Waldorf School of Atlanta Initiative on Media-Lite Living – parent story

In September 2014, parents at the Waldorf School of Atlanta began a Media-Lite Living initiative.  The WSA Family Handbook holds recommendations about limiting media.  This initiative is designed to support parents on this road.  We are archiving the articles, stories and testimonials from this initiative on the WSA blog.  School Year 2015-16 articles will be listed here.


From a WSA parent, on her family’s journey of living media-lite.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to edit and resubmit something I wrote in the Breeze a year ago about my family and media. Many things were dated about the entry and I decided against it. Then it appeared here in the Breeze anyway. I’ve been encouraged to provide a Part II.

A year later we still struggle and celebrate keeping our children’s media to a minimum. The effort is often messy and I’m tempted to change the subject even as I write this.

While I wonder if we can claim liteness in our media, my near-six-year-old whooshes by, pretending to surf away from sharks. Why does that boogie board feature the larger-than-life Looney Tunes’ Tazmanian Devil?

There’s the hawk-sized Buzz Lightyear who keeps reappearing from the bag of toys set aside for the cousins. Not aside exactly; he keeps falling with style from the closet shelf. He twirls and speaks Spanish and cracks up my kids. In Toy Story, he grins in earnest at us. He’s so caught up in his own commercial hype that he’s crushed to learn he’s only a toy and not a real space ranger. But his original belief that he can fly is what saves him and his band of once-washed up toys in the end. Childhood imagination trumps limitations. I better put Buzz in the shed.

So what’s working? How do we keep their brains fluid and less media-mushed? Chores, longer baths, Uno, new costume stuff and my mom’s kiln in the mountains help.

Expecting these guys to do anything they can do for themselves keeps them busy. A late bloomer in general, I didn’t grasp this until recently. Early to bed, early to rise has also caused an unexpected shift around here. Seismic, really. Now they have plenty of time to pick out clothes, make beds, help with breakfast and pack one public school backpack and one Waldorf basket – things we rushed to do for them a year ago. With these new abilities at work throughout the day, they have less time to whine about what media they’re missing.

I wish I did more to encourage crafting, game inventing, fort building but I’m busy so why dwell.

It’s Warbird Weekend at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport. Come out, maybe we’ll see you there. They’re taking people up in the old planes and we’re hoping to fly over our house.

New perspectives indeed, space rangers.

Waldorf School of Atlanta Parent Initiative for Media-Lite Living 2015-16

WSA Parent Initiative for Media-Lite Living  (updated 08/31/2015)

Articles from 2015-16 school year: 1 ,  , 34,  5, 6,

(Article collection from 2014-2015 school year is HERE.)

How do I compete with Disney?

Will my child be behind if he doesn’t have Minecraft with breakfast?

Are iPads the right answer to “Mom, I’m bored”?

 Examine these questions – and discover the answers – 

through Media-Lite Living

 Twenty-First Century Parenting

The 21st century has seen a dramatic increase of electronic media in the lives of our children and families.

To counter the “new normal” of our times, we founded the WSA Parent Initiative for Media-Lite Living in September 2014. Our goals are to:

  • Protect childhood
  • Nurture children’s ability to thrive with low (or no) technology
  • Support fellow parents with alternatives to electronic media
  • Articulate the adverse effects of electronic media, especially on children


We believe that children have an inherent aptitude for self-reliance, resourcefulness, and creativity. Remember when you spent hours roaming parks and forests with friends? The endless games you created? Playing solitaire with a real deck of cards? Drifting off while reading a captivating novel?


We’re parents who believe we can create that safety zone for our children. We’ve seen first-hand how their imagination thrives when they experience – and we help keep – childhood first.


Our Guiding Principles

  1. Respect and Openness
  • We respect each family’s unique journey in creating a media-lite living lifestyle.
  • We recognize cultural pressures for families to frequently use electronic media.
  • We are a “no-blame” zone and a safe, accessible place for parents to work through challenges with media-lite living.
  1. Collaboration
  • We inspire each other by sharing success stories of alternatives to media at home.
  • We endorse the benefits of media-lite living for our children and families.
  • We recommend reviewing Media Guidelines-Overview in the WSA Family Handbook.
  • We report current research on the benefits of media-lite living.
  1. Action
  • Take the initiative to create a media-lite lifestyle at home.
  • Pair up with a media-lite mentor (fellow parent) for encouragement and support.
  • Keep playdates free of electronic media and screen time, both at home and in the car.
  • Facilitate and support conversations by sharing successes and challenges of how to navigate media-lite living.
  • Read and contribute articles to the ongoing Media-Lite Living column in the WSA online Breeze Bulletin newsletter.
  • Voice questions and concerns about media-lite living with WSA teachers.

