Local geography: Which towns in Rockland County do Green Meadow students live in?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we will be sharing a bit over the next few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

Today: Rockland County, NY, where 127 of our 210 families live. Students come from in the following towns: Airmont, Blauvelt, Chestnut Ridge, Haverstraw, Monsey, Montebello, Nanuet, New City, Nyack, Orangeburg, Palisades, Pearl River, Piermont, Pomona, Sparkill, Spring Valley, Stony Point, South Nyack, Suffern, Tallman, Tappan, and West Nyack

Learn more about our school.

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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

Recently, we told you about our First Grade teacher, Daniel Bieber (Class of 2003), who has six GMWS alumni as parents in his class, along with three alumni from other Waldorf schools.  

Today, in the third installment of this blog series, we'd like to introduce you to Maureen Satriano, GMWS Class of 1988, whose twin daughters are in Daniel's first grade class. Maureen also has two older children in the school, serves as our school nurse, and has played many roles at GMWS since graduating.

"One of the best parts of my time at Green Meadow was learning to look at everything from many angles.  I feel it has given me a perspective in life that is sometimes challenging for others, and for me too.  But most of the time I find myself thinking about an event, an experience, or a person, and trying to understand, or at least consider it from someone else's perspective.  There were many outstanding aspects of a Waldorf Education that I am passionate about, but trying to figure something out in many different ways, or imagining what it must be like for someone else, stands out as a valuable tool to have in our modern times.

I chose Green Meadow because I wanted a Waldorf Education for my children.  There was no other choice, in my mind.  I want my children to experience learning in color, warmth of teachers and community, joy in learning, and depth of thinking.  I want to have children who can look their teachers, friends, and friends' parents in the eye, and carry on a meaningful conversation.  I want more Waldorf graduates in the world, who think outside the box, look at issues from all angles, have a global perspective of the world, and are inspired to make positive change, and who feel they have to tools to make a difference.  I wanted my children to love school, and I knew they could do that at a Waldorf school."

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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

Recently, we told you about our First Grade teacher, Daniel Bieber (Class of 2003), who has six GMWS alumni as parents in his class, along with three alumni from other Waldorf schools.  

Today we'd like to introduce you to Dr. Nicole Falanga, GMWS Class of 1998, whose son is in Daniel's first grade class.

"Green Meadow encouraged me to really think; to learn from and to question the world around me rather than becoming robotic and focusing on memorizing information and taking tests.
The teachers knew each of the students deeply and nurtured us toward our potential. I was given a safe platform to explore my individualism and was gently rerouted or guided when needed.

I wanted my children's early education to be play oriented; where self-directed learning would allow them to slowly discover the world. As Andrew begins 1st grade, I am excited that he will be given the tools to approach his life, learning, and interpersonal relationships in the thoughtful and intentional way that the school provides. I am confident that as he moves into the upper grades and high school, the sophisticated academic and social environment will be great preparation for life and learning beyond Green Meadow."

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Local geography: Which towns in Bergen County do Green Meadow students live in?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we will be sharing a bit over the next few weeks about where our students travel from each day to attend Green Meadow. In addition to Rockland County, where a majority of our students come from, Green Meadow families come from 11 other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut each day.

First up: Bergen County, NJ, where 45 of our 210 families live. Students live in the following towns: Allendale, Demarest, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Hasbrouck Heights, Hillsdale, Leonia, Mahwah, Maywood, Midland Park, Montvale, Northvale, Paramus, Park RidgeRamsey, Ridgefield, Ridgewood, Rochelle Park, Rutherford, Saddle River, Teaneck, Upper Saddle River, Woodcliff Lake, and Wyckoff.

Learn more about our school.

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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

Recently, we told you about our First Grade teacher, Daniel Bieber (Class of 2003), who has six GMWS alumni as parents in his class, along with three alumni from other Waldorf schools.  

Today we'd like to introduce you to Amina Gurcan, GMWS Class of 2004, whose son is in Daniel's first grade class.

"When thinking of my Waldorf Education at Green Meadow, what stands out most is the dedication of the teachers to their students, particularly the class teachers of the lower grades and how they commit to teaching and guiding the children for eight years. It amazes me how involved they are with their class, almost as if they were another parent. I will never forget the incredible dedication and patience my teacher had for each one of us in the class. I remember that she would make extra time to work with me on certain subjects that needed more improvement. She believed in me and that has always meant so much. 

I am awed not just by the way I was taught through Waldorf Education, but by how much I did while a student. I performed plays, made books, went on trips, learned to sew, had art, woodwork, and pottery classes, learned to write poems, learned a new art for my senior project, learned to play an instrument and read music. I played Beethoven's 5th Symphony! Not necessarily well but at least I experienced playing such an great piece of music. I don't believe I would have had such opportunities if I had attended a different school, and I am very grateful for my education at Green Meadow.

