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 Summer Camp

Shaw Camp Photo

Meadowbrook Waldorf School is opening its doors wider and launching a summer camp!  Come experience the magic of summer at Meadowbrook Waldorf School. Our outdoor summer camp will be held for three weeks in July–the perfect time to be outside and exploring our forest and streams. Children ages 4-8 are welcome to attend this program designed to explore the natural world while having fun together. Hiking, baking, painting, singing, climbing–all the summer essentials!

MORE DETAILS
Children will arrive each morning greeted by teachers in our wooded play yard to settle in for the day.  Hiking, cooking, playing, crafting, singing, and joy will fill the morning, working up an appetite for a healthy snack. Children will play with others their own age in thoughtful, creative ways. Lunch and rest will transition everyone into the afternoon hours. Staying cool with continuing creative endeavors will fill the afternoon and the end of the day will sneak up on the children.
Every day will consist of the same rhythm of events, with each event offering new fun. The week’s activities will reflect one of three themes: Magic of the Woods, Fairy Tales and Naturally Building-Homes of all kinds.
This summer camp is for CHILDREN AGES 4-8 and runs FROM JULY 11 – JULY 29 with one week sessions.  CAMP HOURS are 9am to 3pm, Monday-Friday.  Snack will be provided twice per day, while parents will pack a healthy lunch.

Pricing Information:  The cost of summer camp is $225 per week, per child.  Checks can be made payable to Meadowbrook Waldorf School.  All payments are nonrefundable.

REGISTRATION

Click Here for Registration Forms

Registration Deadline:  Forms and payment must be received by June 1, 2016.

To register for summer camp:
Email completed forms to camp@meadowbrookschool.com and submit payment by mail to:  Meadowbrook Waldorf School, 300 Kingstown Road, West Kingston, RI 02892

Or drop completed forms and payment to the Meadowbrook Waldorf School front desk.

QUESTIONS:  Email Jocelyn at camp@meadowbrookschool.com

We welcome Jocelyn Auld back to Meadowbrook Waldorf School as our Summer Camp Director. Jocelyn holds a BS in Elementary Education & Fine Arts from the University of Rhode Island, and has worked in Early Childhood and with Grades children.  She feels a deep connection to the educational practices of Waldorf Education and has worked in summer camps every summer since she was a teen. From counselor to director, Jocelyn has tried it all and loves each new adventure!

Finding Balance: Honoring Childhood While Educating for the Future

Christine Martuscello, Admissions Coordinator of Meadowbrook Waldorf School

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A Waldorf School Offers A Child-Centered Education

A healthy education is one that balances the current needs of the child with future educational goals. The child, not the goal, should always be at the center of the process.

Waldorf Education, founded in 1919 and based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, achieves a balanced education by offering a developmentally appropriate curriculum that both supports children where they are in the moment, and prepares them for their next phase of development.   This curriculum unites academics with the arts, movement, practical work, and a deep respect for the natural world.

The Waldorf Preschool Program

For children in a Waldorf preschool program, this means their days are spent engaged in purposeful play, social activity and exploration, both indoors and out. Rich stories are experienced through puppetry, songs are combined with movement, and curiosity, observation, and collaboration are encouraged during forest adventures. Although these important activities are considered “pre-academic”, they all build skills critical for the academic journey that begins in first grade.

A Classical Elementary School Curriculum

Once students enter elementary school they are formally introduced to a classic, liberal arts curriculum that includes music, fine arts, foreign language, and practical arts to create deeper, more meaningful learning. Desk time is balanced with movement, academics are balanced with the arts, and time indoors is balanced with time spent in nature. Since children at this age learn best through strong, memorable experiences, the curriculum is often offered in an experiential manner. In the early elementary grades, this means math facts are paired with clapping games and rhythmical movement, language arts studied through dramatic presentation, and history is experienced firsthand with field trips and biography. These activities meet many styles of learning and reflect the complex world the children will inherit. The skills learned in these early years provide a strong foundation for the challenging learning and growth that is still to come.

