Lower School

Green Meadow Waldorf School teaches 21st century skills

In a blog post this past Winter, we talked about the capacities that a Waldorf Education offers students. We want to talk today about the skills that a Green Meadow Waldorf School education imparts to students.

Let’s start from a theoretical perspective and hear from Jamie York, author and Waldorf math educator. In this post, he talks about the skills and competencies that make Waldorf graduates ready for math and beyond as they move into the world. He references an article by Pat Bassett of NAIS, who lays out how students can demonstrate the skills they are learning through performance-based assessment, used at Green Meadow and many other Waldorf schools.

Grant Lichtman is also relevant to this conversation, as an expert on the attributes of schools that are successful in teaching 21st century skills. Watch this video through to the end (15 well-spent minutes). At about minute 13.5, Lichtman shares three principles for schools: Teach into the Unknown, Develop Self-Evolving Learners, and Be a Self-Evolving Organization. These three principles align perfectly with Green Meadow Waldorf School's mission, and it's exciting to see alignment between mainstream thinking and the wisdom of Waldorf.

That’s the theoretical basis. Practically speaking, what are some of the skills that our students graduate with after 12th grade? (This is by no means an exhaustive list!)

Mathematical and scientific skills: Students learn cartography and surveying skills; they understand and practice the scientific method, including formulating and testing hypotheses; they study Anatomy and Physiology from a theoretical standpoint and from a practical perspective through drawing and modeling; they participate in lab experiments in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology; and they learn Algebra and Geometry and can go on to Trigonometry and Calculus.  

Critical thinking and public speaking skills: Students compare and contrast multiple viewpoints; can write a persuasive argument and a research paper; give a Senior Speech, present a Senior Project, and write a “Song of Myself” as part of their 12th grade self-exploration; compose poetry; understand and discuss the works of authors as erudite and diverse as Geoffrey Chaucer, Wolfram von Eschenbach, William Shakespeare, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes, among scores of others.

Linguistic skills: Students graduate at an intermediate level or higher in a second language, able to converse, read a newspaper, and watch a film in that language. About 70 percent of our students have completed a 3- to 5-month international exchange program by the time they graduate from high school.

Musical skills: Students play an instrument from 3rd-12th grades; perform in bi-annual concerts and at least annual recitals; and participate in Band, Orchestra, and/or Chorus.

Manual and practical skills: Students learn to camp, canoe and/or kayak, use many tools, measure accurately, serve those in need, identify plants and animals, build a fire, hike a mountain, garden, sew, knit, paint, draw, bind a book in leather, and make beautiful and useful objects out of wood, clay, and copper.

The graphics below illustrate the nine intelligences and the ways that Waldorf Education supports these disparate and necessary capacities and the skills that help them come to life.

To learn more, visit the sections of our school: Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, and High School; come to an Introductory Session; or take a look at our school videos.

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Did you know we are just three miles from Bergen County, New Jersey?

Green Meadow Waldorf School is a private school near Bergen County, New Jersey. Just three miles from the New York/New Jersey border, we are easily accessible from the Bergen County towns of Woodcliff Lake, Montvale, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Ridgewood, Allendale, Park Ridge, Mahwah, Ramsey, Glen Rock, and many more.

From our new Forest Preschool to a very special new After-School Program for 2018-19 (open to the public!), to performances and plays and facility rentals, there is so much on our campus that you don't want to miss!

This summer, call us for a private tour and see what our Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, and High School can offer your child(ren).

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. 

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

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.

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.  

Watch our school videos!

Have you seen our four school videos yet? We produced them in Spring and Summer 2016: a general short film on Waldorf Education, and one video for each section of our school: Early Childhood, Lower School, and High School. Take a look, and deepen your understanding of why and how we do what we do at Green Meadow.