Building the Future Together

Celebrating the Past, Weaving the Present, Lighting the Future

In January the Meadowbrook Waldorf School community came together for a day of long range planning. The turning of the year is traditionally the time when those working at Meadowbrook set their intentions for, and make commitments to, the future of the school. Nearly 50 parents, teachers, staff, alumni and board members put aside their day to day tasks to focus on the overall well being and direction of our organization. As the MWS Mission states; This school endeavors to nurture living organizational structures which cultivate respect, trust and love for the developing human being. In this spirit of endeavor, the Board of Trustees invited the breadth of the Meadowbrook community to help generate ideas and momentum to guide us through the next three to five years of growing together.

LRP SuRu (640x409)This summer MWS will celebrate its 35th birthday. We have a rich history to consider as we contemplate moving forward. What is it about Meadowbrook that makes it so special? Several community members were invited to share personal experiences that illustrate the essence of our school and what they value about it. We laughed and cried as founding teachers, current and alumni parents, as well as Trustees past and present shared their impressions.

They spoke of how the beauty of an early childhood classroom drew them into a world of different possibilities for their child’s education. With space to play and time to develop skills naturally, children surprised their parents with their confidence in their own capacities and ability to learn.  We heard how the wisdom of the Waldorf curriculum in its academic aspect is receiving increasing validation from mainstream research. We also heard about the importance of the moral education our students benefit from as they prepare to take their places in an increasingly complex society.

honoring AmyAlumni parents told how a shared sense of being ‘comfortable within one’s own skin’ had helped form class communities that continue to support each other long after graduation. There is an almost indefinable quality to Meadowbrook graduates. As they continue their education teachers remark on their competence, resilience and initiative. They are citizens of the world who exhibit multiple intelligences and show leadership in their abilities to influence group dynamics around them. As one alumni parent put it, this ‘return on investment’ was more than he could ever have expected when he enrolled his child in the kindergarten that used only one color of paint at a time.

LRP Doug P (493x640) Parents also become enrolled when they join the MWS community. We recognize that volunteerism is at the heart of Meadowbrook and a common theme in this opening segment was the transformation and personal development each speaker had experienced through involvement with the school. As children blossomed in their new school environment, new parenting styles developed and family lives changed accordingly. Career tracks altered course as parents became teachers and administrators. Three treasurers, past and present shared what volunteering their service to the school had meant to them personally but also how MWS methods of working had impacted their corporate lives.

After years of makeshift accommodations Meadowbrook moved into its permanent home seven years ago. Our community had to overcome many challenges to reach this point. We have always had to work thoughtfully to build strong relationships, and to think creatively to balance our budget. The financial considerations of paying tuition or being employed at MWS continue to be challenging. However, as we worked with facilitator Walt Galloway, it became clear that we deeply value our community. We value our relationships with one another and recognize that they are consciously held and cared for. Anthroposophy provides a foundation that fosters our understanding of all human beings and of each other. We hold expectations of respect, kindness and grace. We have faith in the power of the curriculum and in the ability of our faculty and staff to deliver it.

Moving into the planning stage of the event, we distilled four areas of interest for future focus.

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The Relationship of MWS to the Wider Community: Outreach 

This group discussed ways of raising the profile of MWS and its activities, and to educate the wider community about Waldorf education. It is hoped that a renewed focus on who we are and what we bring to our students and the community would increase enrollment and contributions of material benefit to the school. We are seeking opportunities to showcase what we do well and tell our story with an authentic human voice that others can understand. We must also listen and learn what individuals and society are looking for that we may be able to provide. Imagine what the world would be like if all schools were Waldorf schools! This group asked: How do we bring people in so they can personally experience our school and this education? What enrolls people in the spirit of the school and the tasks we undertake?

