Pig Math, Animal Science, and Other Lessons on the Farm

Recording first-hand observations is the cornerstone of many Waldorf science lessons.

Recording first-hand observations is the cornerstone of many Waldorf science lessons.

One of the benefits of Waldorf education is that the curriculum allows students to learn through hands-on experiences, forming their own ideas and conclusions through personal observations. WSL’s 4th grade farm trip, part of the Human Being & Animal block, is one of these opportunities. There is a huge difference, for example, between reading about cows not having an upper row of incisors and actually putting your hand into the mouth of a 10-day-old calf and feeling it suckle your hand with its soft gums and rough tongue.

After a 3-hour bus ride, we arrived at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY. The class was divided into three groups and set out on a daily regimen of chores that ranged from cooking and serving meals, to feeding animals and cleaning out stalls, to hauling firewood.

Students also completed lessons related to farm animals:

  • They observed and compared the gaits of different animals and even tried to walk and trot like a horse—which proved a lot harder than it may seem.
  • They learned about the cow’s four stomachs and compared them to the chicken’s gizzard.
  • They compared the pig’s poor vision to the keen eyesight of the chicken. Everyone was quite amazed that pigs have a very fine nose (helping to compensate for their poor eyesight) and can detect tasty morsels far below ground.
Next time you're on a working farm, put on your mud boots, catch a sow or a piglet, and see if you can do pig math!

Next time you're on a working farm, put on your mud boots, catch a sow or a piglet, and see if you can do pig math!

After sketching a litter of piglets, students were asked to catch a piglet and do “pig math” by measuring its girth and length. Since the piglets proved rather nimble and quick, the head counselor, Andrew, entered the pen of adult sows and measured one for us.

Formula for pig math

  1. Multiply girth by girth.
  2. Then multiply the product by the length of the pig.
  3. Now divide that product by 400 to establish the approximate weight of the animal in pounds.

Girth x girth x length ÷ 400 = the weight of the pig

Students calculated that the sow weighed as much as 5 or 6 fourth graders!

Students learned methods of putting up surplus harvest for the winter.

Students learned methods of putting up surplus harvest for the winter.

Despite cold weather, there were still plenty of vegetables to be harvested. Since a farm’s bounty is always more than people can eat at one time, the children learned to preserve food by pressing apple cider, cooking apple sauce, and drying apples into fruit leather.

The farm trip also has a huge social learning component. The children learned to live and work together day and night, away from their families. Table manners, social skills, an ability to advocate for oneself, and keeping track of one’s belongings all are skills that we practiced.

Students enjoyed taking turns pressing apple cider.

Students enjoyed taking turns pressing apple cider.

There are many challenges, of course, such as unfamiliar foods, creaky bunk beds, homesickness, and actual illness—all of which we experienced. But the class rallied around those who were having trouble, and the counselors praised the children for their teamwork, kindness, and willingness to be mindful of each other’s needs.

It was a pleasure to spend another week at Hawthorne Valley Farm. We reconnected with old friends and made new ones. The class is looking forward to our next farm adventure in 5th grade when we’ll study mushrooms and plants as part of our botany block.

Botany, Poetry, and Ghosts

Students observed lichen (above) and varieties of moss (below).

Students observed lichen (above) and varieties of moss (below).

by Lauren Smith
Fifth Grade Class Teacher

In October, the 5th grade class went on a field trip to Spring Pond Woods in Lynn. The outing followed a botany block and gave us the chance to enjoy a beautiful autumn forest, identify trees and plants we had learned about, talk further about species of deciduous trees and conifers, and experience a place where boulders mark a site of Wampanoag significance. 

We spent the whole day in the forest and benefited from the guidance of a parent, Rob Riman, who is an avid naturalist. At the Wampanoag site, the students delighted me with a spontaneous performance of a song Mr. Bota, our chorus teacher, had taught them in lovely harmony. Unfortunately, just as we approached the pond, some ground bees found a few of us, and we returned for the comfort of ice and restrooms.

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This fractured boulder is of historic significance to the Wampanoag Native American tribe.

This fractured boulder is of historic significance to the Wampanoag Native American tribe.

