The Joyful Journey

Michaelmas: Contemplating Dragons

The children have been practicing this week for our Michaelmas celebration. The pageant is the same every year and each class plays a pivotal role in the story.

There are the littlest First Grade Gnomes and energetic Second Grade Meteors.

Third Grade portrays the elements, while the noble Fourth Grade contains the knights and St. Michael.

The hardworking Fifth Graders are the farmers and peasants, while the Sixth Grade gives life to the fearsome and fun dragon.

Finally, our Middle Schoolers provide the stirring music for the morning.

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With our senses full of the sights and sounds (and soup) of Michaelmas, it is easy to overlook the deeper meaning this festival holds within a Waldorf school.

Kristina Boving, Meadowbrook Grade 5 Class Teacher and Trustee of the Board, describes the introspective side of this exuberant celebration:

In Waldorf Education, we believe strongly in working with the influences of the natural world, noticing and celebrating the changes in the seasons. Now that fall is upon us, teachers and students are preparing for the festival of Michaelmas, which recognizes the figure of St. Michael. Little noted in modern times, Michael was a powerful figure in days of yore. Better known to us today is Michael’s association with St. George, the patron saint of England, as he fights the dragon.

This powerful image of Michael and his battle against a fearful dragon resonates with the autumn season on many levels. In summer, we are more active, diving into the great outdoors, and losing ourselves in the joy and revelry of long, warm days. Our part of the earth seems to be in a state of dreamy bliss. As fall approaches, and days grow cooler and shorter, nature starts to contract and settle in for a period of dormancy. We are influenced by this change as well. We too are beckoned to a more contemplative mode of being. Our power of thinking can grow clearer and we can become more self-aware, if we take the time to bring our thoughts to consciousness. This is the time to gather our forces to resist falling in too strongly with nature’s cycle of decay and death during the autumn and winter. This is the time to take our outer perceptions and draw them inward to a sustaining, and hope-giving inner experience. This is the time of year known in the Middle Ages as “vita contemplativa” as opposed to summer’s “vita activa”. Michael’s fight for goodness and beauty, and the hope that it brings us, can sustain us through this season.

It takes a strong will to focus on our inner lives, especially during the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. The image of Michael taming the dragon can be a guide for us, helping us re-focus on the essential, giving us courage to overcome fear and despair during the darkening days of autumn.

Fall 2016 Parent Child Programs

parent child testimonial (1)

As we begin to say good bye to summer, it is time to welcome back our Fall Parent Child Program!


For the fall session, are classes on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays from 9-11am.   In this 6 week program, you can explore the joys and challenges of raising your child in a supportive and nurturing environment. Caregivers and children share a lovely morning of play, snack and circle time. Siblings are welcome.  Perfect for the new walker to the older toddler, and their caregiver.  Click below for more Parent Toddler Program information and registration documents.

MONDAY Toddler Class – Fall 2016 – Registration

TUESDAY Toddler Class – Fall 2016 – Registration

WEDNESDAY Toddler Class – Fall 2016 – Registration

Third Grade Farm Trip

Contributor: Diana Carlson, Class Teacher of Grade 3 of 2015-16

I have just returned from spending a week with my third graders at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, New York.  We had a great time!  The students baked bread, made butter, and cooked supper for their classmates and teachers.  They planted seeds as the spring leaves popped around them in the April sunshine.  They woke in the chill dawn to feed and water the cows, chickens, pigs, and horses.  They also rode those horses, and cleaned those cows’ barn, and looked for eggs in the hen-house.  They skipped stones and waded in the river and ran and climbed trees, with old friends and new.  In the evenings they sang together, and practiced being quiet together so that everyone could settle down to sleep.Farm Trip 2016

Farm Trip 2016

The farm trip meets the developing nine-year old in many important ways.  For most of my students, this was their first extended time away from their family.  The nine-year old is developing an individual interior world; for the first time they realize that they can have thoughts and experiences that are theirs alone.  The experience of the farm trip, although shared with familiar classmates and teachers, is an individual, personal life experience outside of the family round.  Many of the students expressed surprise at how little they missed their families; they almost felt a little guilty at first, as if their self-sufficiency denied their affection for their families.  When the families arrived to pick up their dirty, happy children on Friday morning, the students were thrilled to reconnect and share their experiences with their parents and siblings.  They experienced that a separation is not a severing, and that they are able to have individual experiences and still remain connected, even over distance and time, to their loved ones.  This foundational experience gives the child the confidence to move out into the world in ever widening arcs as they mature.

We had the opportunity to share our farm experience with students from the Primrose Hill School in Reinbeck, New York.  The children enjoyed getting to know one another and see how another Waldorf third grade can be similar and yet different.  We knew many of the same songs and poems, we were following the same curriculum as outlined by Rudolf Steiner, we were the same ages.  And yet we had different class cultures, different personalities.  By the end of the week however, the farm teachers commented that the groups had integrated so harmoniously that they couldn’t tell which students were from Meadowbrook and which were from Primrose Hill.

The farm experience deeply connects the child to the third grade science and geography curriculum.  Now these students really “know” cows – their size, their smell, their slick noses and rough tongues, their beautiful eyes and placid natures.  To know a cow in this way is to have a deeper connection to all that comes from the cow – butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, leather, hamburgers.  The students also gain an understanding of the amount of work that creates their daily meals.  One student commented on how difficult it was to clean out the barn – how strenuous, how smelly, how relieved he was to never have to do that again.  And one of the farm teachers remarked, “Yes, and think – somebody has to do that every day or you would never be able to have ice cream!”  The realization that all we enjoy is derived from the work of others cultivates gratitude and a true understanding of the interconnectedness of our world.

Farm Trip 2016 IIThe experience of being at the farm planted seeds of understanding in the hearts and minds of my students.  I look forward to watching these seeds sprout and blossom in the years ahead.  I am grateful to Meadowbrook and to the parents of the third grade class for making this trip possible.

Meadowbrook May Faire!

mayfaire

Early one morning
Before the sun had risen,
I heard a bluebird
In the fields gaily sing.       
South winds are blowing,
Green grass is growing,
We have come to herald
the merry, merry Spring.

                 English Folk Song

We will be holding our annual May Faire celebration soon. The first day of spring occurs in March, but our calendar is often at odds with what we see out of our New England windows. May Faire, arriving midway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, comes at a time when we are firmly rooted in the season of spring.

Traditionally, May Faire heralds lengthening days, fertile soil, and the promise of abundance.  It also reminds us that we have persevered through the challenging, contemplative season of winter and moved into the exuberant spring.  This exuberance is reflected at the Faire with joyous and colorful May pole dancing, flower garlands, music, games, and food.
Why do Waldorf schools continue to celebrate these ancient festivals? Many foundational principles of the Waldorf philosophy can be found in these celebrations.
Often, these festivals have an aspect of story, song, (and snack!) and in this way mimic the Waldorf classroom rhythm. It is an opportunity to surround the children, and ourselves, with beauty, truth and goodness.  These festivals foster in all of us the qualities of wonder, reverence and gratitude.
Everyone in our community works together to make these celebrations happen: children, faculty, parents and friends. We hope that the children learn through our example how to work together to make something beautiful and meaningful. By marking the rhythm of the seasons and celebrating the natural world, it reminds us of our connection with the earth and each other, and places us in the history of humankind.
May Faire Community Gathering
Site Design and Development by Ian O'Brien | Background painting by Nicole Besack | Select Photos by Monica Rodgers and Seth Jacobson