The group came up with several ideas to support outreach including:

  • Create a team of volunteers and educate them to be ‘Ambassadors’ able to go out into the world and represent us
  • Create a campaign each year with a theme that Ambassadors would use to represent MWS at various public events
  • Indentify topics that will bring people in and engage them in aspects that are essential to Waldorf Education
  • Network within existing relationships, local small businesses and other like minded organizations
  • Find ways to have articles about our school printed in Renewal and local publications
  • Expand our relationships with area colleges (we currently host visitors/ interns from CCRI and Brown).  This could include sending our faculty and staff to area colleges as guest lecturers.

gr 2 girlsIn-reach: Fostering Our Culture of Care and Concern for Others  

As we transition from our pioneering origins to being an established community, it becomes more important to create opportunities to bring together parents, friends and extended family, alumni and alumni parents. It is also important that the community schedule includes play and allows time to breathe. Our relationships are strengthened when we have good communication and a common understanding of the organization supported by continuing education for parents and staff..

  • How effective are the means of communication we use now, and what improvements could we make?
  • How do we forge strong connections with new employees and parents joining the school?
  • How can we support faculty and staff so they feel supported?
  • Which resources do we have within our community to support each other? E.g. volunteer skills, material resources, new ideas such as sharing community grown produce.

Michaelmas 363Preserving and Protecting What is Here 

This group chose to identify what we value most about MWS and generate ideas to assure that these things are preserved, protected and passed on. Important features of our school included:

  • The teachers’ freedom in carrying out the curriculum in accordance with their deep knowledge of the class
  • That an appropriate level of childhood is preserved throughout  the student’s entire MWS experience
  • That children develop their own individualities and the community allows and encourages this
  • That we support children with special needs

We hold anthroposophy as the foundation of our curriculum and our community life, with its core values of simplicity, truth, beauty and goodness. The study of anthroposophy within the bodies of the school, including the MPA, strengthens the integrity of the Waldorf curriculum and enhances the students’ experience of childhood. Adult education, such as the MWS Orientation to Service and opportunities shared with the wider community, preserves our sense of community and develops both our relationships and the institution.

The group suggests that all bodies of the school participate in capturing our core themes and values, and finding opportunities to communicate them. They also recommended creating community wide events such as a Shepherd’s Play to enliven our relationships through play as well as work.

Space to Breathe, Move, Play & Interact  

The simple act of bringing people into our space is one of the most important ways we have of educating new-comers about the essence and values of our school.  As we consider how to develop the school there is a spirit of place that we need to be conscious of in our work. We value the connection to nature our campus allows and the physical activity that this education makes possible here. We have identified that surrounding our community with beauty is a priority.

Ideas to address program and community needs, and to increase enrollment included creating the following:

  • Community gathering space
  • Additional space for Early Childhood
  • Separation of handwork & woodwork space
  • Space for after school activities
  • Space for faculty work
  • Tutoring rooms
  • Outdoor classrooms

The group suggested that space needs identified during the accreditation process should be prioritized by faculty and staff, and that the master plan for the campus is reviewed.  A building committee should be formed to oversee the structural needs of the school.  Long range needs such as additional buildings need to be explored and short term changes in the use of existing space should start this summer.

This Long Range Planning event was only a beginning. A full report was written and circulated amongst all who had taken part in the discussions and a copy will kept on file and be made available to the community. From it, task lists and timelines will be constructed. From each of the four groups, an initial list was compiled of those interested in continuing the work. Meadowbrook’s history and the spirit in which this day of planning took place show us to be a thoughtful and resourceful community, concerned for each other and for the healthy development of our school. As the focus groups reconvene to consider the next steps needed, you might consider what you could bring to the effort; ideas, skills, goods and services are all of great value as we move into building the future together.

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To learn more about the work of the focus groups contact the facilitators:

Outreach: Beth Riungu

In-reach: Walt Galloway

Preserve & Protect: Tabitha Jorgensen

Space: Jennifer Farrelly

 

 

 

Play, Sports and Competition

Donna (513x640)Donna Mirza is trained in Spatial Dynamics and has been the movement teacher at Meadowbrook for 16 years. In this atricle she explains the basis of the Waldorf approach to physical education and introduces some useful reading materials. She and her children, both MWS graduates, are enthusiastically involved in a wide range of sporting activities.

Everything taught in a Waldorf School comes from the understanding of what is appropriate developmentally to support the child at each particular age. The Waldorf movement curriculum supports the healthy development of the growing child in the early years with cooperative play and non-competitive games. Through this work the child builds a strong foundation of physical skills including balance, spatial awareness, motor planning, coordination and rhythm. As the child reaches middle school, a healthy balance of play and competition is introduced. At this age the child is developing his understanding of what it means to challenge himself against another. With skills and confidence developed through years of playing cooperatively, the children are now poised to physically, socially and emotionally to take on the challenge of competition.

