Waldorf Education

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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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Play is essential for young children

This article from last year in The Atlantic sheds light on one of the many reasons that play is essential for young children. The author, pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, notes:

"Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong. Yes, my daughter would later go on to test above average with her academic skills, but she was missing important life skills. Skills that should have been in place and nurtured during the preschool years. My wake-up call was when the preschool teacher came up to me and said, “Your daughter is doing well academically. In fact, I’d say she exceeds expectations in these areas. But she is having trouble with basic social skills like sharing and taking turns.” Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!

Little did I know at the time, but my daughter was far from being the only one struggling with social and sensory issues at such a young age. This was becoming a growing epidemic. A few years ago, I interviewed a highly respected director of a progressive preschool. She had been teaching preschoolers for about 40 years and had seen major changes in the social and physical development of children in the past few generations."

At the heart of Green Meadow's Early Childhood program is our understanding that self-initiated play is critical to healthy development. As soon as children learn something new, they start to play with their new capacities, practicing and testing their skills until they tackle more and more difficult tasks. Therefore, ample time for creative play is part of each morning.  

Open-ended toys made from natural materials, like silk scarves, knitted wool puppets, wooden blocks, and acorns collected from nature walks, nourish the child’s developing senses. With these natural items, children may flex their creative muscles and imaginative capacities, and further develop their emerging fine motor skills.  In addition, involving moveable structures that they can explore in environments that invite movement helps to develop gross motor coordination. We believe that creative play is the child’s most important developmental tool, whether to discover new skills, work with experiences, or express emotions.

Our children benefit from a rich variety of outdoor play spaces.  In addition to our beautiful playground, they experience the natural wonders of the forest, field, farm, garden, pond, and woodland stream, all within walking distance of our classrooms.

Rain or shine, ample opportunities exist for developing strong, healthy bodies.  Depending on the time of year, children sled down snowy hills, climb rocks in the Rocky Dell, and balance on fallen trees in the Fairy Woods. Munching on autumn apples in the orchard or tasting a maple tree’s sweet water in late winter can foster a lifelong respect for the earth and a deep appreciation for nature’s bounty.

Read the rest of The Atlantic article.

Come to Morning in the Nursery/Kindergarten on March 4.