While pregnant with my son, Ensar, and thinking of his future, I knew that we would do all we could to try to send him to Green Meadow. I feel so blessed to say that he is now a Green Meadow student! Through my own experience, I see the great value of a Waldorf Education and knew that it was the type of education I wanted my children to have. Kindergarten was a wonderful experience and Ensar loved it. He is now an eager, enthusiastic, and curious first grader really ready for this new venture. These first two weeks have been both thrilling and nostalgic for me, as Ensar transitions to his new class. Having Daniel Bieber, who is also eager and enthusiastic, as the teacher, it all just feels right. "

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Photos from the Rose Ceremony (Sept. 2017)

The Rose Ceremony is a beloved tradition at many Waldorf schools, including Green Meadow. On the first day of school in September, the 12th graders welcome the 1st graders into the school by handing them a rose. On the last day of school, the (now taller, older, and wiser) 1st graders reciprocate and say goodbye to the 12th graders with a rose of their own. The whole school gathers to witness both events.

Last week's Rose Ceremony took place on Sept. 6 and was, as always, a beautiful and moving rite of passage for all of our young people.

Photos by Fernando Lopez

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Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#10)

Our Summer blog series continues through early September, as we share some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Take a look at the article by Dan Feldman '89 on page 16 of this issue and read a short interview with him from the start of 2017 at IoT Evolution.

 

Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

For us at Green Meadow, one signal that we are successfully living out our mission is the fact that many of our alumni return here when it is time to choose a school for their own children. They see the value of the Waldorf Education they received and want to offer the same for their children. 

Our current first grade, the Class of 2029, tells an even more special story: the teacher of this class that includes so many children of alumni (more on that later) is himself a graduate of Green Meadow.

Daniel Bieber graduated from Green Meadow in 2003. After attending Bard College and helping run the family business (The Nature Place Day Camp), among other things, he decided to begin his Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge Institute. He then served for two years as a Lower School Assistant at GMWS while in his teacher training. Daniel applied last year for the First Grade position and, having gotten to know him as an adult in his role as Classroom Assistant, we were thrilled to offer him this opportunity to take a class at his alma mater.

We will be writing in the coming weeks about the many alumni who are now parents in Daniel's class (six GMWS alumni and two alumni from other Waldorf schools), sharing their stories of why they decided to return to GMWS and send their children to the school they attended. Stay tuned.

 

Daniel Bieber '03 with his First Grade, the Class of 2029, on the first day of school, 9/6/17

Daniel Bieber '03 with his First Grade, the Class of 2029, on the first day of school, 9/6/17

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#9)

Our Summer blog series continues through early September, as we share some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Student Spotlight:  A Brief Story of My Summer Internship

By Sam Wheeler, current Twelfth Grader

During the summer of 2016, between Tenth and Eleventh grades, I returned to my home city, Beijing, to attend an engineering internship. The internship took place at Tsinghua University, where my grandfather is a professor emeritus; he specialized in artificial intelligence and taught there for 40 years before he retired.  I was lucky to have the opportunity to join the post-graduate robotics department for a whole month where my grandfather’s students, the robotics professors, were teaching.

First, I would like to give a background of Tsinghua University itself: Tsinghua University was established in 1911 using funds donated by the US and is a comprehensive research university with 20 schools and 54 departments covering disciplines in art, economics, education, engineering, history, management, medicine, law, literature, philosophy, and sciences. Its strong research and training offerings consistently place Tsinghua University as one of the top academic institutions in China, alongside Peking University.  Of course, this leads to the belief in many Chinese people's minds that these two universities are the only two worth graduating from in China, in the same way that they consider Harvard and Yale to be the “only” two schools in the US. 

Situated in northwestern Beijing, Tsinghua University’s campus has been named one of the most beautiful in the world. The campus, which was established on the site of a former royal garden, contains beautiful buildings that are over a century old, with Stalin-esque monstrosities modeled after Soviet era architecture, and beautiful modern buildings designed by incredible architects. It is safe to say that Tsinghua University is an incredibly unique university.

For my internship, my first task was to write an essay on the future of robotics, particularly the domestication of robots. I was asked to consider the current technology in the field and its availability, as well as the practicality of domestic robots and its possible impact on society in general. After a week of intensive research on the matter, I presented my report to the professor in charge, and he took it in for review. I was given two more tasks for the remainder of my internship, which were to assist the post-graduates with any experiments they needed help with, and to teach myself during the time in between.

Over the next few weeks, I would help with the experiments of the two main focuses in the department. One of the focuses was an autonomous bike designed for delivery through busy situations, like the streets of a big city. Not only that, the bike needed the durability to travel moderate distances with a heavy payload. I was told that a completely autonomous real time detection system needed incredibly complex code, and it required a great deal of adjustments. I assisted with these adjustments, and learned the improvisational capacity of post-graduates were almost limitless. Instead of properly setting up obstacles, they would place a bag of soccer balls, or even just run around the bike themselves to test the code.

The other focus of the department was designing a humanoid robot capable of playing sports. This meant that the robot would need agility, speed, and most importantly, balance. It took a massive compilation of code to get the robot to walk without falling over, and with this group, I assisted with guiding the robot while they tested its balance on a soccer field. By the end of the internship I had assisted in multiple experiments and gained a deeper knowledge of engineering and robotics. During the intermittent times between the experiments, I taught myself three new coding languages: JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

When my professor returned my report, he said that it was a very useful insight on the future of robotics and that he would possibly use it in an investment pitch to potential donors for the robotics department.