I wanted a way to reflect on the field trip and deepen the memory of some of the elements that were relevant to our lessons. An artistic approach is my favorite secret weapon for such occasions. A student had recently surprised me with an interest in poetry, so I decided to write the children an alliterative poem that would capture the spooky mood of the month and also give me a chance to check on some language arts skills. How well will they interpret figurative language (something we’ll study explicitly in middle school)? Will they remember basic parts of speech?  How will they react to a poem that doesn’t rhyme? Will they recognize a direct experience when presented to them in a new way?

I presented the poem without a title and read it aloud. We then read it aloud together. I asked the students to read it again on their own and do two things:

Students were treated to a glimpse of a little red mushroom peeking through the leaves.

Students were treated to a glimpse of a little red mushroom peeking through the leaves.

  1. Think about it as a riddle and give a title that reveals what it is about.
  2. Add some nouns in the margin after each line or two that tell what is being described.

Below is the poem. Can you tell what is being described? It was clear from their clever titles that the students surely did. They also identified adjectives and verbs that made the poem “juicy.” I liked many of their creative suggestions better than mine!

 

October Forest Fright

Caw, caw, a ring of ravens balked as we arrived.

Pumpkins perched on tree trunks shone a golden glow.
Leaflets teamed to make a hickory grow a shaggy skin.

Granite giants lay on needle spiked pillows of pine.
Decaying leaves blanket their big bodies deep below.

Bleach-white birch bones stood or fell like soldiers
Haunting here and there.

Winds spooked the birch leaves who shivered in reply.
Girlie ghosts dressed in fern lace try to trip us on the trail.

A scarecrow in an overcoat of black bark grew warts
In holes where once were arms.

No caws, or glows, or snores, or haunting shivers make us run.
We stroll and laugh, tell stories and sing a song.

But footsteps found the demons whose evil weapon witched.
Sudden stings—those were the zings, the stunts that made us SCREAM!

Why Waldorf? Why Now?

By Robert Schiappacasse
Director of the Waldorf School of Lexington

The joy of playing with a good friend is sweeter than winning.

The joy of playing with a good friend is sweeter than winning.

In the devastating aftermath of World War I, as Europe lay in ruins and 35 million people were either dead or wounded, Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner conceived of an education whose aim was nothing less than the reinvention of society.

Steiner imagined that education’s promise could lead us from a world driven by strife and conflict to one where diverse individuals could learn, collaborate, and strive toward their full potential in harmony with one another.

At WSL, we cheer each other’s successes and minimize competition.

At WSL, we cheer each other’s successes and minimize competition.

“We look back at the terrible times humanity has recently lived through in Europe…the rivers of blood that have flowed…bodies broken and souls shattered... When we look upon all this, the desire wells up in us to ask, “In the broadest sense, how must we bring up people so that this will be impossible in the future?” Out of this privation and misery, an understanding must awaken for the role of education in restructuring human social relations.”
The Spirit of the Waldorf School, Rudolf Steiner, 1920

Lecturing on education in the years after the war, Steiner came to the attention of Emil Molt, a forward-thinking businessman who owned the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Molt asked Steiner to open a school for his factory workers’ children. Thus the first “Steiner school” was opened in 1919 and was considered revolutionary for its time.

Unlike other schools, it was co-ed, socially and economically diverse, and featured a developmental (as opposed to rote) curriculum—long before that approach became popular. The school quickly grew to more than 1,000 students. Other Waldorf (or Steiner) schools soon sprang up in Europe and in New York. Today, as we approach the 100th anniversary of Waldorf education, there are more than 1,200 Waldorf schools and an additional 1,200 early childhood centers on six continents.

Collaboration and team work, emphasized in Waldorf education, rank high on lists of critical 21st century skills.

Collaboration and team work, emphasized in Waldorf education, rank high on lists of critical 21st century skills.

What every parent would wish as the best for his or her children, Waldorf education provides. The fullest development of intelligent, imaginative, self-confident and caring persons is the aim of Waldorf education.
— Douglas Sloan, Professor Emeritus, Columbus University
At the Waldorf School of Lexington, we shake hands, hold the door, and look each other in the eye—human connections that our modern world needs.

At the Waldorf School of Lexington, we shake hands, hold the door, and look each other in the eye—human connections that our modern world needs.

Why Waldorf? There are many answers. Waldorf’s arts-integrated curriculum engages and motivates students. Waldorf's screen-free environment supports children’s healthy academic and social development. Waldorf schools educate the whole child—in mind, body, and spirit.

