if we don’t start pushing them when they’re young? If we want the best for our kids, isn’t this essentially required, like it or not?

What little kids need is simple: freedom to play and be creative, and strong relationships with caring adults who provide a stimulating, structured, yet flexible learning environment.

In The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups, lecturer and researcher Erika Christakis of Yale University tells us that young children do not need high-pressure instruction. Nor do they need insipid craft projects or classroom walls jammed with vocabulary lists, job charts, ready-made posters, and seasonal kitsch.

“Preschool classrooms are needlessly noisy, over-stimulating, and aesthetically unappealing,” she says, “with rapid pacing and jam-packed schedules. There is too much teacher-directed talk on banal topics and insufficient uninterrupted stretches of time to play.”

What little kids need is simple: freedom to play and be creative, and strong relationships with caring adults who provide a stimulating, structured, yet flexible learning environment.

“The benefits of play are so thoroughgoing that the only remaining question is how so many sensible adults sat by and allowed the building blocks of development to become so diminished.”

Yet free play and other creative endeavors are being marked as low-value and thus expendable. Explaining why the annual kindergarten class play had been cancelled, one principal wrote to parents, “We’re responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers.”

Really? College and career prep for five-year-olds?

A playful childhood is worth more than the accumulation of every conceivable standard...

Fortunately that’s a pack of pablum—though unfortunately, one that many educators and parents are buying. “The benefits of play are so thoroughgoing,” Christakis writes, “that the only remaining question is how so many sensible adults sat by and allowed the building blocks of development to become so diminished.”

“A playful childhood,” she continues, “is worth more than the accumulation of every conceivable standard...Even if we rounded them up and assigned them an amassed value, that value x wouldn’t come close to the infinite value of play to a young child’s development.”

So when you’re searching for the right preschool for your child, look for a warm, uncluttered environment, with caring teachers who are “versed in sound developmental principles and have the time and opportunity to get to know children in their natural habitat, which is to say in a play-based, language-rich setting involving relationships with adults who cherish them.”

As Christakis emphasizes, children are born to play, connect, and learn. We just need to let them.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Elementary and middle school students at the Waldorf School of Lexington started the school year with one of Waldorf education’s most heart-warming traditions…the Rose Ceremony.

Eighth graders, entering the last year of their Waldorf journey, welcomed incoming first graders to the beginning of their journey with the gift of a rose.

Louis_Rose Ceremony_sm.jpg

Like most Waldorf celebrations, the event was filled with music. The sweet notes of a harp welcomed students, parents, faculty, and staff. And everyone joined in singing favorite school songs.

As tall teenagers stooped over timid six- and seven-year-olds, offering an encouraging smile and a guiding hand, the strong relational quality of Waldorf education was evident.

At WSL, students learn in connection with others. Strong bonds are formed with the class teacher, subject teachers, and peers—with whom students collaborate, discuss, disagree, and resolve conflicts.

Click portraits for slideshows.

After the ceremony, first and eighth graders gathered outside, beginning a friendship that will grow throughout the year.

In June, we complete the circle with another Rose Ceremony, as the first graders bid goodbye to their eighth grade buddies and send them off to high school with a rose.

We are all on a journey of one kind or another, and our bonds with each other are what support us along the way.

The rose, passed from old to young and back again, symbolizes the strength of those relationships and the vital role they play in Waldorf education.

Faculty & Staff Transitions

We would like to offer a warm welcome to four new faculty and staff members as well as acknowledge two important staff transitions. At WSL, we are very fortunate to attract and retain highly qualified faculty and staff who—together with parents, alumni and alumni parents, grandparents, friends, and of course students—help create the warm and welcoming community that we value so highly.

 

 

 

Jenna Calabro

Cello Teacher Grades 7–8

A former student at WSL, Ms. Calabro earned a B.M. in Cello Performance from The Boston Conservatory. She was a fellowship recipient at the Texas Music Festival and the Marrowstone Music Festival and performs with orchestras including the Eastern Connecticut Symphony, the New England Symphony, and the Cape Ann Symphony. She also performs at weddings and social functions with an electro-pop group. Ms. Calabro has taught at summer programs at Longy Preparatory School and Indian Hill Music School. A recipient of the Mendenhall Scholarship Award at WSL, Ms. Calabro began her cello studies with Jane Sheena.

Adele Clements

English Skills Teacher

Ms. Clements received a B.A. in English from Emmanuel College, earned her M.Ed. from UMass Boston, and is certified in English Language Arts for grades 5–12. A voracious reader and passionate writer, Ms. Clements has designed and taught core curriculum units in literacy and created writing workshops in schools across diverse populations. Her student project, “Going For Broke,” was selected and displayed by the late Tom Menino in the Mayor’s Gallery in 2013. Ms. Clements hosts writing workshops for teens and also coaches novice teachers and facilitates symposiums on the joys of teaching and learning for the Boston Teacher Residency Program. Ms. Clements is the mother of two adult sons and one grandson.

