Our new curriculum map shows what students learn when. A clear picture organized by subject, this allows parents and prospective parents to see how our developmentally appropriate education unfolds, from grades 1-12.
In this short blog series, we'll be helping prospective parents navigate the process of choosing an independent/private school. This week, we'll talk about some general characteristics of a good independent school, and in the coming weeks, we'll focus specifically on how to choose a preschool, lower school, middle school, and high school.
What are some general characteristics of a good independent school?
Look for a school that is accredited by a regional, national, or international body aligned with the school's philosophy. This guarantees that a school goes through a rigorous self-study and outside evaluations on a regular cycle, ensuring best practices and ongoing growth. Green Meadow is accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the NY State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), and the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN).
Is the school aligned with an particular educational philosophy? A guiding philosophy helps the school stay focused and true to its mission in a world where the educational landscape shifts constantly. Green Meadow is a Waldorf school, founded on a tried-and-true, developmentally appropriate, interdisciplinary philosophy developed in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner and constantly evolving to meet the needs of today's students. Read about Waldorf graduates here to see the outcomes of a Waldorf Education, and stay tuned: a new survey of Waldorf graduates from 1990-2017 was just completed and results will be published in the coming months.
Does the school have ample space for students in classrooms and outdoors? Is there good natural light, and beautiful spaces that inspire contemplation and learning? A gym and field for games, sports, creative play, and other movement? Practice rooms for private instrument lessons? An auditorium for concerts and plays? Lab facilities for science classes? A quiet, inviting, well-ordered library? Spaces for students to gather informally? Take a look at Green Meadow's facilities here. You can also see a gallery of classroom photos on each of these pages: preschool, lower school, and high school.
- History, traditions, and unique programs
How old is the school? How many teachers and staff have worked there for 10 years or more? Do students stay at the school from preschool through 12th grade? Are there traditions that build a sense of community life and belonging? At Green Meadow, the Rose Ceremony that opens and closes each year, curricular trips including the Third Grade Farm Trip, community events such as the Eighth Grade Talent Show, and unique opportunities including senior projects, senior internships, and our international exchange program are just a few aspects of campus life that excite and engage our students.
- Spirit of inquiry
Do you feel a buzz on campus, an excitement about learning? Are there campus lectures and other cultural events for students and parents? Is there a school newsletter or newspaper that showcases current events, discusses the school's philosophy, and alerts the community to what's happening on campus? Green Meadow has a full annual calendar of community education events, brings speakers to campus frequently for conversations with students, and publishes The Bulletin bimonthly and the Alumni Magazine twice a year, along with an annual yearbook and an annual student-produced literary magazine, The Burning Bush.
- Teacher qualifications and engagement
Are teachers at the school required to be certified beyond state teaching certification? What percentage of teachers are actively engaged in their field outside of school? Do the teachers lead clubs, coach sports, offer office hours for students, or engage in other after-school activities? How accessible are they to parents? At Green Meadow, several of our faculty have advanced degrees, all have received training and/or a degree in Waldorf Education, and they are actively engaged with students and parents through community activities like service learning, outside the school day.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Focus on Metabolic/Limb System
Creative Play, Story Time and Puppetry, Movement, Artistic and Practical Experiences, and Time in Nature help the child grow and learn at this stage.
Focus on Heart/Lung System
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
Focus on nerve/sense system
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.
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.
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 Maskit Ronen, Life Sciences teacher in the High School, and mom to four children in the school.
The science curriculum in the High School is designed to meet the needs and interests of the students, which change and expand every year. I love that all the students learn the basic concepts of different sciences, regardless of the path they are going to take in life. Since I teach some of the life sciences and earth sciences curriculum in each grade, I can introduce a topic in 9th Grade, give the students some knowledge about it, and then revisit the same ideas and expand on them the following years. This spiraling back and deepening methodology helps the students integrate new ideas with previous ones, which increases their ability to then apply their accumulated knowledge to real-life situations.
I am lucky to be able to observe and address the students’ thirst for facts in the 9th Grade, followed by their need to better understand processes in 10th Grade, then by their interest in causality and hidden forces behind these processes in their junior year. When I meet the seniors in the Fall of their last year in high school, their interest in who they are becoming and how they fit into the world around them is palpable. The curriculum meets these needs with a wider look at the Animal Kingdom, and explorations of ideas such as natural selection, philosophy, architecture, and modern history. As with any group of young adults, there are struggles along the way, but the enthusiasm our students have towards the future keeps me hopeful and motivated and makes it all worth the effort.