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.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#4)

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

Faculty Spotlight – Educational Support at GMWS, Kindergarten through grade 8

By Suzanne Lynn, Educational Support Coordinator

Educational Support at GMWS spans kindergarten through grade twelve.  The work of the Educational Support Coordinator primarily focuses on grades K-8, spanning all three sections of the school, helping to bridge both rising first graders and their parents from the kindergarten into the lower school and the rising ninth graders and their parents from the middle school into the high school.  Joanne Monteleone, HS guidance counselor, coordinates support in grades 9-12.

Educational Support works with students, teachers, and parents to support each student’s academic success by understanding and supporting unique learning styles, strengths, and challenges. This is accomplished through bi-weekly meetings with each grades teacher, managing the in-house educational support team and outside tutors, overseeing or administering assessments, coordinating outside testing, helping develop and implement educational support plans for students, and meeting with parents.  Parents are always welcome to reach out with questions or for guidance. 

Over the last seven years our educational support program has evolved and continues to progress to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. Our school mindfully blends the core principles of Waldorf education, advances in assessment and support for cognitive and learning differences.  Our work remains rooted in Rudolf Steiner’s model of the developing human being, placing assessments at key times in child development such as rising grade one, second grade, cognitive learning assessments of reading and math in grades three, four, and seven.

This is ongoing collaborative work with very dedicated colleagues in the early childhood, lower school, middle school and high school, including those on the Care Group committee who are dedicated to child study – all of whom work together to fully support each student.  Class teachers and subject teachers bring this support to their students through their daily lessons and nightly preparation.  Their consistent striving and keen observations are an essential part of our educational support program, surfacing questions about underlying learning differences that might require testing, adaptation of teaching methods, or specific support plans.  In addition to these colleagues, we have a growing educational support team that works together to offer additional support that may be needed at varying times in a student’s schooling.  We currently offer:

·         Eurythmy therapy, to harmonize the whole child through orchestrated movement.  This works constitutionally from the inside out;

·         Occupational therapy, to harmonize the whole child through specific movements engaging students in earlier developmental stages to free hindrances and organize movement and sensory integration.  This works physically from the outside in;

·         The Extra Lesson, to harmonize and integrate the whole child through varied activities that bring about balanced breathing and support cognitive learning. Created by Audrey McAllen who took up Rudolf Steiner’s many lectures about the developing child and developed a curriculum of movement, speech, drawing and painting exercises;

·         Homogeneous reading groups that meet students where they are in their reading acquisition, furthering their skills at a pace that meets them;

·         Screenings and assessments to help uncover learning differences that may require further testing, and;

·         When necessary, more direct intervention which is either brought in or referred out, such as reading, writing and math tutors.

The Educational Support Coordinator orchestrates the moving parts, bringing all the players together in ways that meet the needs of our students, allowing them to more freely develop to their fullest capacity.  We are working in the present to meet the needs of our students while simultaneously building for the future—5, 10 years from now.  We are working to create an educational support program that is woven into the fabric of the school that meets the diverse learning needs of all our students. 

Meet our Alumni: Isaiah Thron, Class of 2015

Isaiah started at Green Meadow in Nursery school. He says, "I was at GMWS for 15 years. Only missed out on Parent & Child." 

Green Meadow: Can you say a little bit about where you go to college and what you are studying?

Isaiah Thron: I am studying at SUNY Binghamton University. I am majoring in Electrical Engineering and minoring in Sustainable Engineering. 

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

IT: I'm going to answer those questions in reverse order. I feel like Green Meadow truly educates their students. Going to the roots of the word "educate," it means "to draw out." My experience at Green Meadow is that teachers make you really think about the material, come to your own conclusions, and "draw out" the knowledge from yourself. I think this is one of the things that makes Green Meadow unique, along with plenty of other things (only some of which have to do with fairies and gnomes). 