Allie Haley

Communications Associate

Ms. Haley earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Shakespeare from the University of Bristol in England, as well as an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. She works as a freelance writer and is the founder and director of Lola Children’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports HIV-affected children and families in Ethiopia. Ms. Haley also serves as secretary of the board for Friends of Haggerty, a program that raises funds for enrichment activities at her daughter’s Cambridge public school.

 

Elizabeth Yon

First Grade Class Teacher

After earning a B.S. in sociology from Kenyon College, Ms. Yon moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she taught English for five years. She then completed a Waldorf Teacher Certification program at Taruna College in New Zealand and earned an M.Ed. from Cambridge College in Cambridge, MA. During this time Ms. Yon worked at WSL as a teaching assistant in first grade. Most recently Ms. Yon taught at the Waldkindergarten program at Natick Community Farm. Ms. Yon will be teaching WSL's incoming class of first graders.

 

 

Kate Woll

Admissions Director

We are pleased to announce that Kate Woll has been hired as WSL’s Admissions Director, having filled this role for the past year on an interim basis. Ms. Woll received a B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University with a concentration in Intercultural Understanding and a minor in Spanish. She also earned an M.Ed. from Antioch University. Ms. Woll worked for a number of years as a Women’s Rowing Coaching Assistant at Harvard University. More recently she served as the Operations Assistant for the university’s rowing program and also worked for the Institute for Rowing Leadership in Boston, supporting IRL fellows in their coaching education. Ms. Woll’s husband, Chris Woll, is a member of WSL’s Board of Trustees, and their daughter Carly is a student at WSL.

Paula Antonevich

Development Director

We are very sorry to announce the departure of Paula Antonevich later this fall. Paula joined the team at WSL in October of 2013 and immediately took hold of the school’s development plan and began building relationships with her signature warmth, unassuming manner, and sense of humor. She also put her experience in development, marketing, and event planning to work building WSL’s development office from modest beginnings to what today is a thriving and essential element of the school. Along the way Paula has strengthened and advanced core development events at WSL, including Annual Giving, the Mendenhall Benefit Concert, Grandparents Morning, and the school's Spring Party & Auction. This spring, she launched WSL's major, five-year endowment challenge, spearheaded by the generous Hartt-Wiedie gift to the school’s Endowment Fund. As Paula moves on to her next challenge, we offer our sincere thanks for her significant contributions at WSL and wish her the very best.

Summer Campus Improvements

Hello up there! Fortunately Mr. Menz is not afraid of heights. Here he is overseeing the resealing of the Adams building's brick façade. The Adams building also got new, energy-efficient exterior LED lighting.

Hello up there! Fortunately Mr. Menz is not afraid of heights. Here he is overseeing the resealing of the Adams building's brick façade. The Adams building also got new, energy-efficient exterior LED lighting.

As usual, WSL's Facilities Manager Paul Menz has been busy this summer with a list of projects as long as his arm. We caught up with Mr. Menz recently, which isn't easy as he is always in motion getting things done.

WSL: Mr. Menz, do you ever sit still?

PM: Not in the summer, that's for sure. Except for the one week I spend up in Maine.

WSL: What have you been working on while the rest of us have been at the beach?

PM: We've been in every classroom, every hallway, and all over the grounds. The Adams building is over 100 years old, so we work hard to keep it in good shape. This summer the biggest project was probably replacing the original slate blackboards.

WSL: You've been at the Waldorf School of Lexington since 1998...what's the best part of the job?

PM: The variety. It's not a 9 to 5 job where you do the same thing every day. There's always a new challenge, which keeps it interesting.

When you see Mr. Menz, please thank him for taking such great care of our historic school buildings and grounds!

Julius van den Broek (6th Grade Class Teacher Paula van den Broek's son) and Gabriel Brown (Senior Staff Accountant Mark Brown's son) did a lot of heavy lifting this summer. All the elementary classrooms plus the orchestra room now feature brand-new blackboards! Thank you to all the generous donors who made this important project possible.

Julius van den Broek (6th Grade Class Teacher Paula van den Broek's son) and Gabriel Brown (Senior Staff Accountant Mark Brown's son) did a lot of heavy lifting this summer. All the elementary classrooms plus the orchestra room now feature brand-new blackboards! Thank you to all the generous donors who made this important project possible.

