why waldorf works

Curious about the Waldorf curriculum?

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.

Learn more about the Waldorf difference here.
 

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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, in the third installment of this blog series, we'd like to introduce you to Maureen Satriano, GMWS Class of 1988, whose twin daughters are in Daniel's first grade class. Maureen also has two older children in the school, serves as our school nurse, and has played many roles at GMWS since graduating.

"One of the best parts of my time at Green Meadow was learning to look at everything from many angles.  I feel it has given me a perspective in life that is sometimes challenging for others, and for me too.  But most of the time I find myself thinking about an event, an experience, or a person, and trying to understand, or at least consider it from someone else's perspective.  There were many outstanding aspects of a Waldorf Education that I am passionate about, but trying to figure something out in many different ways, or imagining what it must be like for someone else, stands out as a valuable tool to have in our modern times.

I chose Green Meadow because I wanted a Waldorf Education for my children.  There was no other choice, in my mind.  I want my children to experience learning in color, warmth of teachers and community, joy in learning, and depth of thinking.  I want to have children who can look their teachers, friends, and friends' parents in the eye, and carry on a meaningful conversation.  I want more Waldorf graduates in the world, who think outside the box, look at issues from all angles, have a global perspective of the world, and are inspired to make positive change, and who feel they have to tools to make a difference.  I wanted my children to love school, and I knew they could do that at a Waldorf school."

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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 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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Generations: an alumnus teaching the children of fellow alumni

For us at Green Meadow, one signal that we are successfully living out our mission is the fact that many of our alumni return here when it is time to choose a school for their own children. They see the value of the Waldorf Education they received and want to offer the same for their children. 

Our current first grade, the Class of 2029, tells an even more special story: the teacher of this class that includes so many children of alumni (more on that later) is himself a graduate of Green Meadow.

Daniel Bieber graduated from Green Meadow in 2003. After attending Bard College and helping run the family business (The Nature Place Day Camp), among other things, he decided to begin his Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge Institute. He then served for two years as a Lower School Assistant at GMWS while in his teacher training. Daniel applied last year for the First Grade position and, having gotten to know him as an adult in his role as Classroom Assistant, we were thrilled to offer him this opportunity to take a class at his alma mater.

We will be writing in the coming weeks about the many alumni who are now parents in Daniel's class (six GMWS alumni and two alumni from other Waldorf schools), sharing their stories of why they decided to return to GMWS and send their children to the school they attended. Stay tuned.

 

Daniel Bieber '03 with his First Grade, the Class of 2029, on the first day of school, 9/6/17

Daniel Bieber '03 with his First Grade, the Class of 2029, on the first day of school, 9/6/17

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: 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.

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.

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!

 

Why Waldorf? (Part 3 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 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.

Why Waldorf? (Part 2 in a series)

Every week for the next several weeks, we will introduce you to a teacher, parent, or student who will share something about why they love Green Meadow and Waldorf Education. Today we hear from Jaden Laboriel, Grade 2. As you will see as you read below, Jaden is a keen observer and tells it the way he sees it.

(If you click on the title of this post, you will see a photo. Jaden is pictured on the far left, at his First Grade Rose Ceremony in Sept. 2015.)

GMWS: When did you come to Green Meadow?

JL: In Parent & Child classes.

GMWS: What are your favorite classes?

JL: Handwork & Games.

GMWS: What is your favorite thing about Green Meadow?

JL: I like the Fall Fair, because of the Dragon Run.

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

JL: I'd say it's a good school, probably better than the one you're in. Each class is unique, the teachers are nice and really polite, we celebrate good holidays, we get to do good plays, and we have a lot of buildings. We have Rose Hall, where we watch some of the plays. We have a real ringing bell instead of the kind of bell most schools have.  We also have a good basketball team. And the kids here have good posture. The school is amazing.

Understanding Waldorf Education

This article offers some great information that corrects common misperceptions about Waldorf Education. 

In summary: 

Misconception #1. “It’s artistic.”
Yes, but it’s not just for artistic students. The art enhances all aspects of deeper learning and unites the hemispheres of the brain.

Misconception #2. “It’s unstructured.”
We are very structured in our daily rhythm, in core academics, and in the expectations of the teachers, among other things. We are very conscious of allowing the children "out breath" activities like movement to balance the "in breath" of focused academic work. Our daily, monthly, and yearly calendars follow a coherent and predictable structure.  

Misconception #3. “It’s for children with learning challenges.”
Most schools are able to meet a small number of children with challenges in any given class.

Misconception #4. “It’s non-academic” (especially the Kindergarten).
No. Not at all. The Early Childhood lays the foundation for future academic rigor with rich language, imaginative stories, and all kinds of skill-building. Lower School students (who begin learning two languages in First Grade and play in an orchestra beginning in Third Grade) are learning through their feelings to engage deeply with material presented by their teachers. Our High School curriculum is challenging and prepares students for college and career.

Misconception #5. “They don’t start reading until third grade.”
Reading is much more than the sum of its parts, so we use a holistic approach similar to today’s Whole Language teaching style. Our pace is different than mainstream schools, and the result of the way we teach is that Waldorf students emerge from school as lifelong learners. 

Misconception #6. “It’s way behind the times."
Modern scientific research is bringing to light some astounding facts about human development in the first three decades of life – discoveries that are highly consistent with the academic progressions recommended a century ago by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education. Much of what is considered cutting-edge today (teacher looping, block-style learning) has been integral to Waldorf Education for nearly 100 years.