The Advent Garden at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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As with so many festivals of early Winter, bringing light into the darkness is the essence of the Advent Garden. The form of the involuting and outgoing spiral was one that Dr. Rudolf Steiner gave as a form recommended to walk involving the whole child and their sensory systems. Form drawing is part of the curriculum in Waldorf schools, and children experience these forms in many ways, drawing them and walking them for instance. Around 1923 children in the first Waldorf Schools walked this form, but it was not until around 1926 when Bavarian farmers and a German nurse came together to create the custom of the garden. They laid out the spiral with moss and evergreens with a central candle, which was raised on a mount. The candles were brought in, carried by each child as they walked the spiral holding their apple with the candle in it. As they came to the center and lit their candle they placed it along the path on their way out, and the garden glowed with light.

This experience of beauty, music and solitude resonate with this time of outer darkness, and renewing our inner light. Diwali, Winter Solstice, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Christmas are some of the festivals that include this element of light, along with the qualities of mystery, gratitude, generosity, and the upholding of high ideals kindled within us.

The children experience coming into a darkened room, hearing lyre, violin, guitar or flute music playing softly, and waiting their turn to receive the apple with an unlit candle and being led to the beginning of the path. They walk the path showing us all so much by how they navigate their way, and their own special walk. It is beautiful to watch, and hold with reverence. The children experience this wonder without explanation. The event has of course brought some parents to quiet tears, or a very quiet chuckle – or both, as they watch their child and dear classmates.

At the Waldorf School of Atlanta this festival is for kindergarten through second grade. Some classes have extended it in different forms further into the grades with a labyrinth or walking outside at night. Some classes let it “rest” after second and then bring the essence of this festival in a different way. The high school students at Academe of the Oaks look forward to walking the spiral again, understanding in a whole new way what they experienced when they were little.

“What a different time it is today, how much greater is the need, the need to go into the darkness, spreading the light as we go out.” ~ Christof-Andreas Lindenberg

~Annie Sommerville-Hall

Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher

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This article originally appeared in the December 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta. 

 

Waldorf School of Atlanta Reaches Worldwide

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I have just returned from an inspiring trip teaching toning and singing, music pedagogy, pentatonic lyre, and anthroposophical music background to Waldorf teachers in Thailand and New Zealand.  WSA is part of a worldwide movement with over 900 Waldorf schools. To actually meet and get to know some of my overseas colleagues and be able to picture them in their own environment with all their challenges brings this picture of Waldorf as a global, mutually supportive movement into much more concrete perspective. It was invigorating to experience these wonderful colleagues on the other side of the world. They met our work with great enthusiasm!

My first impression of Bangkok was of an overcrowded, unplanned, sprawling, hectic megapolisa city badly in need of a human vision such as Waldorf education inculcates. In the last fifteen years, Bangkok initiatives have created two Waldorf schools, one independent kindergarten, and a kindergarten training. It was inspiring to see how the pioneers of the Thai Waldorf movement combine the spiritual traditions of their own country with Anthroposophy to bring Waldorf to Thailand. In the course I taught there were around sixty teachers and student-teachers, some from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and India, as well as Thailand itself. I worked with a translator, but the students were enthusiastic, and especially satisfying were the moments when we were all communicating through the music we were creating (also satisfying were the delicious homecooked dishes with which the students treated me!). Flood waters were steadily rising as I was teaching in Bangkok. The river overflowed after I had left, causing many thousands to flee the city. I was glad to hear that my wonderful hostess was safely at her mother’s home.

New Zealand, whose population is less than half the size of metro Atlanta’s, has a flourishing Waldorf movement with nine established schools and new initiatives springing up. Most of their schools are integrated into the state educational system, which is a mixed blessing, since they are also required to follow state regulations and organizational requirements. I heard my colleagues’ concern as the state continues to assert more control along with its financial support.

The theme of the New Zealand conference was “joy.” I was the main speaker and artist, and any worries I might have had about delivering on that theme were quickly lifted by the joyous musicality of the hundred or so teachers in attendance. We were soon launched into lively musical and movement exercises, ringing six part rounds, and beautiful group lyre playing and improvisation.