Waldorf Curriculum Meets the Child’s Developmental Stage
Elementary (Grades 1-5)

The later elementary curriculum broadens the experience of the child. In the early elementary years, children are still in a dreamy world of imitation, content and secure in their family. Adults are seen as all knowing, and children do not yet question the world around them. This begins to change during the mid-elementary years as the children become more aware of themselves as individuals, and more awake to the world around them. This “nine year change” challenges their sense of confidence in the world, and their place in it.  To reassure children that they will have what they need to meet the world as adults, the Waldorf curriculum turns to the practical. Units of measure and fractions are studied in math, with shelter building and farming as cornerstones of the curriculum at this age. The curriculum at this time is a conscious exploration of what directly surrounds the child: local ecology, government, animals, and plants.

It is this experience of the local and practical that helps children cross a threshold and see themselves as individuals capable of inhabiting a rich and complex world, and successfully meeting the future with knowledge, connection, and collaboration.

After this immersion in the local, the curriculum expands to include ancient cultures and creation stories including Judeo-Christian, Native American, Norse, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythology. Presented during the later elementary grades, these stories describe how humans have been long striving to understand and explain the world around them.

As the curriculum broadens to include that which is outside of the child’s view, the fine and practical art curriculum also broadens. Fourth grade students add a string instrument to their recorder studies, and woodworking is added to the handwork curriculum begun in first grade. Both of these additions serve to not only improve fine motor skills, but to strengthen the will and demonstrate to the child that with practice and perseverance difficult tasks can be mastered to a beautiful end.

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Middle school is a time of great change: physical, emotional, and intellectual. The children begin to question what they previously accepted without issue when they were younger. This adolescent urge to question and test is the perfect time to introduce the rigorous science curriculum. Through deep observation, which has been encouraged since the early childhood years, the students explore the world sometimes hidden from view through chemistry, optics, physics, anatomy, physiology, and astronomy. Moving from the concrete calculations of decimals, geometry, and business math, to the more the abstract math of exponents, number bases, platonic solids, and algebra, challenges the middle schooler’s burgeoning ability to think in the abstract.

Mirroring their sometimes tumultuous internal changes, the students study tumultuous times of history. Roman law, the Dark Ages, the beauty of the Renaissance, and periods of revolution are explored through first hand experiences, drama, fine art, and biography.   The students are now introduced to individuals, rather than the myths and legends of elementary school, who worked to make positive change in the world, sometimes at great personal cost. By the study and example of these pivotal individuals, the seed is planted that they too can be instruments of change in the world.

Waldorf Education Offers A Balanced, Thoughtful Approach 

A Waldorf Education provides a balanced curriculum that honors childhood by meeting the child where they are developmentally. The nurturance of foundational skills and play in early childhood provides a strong basis for the academics of the elementary years.

The elementary grades offer a rich curriculum of language, math, foreign language, history, geography, music, fine, and practical arts. Time for outdoor play and projects allows the child to experience the natural world, encourages collaboration, and provides an opportunity to recharge.  Once in middle school, the rigorous curriculum expands further to include more sciences and complex math to challenge the children’s new abilities.

It is the thoughtfulness of this intricate curriculum that encourages student’s growing capacities while maintaining the reverence of childhood.

Related Links:
About Waldorf Education 
Meadowbrook Waldorf School Curriculum
Admissions Application

 

The Freedom of a Waldorf Education

Renee Kent wrote this post as archivist for the Meadowbrook Parents Association.  The MPA meets monthly to discuss various aspects of school life with members of the teaching and administrative staff.  Each meeting begins with the presentation of an educational topic from a faculty representative.  In this post, MWS class teacher Andrew Gilligan brought his incredible energy to discuss with us what it means to enroll in a Waldorf School.  Renee writes, “He presented with such passion and reverence and I am sharing here what I took away from the discussion, not the least of which is an incredible gratitude that people such as Andrew Gilligan exist and take deeply into their own souls the responsibility for educating children in a way that goes much deeper than the practical curriculum of reading, writing, and math.”