During my time there, I discovered that as a post-graduate, it is entirely up to them to build their projects and to create a reasonable schedule. Of course, the professor will be there intermittently to be a guide, but the bulk of responsibility lies on the post-graduate to create the project, mark the deadlines, and to create a schedule so that the result is high quality. This extends to daily schedules as well; if confident in their own abilities, they can change their working hours to suit them, and in doing so gain the ability to self-manage more appropriately.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#8)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Protecting Childhood in the Digital Age:  A Look at Waldorf Education and The Big Disconnect by Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair

By Vanessa Lee, Bulletin Coordinator

Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair came to Green Meadow Waldorf School on November 1 and spent a full day talking and working with students, faculty, and parents.  As a developmental and clinical psychologist, her views of children’s development echo Rudolf Steiner’s view of developmentally appropriate education.  The Waldorf philosophy of meeting the children where they are is founded on the understanding that each child goes through three distinct phases of development: early childhood (birth to 7), grade school (7-14), and adolescence (14-21).  In each phase, the child is engaged physically (willing), emotionally (feeling), and mentally (thinking); however, one aspect of this three-dimensional approach is emphasized based on what is developmentally appropriate.  Early childhood is grounded in willing; grade school in feeling, and high school in thinking. 

In The Big Disconnect:  Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, Dr. Steiner-Adair breaks down her research into five phases of childhood:  The Brilliant Baby Brain (birth to 2); Mary Had a Little iPad (3 to 5); Fast Forward Childhood (6 to 10); Going, Going, Gone (11 to 13); and Teens, Tech, Temptation, and Trouble (Teens).  Her book discusses the developmental needs within each stage and how media and technology can affect children.  The following article discusses the phases of childhood, the GMWS media policy, and the research from The Big Disconnect about the impact of media and technology on childhood and on parenting.

Early Childhood (birth to 7):  A Healthy Will (Character Skill Development)

The Waldorf approach to Early Childhood education focuses on creating an environment and rhythm where the child is able to develop, from within, what in Waldorf Education is referred to as a healthy will.  A healthy will can also be described as a set of character skills, and those include impulse control, perseverance, reverence, curiosity, and optimism.  This is nourished through self-initiated play, work, movement, and stories.  Free, unstructured play develops emotional maturity through social interactions as well as developing a child’s attention span through problem solving and imaginative thinking.  Imitation is also key in Waldorf Early Childhood education, as it is through imitation that children at this stage learn.  The child’s imagination becomes activated by what is offered through oral storytelling and puppetry.  The skills which are developed in the first seven years become the foundation upon which future learning takes place.  The gift of a media-free early childhood protects the space within the child where the development of these character traits is taking place.

Early Childhood:  GMWS Policy

In an effort to support this developmentally appropriate education, the GMWS media policy states that “children enrolled in the Early Childhood program at Green Meadow should be given the gift of a media-free childhood…” (p. 29, GMWS Parent Handbook)

You Can’t Reboot Childhood – The Big Disconnect

In The Big Disconnect, Dr. Steiner-Adair advocates for a tech-free infancy and toddlerhood.  She says that “too much tech at any age, but especially too early an introduction to it – before age two – shortchanges a young child on the time and mix of experiences the sensorium [brain] needs for well-rounded development.”  (p. 78, The Big Disconnect)  The images that come through electronic devices come very quickly, more quickly than a young child’s brain is equipped to handle.  Apps are made to stimulate but this stimulation is detrimental to a young child’s brain development.  Young children also need to move and sedentary media does not engage a child’s will forces, which are at the center of Waldorf Education during these early childhood years.

Middle Childhood (7 – 14):  A Healthy Feeling Life

Once a child enters first grade at a Waldorf School, the education shifts from a focus on willing to a focus on feeling.  The child’s feeling life is engaged through a close connection to the class teacher who cycles with them, usually for several years.  The child’s learning develops through their inner engagement with stories and art as well as movement and music.  The world of science and math as well as language arts are taught by engaging the whole child and working with the feeling life.  There is a rhythm of inner and outer movement and focus that nurtures the natural ebb and flow of children’s attention.  In this section, Lower School (Grades 1-5) and Middle School (Grades 6-8) will be separated, as there is an important developmental shift around the age of 12.

Lower School:  GMWS Policy (Grades 1 – 5)

At GMWS, our media policy grows with our children and recognizes a split in this 7-14 age group.  “Consistent with Waldorf Education’s emphasis on learning through direct experience, children in the lower grades (1-5) should be allowed to develop new ideas and attitudes based on real personal interactions, without the distortion of mediation through technology.  Children in the lower grades should not be exposed to electronic media in their daily lives.  They should not watch television, movies, or videos, play video games, or use computers.  Additionally, exposure to radio and recorded music should be limited and age-appropriate.” (p. 29, GMWS Parent Handbook)

Fast-Forward Childhood – The Big Disconnect

Dr. Steiner-Adair talks about the dangers of what she calls “Fast Forward Childhood.”  “At a developmental time when children need to be learning how to effectively interact directly, the tech mediated environment is not [emphasis mine] an adequate substitute for the human one” (p. 135).  Children need direct interaction with parents, siblings, friends, and teachers in order to develop social and emotional skills such as eye contact, understanding verbal cues, and understanding the impact of one’s words upon another person.  Texting takes all of this away.  At this age, children become more critical of themselves and others; social media and texting (in their one-sided, quip-style communication) can be easily misunderstood or used more maliciously as a platform for social cruelty.