But above all, Waldorf education is a social endeavor, seeking to build bridges of empathy, understanding, and tolerance among people.

Why now? We live in a time when communities are divided by prejudice, racism, and violence. When terrorism and hostilities engulf nations and threaten our security. Waldorf education cannot solve all of the world’s problems. But it can educate students with the vision, character, and capacities to build a healthier society.

We invite you to learn more about the core values of the Waldorf School of Lexington and opportunities to visit the school in person.

Why This Skeptical Engineer Trusts Waldorf Education

By Joseph Hartman, Ph.D., P.E.
Dean, Francis College of Engineering
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

As a long-time professor of industrial and systems engineering—and the parent of three children who have attended Waldorf schools—I have been asked for years about the ability of the Waldorf curriculum to produce engineers and scientists, professions that are valued in a world defined by ever advancing technology. 

Waldorf nursery and kindergarten classrooms buzz with the energy of children at play, exercising their growing capacities for initiative, collaboration, problem-solving, and of course, engineering!

Waldorf nursery and kindergarten classrooms buzz with the energy of children at play, exercising their growing capacities for initiative, collaboration, problem-solving, and of course, engineering!

In 1995, I was in my third year of graduate stud­ies at Georgia Tech, the leading school in my field. That year I also met my lovely wife Karen, who introduced me to Waldorf education. The word “skeptical” only begins to describe my reaction to a pedagogy that emphasizes movement, music, and the visual arts. But, being a curious student, I listened to Karen, attended lectures, and tried to learn. Eventually I conceded that Waldorf seemed to be a great idea, albeit only for kindergartners.

We moved to Scotland for a year and lived near a Steiner school that went through 12th grade. Again, I attended lectures and quizzed the teach­ers. I was shocked to discover that they taught calculus…right after poetry and before pottery. If they taught calculus, I reasoned, they had to be doing a good job teaching the fundamentals of mathematics and science.

But I still wondered how all of this “other” stuff (pottery?) helped a potential engineer or scien­tist. That is when I started taking a closer look at the students in my classrooms and the changing world around us.

In his best seller The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman lays out what is necessary for students to make it in a highly connected, global community driven by technology. He does not dwell on technology skills or the ability to write computer code. Rather, he points out four survival skills:

  1. Learn how to learn: Seems simple, but most children are not excited about learning. For this to happen, a teacher must awaken the child. Looking back, we remember our favorite teachers because they got us excited about learning. The subject matter taught by a great teacher is immaterial, as it is easily forgotten. Rather, the desire to acquire new knowledge is what is learned and retained.
  2. Be curious: Curiosity and passion are just as important, if not more important than intellect. As the technology writer Doc Searls said, “Work matters, but curiosity matters more. Nobody works harder at learning than a curious kid.”
  3. Play well with others: You must play with others, as the people skills can never be out-sourced, even in a flat world.
  4. Exercise the right side of the brain: Put sim­ply, “do something you love to do because you will bring something intangible to it.”

Note that the above skills have nothing to do with calculus or trigonometry. Rather, they have everything to do with a love of learning and exploration—cornerstones of Waldorf education.

Elementary classrooms at the Waldorf School of Lexington are bright, colorful, and uncluttered. Teachers bring the curriculum to life with vibrant, full-color chalk drawings, dramatic story-telling, and movement. What you won’t find in a Waldorf classroom are computers, iPads, electronic white boards, or other electronic devices.

Elementary classrooms at the Waldorf School of Lexington are bright, colorful, and uncluttered. Teachers bring the curriculum to life with vibrant, full-color chalk drawings, dramatic story-telling, and movement. What you won’t find in a Waldorf classroom are computers, iPads, electronic white boards, or other electronic devices.

Friedman goes on to describe the transfor­mation at my alma mater, Georgia Tech. Then-president G. Wayne Clough realized that some of the best engineers “might not be the ones who could solve the cal­culus equation better, but they could define the problem that the calculus had to solve better than anyone else.” More importantly, “they knew how to think creatively.”

So, beginning in the late 1990s, Georgia Tech changed its admissions process to admit more students that played musi­cal instruments, sang in a choir, or played on a team. The result is that a computer science stu­dent at Tech is likely to be taking a course in computer graphics while studying Hamlet in Classics. Echoed by Charles Vest, former president of MIT, “the humanities, the arts, and social sciences are essential to the creative, explorative, open-mind­ed environment and spirit necessary to educate the engineer of 2020.”

