Good Sportsmanship and Character Education

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There is a conversation currently circulating among educators about the lack of character education in schools across the Nation. Concerns are building about the absence of character, morality and ethics in classrooms and student’s weak or even broken moral compass. Do students today have opportunities to consider their own moral code and how it affects others? Do they have the opportunity to grapple with big questions about right and wrong, personal values and their own ethics? Happily, here at the Waldorf School of Lexington the answer is yes, they do. Indeed it is woven into the very fabric of Waldorf education and a critical component of our shared community values.

A key aim of Waldorf education is to educate children from the inside out—to support them in developing a sense of who they are in the world and allowing them room to develop their own core, sense of self and moral compass.

One powerful and recent example of this is the 5th grade Olympic Games. From the preparation and training that begins months in advance, to the oath taking at the commencement of the event and the competition itself, students are working on themes of good sportsmanship, team dynamics and personal integrity as well as strength, grace and agility.

The oath-taking is a powerful moment, with the words of the oath, spoken in unison by all of the competitors. “I do solemnly swear by all-father Zeus, that I have been preparing for these games. I promise to abide by the rules of the contest. I will do my best. I will play fair. I will not argue with the judges or with other participants. I promise to conduct myself in such a way as to call forth the blessings of the gods, always showing strength, and grace, and skill and all the fine qualities of good sportsmanship. So help me Zeus!”

The gravity of this moment is palpable and resonates through the proceedings. How amazing it is to take such a public oath of fairness. Imagine being asked to swear such an oath as an adult, in the professional sports arena or in the boardroom.

Here, students are not only asked to make an oath to play fair and to do their best, but they are encouraged to reflect on this momentous event afterward, and write not only of their memories of the day, but of their feelings.

“I did not receive a wreath, but I know I had the time of my life and I will keep these memories with me for years to come.”

“I ran the hardest I have ever run…My group and I cheered for everyone. I kept telling myself that to me, having fun is more important than winning.”

These are just a few reflections from the most recent 5th Grade Olympics. This event serves as one milestone in a well-considered and thoughtfully planned education that not only teaches solid academic skills but supports and encourages the whole child to develop and strengthen from within—to be a strong, well-grounded and a valuable member of society.

Circus Smirkus 2-week Residency

The movement curriculum in a Waldorf school supports the integration of the child's individual awareness into her/his internal organization. Circus skills are an integral part of our movement curriculum and an exciting supplement this year has been the recent Circus Smirkus 2-week residency. Special thanks to the individual families in our community who funded this program. This endeavor gave our students the opportunity to focus on strengthening and deepening their body awareness and spatial faculties while working on fun, challenging and engaging skills.

Circus resident artist, Joshua Shack worked with Madame Steiner and Mr. Brooks to bring circus skills and training to all students in grades 1-6. Students had many opportunities throughout the two weeks, most during their scheduled class times with Madame Steiner or Mr. Brooks, to have fun while working on learning new skills and honing other.

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Beginning with balancing peacock feathers, students first balanced them on the palm of the hand or the fingertip then progressed to nose, head, knee or even big toe. The students worked on balance, hand-eye coordination, proprioception, and body awareness. Once the basic skills were mastered, some students progressed to throwing and catching the feathers, referred to as a “shooting star.”

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The second set of skills students learned was working with spinning plates. Once the particulars of spinning the plate on a stick were achieved, students advanced to spinning the plate on their finger, balancing the feather on the plate and other combinations, all working on body integration and hand-eye coordination.

Then the students went on to work with devil sticks, two batons used with a third baton in motion. Working with the devil sticks added the skills of coordination, rhythm and interacting with another person to the student's repertoire.

Next the students worked with the diabolo, a double-funnel-like apparatus balanced on a long line held between the performer's hands. Coordination, regulating speed and rhythm and working with balance and mid-line stability were all strengthened with tricks such as "elevator" and "rock the baby." When these skills were mastered, some students moved on to additional tricks such as throwing and catching with another person, which helped with synchronization, body awareness and collaboration.

The skill of juggling, first with scarves and then gradually progressing to balls and then pins (we determined that knives and fire were a bit advanced for the curriculum) reinforced all of the skills already in play with the other materials while also synchronizing movement patterns across the midline.

Balance came back into center stage as that the students worked on balancing their bodies-first on a plank sliding over a cylinder, then progressing to the globe-a large solid ball. Standing on the sliding plank worked on rocking motions on a linear plane which activated proprioception and vestibular awareness, moving to the globe added directionality and increased vestibular input. Once students were able to master balancing on the plank or the globe, they were then able to combine that skill with earlier skills such as juggling balls while balancing on a plank or walking on the globe while balancing a peacock feather.