 Prominent publications like The New York Times continue to report the growing research on electronic media’s adverse effects on children’s development and, more broadly, our lives.    Despite these studies, it’s getting harder to swim against the current and limit our children’s exposure to media.   At WSA, The Initiative for Media-Lite Living is our ongoing dialogue exploring this vital subject.

Join us on this journey and experience the beauty that rises when media subsides

Less Media – More Living



 Sara Michelson, WSA Parent

Emily Zdan, WSA Community Chair

Ally Delpino, WSA Parent Association Co-Leader

Summer ideas from the Waldorf School of Atlanta

from our friends at Georgia CPR:

Poison Ivy: Don’t Let It Ruin Your Child’s Summer!

I remember being a kid, tromping through the woods in the glorious summer. Hide and go seek and any number of military games no longer PC were staples of childhood play in the outdoors. The green of the trees, cool breezes and the smell of fireworks on July 4th color nostalgic memories for me. And then there was always the Poison Ivy.

Bouts of Poison Ivy were a commonplace occurrence during my childhood. Several precious summers were marred with weeks of being covered with the itchy rash. I could never seem to recognize that awful plant that brought me such agony. Poison Ivy is just plain old fashioned bad. I feel itchy even writing this!

Georgia CPR teaches first aid topics in our CPR and First Aid classes, but we don’t usually cover information on Poison Ivy. I want to give you information to help you avoid Poison Ivy and treat it with the best stuff I know available on the market.

Recognizing Poison Ivy

Recognizing Poison Ivy isn’t hard once you get the hang of it. Poison Ivy, and Poison Oak look similar. Poison Ivy has pointier leaves and Poison Oak leaves are a bit more, well – dumpy. Just not as pointy. Be wary of both.

Poison Ivy can be of any color, from bright green to bright red, yellow, brownish and anywhere in between. But it’s the shape that will give it away.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac

Here’s a nice list for recognizing Poison Ivy:

  • Sets of 3 leaves
  • Leaves have large jags on them
  • Can be any color that a plant would be – (haven’t seen blue yet)
  • Any part of the plant will ruin your day!

What makes Poison Ivy “poisonous” is an irritating oil called Urushiol. It is a toxic oil that is present in live or dead Poison Ivy leaves, stems or vines. Yes, you can get Poison Ivy in the winter too. No fair.

Recognize Poison Ivy and Poison Oak and avoid touching it even with your shoes or clothing. That nasty Urushiol will get onto your clothing and will continue to give you the rash until you wash it off. Leather will hold that oil even longer, which is an unfortunate downside to leather boots.

If you or your child, or your pet comes into contact with Poison Ivy, IMMEDIATELY wash thoroughly with soap and COLD water. Warmer water opens pores leaving skin more vulnerable to Urushiol penetration and irritation. Washing with plain old soap and cold water can be really effective in stopping a bad case of poison ivy before it starts. But the treatment I recommend below works better.

Poison Ivy Treatment

In my experience with safety, I come across products that I love and then promote them. Sometimes I even sell them. Georgia CPR doesn’t sell Poison Ivy treatment, nor are we paid to endorse one. We will simply recommend a treatment that simply works.

The brand is called Tecnu. Their original product is my favorite. I would describe their product as a urushiol remover. It removes the toxin from your skin before a rash appears and in my experience, stops the rash from getting any worse once its already there.

No – I haven’t completed a scientific study. I did work for a tree service for years and we would order this product in really big bottles by the case. It works better than a charm in that it actually works.

Heres’ the basic Tecnu instructions

Before a rash appears:

  • Put the Tecnu on the area of skin that contacted poison ivy
  • Rub it vigorously for about 2 minutes – don’t forget to cover all possible exposed parts
  • Rinse it off with cool running water
  • Repeat

If you already have a Poison Ivy Rash:

  • Put the Tecnu directly onto the rash as well as on the skin around it
  • Rub for 2 minutes – which feels great – but don’t break the skin or blisters!
  • Rinse if off with cool water
  • Pat dry with a clean towel
  • If you are still itchy – repeat the process except then rinse in a very warm shower.
  • Don’t do this in a bath silly – they you would be steeping in urushiol!

If you can recognize and avoid Poison Ivy – that’s the best.

If you can’t and end up with a rash – use the Tecnu

Save that awesome summer and send the specter of poison ivy to bed without dinner!


Linden Tree Photography B. Karp 005 The article above is posted with permission from Georgia CPR.

Kindergarten at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

The learning before the learningLinden Tree Photography 2015-1-09 WSA_011

Reflections of the Waldorf Kindergarten

 With both of my children now in the grades at WSA, I often reflect on the kindergarten experience that both were so fortunate to receive.

In Waldorf kindergartens, there’s a conscious effort to preserve childhood for as long as possible, but preserving childhood doesn’t conflate with delayed learning. On the contrary, the Waldorf kindergartner experience reaches beyond the mainstream study of letters and numbers, and instead focuses on a far more fundamental and formative curriculum: the precursors of learning itself.