Educational Freedom

education

Andrew Gilligan began his discussion about the importance of Waldorf Education in the world and what it means by asking us to think about the word freedom.  As parents, we exercise our freedom to choose the type of education that best fits the needs of our child.  Waldorf Education exercises its freedom as an independent school system, free from the full weight of government regulation.  Waldorf philosophy (or pedagogy) views children as free beings who come with unique gifts to bestow upon the world.  The children are granted the freedom to enjoy childhood.  The education itself is intended for children to grow into adults who are confident in exercising their own freedom to be who they are meant to be.

Educating for an Unknown Future

Children are the lifeblood of human society.  Children are, quite literally, our future.  While this is a popular media catchphrase, the gravity of this is taken quite seriously by teachers.  Our children will become the adults that make the decisions in our world.  The root of the word education means to draw out.  Waldorf educators abide by the philosophy that their primary role is to remove hindrances so that children are able to bring their own ideas out into the world.  This stands as a stark counterpoint to the general idea that a proper education ‘fills up’ the child with information, information that may or may not be relevant when the child is grown.  As a teacher Mr. Gilligan asks: “How is the gesture of education able to draw out the capacities that lie within the child?”  “How can we educate this child for freedom?”

We prepare a child of today for an unknown world of tomorrow by allowing them to know their own self, to rely on their inner strength, and by allowing them their own freedom within the moral compass of knowing that they must take responsibility for that freedom.  We do this by holding a quiet knowing of what childhood ought to be, by allowing them the freedom to fully experience childhood.

Education Begins with Healthy Relationships

Waldorf educator and author, Gary Lamb describes a Holy Trinity of Education made up of parents, teachers, and children.  The basic foundation of a healthy school is healthy relationships, where no one is given authority to make a decision about a child unless that individual knows the child in question and bears some responsibility for the education of that child.  No outside agency, (government, academic or industrial) should be involved in making policy decisions about education unless directly involved in providing that education to the children concerned.  If children are to be free to develop to meet the future they must be free of the demands of present economic and political considerations.  Waldorf Education is child-centered meaning all decisions regarding that education are driven by the needs of the individual child and the class in question.  Using the Holy Trinity of Education those decisions are made by the child’s parents and teachers.

NIK_3088Individuality in Education

In a Waldorf School, the teacher is a pedagogical artist with the freedom to bring his or her own particular interests, experiences, and skills to the students, enriching the curriculum with deeper meaning.  Public school colleagues are limited in this capacity. This is not because they lack the understanding or do not feel the gravity of their responsibility. It is because their freedom is restricted by school systems. They are regulated by the need to provide quantifiable results. They are required to evaluate success according to metrics. Metrics that are based on standards unconnected to the individual child’s capacities.  Within the Waldorf curriculum, teachers are free to make choices that meet the needs of the class, assessing progress and evaluating the process as it relates to the children concerned.

Freedom to Invest in an Education

As parents we know our children, their needs and gifts, better than anyone.  As parents we have the freedom to choose the educational system we feel is the best fit for our children.  However, the cost of attending an independent school may mean some parents are unable to act on their choices.  Parents in Waldorf Schools are partners in their children’s education not only by working with the teacher in support of the work done in the classroom, but by sustaining community life and helping alleviate financial pressures through volunteerism.

Mr. Gilligan offered that it is a brave choice to become a part of a  Waldorf School. It is a free choice, not something foisted upon you and it requires a personal investment.  What it calls on us to do is to rise up and hold ourselves accountable, to sharpen our responsibility of soul.

Freedom to Pursue Their Life’s Work.

As a parent listening to this talk, I was repeatedly moved by the depth of commitment expressed by Mr. Gilligan.  Most parents if asked, I imagine would say that what they want is for their children grow into happy, well adjusted adults.  To me this means that they will pursue what they are passionate about, something that is soul satisfying and that they can fully immerse themselves in.   What became clear to me while listening to Mr. Gilligan is that in choosing a Waldorf School, I have surrounded my children with adults doing exactly that.  Adults who felt a calling and pursued it, a calling they are free to fully inhabit to the benefit of the children.  With adults they respect, doing their life’s work with integrity and passion, the children are being shown daily that they are free to do the same.  I can’t think of a better place for my children.