Green Meadow allowed me to have a rich and joyful childhood, full of imagination and nature. In the Lower School, everything was taught through a story. Even Math, with Prince Addition and Princess Subtraction, was introduced to us in first grade through the medium of a story. That is one way that we had to use our imagination, but also outside of the classroom, with the no media policy. This made us be creative: go outside, be our own superheros, and build castles and grand rivers out of sticks and the hose. Green Meadow created the opportunity for us to connect with nature, bringing us on nature walks and having us play outside no matter the weather, rain or shine, allowing us to build a relationship with the world we live in. 

The other thing that I love about Green Meadow is the teachers. Lower School through High School, they all care. I have always felt like the teachers were there for me and that they saw me as an individual, not just another student. 

Now, how did Green Meadow prepare me for college? Honestly, I feel like it's a little bit silly that everything is about getting into the best college, then getting the best job, and so on. As someone who has just finished the first two years of engineering school, I'm not sure anything can really prepare you for college. But Green Meadow did prepare me, in a few ways. I learned how to take in the material and understand the concept. This is very useful for any kind of learning, but it especially helped me in a Chemistry course my first semester (which was both Chem 1 and 2 in one semester). I came to understand the material and was also able to explain it to my friends who were struggling.

The material at Green Meadow is expansive enough that everyone can choose different directions to go in their lives, but deep enough that even now in Calculus 3, I am still learning things that we covered in High School (in the upper math group). I've had that experience in many of my general science classes.

Green Meadow prepared me for more than just succeeding in college; it prepared me to succeed in life. I graduated with the ability to learn and with at least a little bit of knowledge in many fields. 

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

IT: Green Meadow fosters creativity, which is imperative in all subjects but especially, as some might not know, in STEM. In the STEM fields, creativity is needed to come up with solutions and design projects.

If you want to learn more about a field that you are interested in, join a club or do outside work that will teach you about the subject. Green Meadow builds you up so you will be able to absorb the material and make it part of you.

Also, have fun and don't let the work stress you out!

 

Isaiah in 2015, doing his Senior Project on Modern Dance. Photo courtesy of Dyana van Campen.

Isaiah in 2015, doing his Senior Project on Modern Dance. Photo courtesy of Dyana van Campen.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#3)

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

11th Grade Parzival Trip

by Angela Nusbaum, High School English Teacher

On a cold, rainy, Sunday night, our trusty Green Meadow buses fought their way through the harsh January rains. It was dark on our arrival at the Camphill Special School’s Beaver Run campus. The 11th grade unloaded the buses valiantly, perhaps inspired by the knightly fearlessness and constancy of the heroes in Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s rich tale of a Grail quest. Already halfway through the book, the students were deep into an experience which begged the question—among many questions—“How can I come to know the one standing in front of me?” With few expectations, the students were eager both to meet the children with special needs living at Beaver Run, and, through this intensive week, to meet each other newly. The weather echoed and enforced the class’s transition through the week. While the torrential rains made it hard to see past one’s own nose to begin with, by Thursday the sun lit up the rolling Pennsylvania distances, and gilded the fields and houses in which we had witnessed so much joy and steady love. The houses seemed woven together not just by their shared schedules, but by their shared goals and the wakeful practice of recognizing the highest humanity in each member of the community. Our concentrated morning conversations in the carpeted library or the vaulted, gloriously lit “Rainbow Hall” informed and were informed by the long, joyful exhale of activities the rest of the day. The trip was filled with quiet moments, outdoor work, conversations ready to happen, and a sounding chord of being open and awake to others. As students took up their own breaking through boundaries, the words of Karl Konig, founder of the Camphill movement felt true:

“There is a knighthood of the twenty-first century, whose riders do not ride through the darkness of physical forests, as of old, but through the forest of darkened minds.”

The following are words from the journals students kept during the course, writing on impressions of the people, the book and their experience.

            “ Her constant stream of jokes ever fail to make me laugh, and if life were to weigh me down, she would be the one to lighten my load. Going on 20, She bears the resilience and positivity of a child..”    

            “I was upset to leave because I enjoyed talking to him, but we both knew that we would see each other for lunch, as he asked me, ‘Corey, you need to leave? Aw. Will you come back?’ To which I replied, “Of course! I’ll be back for lunch!” He was ecstatic, as was I.”