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Finally all of the students worked on building human pyramids. The skills they utilized went beyond those of strength and flexibility to include interpersonal dynamics and the physics involved in erecting sound structures—valuing and identifying individual strengths, community building and practical applications of the laws of Gravity. Pyramid bases needed to be strong, stable and grounded. Middles were the connectors of strength and flexibility. Flyers were on top and required good balance, flexibility and gymnastics.

The residency concluded with an hour-long afternoon performance of all grades on Friday, March 29th. It was a wonderful 2-week experience filled with skill building, performance, opportunities to overcome obstacles and develop tenacity, joint class collaboration and fun. The students were up to the challenge with enthusiasm, a can-do spirit and a real willingness by the older students to accept and make room for all levels of interaction and skill. They had a great time!

Marveling at Mushrooms

By Jeanette Voss, 5th Grade Class Teacher

The Waldorf fifth grade life science curriculum challenges students to observe, draw, connect, and think about living organisms, especially in the fields of mycology and botany. In grade four the students studied zoology and observed animals in and around their homes. It is easier for children to develop a feeling for animals because many of them have pets. Plants and fungi, while also living organisms, are quite different. It requires more effort and patience on the part of the observer to truly watch and see them interact with their environments.

The students’ interest in these living organisms was piqued when they heard that the largest living organism in the world is the Humongous Fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) in Oregon. Its mycelium covers an area of almost 4 square miles.

After learning that the mushroom is just the fruiting body of the fungus, the class went on  mushroom hunts while at Hawthorne Valley Farm as well as in the conservation land behind the school.

Students foraged for and collected different varieties of fungi in the wild…

Students foraged for and collected different varieties of fungi in the wild…

…then observed and recorded their findings back in the classroom.

…then observed and recorded their findings back in the classroom.

A world in her hands…

A world in her hands…

We found fungi in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The internal and external features of their fruiting bodies were discussed and sketched back in the classroom. The actual fungus that lives and thrives in the dark of the soil or in bark and wood was much harder to spot. To show students the actual organism—the fungus that grows, feeds, and spreads with the help of fine threads of mycelium—I decided to grow oyster mushrooms with the class.

Unbleached toilet paper rolls soaked in warm water and filled with grain spawn were the beginning of oyster mushrooms.

Unbleached toilet paper rolls soaked in warm water and filled with grain spawn were the beginning of oyster mushrooms.

First we soaked organic, unbleached toilet paper rolls in warm water and filled the center tubes with grain spawn. Next we placed these inoculated paper rolls in tipi-bags and kept them in a warm, dark place on a shelf-grow-system for about 3 weeks until the mycelium had begun to cover the paper rolls. After 48 hours in the school’s fridge, we opened the bags and exposed them to daylight in the classroom. Within a week to 10 days, beautiful little clusters of oyster mushrooms fruited and grew. The class took the harvest home for Thanksgiving!

Art or oyster mushrooms?

Art or oyster mushrooms?

The children were amazed at the speed with which the fungi fruited. Comparisons were made to the size and shape of the mushroom caps, their colors, and their location on the paper “log.” We discussed the influence of the classroom and home environments on the growth of the fungi. One student created a comparison experiment by choosing a regular, bleached paper roll, which fruited about a week later than all the others and only from the center location where the grain spawn had been placed initially.

This hands-on experience allowed the fifth graders to learn about the need for time, space, patience, and an open mind to make good scientific observations. It was a rewarding experience to observe a fungus grow from start to finish, which is very different from collecting wild mushrooms or buying them at the store. The students are currently writing about this experiment by creating their first ever science poster as a group.

Observation, measuring and recording, and asking questions are cornerstones of the Waldorf approach to teaching science.

Observation, measuring and recording, and asking questions are cornerstones of the Waldorf approach to teaching science.

As this project illustrates, the Waldorf science curriculum is not textbook based. Rather than simply read about science, our students do science. By actively participating in the activities of science—observing, wondering, documenting, comparing, and analyzing—students become engaged and excited by science. This enthusiasm is the flame we hope to light across the Waldorf curriculum, developing passionate learners who can pursue their interests and fulfill their potential, both as students and as citizens of a complex, global world.

Celebrating Diwali

By Dee Bireddy, WSL parent

“Down with Darkness,
Up with Light…”

WSL parent Dee Bireddy tells 4th graders the story of Lord Rama and the festival of Diwali.