New Zealand seemed like a green, uncrowded paradise, although the problems of the world were literally lapping against its shores as I arrived. The conference was in the oceanside city of Tauranga, and from the house where I was staying I could see the tanker which had run against a reef the previous week and created the largest oil spill in New Zealand’s history. You could smell the oil from the conference, the beach was closed, and the local economy was reeling.

It was amazing to fly back from the New Zealand springtime to our colorful autumn here, and it is good to be back again. I’d like to thank the Core for giving me the professional release time and everyone for supporting the music program and teachers in my absence. As a world wide movement, we have a lot to give to and learn from each other, and it was important and generous of WSA to show this support.

~Eleanor Winship

Music Director

 

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta. 

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Waldorf Education in the news

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Parents often wonder whether the lack of computer technology and curriculum exposure to software is hurting their child’s ability to ‘get ahead of the pack’ when it comes to secondary and post-secondary education. Much of this concern is driven by the media and technology itself. Recent studies and several articles in the NY Times and other print media have discussed this topic in great detail. The NY Times has published several articles over the last 10 months challenging the efficacy of technology based learning, especially for younger children. A few weeks ago, a staff writer, Matt Richtel got up-close and personal at Waldorf School of the Peninsula, in asking parents there, in the middle of Silicon Valley, why they were comfortable with a school that had no technology in the lower grades.

Families at WSP in Los Altos, CA are an interesting demographic, in that so many of them are working within the R&D and production areas of the latest technology. Their close proximity to the realities of the industry help them feel confident that their children are gaining skills and understanding that will serve them far into the future, while iphone apps and other software will be superseded (obsolete) in just a few years, long before their children enter college.

Granted, there is controversy about what is necessary, what is important, and what is icing on the cake. Waldorf Education will always take the position that technology, properly applied, is not bad, but that timing is everything! Using a tool is only appropriate when you know how it works and what the results will be when you ‘start the engine’.

If teaching is a human experience, then engagement, contact with the teacher, with other students, with color and multitudes of medium to express their burgeoning ideas can give young children familiarity with all the trappings they’ll need to be creative and thoughtful. Whether they want to be electrical engineers, doctors, book editors, designers or horse whisperers, what really stays the course for them is their acute sense of curiosity and interest in a wide variety of people, places and ideas which will guarantee they will be asking questions their whole lives long.

The NY Times article does not glorify Waldorf Education and presents dissenting opinions, but the quotes from actual parents are affecting. If you haven’t read this article, don’t miss it, and if you have, send it on to a skeptical friend. Find the link on our homepage at www.waldorfatlanta.org

 

~Sara Walsh

Administrator

 

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  

A New Vision at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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Today our school officially celebrates a new beginning — a clear vision longing to be shared with like-minded parents in Atlanta who are looking for a different way to raise and educate their children. The Waldorf School of Atlanta believes childhood is sacred. You may have already read about our school’s goal to have full enrollment and waiting lists for every class. You may know that the school is taking a patient, thoughtful approach to this goal by setting our sights on the kindergarten and first grade. You probably know how important word of mouth is to enrollment. We hope you have read about the marketing committee’s efforts to develop a clear identity for The Waldorf School of Atlanta that makes it easy to talk about our school in a consistent and clear way. You could be one of the many parents who participated in a survey or focus group this year, and on behalf of the board, thank you!  Some of you may have even heard our school’s new tagline on NPR this winter:

Childhood First.

At last, the words I’ve needed to talk about our school! I can’t wait to tell my friends this summer about this school that offers something completely unexpected; an approach to education that is so unusual in this world of overload that it is nothing short of revolutionary; a place where kids don’t have to grow up too fast; a place where children act like children, while learning how to work together, and how to work alone; a place where the very fabric of teaching is based on the needs of the child, not the needs of the education. I can’t wait to talk about this school that teaches my daughters in a way that her grandparents, and even my grandparents, can understand. I can’t wait to share stories of play, of reading, of knitting, of math, of music, and did I mention play?! I will tell them about this school that is giving these leaders of the future room to be kids today.

I am excited about the future of our school. I hope you will join me in sharing this vision with the rest of our community!

~Patrick Foster
WSA Marketing Committee Chair

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 This article was first printed in the May 2013 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  Visit us online at www.waldorfatlanta.org

 

Woodworking at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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From an early age children begin to express their will by exploring the use of their hands. It is with their hands that they begin to develop other faculties. Accomplishment and joy are the rewards achieved through the wisdom of each activity.