Working with the ideals of Waldorf Education, early grade school is a sacred time for the children to play in harmony with others, exploring how their bodies move. Introducing the young child too early into organized sports can have negative influences on the child’s emotional, social and physical well being. It is a distraction to the rhythm of family life and can negatively impact the culture of the classroom. How do you maneuver through the sports obsession culture and make healthy choices for your child and your family? Begin with the informative article in the Waldorf Education journal, Renewal Fall/Winter 2013; “Learning to Move in Space, Healthy Movement Education for Children”. The MWS library also has three new books about sports and competition with useful parenting ideas. Read more about them below:

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Beyond Winning – Smart Parenting in a Toxic Sports Environment by Kim John Payne, Luis Fernando Llosa and Scott Lancaster

“Every child’s life unfolds in its own unique way. Our role as parents is to nurture our children and guide them as they grow into strong, healthy, independent individuals. How then can we shield our children from today’s intoxicating youth sports culture, which sweeps us all into its swirling vortex and subjects our kids to too much, too soon? Caught up in a cultural frenzy, we clutter our children’s daily lives with too many sporting activities and though, often unwittingly, pressure our “child-athletes” to perform. As a result they grow up too quickly, and often the foundations of our family lives are fractured.”

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Warrior Girls - Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports by Michael Sokolove

Warrior Girls exposes the downside of the women’s sports revolution that has evolved since Title IX; an injury epidemic that is easily ignored because we worry that it will threaten our daughters’ hard won opportunities on the field. Well documented, opinionated and controversial, Warrior Girls shows that all girls can safeguard themselves on the field without sacrificing their hard-won right to be there.”

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No Contest – The Case Against Competition by Alfie Kohn

“Contrary to myths with which we have been raised, Kohn shows that competition is not an inevitable part of human nature. It does not motivate us to do our best (in fact, our workplaces and schools are in trouble because they value competitiveness instead of excellence). Rather than building character, competition sabotages self-esteem and ruins relationships. It even warps recreation by turning the playing field into a battlefield.”

 

 

10 Tips for Enjoying the Holiday Faire

Holiday Faire EntertainmentThe Meadowbrook Waldorf School Holiday Faire is an event not to be missed and is one that my family has looked forward to every year since we discovered it three years ago. Over time, we have learned a few tips and tricks to make the day more enjoyable and relaxing, especially with young children.

1. Arrive Early to the Holiday Faire

Parking is available in the school lot and next door at the antique barn, which is a 5-minute walk to the Faire entrance. A shuttle to and from the school is also available.

By afternoon, the lots will be quite full. If you have restless small children who will need an afternoon nap, try to arrive close to when the Faire opens at 10 am.

2. Plan your time at the Holiday Faire

Waldorf Preschool Puppet Show

There are so many things to see and do! If you plan to make your own beeswax candles, then start with this craft (more on this later).

The puppet show is delightful for adults and absolutely mesmerizing for the little ones. Scope out the show time you’d like upon your arrival so you can manage your shopping and craft-making around it.

If you have never participated in a drum circle, now is a great time to try it.  Simply sit and join in when a seat is vacated. There are also performances by the Ladies of the Rolling Pin and carolers that add to the festivities of the day; if you can catch them, it’s well worth it.

3. Spend the entire day at the Holiday Faire

Waldorf School Holiday Faire Drum Circle

It’s not that you can’t just pop in for an hour or two, but you won’t be able to experience all the Holiday Faire has to offer in a short amount of time. Some crafts are time-consuming (See Candle Dipping) and the general vibe is one that invites taking it all in without having to worry about racing out early. Three hours would probably cover it, though we personally make a whole day of it.

4. Get Around the Holiday Faire Easily with Baby

I highly recommend leaving the stroller in the car and carrying a small baby or toddler in a comfortable carrier. The hallways can get crowded at times, and the store has narrow aisles. Tuck a diaper and wipes in your bag or pocket to save a trip back to the car. There is one bathroom equipped with a changing table near the children’s crafts room.