WSL parent Dee Bireddy tells 4th graders the story of Lord Rama and the festival of Diwali.

Known as the “Lantern Song” in Waldorf schools, this song has been resonating through our house the past couple of weeks, signaling the journey towards the winter solstice.

Throughout the school year, we come together to celebrate festivals that mark the passage of the seasons, which in turn establishes a natural rhythm for the children. Though many of the common Waldorf festivals are rooted in European tradition, at WSL we also celebrate festivals that reflect the cultural and religious traditions of our student body, both in individual classes (often incorporated into the world history curriculum) and within the school at large. Through these experiences, students develop an understanding of and respect for the diverse cultures of the world and celebrate what’s common to us all, our humanity.

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Being of Indian origin, this time near the solstice holds a special place for us as it brings in a very special festival called Diwali, or Deepavali—a five-day festival of lights. Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil.

Various legends point to the origin of Diwali. According to one, Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama (along with Sita and Lakshmana) from his 14-year exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. He was welcomed by the lighting of numerous lamps, and the day came to be celebrated as Diwali. In spite of the many challenges thrown at him, Rama kept his humanity intact and was fully engaged and lived a life without regrets, and for this he is revered throughout the world.

The Hindu god Rama as imagined by an artist

The Hindu god Rama as imagined by an artist

Grade 4 students using a stencil to create Rangoli with colored rice flour

Grade 4 students using a stencil to create Rangoli with colored rice flour

Traditionally, the festival is celebrated in India with thousands of diyas (earthern lamps), colored lights, and lanterns being lit, turning each village and town into a fairyland. Celebrations also include fireworks at night and Rangoli designs drawn by hand on pavement near home entrances with colored rice flour.

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On Wednesday, Grade 4 students listened attentively as my husband narrated this story of Ramayana, after which the students created beautiful Rangoli artwork. The next day, parents and students were treated to a beautiful, moving play by Grade 5 students that brought this story of Rama’s victory to life. The play is part of the 5th grade study of world history, encompassing the ancient civilizations of India, Persia, Egypt and Greece. Through the study of these civilizations, children at WSL discover the connection between ancient origins and the modern world they live in.

Shivalik Bakshi, Grade 5 parent, explaining the significance of Diwali

Shivalik Bakshi, Grade 5 parent, explaining the significance of Diwali

L-R: Harry, Samarjit, and Shivalik in traditional Indian clothes

L-R: Harry, Samarjit, and Shivalik in traditional Indian clothes

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Dressed in lovely traditional Indian clothes, WSL parents Claris Chuah and Shilvaik Bakshi, Yoshiko Mizukami and Harry Reddy, and Tara and Samarjit Shankar gave a brief history and meaning of Diwali, followed by lighting clay lamps in respect for Goddess Lakshmi. We also joined in singing beautiful Indian kirtans (hymns), followed by Aarti and Tilak. As is the custom, delicious Indian food and sweets were shared among the Grade 5 families.

Grade 5 students making Rangolis and decorating diya

Grade 5 students making Rangolis and decorating diya

As I reflect upon the Lantern Walk, which is celebrated around the same time as Diwali, I realize that there are many similarities between these festivals. They both celebrate the inner light in the outer darkness of the approaching winter.

My husband and I feel fortunate to be at the Waldorf School of Lexington, where learning is infused with human values, diversity is celebrated, and community is forged through meaningful shared experiences.

Students and parents waiting for their turn to receive the auspicious "Tilak" (vermillion mark)

Students and parents waiting for their turn to receive the auspicious "Tilak" (vermillion mark)

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The Festival of Michaelmas

The festival of Michaelmas, which is rooted in harvest traditions from the Middle Ages, falls just after the autumnal equinox, as northern climates head into the dark, cold winter months. Michael is an archangel in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but the festival can be observed by people of all faiths and spiritual traditions, as well as by those simply seeking fortitude in overcoming challenges large and small. 

 
Under a cloud-lit sky, a WSL 7th grader triumphs, having subdued the dragon of darkness with her sword of light.

Under a cloud-lit sky, a WSL 7th grader triumphs, having subdued the dragon of darkness with her sword of light.

 

During the festival, joy and exuberance can be seen on the children’s faces, which is a hallmark of Waldorf education. Throughout the school year, teachers incorporate many special events, such as Michaelmas, that reach children in mind, body, and spirit. The result is engagement in the curriculum, an intrinsic enjoyment of school and learning, and a spirited school community with friendships across the grades.