            “The trip was incredible in many ways, but but most of all, it taught me how compassionate and caring my classmates can be…”

            “I have never seen an institution similar to this, and have already gained a massive admiration for it. Witnessing the intensive care and interaction that the aids and house parents give to the children shows the dedication of the school. The happiness of the children reflects the environment that they live in.”

            “Like Gawan, the creator of Camphill and all the caretakers and teachers dedicated their lives to asking questions. ‘What is hurting you? How can I help?’ Gawan, the asker of questions, would sacrifice his life for the sake of others.”

            “I hope that this coming summer I will have the opportunity to return to Beaver Run and volunteer for a few weeks. In this way I hope to create stronger relationships with the incredible children, and perhaps have a greater appreciation for the abilities that I have been blessed with.”

            “Answers are an odd thing. We yearn for them, are impatient for them…sorrow for them. It seems, though, that once we have our answers, we only have more questions.”

            “Parzival learns from trial and error, sometimes, which we are strongly able to experience when entering into someone else’s house. Just as when Parzival intrudes on Jeschute, we might rudely interrupt or cross over boundaries into someone else’s space, because we do not know better.”

            “We experienced and witnessed many moments that connect to the book: the ability and inability to be observant and aware (as seen in Gawan and Parzival); the innocence, honest and purity in each child; the sensitivity, love, and above all, the bravery these children hold.”

Meet our Alumni: Alex Chin, Class of 2012

Over the next few months, we'll be introducing you to many of our recent alumni, who are scattered across the globe doing amazing work and engaging in study.

Today we are sharing a bit about Alex Chin '12, who will also be featured in an interview in the September/October 2017 issue of The Bulletin. Alex is currently traveling in Ghana; we look forward to talking with him when he returns. 

Green Meadow: Congratulations! We understand that you were accepted recently to MIT and the University of Rochester for graduate school. Which school will you be attending and in what field of study?

Alex Chin: I will be attending the University of Rochester to pursue a PhD. in Physics. I will focus primarily on High Energy Density Physics.

GM: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and the path that led you to graduate school?

AC: I went to SUNY Geneseo for my undergraduate degrees in Physics and Math. I decided to go to graduate school so I can keep studying and doing research in Physics. I still have so many things to learn.

GM: How did Green Meadow prepare you for college and beyond? What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow? 

AC: I started at Green Meadow in Kindergarten, and being at the school gave me the opportunity to have experiences that I never would have had elsewhere. I have no idea how many times I tried to explain what eurythmy was my freshman year of undergrad.

Look for the full interview with Alex in an upcoming issue of The Bulletin.

 

Alex receives his diploma in June 2012 from then-Administrator Tari Steinrueck.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#2)

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

Ninth Grade Mystic Seaport Trip – Why We Read Moby Dick

By Defne Caldwell, High School English Teacher

You may or may not have read a little book with a compelling title, Why Read Moby Dick?, by Nathaniel Philbrick. In it, Philbrick explores elements that are significant to Herman Melville’s novel, such as the disastrous tale of The Essex, a ship sunk by a sperm whale in 1820 which inspired some aspects of Melville’s tale (and Ron Howard’s recent film). Philbrick’s book also includes several essays on themes, characters and scenes within the novel, and a wonderful chapter on chowder. Margaret Atwood wrote a column in the “New York Times” (4/28/12) about what she would tell Martians wishing to understand America. Among other things, she tells them to read Moby Dick. Their response, “Holy crap! Does this mean what we think it means?” They understand the novel as a metaphor for North America’s 21st century role in the oil industry. In March, I will be teaching Moby Dick to the ninth graders in “The Novel” main lesson, so I too am thinking about why we read Moby Dick, and what the ninth grader has to gain by it.

