Capacities: a series

Week 1 : What are capacities?

Over the next few weeks, we will be writing about one of the key differences between Waldorf Education and mainstream educational approaches: a focus on the development of capacities. The Waldorf curriculum and pedagogy (what we teach and how we teach) build capacities, first and foremost. We do this alongside skill-building, which we will also talk more about in upcoming blog posts.

What are capacities? How are they different from skills? One way to think about it is that capacities are related to character, while skills are tools. Capacities are part of who we are, how we approach the world; skills help us navigate specific tasks and solve specific problems.

In his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, well-known author Daniel Pink talks about capacities. He outlines the "six fundamentally human abilities that are absolute essentials for professional success and personal fulfillment" (according to the book description): in his words, these six abilities are design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. These are capacities: everyone, in any industry or walk of life, benefits from having developed these characteristics (or approaches, or ways of thinking) and from applying them in any situation they encounter.

Whether there are six fundamentally human abilities or more is another question, but the important alignment between Waldorf Education and Pink's premise lies in the identification of broad capacities rather than specific skills at the core of success and happiness. 

Pink says, "I think Waldorf schools are very much in synch with the notion of Conceptual Age and the ideas of A Whole New Mind. They foster internal motivation in students, as well as mastery and persistence. They teach the habits of the heart that children need to do well in life after school."

An example: if we have the capacities of curiosity and tenacity, we are likely to succeed in solving problems, since we will have developed a habit of approaching difficult situations or questions with interest and a willingness to learn their contours, and we will persevere as we develop whatever skills we need in order to arrive at a solution. 

The cultivation of capacities takes many forms in Waldorf Education.

  • Our students build intellectual capacities (academic approaches and habits of mind) by participating in a developmentally appropriate, interdisciplinary, rigorous curriculum that is nearly 100 years old, always evolving, and absolutely unique in the world.
  • They build social and emotional capacities like patience, empathy, courage, and kindness by moving through their school life (and through their childhood and adolescence) in tightly knit class communities, forming strong bonds with the community of teachers and staff, and challenging themselves by taking advantage of curricular opportunities like performing a class play every year in the Lower School and going on an international exchange of three or more months in High School.
  • They build physical capacities through experiences inside and outside the classroom that push them beyond their comfort zone: walks in the forest from the age of three, wilderness trips, games and sports, knitting and sewing, weekly instrument lessons and regular recitals starting in Fourth Grade, and the movement art of Eurythmy, unique to Waldorf schools.
  • Finally, they build spiritual capacities like wonder, awe, and humility through a experiential education that prioritizes hands-on learning and a phenomenological approach, allowing students to come to their own conclusions through observation and identification with a subject. 

    In our upcoming posts, we'll look at the development of capacities in each section of the school: preschool (Nursery and Kindergarten), Lower School, and High School, and we'll talk more about the skills we help our students build, alongside the capacities described above. 

Friendship Games this Friday and Saturday, 1/26 and 1/27

Join us for the Friendship Games, our annual middle-school basketball tournament! We are excited to host the following Waldorf schools from our region: Baltimore, Brooklyn, Great Barrington, Kimberton, Steiner, and Washington.

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Is Waldorf "hygge?"

You've probably heard about the Danish concept of hygge. You can read about it here and here (and, it seems, everywhere). We recently came across the hashtag #hyggeschooling and that made us think about how especially in Early Childhood, Waldorf embodies hygge.  

The social atmosphere and the simplicity of the classroom, the aesthetic pleasure of the scents and sights and sounds, the tea and cozy slippers and wooly layers: Waldorf children get the best of hygge from the early years. (And then they go on to knit their own socks and go on camping trips...but that's for another post.)

This is not by accident. The founder of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner, wrote and spoke about the importance of protecting and nourishing the developing child's senses. He articulated 12 senses and said, "Everything we have in us, even everything we experience in our soul, is related to the outer world through our twelve senses. These are the senses of touch, life, movement, balance, smell, taste, sight, warmth, hearing, speech, thinking, and the sense of the I." His work on this topic is outlined in The Care and Development of the Human Senses.

If you are curious to know more, join us on December 9 for Celebrate the Seasons with a Waldorf Teacher or come by any Monday for Tea & Play for 1pm. (Both events are open to families with children ages 2-6.) Register with our Early Childhood Admissions Coordinator at 845.356.2514 x326.

Photo of a felted acorn in the Nursery classroom by Nursery Teacher Rebecca Ruof.

Photo of a felted acorn in the Nursery classroom by Nursery Teacher Rebecca Ruof.

Celebrate the Seasons with a Waldorf Teacher

Join us on Saturday, December 9 from 10:30am-12pm for a special seasonal event. Spend time in our beautiful cozy classroom on a cold December morning, while children play and adults have time for conversation. We will make felted acorns and learn some verses about Little Jackie Frost and King Winter. We'll also share a bowl of warm oatmeal together. Slow down, connect with new friends, and allow your little ones some time for an unhurried, magical morning.

Please register with Barbara Mann at 845.356.2514 x326 or bmann@gmws.org.

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Featured post: Local geography: Where else do Green Meadow students live?

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we have been sharing a bit over the last 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.

We have already profiled the four counties where the majority of our students come from: Rockland, Orange, and Westchester in NY and Bergen in NJ. 

So where does everyone else come from?

Learn more about our school.

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

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we have been sharing a bit over the last 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.

Up today: Orange County, NY, where 7 of our 210 families live. Students come from in the following towns: Bellvale, Chester, Tuxedo, Warwick, and Washingtonville

Learn more about our school.

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

To help prospective parents get to know our school, we have been sharing a bit over the last 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.

Up today: Westchester County, NY, where 10 of our 210 families live. Students come from in the following towns: Chappaqua, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Montrose, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and White Plains

Learn more about our school.

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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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