When Dr. Steiner-Adair spoke to the parents at Green Meadow, she said that the World Wide Web is for adults, not children; and that a smartphone is not a phone but a handheld computer with access to the adult world of the web.  Today, we are three clicks or less away from disturbing images that young children and adolescents cannot process.  She cites many examples of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in young adolescents who ended up on websites that were way above their developmental capacity.

Another important consideration for us as parents at this age are movies and exposure to TV.  Many movies and TV shows have adult images of good and evil, as well as violence.  When we read a book, our children create images in their mind.  This in itself is beautiful and should be cherished and we have to consider when and if we would allow the images from a book made into a movie to usurp the child’s own imagination. 

Another point Dr. Steiner-Adair makes is that the book and a movie are two very different experiences for children because “…a kid only imagines what his or her life experience allows, [and] watching violence is different from imagining violence.” (p. 127, quoting Michael Rich at the Center on Media and Child Health)

Middle School:  Transition to Media

GMWS is currently implementing a Cyber Civics course designed for the Middle School to help transition our children from a Lower School “No Media” policy to the High School “Know Media” policy.  Cyber Civics is a middle school digital citizenship and literacy program that meets an urgent and growing need to prepare students with the skills to be ethical, confident, and empowered digital citizens, and after much research and discussion, the program is beginning in January for grades 6-8.

Middle School:  GMWS Policy (Grades 6, 7, and 8)

“During Grades 6, 7, and 8, it is appropriate for students to have a gradual and guided introduction to the applications and use of electronic media.  During these transition years, use of and exposure to media should be very moderate, under clear parental guidance and participation, and not work to the detriment of the social and educational climate of the class.  Media exposure can be a socially divisive influence in these years and often works directly against what is brought in the classroom.” (p. 29, GMWS Parent Handbook)

Going, Going, Gone – The Big Disconnect

In the chapter on Tweens and Screens, Dr. Steiner-Adair says, “The idea of middle school as a transition zone between elementary and high school was created to punctuate the notoriously complicated three-year period in which children by 11 or 12 are no longer thinking and acting like they’re 8 or 9 but they are also not yet the relatively more sophisticated abstract thinkers they’ll be at 14 and 15.  It is the age of awkwardness and uncertainty.”  (p. 163)

She says that the preadolescent brain is not ready for the level of responsibility required for unrestricted access to online media, where a message or image can go viral in seconds and have serious consequences for both sender and subject.  “Hanging out, geeking out, and messing around all have a place in a healthy media diet for children this age.  But as a therapist, [she] also see[s] the darker side as pre-teens struggle with … body image and identity and flex their social power and capacity for cruelty more boldly and often anonymously online.” (p. 174)  She also cited research that middle school girls are the most likely group to give out personal information, including names and addresses, to strangers online.  She encourages parents to educate early and continuously, to set up house rules on the appropriate use of media, and to install parental controls on devices during this turbulent middle-school period.

Adolescence:  14-21:  A Healthy Thinking Life

In the Waldorf high school, the students are still engaged actively, emotionally, and thoughtfully; however, the focus shifts appropriately to thinking, which is developed through the subjects that are taught and through habits of mind that are cultivated.  Each year of high school presents a different question, which awakens specific aspects of human intelligence.  In Ninth Grade, the question is “What?” as students are asked to awaken their powers of observation further.  The question of “How?” is the focus in Tenth Grade as observation is expanded to include comparison.  Eleventh Grade brings the question “Why?” as the students develop powers of analysis and abstraction.  And Twelfth Grade is the time to step back and observe the whole, culminating in the question of “Who?” or “Who am I?” (Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education)

High School:  GMWS Policy

“The media policy in the High School recognizes that it is appropriate for 15- to 19-year-olds to learn to critically approach and effectively use media.  The school recognizes the importance of media literacy, including educating students to understand the technological principles underlying (and the social transformations resulting from) electronic media, and seeks to meet this need through a curriculum that includes internet research skills, computer programming, the science behind new technologies, and the social consequences of the ongoing media revolution. 

Because the inappropriate or excessive use of electronic media undermines teenagers’ living relationships to other people, the world around them, and themselves, however, parents should continue to monitor and limit their teenagers’ exposure to electronic and social media and should maintain an open dialogue with their teenage children about the role of media in their lives….”  (GMWS Parent Handbook, p. 30)

Teens, Tech, Temptation, and Trouble – The Big Disconnect

“Teens…[must balance the] disconnect between what they feel compelled or pressured to do, what they are emotionally and developmentally ready to do, and the desire to stay true to their self.” (p. 198)  This is true in all aspects of teenage life and heightened in the digital age.  Adolescence is the time for impulsivity and tech can delete the pause between impulse and action.  Additionally, “[t]he normalization of porn in teen life, the ease with which tech and texting are used as weapons of communication, the emotional intensity of the age, and the amoral environment of the online culture make it a dangerous mix in the hands of adolescents.” (p. 219) 

“Our children are quick to use tech, but how to set limits and use it wisely requires more self-discipline and emotional maturity than most…children have…developed.” (p. 156)  All technology can be addictive.  Video games, especially for preadolescent and adolescent boys, are created to be addictive with their immediate rewards, and have skewed gender and race representations.  Playing video games can adversely affect the developing brain by engaging the primitive brain which causes people to be reactive, less thoughtful, and unbalanced emotionally. 

