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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If you are a GMWS parent or alumni parent, please consider writing a short review on one of the following sites to help prospective parents learn more about us, directly from a parent in the know like yourself. It doesn't take much time at all, and can really help another parent as they search for a school. Thanks!

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Senior Projects (Part 8 in a series)

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

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Olivia Oswald. Olivia started at Green Meadow in Kindergarten, following in the footsteps of her uncle Patrick (Class of 1995) and her dad Brendan (Class of 1992). Her mother Jessica is a Kindergarten teacher here, and her two siblings attend the school as well.

Olivia presented on midwifery, and had the incredible opportunity during her project to accompany the midwives (Green Meadow alumni parent Valeriana Pasqua-Masback and Class of 2005 alumna Nuranisa Rae) on pre-natal visits and to attend two home births. (In fact, one of those births ended up conflicting with some babysitting she was planning to do for my daughter, and after an excited early-morning text exchange, I released her from her obligation to come to my house!)

Hear more about Olivia's experience.

Congratulations, Olivia!

Why Waldorf? (Part 9 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Maureen Allen, the mom of Alex, a twelfth grader who has been at Green Meadow since Kindergarten. 

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of Maureen and Alex.

You can read this as one-part love letter, one-part thank you note, from the mom of a senior about to graduate from Green Meadow. My son began his tenure here in Kindergarten, pulling up carrots, churning butter, and stealthily removing eggs from beneath the hens, while stalking the escapees and gently tossing them back into the coop. The soundtrack to my reminiscing is always the song Africa by Toto; they sang it in 8th grade choir and it’s embedded in my heart, like so many rich memories. I still tear up thinking of these moments: Advent Circle, did my rambunctious son really navigate that alone and perfectly? Watching him receive his rose in 1st grade and knowing he was being welcomed, for real. A puppet show, so quiet you could hear a pin drop, 5-year-olds in awe of such a seemingly simple performance but with recognition for the gift it truly was.

The years seem like a blur but luckily I have many souvenirs to bookmark them: framed watercolors line our walls, knitted treasures line the bookshelves.  So many excursions: the 3rd grade farm trip where Alex and I learned we could be apart for the first time, a week in the wilderness following the beat of a drum, a whirlwind tour of Boston’s historic sites, community service in Washington, DC. Each experience filled the class with hope in the greater good, a desire to give back, confidence in their abilities.   

The high school years have included independent student exchanges to other countries+, graceful solo Eurythmy performances, and senior projects taken up with poise, determination, and drive. These are all evidence that the roots developed in the Lower School are manifest in the abilities achieved in the High School.   

Having a senior on the verge of graduation is bittersweet: a lifetime of memories, a child ready for the next step. Each new experience along the way seemed to meet Alex exactly where he was. Just like Waldorf claims to do. Someone once told me that my job as a parent was to love Alex unconditionally, so that his core would develop unhindered and he would be able to do his job, which is to find his path.  I did my part but I cheated a bit. I sent him to Green Meadow, to ensure he is fully equipped to find his way. 

It’s with much gratitude that I look back on these many years, knowing everyone contributed in meaningful ways, to guarantee all of our children are ready to take on the next chapter of their amazing lives.

Senior Projects (Part 7 in a series)

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

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Tiffany Salguero, who gave a presentation on Investing in the Stock Market. Tiffany joined GMWS in Ninth Grade, and distinguished herself in my Practical Math class last Fall with her interest in personal finance. Her senior project showed an ongoing evolution of her business acumen, and she shared that she learned about her risk tolerance through the project, as well as how to choose a theme for her investing, when to buy (low) and sell (high), and how she plans to spend her earnings.

Watch Tiffany's presentation.

Congratulations, Tiffany!

Why Waldorf? (Part 8 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Maria Fitzgerald, who grew up in Honduras, came to the US for college, and joined Green Meadow in 2014 as our Lower School Spanish Teacher.

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of the Fitzgerald family.

When we chose Green Meadow in 2014, we knew we were joining a well established Waldorf school that would provide our two daughters with the educational setting we were looking for. What we did not know was that we would become a part of something much bigger than a school. 

In three years, we have become part of a community that gives our children a sense of belonging, of safety and trust, of love, beauty, friendship and generosity. Just last week, after both of our girls spent the morning up at the farm watching sheep get sheared, we spent the afternoon in the music room at a benefit for Syrian refugees, which was organized by the High School Student Council and Student Activism Club. We were inspired by musicians, artists, poets, and activists, and it was wonderful to watch our daughters waving enthusiastically at the 8th graders and the high school students, calling them out by name to get their attention (you see, to them these upper grades students are akin to pop stars).