The fact is, a well-rounded student who exercises both sides of the brain is more apt to be creative and curious. This is the type of engineer that I hope I am, the type of engineer I want to work with, and the type of student I want to teach. This is the son or daughter I want to have. This is why I trust Waldorf education. Educating the whole child works in any world, for any eventual profession. I can only hope that some of these children show up in my class someday, eager to learn.

Dr. Hartman’s youngest child currently attends the Waldorf School of Lexington.

Art, music, and drama enrich the grades 1–8 curriculum for every student at the Waldorf School of Lexington.

Art, music, and drama enrich the grades 1–8 curriculum for every student at the Waldorf School of Lexington.

An interdisciplinary lesson in fifth grade combines the study of botany with the artistic creation of mandalas, part of the world cultures curriculum.

An interdisciplinary lesson in fifth grade combines the study of botany with the artistic creation of mandalas, part of the world cultures curriculum.

Sixth graders render rotating chords from five points using precise measurements and bright colors.

Sixth graders render rotating chords from five points using precise measurements and bright colors.

An 8th grade physics lesson

An 8th grade physics lesson

4th Grade Hike to Whipple Hill

In fourth grade, the Waldorf school curriculum calls for an orientation of the child in time and space. The topics of local history and geography are ideally suited for this goal. Our hike introduced the class to these topics physically by walking through the landscape and retracing some of the historical tracks left behind by glaciers and people who lived here before us.

WSL is fortunate to be located adjacent to Arlington's Great Meadows, 183 acres of conservation land that protect wildlife and provide local flood control.

WSL is fortunate to be located adjacent to Arlington's Great Meadows, 183 acres of conservation land that protect wildlife and provide local flood control.

It was a beautiful, sunny October morning, with fog rising from the Arlington Great Meadows and dew sparkling on tall reeds, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Stag horn sumac leaves, when we set out to hike from the Waldorf School to Whipple Hill with four parent chaperones.

Whipple Hill is the highest point in Lexington and rises to 375’ of elevation. The class walked through Gnome Valley and past Boomerang Hill and discovered that these magical places are actual glacial knolls, left behind by the Laurentide Glacier some 15,000 years ago.

Students heard about the history of Arlington Great Meadows, which in the past was a dairy farm, a lake that provided drinking water for Arlington, and now conservation land that provides habitat for migratory birds and other animals.

The children hiked along the carriage paths left behind by farmers and peat cutters and marveled at the huge, albeit currently dry, vernal pond near Lexington Christian Academy. While walking along the paths the children noticed not only some very old trees (that must have been already in existence when the area had been a farm), but also thrown rock walls, and steep and craggy rocky walls on both sides of our path.

The summit of Whipple Hill is mostly bare, solid rock. The students noticed that this dark rocky surface had many scrapes (striations) that all went into one direction. After checking with a compass, we confirmed that the direction of these gouges ran north to south and that we were sitting on and looking at glacial scratches, created when the Laurentide glacier moved over this very old igneous, volcanic bedrock called gabbro thousands of years ago. We also discovered a pink granite bolder that had been left behind by that same glacier. This rock is a so-called erratic, a rock that must have come from somewhere else, because there is no pink granite in this area.

After a quick stop at Locke Pond, the students finally climbed Whipple Hill from the east and happily settled down for a well-deserved snack once they reached the “summit”.

After a quick stop at Locke Pond, the students finally climbed Whipple Hill from the east and happily settled down for a well-deserved snack once they reached the “summit”.

Students observed striations created by the Laurentide glacier as it receded.

Students observed striations created by the Laurentide glacier as it receded.

It's hard to spot, but on the left there is a chunk of pink granite, a so-called "erratic" that was deposited by the glacier.

It's hard to spot, but on the left there is a chunk of pink granite, a so-called "erratic" that was deposited by the glacier.

The view was gorgeous and the warm stones invited us to linger, but we had to walk back home and merrily finished our 5-mile round trip into history and geography in time to be back in school for orchestra class.

Written by Jeanette Voss, Fourth Grade Class Teacher at the Waldorf School of Lexington

Hurricane Island Field Trip

Hurricane Island’s goal is “to excite people about doing science and about being leaders in the next wave of scientific discovery and environmental conservation.”