Parenting in a Sustainable Family

On the evening of November 1, Dr. Steiner-Adair spoke to about 230 parents and guests in Rose Hall, and focused on the effect of adult tech use on the family.  She started the evening by telling us that we had chosen wisely in choosing Green Meadow Waldorf School for our children, as she was pleased by her observations around use of technology on campus and her conversations with the middle and high school students.  While there are positive and negative aspects of technology, she said, she encouraged us to be conscious in our own tech habits, especially around our children.  She cited examples of children trying to get their parents’ attention but unable to do so as the parent was texting or checking email.  She also said that when parents say they are “just checking” email, it typically lasts between 25 minutes and two hours.  In her research, children expressed anger, sadness, loneliness, and frustration when they were unable to get their parents’ attention. 

She noted three signs that we may be psychologically dependent on our cell phones: 

1. Someone else’s phone rings and we reach for ours;

2. Phantom ring syndrome: when we think we hear our phone ring;

3. Taking the phone into the bathroom. 

She also cited brain research that shows that our primitive brain becomes engaged while using our devices, causing empathy and hearing to decrease.  The challenge with not being able to read social clues, mentioned in earlier sections of this article, also applies to adults as we cannot read a person online in same way we can face-to-face.

Dr. Steiner-Adair cited five pivotal points in the day when it is good to be off of our devices: 

1. First thing in the morning – she cautioned against using smartphones as alarm clocks as the temptation to check email/text is too strong and can activate our primitive brain too early. (However, she also suggested that we get up half an hour earlier to text/email before the children get up rather than being distracted once they wake up);

2. Drives to school – don’t text and don’t let children be on their devices; the car is a great way to talk about family values;

3.  When children come home from school, as it is an important time to be fully present with our children and debrief the day;

4. When you come home from work, do not come home on the phone and do not check email as soon as you get home;

5. Bedtime and bathtime (for those with younger children).

Julie Scelfo, in her NY Times article entitled The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In (June 9, 2010) also cited children feeling hurt when their parents were on their devices instead of paying attention to them during three critical times: 

1. Meals;

2. Pick-up from school or extra-curricular activity;

3. Sports events. 

There are positive aspects of media and technology, including the social element, as they help us stay connected to extended family and friends. We all know, too, that they can be time-savers, as we can get quick responses via a text or our GPS helps us not to get lost.  However, as parents, we need to be aware of the dangers of technology as the values of many online activities, communities, and games are extremely toxic.  We need to move from being “clueless” to being informed and realistic.  Dr. Steiner-Adair also said that parents need to shift from being “scary and crazy” to being parents who are approachable and calm; we need to move from being a reactive parent to being a responsive one. (See box on page xx.) This applies to parenting with or without technology but the digital age has accelerated the pace of life and parenting and asks us to be even more conscious and responsive.

A positive outcome of having Dr. Steiner-Adair come to talk with our students, faculty, and parents is the information that was shared and the conversations that have ensued amongst the students, the parents, and the faculty.  Green Meadow Waldorf School is a community of individuals and families who are all striving to do our best in raising our children in this digital age and we can recognize and appreciate these efforts in each other.  As a family, we can protect unplugged time for all of us.  Creating a capacity for solitude is a true gift to our children and to ourselves; a time to hear our inner voice and connect to ourselves.  We can also look within our community for support in our approach to sustainable parenting in the digital age.

Meet our Alumni: Ken Mankoff

Ken Mankoff started at GMWS in Nursery and left after 9th grade, and graduated from high school in 1993. Read more about Ken

GMWS: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and what you are doing now?

KM: I went to the University of Colorado, Boulder, because Colorado has ~330 days of sun per year and world-class skiing. It turns out they also have a good university and amazing research opportunities. I studied Computer Science, but was hired, at age 18, to work with the first spacecraft designed, built, and flown by students. I spent seven years doing that, which spawned my current career.

In early August 2017, I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm a new Senior Scientist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland in the Department of Glaciology and Climate. My new job is a bit unclear since I've only just arrived, but in general I will be monitoring the health of Greenland via remote sensing (satellites), and in-situ sensor (weather stations that we install and maintain around the ice sheet).

GM: What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow?

KM: I left 21 years ago. My memory is one large fuzzy positive one. Very fuzzy, but 100% positive, and I do smile when I think of GMWS. I do have some specific snapshot memories (again all positive) such as: playing on the jungle gym with Eric Shurtleff, learning how to read critically from Mr. Wulsin, and sewing and knitting.

Maybe the main best aspect was spending a decade growing and developing with one small class. At the time it was normal, but now looking back, the cohesiveness of the group seems unique. The occasional times I do cross paths or email with an old classmate, it is always special.