“To do, to be active, is Man’s noblest calling.”

Woodworking begins in the fifth grade. In this grade students experience the full process of woodworking, within which the children review botany, especially the various types of wood, and learn the use of hand tools and woodworking techniques. While working with wood, children’s senses are awakened, hands begin to strengthen, hand-eye coordination improves, and with repetition, their ability to sustain focus slowly increases. Patience and attention to detail emerge.

In the sixth grade, students learn to accurately use both ruler and compass to refine their measuring skills. They are expected to create projects using the sense of touch, an approach that allows them to express their feeling through manual arts. Students shape and form the object with the help of simple hand tools. Through hand-eye coordination in fabricating the object, the students develop the strength of hand and stamina of will necessary for personal growth. During the sixth grade year, students are also introduced to the history of woodworking. They are each assigned a research report and an oral class presentation on an aspect of this topic.

The grade seven woodworking curriculum and projects emerge from the students’ study of the ages of discovery and exploration. This year, there is an increased emphasis on the importance of rules and regulations, developing clearer communication skills, and becoming more independent and willing to explore new boundaries. Adolescent students are in search of clarity and truth, and they now meet the world around them by asking: “Why?” They desire and benefit from both mental and physical challenges. The projects this year focused on developing the students’ will forces, critical thinking, patience, team building and performance, and personal management of time.

In the eighth grade, students are able to experience the culmination of all their previously acquired woodworking knowledge and skills. They have become more acutely aware of the physical world around them and how they, as physical bodies, move within that world. In response to this maturation, the eighth grade project is selected both to challenge and expand the skills that the students have developed over their four years of woodworking. The project is layered with detailed processes and problem solving and requires each student’s consistent focus, keen accuracy, creativity, and most of all, patience. The eighth grade class is currently working with inlay patterns made from thin veneer. Some students are making journals covered with thin plywood and leather, others are building boxes with a plywood lid. In both projects the plywood holds the inlay design. The rich fiber and color of the veneer come to life as the student sands and buffs the surface with beeswax. These items will be available for your viewing in the woodwork
room on Grandparent’s Day.

~Francisco Moreno
Woodwork Teacher

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This article was originally printed in the April 2013 Garden Breeze Newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.

Visit us online at www.waldorfatlanta.org

 

Spaces to Play at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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As part of our work with the Columbia Presbyterian Church to manage the health of our beautiful wooded spaces, we are opening a new playground area just a short walk down the path behind the kindergarten playgrounds.

During this process we have marked out the boundary with Columbia Seminary on the West side of the property, and working with them, have planted a tree border in lieu of a chain link fence. In clearing the space, we discovered long neglected rose bushes, native magnolias, and many trees in danger of being overtaken by ivy.

This project was precipitated by the deteriorating state of trees on the upper playground. Arborists have suggested that the remaining trees require nutrient supplements, aeration, and to be left undisturbed for several months to recuperate from the stress of drought, heat, and compaction of the earth around the tree roots. We will be replacing some of the lost trees, starting in the lowest corner of the playground, with hopes that these trees and shrubs will help to retain more of the rainfall we do receive.

Going forward, the plan is to alternate between playground sites, giving each area time to recover from the daily visits of the children. We believe the new space will offer the children an enriched opportunity to explore play in a new way.
There remain a few tasks to complete including spreading several yards of wood chips. Beyond safety, we are leaving the space unfinished so that as we observe the children’s interaction with the area, we can bring the right things about to support their play. We will send an official ‘Opening” notice in advance of the move.

Please feel free to visit the new space and offer any comments you might have.

~Sara Walsh
School Administrator

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This article originally was printed in the December 2012 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  Visit us online at www.waldorfatlanta.org.  

 

Gateway at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

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It begins with vision, the pivotal point that allows the soul to dream. Next, the will of commitment transforms the dream into living substance. Lastly, substance finds capable, caring hands to bring solid form. This is the story of The Waldorf School of Atlanta’s new upper campus entrance; it is a living picture of beauty: thinking, feeling and willing.