Hurricane Island’s goal is “to excite people about doing science and about being leaders in the next wave of scientific discovery and environmental conservation.”

Earlier this month, Waldorf School of Lexington teachers Paula van den Broek and Helena Niiva journeyed to Maine’s Hurricane Island with 31 seventh and eighth grade students for an unforgettable four-day experience in nature’s classroom.

Hurricane Island Institute partners with schools in New England to run field research-based programs, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, that give students first-hand experience with the scientific process.

Paula and Helena visited the island in April and started designing the trip to include the intertidal environment, sustainable infrastructure, terrestrial ecology, and freshwater resources.

Learning in nature and connecting with the natural environment are hallmarks of Waldorf education.

Learning in nature and connecting with the natural environment are hallmarks of Waldorf education.

Students generated questions based on their experience and created a field experiment. “They learned a lot about scalloping, geology, and the history of the island,” Paula said. “They really absorbed and retained the concepts, and they had a great time.”

The trip was also a special opportunity for students to forge friendships across the grades through team-building exercises including raft making, rowing, and rock climbing.

We are delighted that our students could experience environmental science on Hurricane Island. We intend to continue to offer this incredible program bi-annually for our 7th and 8th grade students.

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A Joyful Beginning

A rousing welcome for new families

A rousing welcome for new families

Dear Friends,

Welcome back! Whether you are new to the Waldorf School this year or returning, we are very excited to have you and your children as a part of our school community.

We began the school year with a special tradition—the annual School Warming—an evening of welcoming, camaraderie, and singing led by WSL’s new Chorus Teacher, Tudor Bota. There is nothing like inaugurating the new school year in four-part harmony!

Together we are re-forming a community of parents and educators who have one main goal and purpose: to give the children in our care the best and most meaningful education we can provide.

As I listened to Jeanette Voss, fourth grade Class Teacher and Chair of the College of Teachers, characterize the values of Waldorf education, I was once again reminded of the impressive skill, energy, and dedication that our faculty contribute every day to challenge and stimulate our students in creative ways.

Woodworking teacher Andy Freeburg carefully stripped this sign down to bare wood and, one by one, applied twelve new coats of varnish. Thank you, Andy!

Woodworking teacher Andy Freeburg carefully stripped this sign down to bare wood and, one by one, applied twelve new coats of varnish. Thank you, Andy!

Over the summer our classrooms, facilities, and campus were renovated and renewed so that our school can once shine brightly with the promise of new beginnings, new friends, and new experiences. It is a great privilege for us to care for and educate your children. Thank you for being a part of our Waldorf School community!

In the words of Howard Gardner, we are striving for “beauty, truth, and goodness” in our work here together at WSL, and we invite you all to come along on this journey.

With best wishes for the school year,
Robert

Robert Schiappacasse
School Director

WSL Students Shine at Districts

Thanks to Chorus Teacher Chris Eastburn for rigorously preparing and supporting our students!

Thanks to Chorus Teacher Chris Eastburn for rigorously preparing and supporting our students!

On January 28, WSL students competed with more than 1,000 students from 58 towns in the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) Northeastern Junior District Festival music auditions. Eleven of our students won coveted spots to perform at the festival, which will be held March 15–18 in Wakefield. WSL is proud to congratulate the following students on this extraordinary achievement:

Abigail Arndt
Sebastian Canizares
Daniel Cory
Keefer Glenshaw
Zoe Habel
Adele Hartt
Ava Krieg
Samuel Lyons
David Rapperport
Luca Restuccia
Andrew Stanley

Music education and performance are an integral part of the curriculum at the Waldorf School of Lexington. Singing and instrumental music begin in first grade and continue through eighth grade. From playing simple flutes and recorders, to orchestral music, to sight reading and singing in four-part harmony, WSL students graduate with an excellent musical education.

Art Smart: Engaging Students through the Arts

Students graduate from the Waldorf School of Lexington having learned a full spectrum of artistic media and techniques.

Students graduate from the Waldorf School of Lexington having learned a full spectrum of artistic media and techniques.

by Robert Schiappacasse, School Director

“Arts programs deepen students’ involvement in their own education,” and “access to the arts speaks directly to the quality of the educational experience students receive.”