GM: What do you think makes Green Meadow most unique or special?

KM: Small class sizes, build-your-own-textbooks, non-traditional experiences like knitting and sewing which I still find useful), extensive woodworking, etc.

GM: What advice would you give to a parent or student considering GMWS, especially someone who thinks they might want to study in your field?

KM: I like to think that GMWS and the creativity and exploration offered there (that I think may not be offered at traditional public schools) prepared me to be a scientist, but I've met many peers who may be better scientists than I, and went to public school.

Ken Mankoff in Antarctica.

Ken Mankoff in Antarctica.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#7)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Science in the Waldorf School: Developing an Ecological Consciousness

By Harlan Gilbert, High School Math and Science Teacher

In the Kindergarten, children are active in wind, water, and soil conditions in every weather. These rich, holistic, practical experiences are not only joyous parts of childhood. They also give an unparalleled basis for comprehending the world in myriad ways. Upon this solid foundation of investigation into the natural world, scientific understanding can later build. At this age, the first ecological consciousness of the immediate environment forms through the children’s daily experiences of adults cultivating the natural world in healthy ways. One of the teachers’ primary goals is to model responsible citizenship in the natural world. Thus the importance given to garden work, tending the land by planting, watering and weeding in springtime, harvesting in summer, raking in autumn, shoveling snow in winter, and many more activities.

The curriculum of the first elementary school grades wisely includes extensive time for lessons on environmental awareness. In these years, students learn to “read the book of nature,” coming to recognize the wondrous range of animals and plants that live and land formations that form their surroundings. Imaginative descriptions form the basis of nature education at this age. For example, some years ago a First Grade teacher at Green Meadow named the low-lying area near the Arts Building the “Rocky Dell,” turning the area into an imaginative homeland for a generation of students, whose creative play has blossomed in this complex landscape.

Science lessons in these early grades center around stories of nature, bringing alive the wild and cultivated plants, the domesticated and wild animals, the streams and hills, the winds, and the stars, sun, and moon as intimately experienced aspects of our lives, just as the traditional stories of native peoples did for their children. After hearing a story about the mighty oak and the lithe willow, for example, students visit these in their natural setting. Ideally, the names and character of the elements of the natural world become a natural vocabulary for young children, so that by the time they are around nine years of age they should be able to recognize and name many of the local plants and animals, land formations, constellations of stars, etc., as naturally as they recognize and name each other.

In the following grades, the Waldorf curriculum leads students systematically further in their scientific understanding. This begins in Third Grade with an exploration of the ways humanity can take responsibility and care for the natural world of soil, plants, and animals. The Farming block in this year guides children to comprehend the farmer’s role as sustainer of the health of the Earth, balancing the interrelated needs of soil, crops, and livestock. They come to understand that healthy soil is the basis for healthy crops, that healthy crops are the basis for healthy livestock, and that healthy livestock and crops provide the manure and compost needed for healthy soil. The cycle is complete.

The Third Grade also includes a study of Building. Building depends upon understanding how the natural environment can be used to create stable structures, Understanding how different peoples developed unique architectural styles based upon the available materials illumines the natural environment from a new perspective. Building structures using at least one of these styles allows students to comprehend on a kinetic, tactile level the nature of materials and the principles of structure. As architecture advanced, building also came to depend upon the cooperation of a variety of people, each with special skills (masons, carpenters, glaziers, roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc.). Imagine if we each had to excavate, build a foundation, put up walls and a roof, insulate, glaze, plumb, and wire our houses! What would most houses look like if each was wholly built by its owner?! Thus building offers insight into the importance of the ecology of human interaction.

In Fourth Grade, students study animals. They quickly discover how each animal has a specialized form and particular way of life suitable for its particular environment. Comparing this to how human beings live—and recalling the many building styles they explored in Third Grade—they can discover that, while animals’ relationship to their surroundings is fixed, human beings can live in harmony with any environment. This flexibility is possible because we can both adapt our way of life and transform the environment. We rely on wisdom, where animals depend upon instinct.

In Fifth Grade, Waldorf students study plants. This usually begins with a broad survey of the simplest organisms—mushrooms, algae, and mosses—and proceeds through increasing complexity to arrive at the flowering plants. Each plant is suited to a particular soil and climate, so it is natural to study the climatic zones, and to see how these are affected by both latitude and elevation.

The study of plants offers a glimpse of the principles of sexual reproduction. This has wondrous consequences: the “offspring” of simpler plants, which use asexual reproduction, are exactly like their parents; however, through sexual reproduction, each organism is absolutely unique. This applies to them, too: each human child, too, is absolutely unique.