In some ways the novel, a form of literature that followed epic, lyric, and dramatic literature by around 2,500 years, is a more contemporary art form. In the adolescent’s appreciation for what is real, what is present and now, this form of literature meets them where they are. Moby Dick has within it passages that are decidedly epic, lyric and dramatic, and in this way it encompasses all literature that has come before, but is revolutionary and new in the way that it takes them up. This is also the experience of the adolescent who is picking, choosing and recombining what she inherited, to make herself her own. The theme of independence runs through Melville’s novel, which speaks strongly to the 14 or 15-year-old who is close enough to home and school to notice the sharp contrast of moments of independence. And the young person’s desire to travel far from home is matched by Ishmael’s need to escape the weighty experience of land and go to sea. The novel also meets the adolescent’s experience of strong, dizzying waves of sympathy and antipathy. Moby Dick too is rich in polarities, Ahab’s selfishness and pride vs. Pip’s selflessness and shame, Ahab’s passionate monomania vs. Ishmael’s thoughtful open-mindedness, lulls vs. storms, descriptive passages vs. dramatic passages, the list goes on and on. In considering polarities, the adolescent’s thinking and feeling has freedom to move and to come into balance.

Melville’s novel is rich in symbols uniquely meaningful to young readers. The gold doubloon, promised to whoever spots Moby Dick, is regarded by many characters on the ship. Each view of the coin is in a way true, yet the truth lies somewhere in the combination of all points of view. This meets 14-year-olds who have an increasing appreciation for varied points of view, yet an increased interest in truth. Ishmael studies a loom on the ship used for weaving mats. Always on the lookout for meaning, Ishmael muses that fixed parts of the loom represent necessity and fate, while the moving shuttle must be free will, and Queequeg’s sword which pushes down on the weave to tighten it, chance. This is a rich subject for young people to consider as they begin to develop true freedom. Perhaps the most interesting and most elusive symbol is the white whale: A body of colorless void? An uncontrollable urge? Melville mentions that within the ocean is “the ungraspable phantom of life.” Is that it? What is it?! If you remember, becoming aware of the existence of forces one can’t understand or control is the mark of adolescence, it is what filled us with feeling and got us thinking.

When I taught the course in past years, the students’ conversations were a journey into an uncharted sea. Their writing was a kind of charting of a path of thought and feeling. Their essays were marked by strong, objective observations, clear thinking, emotional commitment, and beautiful language. To ground their thoughts and feelings, students learn how to tie knots, memorize parts of the whaling ship, chart the path of the Peaquod and work on an independent project of their own. They also spend two days at Mystic Seaport where they have an opportunity to climb rigging, row whale boats, throw harpoons, and speak to the world famous Melville scholar Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

Lastly, Moby Dick is indeed a sophisticated read. Herman Melville’s language is elevating, and the students read it, speak it, learn it by heart, choose passages that they love, and begin to ingest it and make it all their own. Last time I taught the main lesson, we closed with a final conversation reflecting on the course where one student remarked that his own creative writing had improved during the main lesson. A girl called from across the circle, “It’s the language; it’s because of the language [of Moby Dick].”

I don’t think the ninth graders would be surprised by Philbrick’s book. Once they study Melville’s epic novel, they will have touched upon Philbrick’s ideas themselves. I did find one detail in his book that I treasure and will hold in my mind as I savor this course with the ninth graders. According to Philbrick, after Melville died his family found a piece of paper taped inside his writing desk inscribed with the words by Friedrich Schiller: “Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.”

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

Last week, we talked Waldorf teachers having freedom in the way they bring the Waldorf curriculum to their student. In this fifth installment in our Summer blog series, we want to tell you about the core principle that outlines the methodology of teaching in a Waldorf school.

There are a few key methodological guidelines for Lower School and High School teachers. Early Childhood teachers work with these principles appropriate to the way in which the child before the age of seven learns, out of imitation rather than direct instruction:

~Artistic metamorphosis: the teacher should understand, internalize, and then present the topic in an artistic form.

~From experience to concept: the direction of the learning process should proceed from the students’ soul activities of willing, through feeling, to thinking. In the high school, the context of the experience is provided at the outset. (This is also sometimes referred to as phenomenological learning or experiential learning.)