Garden beds were weeded and replanted, bushes were pruned, and the grass was kept alive through the severe drought. Special thanks to parent and incoming board member Demetra Restuccia, who designed new landscaping for the front of the Adams building.

Garden beds were weeded and replanted, bushes were pruned, and the grass was kept alive through the severe drought. Special thanks to parent and incoming board member Demetra Restuccia, who designed new landscaping for the front of the Adams building.

The nursery yard was completely regraded to improve drainage, and new fencing was installed.

The nursery yard was completely regraded to improve drainage, and new fencing was installed.

WSL's kitchen got a thorough scrubbing, and new cabinets are being installed.

WSL's kitchen got a thorough scrubbing, and new cabinets are being installed.

All the hand-crafted wooden desks were refinished so students have beautiful work surfaces.

All the hand-crafted wooden desks were refinished so students have beautiful work surfaces.

Sheetrock for the blackboard project is hoisted in through the math office window.

Sheetrock for the blackboard project is hoisted in through the math office window.

The tutoring room got four new windows. In addition, many of the beautiful original windows in the Adams building were taken out and the counter-balances replaced to keep them opening and closing properly.

The tutoring room got four new windows. In addition, many of the beautiful original windows in the Adams building were taken out and the counter-balances replaced to keep them opening and closing properly.


Other improvements include a new electrical panel in the auditorium, new radiator covers where needed, additional wall padding in the gym, and a new ceiling and upgraded lighting in the sixth grade classroom. Plus all the usual repairs, painting, and floor refinishing that make the school shine.

We're ready to welcome you back to school!

Congratulations, Class of 2016!

Filling the stage in their finest attire and glowing with happiness and pride, the class of 2016 celebrated their graduation in true Waldorf fashion—with a host of performances that reflected their style, both as individuals and as a tight-knit class. Bravo, Class of 2016! We cheered you then, and we cheer you now remembering that fine day.

Below is a compilation of photos and excerpts from our eloquent graduation speakers…thank you all for bringing grace, poetry, and wisdom to this special day for the class of 2016.
[Photo credit: Betsy Peck]

An excerpt from parent Nadia Puttini

Waldorf education has certainly planted in you that seed of curiosity, the love of exploration, the ability to hang out with the questions, for a bit, like you would with a late night friend. It takes courage to expose our unknowing to the raw winds of change…  It is bold to keep asking questions like “Who am I? What am I doing here in this life? Where am I going?”

Waldorf education has given you not only the courage to ask questions but also a thread to weave the tapestry of your life, a baseline to return to time and again, an inner guidebook to which you can refer in your upcoming travels. You will be able to recognize what is wholesome, real, and authentic because you have lived and embodied it all these years at school, with your peers and your teachers. May you always remember where you belong in your own heart.

I have seen you walk hand in hand in the Great Meadows, run for your life at the Michaelmas games, turn green on a rough whale watch, stand expectantly in front of the bus departing for Hawthorne Valley, dance around the Maypole, compete at the Olympics. I have witnessed you “Be true to your aspirations, be true to your family and obligations, be a good knight”, play a gorgeous Beethoven piece at the Middle School Arts Evening, sing “Don’t Stop Believing,” elegantly dance at the Viennese Ball, and confidently roar in the Lion King, radiating energy, strength, and talent.

What a fantastic, heartfelt, uplifting experience of aliveness this has been!

Nadia Puttini, P ’16, is a grateful mother who feels blessed that her daughter could get this quality education. She is also the owner of BareSole Yoga Studio in Carlisle and has been teaching yoga in the Boston area for the past eleven years.


Where They're Headed

Congratulations to the class of 2016 for the diverse number of excellent public and private high schools they will be attending in the fall:

  • Bedford High School
  • Belmont High School
  • Boston College High School
  • Cambridge Rindge & Latin
  • Cambridge School of Weston
  • Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall
  • Concord Academy
  • Concord-Carlisle High School
  • Gann Academy
  • Lexington High School
  • Minuteman High School
  • Montrose School
  • Newton South High School

An Excerpt from
Viviana Aluia, '07

Eighth grade, it is a delight to stand up on this stage with you on the day of your graduation. I know that you’ve all worked very hard throughout the years to arrive at this moment in time, and whether you’re boldly anticipating the next chapter in your lives, or you’ve been dreading this upcoming transition, or even if you don’t really know how to feel in this moment and you’re just going with the flow, I think everyone here can acknowledge the significance of capping off eight formative years of your education. You have all accomplished something big, and we’re all gathered here to celebrate you, at what will likely be one of the most eccentric, creative, and intimate graduation ceremonies of your lives.