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The festival begins on the school’s athletic field with an all-school pageant. Each class performs a portion of a play, where St. Michael confronts the dragon. The play ends with the symbolic slaying of the dragon, which calls on us to overcome the dragons of our age—egotism, untruth, fear, and hatred.

The image of Michael battling dark forces with his sword of light gives children courage and helps them have faith in their own resolve for difficult tasks ahead. Not by coincidence, this festival often falls close to the Jewish High Holidays and the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, both occasions for self-purification.

After the pageant, children process to a larger field in Lexington for a dragon-themed game, carrying festive colored banners and singing songs of St. Michael.

The Waldorf School of Lexington’s campus abuts the Minuteman Rail Trail, connecting the school to Arlington’s Great Meadows as well as green space in our home town of Lexington.

The Waldorf School of Lexington’s campus abuts the Minuteman Rail Trail, connecting the school to Arlington’s Great Meadows as well as green space in our home town of Lexington.

During the games, each class in grades 1 to 6 represents a village that has had its jewels stolen by dragons, played by 8th graders. Villagers must dash across the field to reclaim their jewels while avoiding the dragons. They are aided in their journey by angels (also 8th graders) and protective trees (7th graders).

 
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Thank you to all the parents and teachers who sewed and felted such amazing Michaelmas banners, and to the creative efforts of many hands in recreating the dragon body this year! It was another wonderful festival.

The Social and Emotional Health of Boys

Dr. Anthony Rao is a pediatric psychologist and an expert on the development of boys. His book, The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys, is an insightful primer for parents on how to handle the unique—and at times exasperating—challenges of raising sons. A blend of scientific information and practical advice, the book highlights the many ways that today’s society often puts a range of normal boy behaviors in the problem category.

You can download an expanded version of this blog post here.

“Boys receive the vast majority of special education services, in part because teachers report their behaviors as problematic. While this has been true for older boys for quite a while, what we are seeing now are IEPs for three- and four-year-olds, most of whom are boys.”   —    The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys, by Dr. Anthony Rao

“Boys receive the vast majority of special education services, in part because teachers report their behaviors as problematic. While this has been true for older boys for quite a while, what we are seeing now are IEPs for three- and four-year-olds, most of whom are boys.”The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys, by Dr. Anthony Rao

It’s Nurture and Nature

Time outdoors exploring the natural world is a healthy beginning for both boys and girls—and something that is increasingly hard to find as even preschool programs become academically oriented.    

Time outdoors exploring the natural world is a healthy beginning for both boys and girls—and something that is increasingly hard to find as even preschool programs become academically oriented.

 

For example, how many parents know that girls seem to be wired from birth to look at faces far more often than boys? This neurological difference translates to behavioral differences that can get boys in trouble once they reach preschool, where making eye contact is expected and becomes a litmus test for normal social development.

Along with differences in genetics and socialization, boys must also contend with the demands and biases of today’s fast-paced, highly competitive, digitally overloaded world—forces which often work against boys’ learning styles and natural development.

Dr. Rao will explore these themes and more in his talk, "Raising Boys to Be Their Best in a Rapidly Changing World," at the Waldorf School of Lexington next Tuesday, March 20. Details here.

Dr. Rao holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Vanderbilt University. For more than 20 years, Dr. Rao worked in the Department of Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital, Boston, and served as an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He currently consults with families all over the country, and is the founder of Behavioral Solutions, a therapy practice here in Lexington, MA.

Fostering Resilience in Children

WSL balances challenging academics with the joyful celebration of holidays and festivals. Second graders recently performed a dragon dance in honor of Chinese New Year.

WSL balances challenging academics with the joyful celebration of holidays and festivals. Second graders recently performed a dragon dance in honor of Chinese New Year.

By Laurel Kayne, alumni parent and WSL's communications director

Much has been written about the stress students face in school today, including last year’s poignant New York Times profile on Lexington. By 2015, anxiety had overtaken depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students, and according to the spring 2017 National College Health Assessment, 60% of college students felt “overwhelming anxiety” in the past 12 month.

Adults, too, have been swept up by our race-to-succeed culture. A recent Harvard Business Review article suggests that we have become a nation of workaholics who cannot power down and give our brains a rest. The authors corroborate the idea that this trend begins early—from academic benchmarks that start as early as preschool (they are in full swing by kindergarten), to parents pushing high school students to succeed at the expense of sleep.

At WSL, students often work collaboratively, while teachers offer personal attention and support.

At WSL, students often work collaboratively, while teachers offer personal attention and support.

In “Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure,” the authors point out that working oneself to the bone is a recipe for failure, not success. The key to resilience, they say, is “trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again.”