In Sixth Grade, the stones come into focus. These offer a fascinating plethora of form, texture, and color, all arising through three basic processes: intense heat (igneous rock), intense pressure (sedimentary rock), and a combination of both heat and pressure (metamorphic rock). Crystal formations are highly geometric, allowing connections to the study of geometry undertaken in this year.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#6)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Diversity and Inclusion Update

Vanessa Lee based on an interview with Leslie Laboriel, Diversity Committee Co-Chair

When Leslie Laboriel and I met at the Café sharing warm tea on a toasty January morning, Leslie provided a glimpse into what the Diversity and Inclusion committee is up to this year.  Leslie has been a member of the community for the last six years.  Her first two years at GMWS were spent supporting a variety of activities.  During the second year, she realized how diversity of thought could benefit the GMWS community which is what motivated her to join the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Last year she welcomed an invite to become co-chair of the committee with Vicki Larson and Maskit Ronen.  The committee is willing to embrace the difficult work ahead by listening and learning from each other.  During meetings, the goal is to create a safe room filled with love and respect.  The committee corrects and supports each other as they continue to learn from one another and push towards full inclusion. 

This year the Diversity and Inclusion Committee will focus on the following goals:

·         Educate faculty/staff on the value that diversity brings, and the challenges to and urgency of being an inclusive community

·         Offer practical support for faculty

·         Improve support networks and advocacy mechanisms for current diverse students and parents

·         Involve students in the diversity and inclusion work

·         Evaluate the committees impact to the community

What has the committee accomplished this year?

Supported student activism club in chartering a bus to the Women’s March on Jan 21 in Washington DC.

The march provided an opportunity for our students to exercise their democratic right to a peaceful expression of their opinions.  They created powerful posters and experienced firsthand the results of grass roots organizing.

Helped create the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Assembly

Diversity Committee Co-Chair and High School Science Teacher, Maskit Ronen, headed up a sub-committee of parents, teachers, and staff to create this collaboration of works from the grades.  The assembly was performed on Tuesday, January 16th in Rose Hall.  The Second Grade performed a hymn and the entire school sang “We Must Overcome”.  Music played a significant role during the Civil Rights movement because it provided motivation during long marches, psychological strength against harassment and brutality, as well as a peaceful way to pass the time.  The third and fourth grade recited Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” from the balcony.  There was a eurythmy performance by two seniors, Utchaa Williams and Alexander Allen-Walden, to the song, Can U C the Pride in the Panthers, by the late rapper, Tupac Shakur.  In a moving demonstration, the sixth grade recited “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The afternoon culminated with the visual presentation of the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington DC.  Mr. Karl Frederickson, a retired Green Meadow history teacher, told the audience how the “I Have a Dream” speech was originally unplanned.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. read a scripted speech and when he finished, singer Mahalia Jackson cried out, “tell them about the dream, Martin!”  The iconic “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous and moving speeches in our history.

Advocated for and achieved a professional development day in March 2017 on gender diversity

We are excited to welcome Benjamin Davis from The Ackerman Institute for the Family to our campus to  deepen faculty and staff understanding about gender fluidity and working with trans and gender-fluid students.

Support for faculty on culturally responsive pedagogy

We shared with faculty/staff the presentation that Vicki gave at the June 2016 AWSNA conference to help them identify and articulate personal and institutional challenges, and develop a shared language and framework

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee created an extensive resource list for teachers for Black History Month.  The list contained links to web-sites and reading materials to support the teachers of all grade levels.

Dr. Weldon McWilliams IV, a young community organizer in Rockland County, will attend High School Week to commence Black History month.

March 5 – 7:  Undoing Racism Training at Rockland Community College

Green Meadow has committed to having all teachers, staff and Board members participate in Undoing Racism Training within three years of joining GMWS.  Currently twenty-seven people have attended the training

Undoing Racism was developed by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, which is an organization focusing on the understanding of racism and its historical roots as well as why it persists and how it can be undone.  When Leslie Laboriel attended, there were about 80 participants from a variety of backgrounds including social work, education, law enforcement, and legal.  She found the training extremely informative, transforming, supportive, and engaging.  She left with a feeling of what is possible after being rejuvenated.

Families of Color Lunch – March 5th

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee will have their second annual Families of Color Lunch on Sunday, March 5 in the High School common room.   Families of color are invited to socialize, connect and share their cultural experiences.   Our goal is to inspire people to share resources and support one another. 

What are we working on for the remainder of the year and beyond?

·         Each member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee will complete the Harvard University Implicit Association Test (IAT) surveys to identify hidden biases; they will use the results to have open conversation about individual findings.

·         Deepen connection to Otto Specht School

·         Focus on recruiting and selection practices

Meet Our Alumni: Evan Solomon, Class of 2009

GMWS: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and what you are doing now?

ES: I attended George Washington University in Washington, DC, where I got my Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in International Business.  My major allowed me to study a number of languages—Spanish, Arabic, and Italian, which is something that I have always enjoyed, while also taking some more standard finance and strategy courses.

Since graduating college in 2013, I’ve been living with in DC with my girlfriend and working as a financial analyst for a commercial real estate company. My work enables me to have plenty of time for personal endeavors, like exploring DC’s neighborhoods and the surrounding region, maintaining a part-time commitment to running and exercise, and learning to make excellent homemade pizzas.

GM: How did Green Meadow prepare you for college and life? What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow? What do you think makes Green Meadow most unique or special?

ES: Green Meadow prepared me in a number of ways, but one aspect of my education that tends to reappear at work and in school is critical use of the English language in both speech and writing. Much of the GMWS faculty, not just the English teachers, articulate and synthesize thoughts with uncommon precision and intention. A lot of time is spent on refining communication abilities—of course this comes naturally to some people, but I took it for granted and only realized after some time away from GMWS the immense value of some basic communication skills.