~Holistic process: proceeding from the whole to the parts and back again, and addressing the whole human being.

~Use of rhythm and repetition.

Teaching in this way has several benefits:

  • Students develop a strong aesthetic sense and a deep appreciation for beauty and artistry. 
  • Students are engaged and connected to their learning.
  • Students learn to see complex situations and problems as a whole (systems thinking) and become expert and creative problem-solvers.
  • Students feel secure, use their bodies and brains in coordination, and are able to achieve mastery in many subjects.

Summer Blog Series: Highlights from The Bulletin (#1)

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

Third Grade Farm Trip – A Parent’s Perspective

By MaryJoe Walikainen

My daughter Ava began attending Green Meadow in third grade.  As if learning through play, free time outside every day, and helping out at nearby Duryea farm on Fridays weren't enough fun, she also got to spend 5 days and 4 nights with her classmates living on Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY.

While Ava spoke about the farm trip frequently, she began the official countdown three weeks prior.  As part of the preparation for her trip, she received a packing list from her teacher.  She brought it home and got right to work.  She compiled all the items she’d need.  One check mark went next to the items she already had on the list and put in a pile.  A star went next to the few items she didn’t have and needed to get.  She placed yet another mark next to each item on the list after she labeled it with her name.  Then, as the departure day got closer and excitement built, she made a fresh packing list (the other one had too many marks on it) and checked off each item as she placed it in the duffle bag. The duffle bag got packed and repacked several times before leaving.  I marveled at her independence as she took care of all her trip preparations herself.  While packing for a trip may on the surface seem trivial, it indicates to me my changing role as she increases her self-reliance and responsibility.  

Before she left on the farm trip she got a schedule outlining the activities and chores she would be able to do at the farm.  She wondered what milking the cows would feel like.  She questioned if she would really need to clean out the barn or, if she could skip that part.  She said she wanted to get up early every day (instead of just one day as indicated on the schedule) to feed the animals.  She expressed her excitement about being able to collect the eggs every day and the opportunity to learn how to make fresh butter.  

While Ava had spent time away from home before, she was always with a member of her family. This trip would be her first experience without any family.  Regardless, when the morning came to leave for the trip, Ava boarded the bus forgetting to say goodbye.  I entered the bus to give my goodbye and found her already situated with her friends anxiously awaiting the journey.  Before the trip she was able to write down a couple preferences for who she would want to bunk with while at the farm.  Her teacher reassured her that at least one of her preferences would be honored. This provided a sense of comfort for Ava knowing that at least one of her closer friends would be with her.  At the farm, she ended up with several of her friends bunking near her.  And, she came to find through various activities at the farm that she got to know some other classmates better. This trip provided her first major experience that expanded her sense of place and belonging beyond her immediate family to include the larger class community. 

One evening, Ava was particularly tired and was ready to go to bed before the rest of her classmates were ready.  She struggled with deciding to either continue on with the group activities or go off to bed by herself.  She ended up going to bed before the others.  I believe this reinforced her trust in herself to listen to what she needs and to speak her needs even if it is difficult and unpopular.   I think this experience nurtured trust in herself and was an important experience for her as she continues to navigate and explore her relationship with herself and others.   

When she returned home she spoke about catching a countless number of frogs at the pond, riding a horse, going for a hike and rolling down a grassy hill, splashing around in a creek, and her rekindled love of eating sweet potatoes as well as some of the chores she got to do.  She loved being able to cook soup for everyone one day.  She explained that on another day she had the much less exciting job of serving and cleaning up after dinner.  Then, I could feel her sense of confidence strengthening as she reported that milking the cows turned out to be fairly easy and that she was able to clean out the barn really well and take care of the smelly manure without a problem.  While she didn’t articulate it directly, I know she understood through experience that some tasks are easier and more enjoyable than others and that what each person does individually helps everyone.  