I graduated from college one year ago, and I remember basically nothing from the proceedings of that day, except that I was shrouded in black polyester in 90 degree weather. From my own Waldorf graduation, however, I have wonderful memories, and I can recall very clearly what performances my classmates gave, who went through a whole box of tissues, and even what some of them wore. My point is that today is special and weird and unique, much like most of your time at this school if we’re being honest, and not many people in their lifetimes will ever experience anything like this, so as we continue on throughout the day, let us take moments to pause and absorb what is happening around us, because we are surrounded by a special community, in a special space, and it’s not often that all of these aspects coincide.


address from Miriam Levine, class of 2016

Graduation is a bittersweet time of happy memories, sad goodbyes, and lots of hugging. Before we go, I am going to take a moment to practice the attitude of gratitude, and speak on behalf of my class to express how grateful we are for the chance to grow up at this school.

First I want to thank our wonderful teachers. Not only have you taught us how to sew pajamas, throw javelins, and play the winking game. You have also shown us what it means to be compassionate, respectful, confident, and creative. Even though some of us are now taller than you, we will always look up to you!

And now, the remarkable Ms. DeNatale. Ms. D, you are the ultimate butterfly, bright and powerful. You came into our lives, shaped us, watched us grow, kept your calm (for the most part) and helped us reach our full potential.

Since you have decided to take a break from teaching, I want to give you a suggestion for what your next career should be. I think you should be a superhero. You always seem to know what the class gossip is, who is about to get sick, and you can transport us through space and time with your awesome storytelling. You can stay in control of a room full of energetic adolescents (pretty impressive), you help us resolve conflicts with grace, and you make us feel loved. Whatever you decide to do in your life you will be great. And if you ever need letters of recommendation, I know at least 21 people who will be happy to help.

I also want to thank our parents who got us out the door to school every day. We literally would not be here without you. After the parent breakfast last week, the 8th graders and our parents shared memories from our years at Waldorf. I want to give a special thanks to Elijah’s Dad, Todd for what he said. He told us that even though school is ending, he would always be there for us if we ever needed anything. Hearing him say that reminded me how lucky I am to be part of this Waldorf family. Because even though we won’ t be together every day, we will always be a community.

I love you guys.


I remember being ready for new experiences, wanting to move on to high school and venture beyond the walls of the Adams School building, but not without first packing all my classmates into my pockets and taking them with me wherever I went…. These are the people with whom you will forever share an intrinsic connection, and you needn’t ever fear losing these relationships, because they will always hold fast.
— Viviana Aluia, Class of 2007

I was SO excited to play on the basketball team in 6th grade. That year, so many girls from our class decided to play that we had to rotate which games we played! This year, we won every game, except one loss and one tie. I had so much fun every season, but this year was by far the best!  — Hanna Polyak, ’16 One of the first phases I can remember in our class is the silly band phase. There were huge silly band trading sessions at recess, which gradually got more and more intense until finally Ms. DeNatale had to make an “only one silly band” rule. It was a very sad occurrence.  — Ruby Culhane, ’16

I was SO excited to play on the basketball team in 6th grade. That year, so many girls from our class decided to play that we had to rotate which games we played! This year, we won every game, except one loss and one tie. I had so much fun every season, but this year was by far the best!  — Hanna Polyak, ’16

One of the first phases I can remember in our class is the silly band phase. There were huge silly band trading sessions at recess, which gradually got more and more intense until finally Ms. DeNatale had to make an “only one silly band” rule. It was a very sad occurrence.  — Ruby Culhane, ’16

Give a thank you to your parents and loved ones who have supported you through this unique education. You are some of the most dependable, capable, and well-rounded people that you will ever encounter.
— Viviana Aluia, ’07

Remarks from Tara DeNatale, Class Teacher

The class of 2016 enjoyed a wonderful graduation celebration as the final flourish of a remarkable school journey. They received a broad based, extensive, classical education sure to support whatever path of study they choose to follow in high school and beyond. The deep bonds of friendship nurtured over many years will continue to support these graduates for years to come.

My heart is full of gratitude and real joy from simply basking in the upbeat, loving presence of these multi-talented students for so long. I miss them already and feel fortunate to have known each vibrant young person. I will be forever grateful to the generous and dedicated parent body. These families gave their children an opportunity to grow and transform into young ‘becoming adults’ by letting them savor an unhurried childhood... The gift of time, our most precious, limited resource.

Class of 2012

Finally, this summer we also celebrate our graduates from four years ago, who are heading off to the following fine colleges and universities:

  • Bard College
  • Clark University
  • Emerson College
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts
  • Ithaca College
  • Mt. Holyoke College
  • Reed College
  • Scripps College
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Technology, Sydney
  • Wesleyan University
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