Last week, our daughters spent a late evening (in their pajamas) at Rose Hall while watching the 7th and 8th grades perform Fiddler on the Roof, which blew us all away. The week before that they had the pleasure of sharing their school with their grandmother at Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day. 

Our daughters are getting a beautifully rich and developmentally appropriate curriculum, taught by dedicated teachers whom we love and respect. We do not take this for granted, and we are grateful every day for this place we call "school." We took a leap of faith moving to New Jersey from North Carolina, in large part because of Green Meadow.  Now, when we see the human beings both of our daughters are becoming, we can say with confidence that we are exactly where we need to be.  

Senior Projects (Part 6 in a series)

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

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Simone Graham, another Green Meadow student who has attended our school since Kindergarten.

Interested in human psychology and behavior, Simone studied Lie Detection for her senior project. Simone showed us examples of how to tell if someone is lying (hints: watch where they look when they answer you, and be alert for fidgeting and/or passive language) and offered a demonstration by a fellow student who was most definitely not telling the truth.

Watch a portion of Simone's senior project presentation.

Congratulations, Simone!

Why Waldorf? (Part 7 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from the McDonagh boys: Colin (4th grade), River (1st grade), and Fionn (Nursery). They are the children of Melissa McDonagh, our Admissions Director for Grades 1-12, and her husband Peter.

Melissa first encountered Green Meadow when she was in high school, when she attended a poetry event here on campus, and then she returned later in life as a student teacher, to observe in our classrooms. She was a parent for several years before joining our staff in 2014.

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of the McDonagh family.

GMWS: When did you first come to Green Meadow?

C: I came to Parent & Child Classes in Oak House. [In 2008.]

R: Parent & Child!

F: I don't know...forever.

GMWS: What do you enjoy doing at school?

C: I love Games and Spanish. We get plenty of time for recess. I really liked doing my Bearded Dragon research project. We go on cool trips, like to the Hawthorne Valley Farm, the aquarium, and the Lenape Village.

R: We get to move around a lot...even in Math. We get to play outside everyday.

F: Play. We play inside with the toys with our friends, we play in the woods, we play on the farm.

GMWS: What is your favorite thing about Green Meadow?

C: I guess all of it is pretty good.

F: The Arts Building. It has the best water fountain. One time, we watched a Eurythmy performance there.

GMWS: What would you tell a student coming to Green Meadow?

F: It's fun!

C: Just do it--my mom will help you!

 

Senior Projects (Part 5 in a series)

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

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Emily Lauer. Like Utchaa, featured in our last post, Emily has been at Green Meadow since Kindergarten. A do-er, Emily is involved "in almost every extra-curricular activity there is," and is a go-to person on campus, for everything from helping to run a fundraiser to running the sound and lights in Rose Hall.

For her senior project, Emily studied American Sign Language (ASL). She told us a little bit about the history of ASL, taught us to sign "hello, how are you today?" and signed a story about herself.

Watch Emily present on ASL, with interpretation for a hearing audience by her mentor.

Congratulations, Emily!   

Why Waldorf? (Part 6 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Marieke Duijneveld, a Kindergarten teacher who has three children in the school and is herself a Waldorf graduate from the Netherlands.

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of Marieke with her family.

I love teaching in the Early Childhood Section of Green Meadow Waldorf School because working out of anthroposophy brings out the best in children and in me!  I love to constantly reflect and ask myself the question: "Why I am doing what I am doing?" It's inspiring for me to be thoughtful regarding every moment I create in my class: how can I best offer a program that serves the individual child in their development?  What craft, movement, story, song, snack, and ritual will help them become who they truly are?  

That’s what I try to give the children: a foundation for the future, growing the roots to be strong, interested, brave human beings that will meet the world with love, joy, and resilience. It’s a real honor for me to provide that gift of a Waldorf environment; I’m convinced it’s the best way to start the "career" of becoming a healthy adult!

Senior Projects (Part 4 in a series)

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

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Utchaa Williams, who presented on High-Performance Motorcycle Riding. Utchaa has been at Green Meadow for more than 13 years, since Kindergarten.