These words sound like they were spoken by a Waldorf teacher, but they are from an uplifting editorial in The Boston Globe championing arts education and its myriad benefits — from boosting academic performance across the curriculum to improving student and family engagement in education, just to name a couple.

At WSL, 8th graders help their 1st grade buddies learn to knit. Students continue handwork from grades 1–8, learning skills of increasing difficulty.

At WSL, 8th graders help their 1st grade buddies learn to knit. Students continue handwork from grades 1–8, learning skills of increasing difficulty.

At WSL, as at any other Waldorf school in the world, education is arts-integrated. The visual and performing arts are a key component of the academic curriculum across the grades. Our students’ days are rich with music, painting, eurythmy, handwork, woodwork, class plays, and other artistic experiences.

It is heartening to hear such strong support for the arts in public education, especially in underserved communities with struggling schools. The Globe cites Orchard Gardens K–8 school in Roxbury, which has gone from one of the state’s lowest-performing schools to one of Boston’s best after implementing an arts program. The school even replaced security guards with art teachers!

In the embattled climate of educational debate, it is good news to hear that funding sources such as Turnaround Arts (an innovative public-private partnership), along with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, are giving disadvantaged students across the country increased access to arts education.

At Waldorf we know that the arts are an important and formative educational experience for all children. Recognizing the benefits of the arts for engaging underserved populations is a good step toward seeing its value for all children, in every school.

From simple flutes and recorders to string and woodwind instruments, all Waldorf students learn through music, movement, and performing arts. Four-part harmony and class plays are not reserved for kids who audition—at WSL, the arts are for every child.

From simple flutes and recorders to string and woodwind instruments, all Waldorf students learn through music, movement, and performing arts. Four-part harmony and class plays are not reserved for kids who audition—at WSL, the arts are for every child.

Postcards from the Fair

WSL's 46th annual Holiday Fair was a great success! Our sincerest thanks to all of the dedicated parents, students, faculty, and staff who organized and executed a wonderful event for the school and surrounding communities. We hope you enjoy these “postcards” from the fair…

There was a line down the hall for the always magical Angel Room, thanks to the early childhood parents and teachers who put so much effort into this quintessential fair activity.

There was a line down the hall for the always magical Angel Room, thanks to the early childhood parents and teachers who put so much effort into this quintessential fair activity.

Wow, was lunch delicious! Early birds were in line by 11:00 and kept the Café full all day long. Diners were welcomed and served by Regine Shemroske, Jeanette Voss, and smiling parents from the 2nd and 3rd grade classes.

Wow, was lunch delicious! Early birds were in line by 11:00 and kept the Café full all day long. Diners were welcomed and served by Regine Shemroske, Jeanette Voss, and smiling parents from the 2nd and 3rd grade classes.

The PCA Boutique was once again a marvel of organization, planning, and execution. The Boutique raised $6,500, representing over 35% of total fair revenue. Thank you to the 4th graders and their families for helping.

The PCA Boutique was once again a marvel of organization, planning, and execution. The Boutique raised $6,500, representing over 35% of total fair revenue. Thank you to the 4th graders and their families for helping.

First grade parents rocked the bake sale table, decorating it with a cornucopia of woodland arrangements, colorful toadstools, and moss characters. Thank you to the whole community for loading it with delicious treats and savory dishes!

First grade parents rocked the bake sale table, decorating it with a cornucopia of woodland arrangements, colorful toadstools, and moss characters. Thank you to the whole community for loading it with delicious treats and savory dishes!

Many people have commented on the fantastic selection of vendors. About half the vendors were new to our fair, offering a fresh and diverse selection of items.

Many people have commented on the fantastic selection of vendors. About half the vendors were new to our fair, offering a fresh and diverse selection of items.

Nursery parents working in pairs energetically filled the role of Pocket Peddler, always a big draw for children.

Nursery parents working in pairs energetically filled the role of Pocket Peddler, always a big draw for children.

Ralph Brooks entertained passers-by for the 27th year, juggling in a colorful new jester’s suit sewn by Kathy Aluia, handwork teacher.

Ralph Brooks entertained passers-by for the 27th year, juggling in a colorful new jester’s suit sewn by Kathy Aluia, handwork teacher.

Many tremendously talented students, parents, faculty, and alumni played music throughout the day.

Many tremendously talented students, parents, faculty, and alumni played music throughout the day.