What isn’t unique or special about this school? The highlights for me were all the extracurriculars: my exchange semester in Buenos Aires, hosting exchange students all throughout high school, the class plays, the class trips to Hermit Island, ME and Costa Rica, the senior projects, the opportunity to participate in the Helping Hands ‘Midnight Run’. These were all unique opportunities that were both enjoyable to remember and valuable to this day.

GM: What advice would you give to a parent or student considering GMWS, especially someone who thinks they might want to study in your field?

ES: One of the common objections that I heard when I attended GMWS for high school—the concern that the school is ‘different’, and therefore a risk to attend, because it may limit options after high school. You have to look no further than what current alumni are doing out in the world to see that there is a broad range of post-GMWS lives that can be lived. I’ve heard of, met, and read about (in The Bulletin) former GMWS students working in finance, government, theatre, music, education, fine arts, sports, and law.

Evan Solomon '09

Evan Solomon '09

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#5)

This Summer, we are sharing some of our favorite articles published this past year in The Bulletin. Enjoy! 

Women's March on Washington – Two Perspectives

Emily Lauer, Twelfth Grade Student

Sunday, January 21st will go down in history as an extraordinary day. On this day millions of women and men came together not just across our country, but across the planet to stand together, united, to show their support for each other and to rally against the mistreatment of women, in general and by the new administration in particular.

With the help of Bonnie Johnson and Vicki Larson, the Student Activism Committee organized a bus that brought 52 energized, powerful, and spirited souls to Washington for the march. On our way to D.C., we made signs, sang songs, and told stories. There was a buzz of excitement and a commitment to be heard. After fighting our way (peacefully) through the mad metro crowds we were greeted with roaring waves of sound from the thousands of March participants; the energy was palpable. It was wonderful having so many Green Meadow representatives walking side by side sharing in the smiles and tears of the masses.

Experiencing our ability to express ourselves in a peaceful but strong way highlighted one of the key foundations of our democracy and brought to life how truly fortunate we are.

 

Miana Johnson, Eleventh Grade Student

On January 21, I joined a group of students and community members and attended the Women's March on Washington, one of the many marches around the country and the world that took place that day. This was my first protest and I don't think I could have asked for a better, more peaceful one. After five hours on a bus we arrived and took a long very crowded metro ride, walked a few blocks, and then joined the march.   As far we could see in front of us were people, there was a vast sea of pink hats and signs and all 50 of us eagerly joined in with our own signs and even our own chants.  That day I felt I was a part of a community; I was marching in solidarity with thousands of protesters in D.C., and I felt I was part of something really cool and special. It was very inspiring to see such a large group of diverse and empowered people. Thousands upon thousands peacefully came together to spread love and support and stand up for what they believed in. It wasn't just about women, it was about anything and everything that people felt was unjust. Although many aspects of the day were unpleasant: the long bus ride, the ride in the packed metro, my sore feet, just being able to be a part of something like this was an experience I would not trade for anything. I felt like I was a part of something really inspiring, something so much more powerful than myself, and it gave me just a little bit of hope.

Meet Our Alumni: Lela Mae Jacobs

Lela Mae Jacobs attended GMWS from 6th-9th grade, before her family left for a year-long trip around the world and then settled in England.

GM: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and what you are doing now?

Lela Mae: Last month, I graduated from Bath Spa University with a Honors Degree in Textile Design for Fashion and Interiors. I have been very lucky with where I've been able to split my time whilst living in England. The city of Bath is a beautiful old Roman city in the heart of Somerset. The entire city is bursting with creativity, which became highly inspirational for my work in digital and hand embroidery. I am now currently based back in London and am working towards getting as much experience and inspiration from the city as I possibly can, through freelance work and internships to visiting the museums.

GM: How did Green Meadow prepare you for college and life? What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow? What do you think makes Green Meadow unique or special?

LMJ: During my time at Green Meadow, I made lifelong friendships and their support is one aspect that will stay with me forever. Even though we are on different continents, it is wonderful to know that I have friends to call at 4am to bounce design ideas off.

The teachers at GMWS took time to explain their lessons and encouraged me to look beyond the classroom, giving me greater understanding of my subject and the world around me. Through the years that I was in Green Meadow, I was taught the importance of presentation and attention to detail. This has become an important aspect of my work, given the field I have chosen.

GM: What advice would you give a parent or student considering GMWS, especially someone who thinks they might want to study in your field?

LMJ: The realization that I wanted to go into textile design came from my Handwork classes. The teachers recognized this and encouraged me to pursue what I loved. The skills that I learned at a young age have been invaluable in textile design and set me apart from other applicants when I was applying to college. GMWS offers you such a unique and special learning experience, which I have experienced nowhere else.

Helpful tip: Pay attention in knitting and especially to those hand-stitching techniques: they're a lifesaver, trust me.

Lela Mae with her work at New Designers in Islington in June 2017.

Lela Mae with her work at New Designers in Islington in June 2017.

A sample of Lela Mae's work.

A sample of Lela Mae's work.