5. Plan to start your beeswax candle dipping first.

If you plan to make your own hand-dipped beeswax candle, you may want to start that as soon as you arrive so that you can work on it throughout the day. This craft requires adding layers of wax and then waiting for each layer to cool before dipping again. Depending on the size candle you are aiming for (candles are paid for by weight), the process could take anywhere from 2 hours to all day. This is a great activity, as you’ll get to enjoy the candle with each dinner over the winter months.

6. Visit the Crystal Cave (Formerly known as the Gnome Cave)

Be sure to visit the Crystal Cave either right before or immediately after you begin the candle dipping craft. It is truly magical and not to be missed. The Crystal Cave often has long lines, particularly when the puppet show is over.

7. Make Time for Crafts

There are several crafts available for a range of skill levels. Most are suitable for young children. If you carved out the whole day, you’ll be able to get creative in the crafting rooms at a gentle pace. If you only have a little time, scope out the craft options and pick the one or two that most appeal to you.

8. Shop at the Holiday Faire Store

Waldorf Holiday Faire StoreMy best tip for visiting the beautiful school store on Sunday is to bring another adult. When it’s time to sit down and rest and give your smallest Faire enthusiasts a snack, one person can stay with them while the other sneaks away to the centrally-located market for a bit of shopping.  Of course, if you want to do some Holiday shopping without the children at all then I highly recommend going the night before to the adults only Holiday Faire event where you could enter to win a $25 gift certificate to spend at the store.

Don’t miss the used book room for lots of great reads at an even greater bargain.

9. Enjoy the Playroom

Waldorf preschool classroomNew this year is the playroom, which will offer the chance for your little ones to interact in a preschool/kindergarten or Early Childhood classroom. If you are interested in seeing what a typical day in the preschool or kindergarten program looks like and would like to speak with a staff member who can answer your questions about Waldorf education, inquire about the playroom when you arrive.

10. Peek into the Practical Arts

Waldorf handwork loom

Handwork is an essential element of a Waldorf education, and the practical art teachers will display a bit of what they do in one of the classrooms. Handwork is done in the classroom in a quiet and peaceful environment, and so it follows that this is often a quiet activity. We happened into this room unexpectedly last year and it was an welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the Faire.  While our son and niece happily weaved on a natural loom made of tree branches, we enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the lovely handwork teacher.

Finally, just take it all in.

Waldorf School Play Equipment OutdoorsIf you have never visited a Waldorf school before, be sure to spend some time enjoying the play areas outside. You’ll find gardens, climbing equipment, and rope swings, as well as many obstacles and forts that the children have built during their school days.

The essence of the school is evident from the moment you arrive. Every element is purposely chosen and intended to surround the children with beauty. The entire Faire is created and held by the parents working together. It is a testament to the sense of community that is built within the school. If you pay attention, you’ll feel the love that permeates every nuance of the school and the Faire. It is a magical event, not just for the children, but for everyone who comes and enjoys this special welcoming of the Holiday Season.

Have a wonderful time at Meadowbrook Waldorf School Holiday Faire!

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Come join in the festivities at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School Holiday Faire. Saturday, November 23rd from 6-9 PM (Adults’ Night)
Sunday, November 24th from 10-4 (Family Day) 

 

Create Your Own Beeswax Candles

On Sunday November 24th, behind the school, you will find one of the most popular projects at the Holiday Faire. You are invited to dip your own beeswax candle. These make a lovely handmade addition to your holiday table.  If you desire a large candle,  be sure to start your candle early and so you can go back throughout the day to keep adding to it.  The final candle is sold by weight.

Beeswax Candles

Why Beeswax?

Beeswax is one of those essential, frequently utilized Waldorf items.   Beeswax is a natural substance and non-toxic.  The children are often given bits of colored beeswax to warm in their hands and mold into shapes. Some of their creations are often on display in the school foyer. Beeswax for molding is available in the school store for purchase. Historically, beeswax was one of the first ingredients used for candle making. Beeswax candles are naturally and lightly scented with the aroma of honey. They do not produce any soot and very little smoke.  Beeswax candles have a high melting point so they burn slower and have very little drip. We hope you enjoy the opportunity to create one of these candles at the Holiday Faire.   hand dipped candles drying

 

 

 

 

Children Dipping Candles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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