Rewind to last year when my daughter was an 8th grader at the Waldorf School of Lexington. Concerned that perhaps she did not have enough homework to prepare her for the rigors of high school, I approached her class teacher, Helena Niiva.

Ms. Niiva is an experienced Waldorf teacher who is currently leading her fourth class of 8th graders. “I expect all my students to work up to their capacity during school,” she explained. “They need time outside of school to digest what they have learned, relax, do something other than homework."

Sounds just like the Harvard advice to try hard, stop and recover, then try again. In Waldorf parlance, this concept is broadly referred to as balance.

In a 7th grade science class, students try to solve the engineering challenges of building a bridge. This STEM activity is collaborative, hands-on, thought-provoking, and yes, fun!

In a 7th grade science class, students try to solve the engineering challenges of building a bridge. This STEM activity is collaborative, hands-on, thought-provoking, and yes, fun!

At WSL, the relationship between teacher and student is of paramount importance to the learning process. Teachers truly know their students as individuals and support them in their educational journey.

At WSL, the relationship between teacher and student is of paramount importance to the learning process. Teachers truly know their students as individuals and support them in their educational journey.

Balance has been a hallmark of Waldorf education since long before resilience became a buzzword.

  • The Waldorf curriculum balances academics with the arts and time outdoors.
  • The Waldorf emphasis on healthy child development balances school work and homework with adequate downtime.
  • Waldorf team sports begin in middle school, helping to keep the focus on collaboration rather than competition during the elementary years.
  • Instead of grades, Waldorf uses narrative assessments, which foster a student’s intrinsic motivation to learn.

In every way, the Waldorf curriculum is designed to produce engaged, independent thinkers whose love of learning is not squelched by stress and pressure.

Today’s social scientists are now catching up to what Rudolf Steiner knew 100 years ago—that the true key to success is not how early you learn to read or how many AP classes you take, but how well you can maintain balance. In today’s world, that is not an easy task, but with a Waldorf education, kids are off to a great start.

Reflections on WSL's Mission

By School Director Robert Schiappacasse

 

We are living in a time when public discourse in our country has become increasingly divisive and closed-minded. In this contentious atmosphere, WSL’s educational and social mission is ever more relevant. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, Waldorf education’s founder, Rudolf 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.”

 
“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, Columbia University

“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, Columbia University

 

After the devastation of World War I, Steiner asked: “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.”

WSL’s mission statement highlights not only the school’s arts-integrated academic education—rich in the humanities, sciences, and practical and fine arts—but also critical thinking, collaboration, and engagement with the world. WSL’s curriculum teaches students about cultures from many countries and civilizations, both ancient and contemporary, encouraging an openness to others and respect for difference.

By approaching learning through first-hand observations, Waldorf teachers encourage students to see, learn, and think for themselves, forming their own conclusions rather than accepting another’s point of view without question.

“It has been a joy and a gift to see my daughters experience Waldorf. They delight in many of the same celebrations, stories, songs, and daily activities that enthralled me as a child. I’m deeply grateful to have the opportunity to send my children to the Waldorf School of Lexington.”  — WSL parent and Waldorf alum

“It has been a joy and a gift to see my daughters experience Waldorf. They delight in many of the same celebrations, stories, songs, and daily activities that enthralled me as a child. I’m deeply grateful to have the opportunity to send my children to the Waldorf School of Lexington.”

— WSL parent and Waldorf alum

These aspects of the curriculum and pedagogy are just some of the many ways that Waldorf education prepares students to enter the world with eyes, minds, and hearts open, seeking beauty and truth, ready to shine their lights brightly into the culture of our time.

At WSL, teachers delight in their students, teach them, listen to them, mentor them, and love them.

At WSL, teachers delight in their students, teach them, listen to them, mentor them, and love them.

“Waldorf offered me diverse, creative, exciting ways to learn and engage with the world.  The most memorable thing about leaving Waldorf was arriving at public high school and realizing that my peers were already burnt out from their educations. I was still curious, inquisitive, and ready to learn.”  — WSL alum, class of 1998

“Waldorf offered me diverse, creative, exciting ways to learn and engage with the world.

The most memorable thing about leaving Waldorf was arriving at public high school and realizing that my peers were already burnt out from their educations. I was still curious, inquisitive, and ready to learn.”

— WSL alum, class of 1998

At WSL, teachers have a personal connection with each student. They understand each child's strengths, weaknesses, passions, and challenges.

At WSL, teachers have a personal connection with each student. They understand each child's strengths, weaknesses, passions, and challenges.

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?

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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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