Being at the farm reinforced in a tangible way the lessons she had been learning all year long at school by providing positive experiences which challenged her with new tasks and opportunities.  The trip provided many fertile opportunities for her to grow her confidence, independence, and sense of belonging—all in an adventurous manner, in a unique setting, among wholeheartedly supportive friends and teachers. 

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

Last week, we talked about the way the Waldorf curriculum meets children where they are in their development. In this fourth post in our Summer blog series, we want to tell you about the core principle that calls for freedom in teaching.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, said, "Out of the understanding of child development and Waldorf pedagogy, the Waldorf teacher is expected to meet the needs of the children in the class out of his/her insights and the circumstances of the school."

While the curriculum is mapped out across all three of the child's three developmental stages and schools have administrative oversight to ensure consistency in teaching, there is flexibility about how the curriculum is delivered by each individual teacher in any given year, based on where s/he is located in the world, who the students are, and other variables.  

At Green Meadow, teachers bring the curriculum to students creatively, with their own insights and experiences guiding them, while the school ensures the delivery of a high-quality Waldorf education in the following ways:

  • supporting professional development through courses and conferences;
  • offering support, evaluation, and mentoring by a Teacher Development Committee;
  • using performance-based student assessment; and
  • measuring scope (what is taught) and sequence (when it is taught) on an ongoing basis.

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

We wrote last week that every child goes through three developmental phases: birth to 7, 7 to 14, and 14 to 21. In this third post in our Summer blog series, we want to talk about the way that Waldorf Education offers a developmentally appropriate curriculum. Here are some of the ways that we engage students at each stage:

Birth to 7
In the period known as Early Childhood, children learn best through play, exploration, and imitation. Our approach to education meets students with a balance of activities that challenge their emerging skills and capacities. In warm, home-like classrooms and nature’s bountiful wooded play spaces, children at Green Meadow are welcomed into learning environments that nourish their senses. Our instructors invite their innate desire for self-initiated exploration and movement, and inspire their budding imaginations. These are the seeds for a lifelong love of learning, and they provide the foundation that every young child needs for self-confidence, resilience, and future academic excellence.

7 to 14
Green Meadow’s integrated Lower School curriculum is designed to engage the vivid imaginative nature of the child from ages 7-11, weaving together storytelling, creativity, and engagement in every academic and specialty subject. By helping children connect their experiences with their education, we help deepen their understanding of the subject matter while planting seeds for future creative and analytic thinking.

The curriculum broadens in Middle School, where students are engaged in a new way, appropriate for this developmental stage filled with rapid growth and transformation. Designed to engage the tumultuous, questioning inner life of the young person aged 12-14, our middle-school curriculum helps students connect their experiences with their education and begin to develop analytic thinking.

14 to 21
Green Meadow’s High School is a place that inspires a true engagement in learning: where rigorous academics are brought to life through exploration, inquiry, and experience in order to promote critical, independent thinking. Our academic curriculum is inspired by opportunities in the arts, music, drama, movement, and real-word experiences. Students become part of a cohort of dynamic peers, supported by an engaged and accessible faculty, to create a strong community that values integrity, honesty, and empathy for and understanding of others. As a result, Waldorf graduates can look at the world from multiple perspectives and chart their own path in life with confidence.

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

Today we want to talk about a core principle of Waldorf Education: the phases of child development. We know that children grow according to a sequence of approximately seven-year phases, and each child’s development is an individual expression of this archetype. Each phase has unique and characteristic physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions. Here are some of the hallmarks of each stage:

Birth to 7: Early Childhood

Body, Physicality

Focus on Metabolic/Limb System

Stage: Willing

Attribute: Goodness

Creative Play, Story Time and Puppetry, Movement, Artistic and Practical Experiences, and Time in Nature help the child grow and learn at this stage.

7 to 14: Lower School and Middle School

Soul

Focus on Heart/Lung System

Stage: Feeling

Attribute: Beauty

Lower School children thrive under the loving guidance and authority of their teacher. In Middle School, students enter a developmental stage filled with rapid growth and transformation. Their inner lives become tumultuous, and they question everything. Throughout these years, stories are offered that appeal to the child's vivid imagination and emotional life.