After convincing his father and the school that his project was a safe and reasonable thing to do, Utchaa purchased a bike and took classes to learn to ride responsibly. His presentation taught us a bit about the physics of riding a high-performance bike, and also showed how it can be done safely, by a beginner. (Tip: control your speed!)

Watch an excerpt from Utchaa's presentation.

Congratulations, Utchaa!

Why Waldorf? (Part 5 in a series)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Emily Lauer, a twelfth grader who has been at Green Meadow since Kindergarten. She is currently on her senior internship (as is the entire Class of 2017).

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of Emily Lauer's morning view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I am lucky enough to have two internships in NYC! One is working at Walter Pictures, a video production company. The other at the Allouche Art Gallery. So far I have had a wonderful time at both. Walter Pictures is mostly responsible for making music videos and I was lucky enough to be able to shoot with them in the first week of my internship. At the art gallery, I have been able to take part in many different aspects of the business, including helping put together a gallery opening.

I could go on and on about what I've been up to but I’ll save that for another time. The real question is how on earth has my Waldorf Education prepared me to go out into the world, start working, and have some clue about what I'm doing?

Two things come to mind:

Waldorf teaching really develops a well-rounded person, someone who is ready for anything and has both the skills and the brains to do it all. That is part of it.

I also believe that the social interactions that we practice in school, such as the way that we treat each other and how much importance we place on respect for our teachers, emanates through our work and is cherished in any work space.

I think anyone who has been through a Waldorf Education will have no trouble finding and fitting into any career or job that they choose. 

 

Senior Projects (Part 3 in a series)

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

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Dylan Manning, who came to GMWS when she was in the Lower School from Rye, NY. Dylan has many interests, including storytelling (she loves The Moth Radio Hour and was a student teller in 2016 at the Rockland County Storytelling Festival, which was sponsored by Green Meadow), stand-up comedy, triathlons, and writing.

Dylan said that one of the most satisfying parts about writing her novel was having it printed and holding the manuscript in her hand. She also loved character development, sometimes forgetting that her characters were fictional. 

Congratulations, Dylan!

Why Waldorf? (Part 4 in a series)

Click on the title of this post to see a photo of MaryJoe Walikainen, author of this post, and Max Rome, Grade 6. (Not pictured: Ava Rome, Grade 4; Ava and Max's father, Michael Rome)

In this series, we have been introducing you every week to a teacher, parent, or student who shares something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from MaryJoe Walikainen, mother of Ava and Max in the Lower School.

I breathed such a sigh of relief when my kids began attending Green Meadow Waldorf School (GMWS) two years ago. In GMWS, I found the cohesion between school life and home life that I desired.   

My kids shake hands and look in the eyes of their teachers at the beginning and ending of each class, every single day.  They consistently feel what it’s like to sincerely connect with another and to be seen by another.  This also conveys a sense that they matter and that they are accounted for.  

During roll call each morning, my kids declare out loud that they are present.  This is another representative example of a simple gesture touching upon a much deeper life skill.  By saying they are present, they are connecting to themselves as well as acknowledging their place within the larger group, which leads to a sense of belonging as well as responsibility.   

These basic abilities of connecting with oneself and with others can certainly be learned at home.  However, GMWS not only acknowledges the importance of these skills and reinforces them, they run increasingly deep with each advancing grade in school.  I don’t think the importance of these life skills can ever be underestimated.  

I have so many examples of how much my kids have blossomed since attending GMWS and I haven’t even gotten past roll call.  Suffice it to say, I sleep soundly knowing that my kids have a solid school foundation from which they garner courage and confidence as they grow into themselves.  Providing them the ability to attend is one of the most important offerings I can make, not only for my individual children, but toward the realization of the greater world I envision.  

Film by Kellen Quinn '00 at Montclair Film Festival

Kellen Quinn '00 recently produced Brimstone & Glory, which will be shown on May 6 and 7, 2017 at the Montclair Film Festival.

Here's a synopsis of the film:

Tultepec is known throughout Mexico primarily for one thing—it is the beloved home of Mexico’s fireworks industry. Each year, the community gathers for an annual festival for San Juan de Dios, creating a ritual celebration of fire, explosion, and danger unlike any other. BRIMSTONE & GLORY is an immersive portrait of Tultepec as it prepares for one of the most spectacular displays in the world; a concussive, pulsating event that fills the streets with revelers seeking a colorful, shimmering dreamscape. (In Spanish with English Subtitles)

Congratulations, Kellen!