It began last winter when, at a faculty meeting, the question was asked what the school should raise Auction paddle call money for.  Annamay Keeney, one of our five-day kindergarten teachers, quickly sketched a pencil drawing of an archway; an archway that would bring unity to both sides of our campus. She envisioned a structure that would welcome new and seasoned friends, young and old, to our Administration and Kindergarten buildings. Annamay wanted to create a gateway that would represent solidity and stability, be welcoming and uplifting. The vertical posts represent the four-foldness of the human being. Just as every person is an individual, each post stands at a slightly different angle representing the individuality of being human, reaching for connection to the spiritual world yet grounded on earth. The top beams, like brush strokes represent the connectedness and community of people striving see the goodness in all.

Thanks to the infectious enthusiasm of Chance Claar-Pressley leading the paddle call, our generous community answered back and raised $1,500.00 for campus beautification and permanent signage. Your support and trust allowed the school to begin the project.

Lee Ritchie, who is responsible for many of our campus playground structures, spent this past summer meeting with WSA staff and faculty to develop the vision of the gateway. He thoughtfully incorporated similar details into this new structure; color of wood, smooth, sturdy posts, rounded corners and meaningful translation. With help from Evy Keeney-Ritchie, Nate and Jack Scully and Connor Weeks, the gateway was planted into the ground. Bonnie O’Brien, a long-time WSA parent and former Trustee, spent time designing a beautiful sign, one created to  partner with and balance the gateway. As always, our school was so fortunate to have Mr. Crowley close by, willing to offer skill and valuable assistance.

The Waldorf School of Atlanta wishes to offer its sincere gratitude to all the hands and hearts that made this vision a reality. Truly, inspiration is an invitation to dream and accomplish together.
~Ashley du Pont
Community Chair

gateway design sketch

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze Newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.  Visit us online at www.waldorfatlanta.org.

 

MLK Celebration

Yesterday we hosted our annual celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We have many opportunities to hear of noble deeds and heroic people from far off lands in times long ago. As Mr. Evans noted in his welcome, it’s not so often that we get to celebrate someone with a history so recent and a home in our very own city.

All classes, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, came together to share songs, speeches, and stories. Older grades paired with younger ones, forming new connections and friendships. Middle school and high school students recited Dr. King’s Mountain Top speech and I Have a Dream speech. Each year, it is a moving experience to hear these words spoken in the voices of our own students. As they carve out their own paths through life, our students, too, will have great things to do in the world.

Mr. Gartland shared the story of Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady. When she was a little girl, Alice loved to listen to grandfather’s stories of faraway lands. She told her grandfather that when she grew older, she would also travel to faraway lands. She would live in a house by the sea. “There’s one more thing that you must do, Alice,” her grandfather told her. “You must also do something to make the world more beautiful.”

What gifts will our children have to offer the world? What roads will they travel? These are questions we can only ponder when, as Rudolf Steiner suggested, we ”receive the children with reverence; educate them with love; let them go forth in freedom.”

Annual Fund Yarn Bombing

The annual fund fairies are tracking this year’s progress by yarn bombing this tree. Each colored stripe represents 5%. Let’s help the fairies reach their goal as they knit their way up the tree. Each gift counts, whether big or small!

You can read more about yarn bombing in the New York Times here.

Community Enrichment Lecture

To celebrate our 25th Anniversary, The Waldorf School of Atlanta is pleased to welcome back Torin Finser for an evening of insightful lecture and lively discussion.

“Waldorf Education as a Social Initiative – a lecture for the greater Waldorf community interested in educational innovation and social change”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hazelwood Hall

7:00pm


Torin M. Finser, Ph.D., is Chair of the Education Department of Antioch University New England and founding member of the Center for Anthroposophy in Wilton, NH. He has been an educator for three decades and has been a keynote speaker at conferences in China, Korea, Nepal, South Africa, Norway, England, Switzerland, Canada, and throughout the United States. He has also served as an organizational consultant for a variety of schools. Leadership development and support is a theme that runs through many of his books. Dr. Finser serves as General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America. He is the author of Silence Is Complicity: A Call to Let Teachers Improve Our Schools through Action Research—Not NCLB (2007); Organizational Integrity: How to Apply the Wisdom of the Body to Develop Healthy Organizations (2007); In Search of Ethical Leadership: If Not Now, When? (2003); School Renewal: A Spiritual Journey for Change (2001); and School as a Journey: The Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class (1994), which has been translated into Thai, Korean, and Chinese.