14 to 21: High School and Beyond

Spirit

Focus on nerve/sense system

Stage: Thinking

Attribute: Truth

At this age, in the High School, rigorous academics are brought to life through exploration, inquiry, and experience in order to promote critical, independent thinking. Students become part of a cohort of dynamic peers, supported by an engaged and accessible faculty, to create a strong community that values integrity, honesty, and empathy for and understanding of others. 

Next week: learn more about how our developmentally appropriate curriculum meets the child at each stage described above.

Summer Blog Series: Principles of Waldorf Education

This Summer, we want to share some of the foundations of Waldorf Education with you.

First up: intrinsic motivation, which means doing something out of oneself, out of our own initiative, rather than out of fear, duty, obligation, shame, peer pressure, parent pressure, or another external motivator. 

Self-discipline, autonomy, independence
One of the ways that Waldorf Education develops intrinsic motivation is by strengthening the will and offering increasing autonomy and independence. Many activities that the students participate in (making main lesson books, washing dishes in Kindergarten, taking out compost in the grades, cleaning up after themselves in the classroom, being faithful to daily instrument practice, creating Handwork projects) are undertaken in part to develop the will, so that when a child wants to accomplish something, s/he has the strength of will or the discipline to do it. This autonomy culminates in high school, when many students go on an international exchange for 3-5 months in 10th or 11th grade, and when seniors take on a 3-week internship and a year-long senior project.    

Relational learning
Waldorf Education also helps students find intrinsic motivation for schoolwork by allowing them to develop a relationship to their learning: we offer a developmentally appropriate, alive, relevant curriculum that excites and engages them, which fuels their desire to learn and do. Teacher looping also helps students develop a relationship with their teacher, and the social inclusion work that we do, along with class trips and class plays, builds deep relationships between students

Competence and mastery
At Green Meadow, we offer students work that is worthy of them. No rote memorization, no standardized testing, no teaching to the test. Instead, we use story and experiential learning to help students develop visible, tangible mastery and competence in each subject, which deepens their feeling of ownership of their learning and compels them to want to do better.

Here is a terrific article from The Graduate School of Education at Harvard University about fostering intrinsic motivation in children.

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The Class of 2017 Commencement

 

Green Meadow Waldorf School's Class of 2017 will celebrate commencement this Sunday, June 18 at 11am, in Rose Hall, in our Arts Building.

The 22 students in the class return today from their class trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico, and begin preparing tomorrow for the ceremony.

For their Senior Projects, one student built a tiny house, another wrote a novel, a third studied midwifery (attending two births alongside a Certified Nurse Midwife). Others researched and presented on Finance and Investing, Politics, Photo Journalism, and more. All the presentations are available on the school's YouTube channel.

We are so proud of this class. Many of the students have attended our school since Kindergarten, and those who joined in later years have enriched the class greatly. We are so pleased at who they have become and all they have accomplished, as a class and as individuals.

Students were accepted to schools including Cornell University, Mount Holyoke College, Sarah Lawrence College, Hampshire College, Kenyon College, Skidmore College, and the prestigious Commerce Program at Queen's University in Canada.

The full Class of 2017 College Acceptance List can be found here.

Congratulations, seniors!

Senior Projects (Part 9 of a series)

Senior Projects finished up on April 6. We have been introducing a senior to you each week in this short blog series, which wraps up today with this post. (See our April 14 blog post for the first installment in the series.)

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Billy Chen. Billy joined the Class of 2017 in Ninth Grade and has lived with the Olson Family since moving to the US from China, to attend Green Meadow. (Matt Olson's senior project presentation can be seen here and was profiled in an April 21 blog post).

Billy gave a moving presentation on his experience of kendo, a modern Japanese martial art whose relative is kumdo, a Korean interpretation of the sport. Billy shared with us that as a child, he read comic books featuring a kendo master, and that his dream was to study the art when he grew up.

Watch the kendo demonstration featuring Billy (in white) and his mentor (in black).  

Congratulations, Billy!

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