The Craft Room, beautifully organized and run by the 5th graders and their families, gave fair-goers wonderful opportunities to create treasures for themselves and as gifts.

The Craft Room, beautifully organized and run by the 5th graders and their families, gave fair-goers wonderful opportunities to create treasures for themselves and as gifts.

A number of alumni returned for the Alumni Luncheon to enjoy the holiday spirit and the company of old friends.

A number of alumni returned for the Alumni Luncheon to enjoy the holiday spirit and the company of old friends.

Friday night’s Jingle & Mingle party was enjoyed by alumni and alumni parents—always great to have you back!

Friday night’s Jingle & Mingle party was enjoyed by alumni and alumni parents—always great to have you back!

The fair gave budding artists of all stripes the chance to sell their wares.

Candle dipping was a hit with young and old.

Candle dipping was a hit with young and old.

An intrepid crew of parking attendants deftly (and cheerfully!) handled a steady flow of traffic, happily with no mishaps.

An intrepid crew of parking attendants deftly (and cheerfully!) handled a steady flow of traffic, happily with no mishaps.

The 6th students and the early childhood teachers put on fabulous performances that were packed to capacity at every showing.

The 6th students and the early childhood teachers put on fabulous performances that were packed to capacity at every showing.

The PCA Community Room offered a beautiful array of homemade crafts.

The PCA Community Room offered a beautiful array of homemade crafts.

Other notes...

  • This year for the first time there was no charge for admission. This appears to have been very well received. Attendance was up, and our donation basket raised over $1,400. The welcome table went through 450 programs!
  • The unglamorous work of setup and cleanup was efficiently handled by a spirited group of 7th and 8th grade parents, students, and faculty.
  • We can’t forget the essential oversight and coordination of myriad details by this year’s Holiday Fair committee, Catherine Steiner and Betsy Peck (who is also responsible for all of the outstanding fair photos).
  • Net proceeds of over $17,800 exceeded our expectations and was about equal with last year’s total, even with free admission.
  • Last but not least, we want to share the secrets to superior gluten-free brownies! Bethany Creath recommends all of Moon Rabbit’s gluten-free mixes. And Ann Wiedie uses the King Arthur Flour gluten-free brownie mix (studded with mint M&M’s, and favoring butter over oil). Happy baking!

 

WSL Third Graders Get Their Hands Dirty

WSL’s experiential approach to learning was on display when third graders visited Meadow Mist, a family farm in Lexington.

WSL’s experiential approach to learning was on display when third graders visited Meadow Mist, a family farm in Lexington.

This fall, third grade students at the Waldorf School of Lexington skipped the school bus and walked a mile and a half each way to a local farm. After visiting chickens and cows and petting the lambs, students split into groups and got to work. One group harvested two rows of carrots with pitchforks, while the other shoveled manure to muck out a stall in the barn. Still full of energy, the kids set to work on the strawberry patch, pulling up two wheelbarrows full of weeds and hauling them to the compost pile.

The kids jumped in with both feet! They were interested, talkative, and tremendously enthusiastic. Absolutely no fear of hard work or getting dirty.”
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Lauren Yaffe, the Meadow Mist farmer, was delighted to see the students’ attitude and ability. “They jumped in with both feet! They were interested, talkative, and tremendously enthusiastic. Absolutely no fear of hard work or getting dirty.”

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Farming is one of the central themes of the Waldorf third grade curriculum. Throughout the year, teacher Jeanette Voss will take her third graders on several field trips to working farms, allowing them to experience the rhythm of agricultural and seasonal cycles. The excursions also involve students in volunteering and place-based education.

At WSL, all third graders take their first week-long trip to Hawthorne Valley Farm, a 700-acre biodynamic farm whose mission, in part, is "to connect children and adults with the land and the food that nourishes them."

“Developmentally, it’s critical that children interact directly with the natural world,” said Andy Freeburg, WSL’s woodworking and gardening instructor. “Research has shown that children’s linguistic and cognitive capacities develop by engaging all the senses in direct experience.”

By learning about food sources, the cycles of planting and harvesting, and the tangible sensations of earth itself, third graders at the Waldorf School of Lexington deepen their understanding of the world they inhabit.

Learn more about the Waldorf School of Lexington curriculum for grades 1–8.

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.

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.

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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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