The children learn to be together, to work together. Setting the table, sweeping the floor, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, they’re developing cooperation, appreciation, and responsibility – the values necessary for the life each child is growing into.

Handwork projects require dexterity of hand, the learning of new skills, and – increasingly rare in our world of instant gratification – the notion of “one step at a time.” Allowing children to move through each step at their own pace culminates in an accomplishment that is entirely their own. Stories, songs and rhymes encourage an awakening of children’s senses and memory to come to life as well as an appreciation for learning that will continue to flourish.

Not too long ago I was satisfied with the notion that Waldorf kindergartens offered a haven to prolong childhood, encouraged children to live into their imaginations, and crafted the space and time for them to explore the world. I didn’t query much further.

In looking backLinden Tree Photography 2015-1-09 WSA_022, I clearly see a rich multi-layered curriculum, and am deeply respectful of the meaningful activities that happily engaged the children.  The foundational aspects of working together, completing a project, taking care of a shared space – along with language acquisition, number sense, and body geography – were always there at the heart of each rhythmic yet magical day.

Now that my children have transitioned to the grades, they’ve embarked on a more intellectual journey. I may pine for the smells wafting from the kindergarten on bread day. I might miss the beeswax bunnies they once molded with little fingers. But as I watch my children embrace their learning with eagerness and delight, I am filled with gratitude knowing that they were soundly prepared for this next stage of learning.

~Brooke Fraser

This article was written for the Waldorf School of Atlanta‘s 2015 Garden Breeze Special Edition.  For more information about our school, please visit www.waldorfatlanta.org.

Gardening at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

A classroom without wallsLinden Tree_WSA0316__007

The role of gardening in Waldorf education

 Through your own experience or stories told by your children, you probably know that being outside is large part of the Waldorf curriculum from Kindergarten on up. What’s not readily apparent is the significance of the children’s activities outside. From watering seeds to feeding chickens to pulling English Ivy off trees, children are moving with purpose.

A conversation with our Gardening Teacher Rebecca Johnson and Grade 4 Teacher and Grounds Committee member Jenny Dilworth revealed how engrained gardening is at WSA, and how it contributes to the children’s education. Fundamentally, gardening is one way we prepare our children for the future.

Growing cucumbers and careers

We’re in an age in which careers as we know them may well be obsolete when our students are of age to begin their own professions. The garden teaches fundamental skills that will help children navigate such uncertainty: flexibility, responsiveness, tolerance, and adaptability.

Teaching them these things through nature serves another purpose; namely, they’re a part of things – connected with the world around them. Accordingly, they gain an understanding that their decisions affect others. And they learn these lessons often without having to be expressly taught. For example, if they don’t water seedlings enough, then the seeds won’t grow so well.

On this and other levels, the children are developing their connection with the world by being in it and interacting with it. “Most fundamentally,” says Rebecca, “They’re learning that you are needed in this world. And what you do really matters.”

Grade by grade, row by row

The classroom learning throughout the WSA curriculum echoes clearly in the garden. Rebecca, working with the classes and their teachers, leads the learning through the grades.

  • Grades 1 and 2 abound in natural wonder. Stories and garden games fittingly fill gardening time as does exploration. When students are ready, they’re given jobs along with guidance on how to behave in the garden – how you walk, talk, and interact.
  • Grade 3 finds the children ready for more work-based relationships with garden. They become responsible for a majority of planting and maintenance. Connections with the natural world are strengthened by growing, harvesting, and cooking crops. “It’s very real for them,” says Jenny, “and their actions in the garden teach them what they’re capable of doing.”
  • Grades 4 and 5 cover many natural classroom connections with the garden. Through study of local geography, flora and fauna, and botany, gardening takes on an added dimension. The children expand on their jobs, taking on more responsibility and exercising greater independence through campus-wide activities like removing English Ivy and clearing space for the bees.

Linden Tree_WSA0316__009“In the world, there are vacuums,” shares Rebecca. “The students learn that they’re capable of filling them by using their skills and by simply being who they are. The sooner we can teach children the beautiful relationship we have with the natural world, the better off we’ll be.”

The bees are coming – everybody, look buzzy!

This spring, WSA will welcome bees to our community. When exactly? The bees are expected mid to late April. “It’s a matter of bringing them in when they’re ready according to their natural cycle, not unlike a pregnancy,” says Jenny with a smile. “We just have to be flexible – and that’s one of the lessons we learn from nature.”

The apiaries will strengthen kids’ connections to nature. And the new residents will provide parallels to the classroom curriculum – ancient Egypt, honey, history, and ecosystems to name a few.

~Derek Hambrick

This article was written for the Waldorf School of Atlanta‘s 2015 Garden Breeze Special Edition.  For more information about our school, please visit www.waldorfatlanta.org.

2015 Pentathlon at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Pentathlon: a Waldorf rite of passageDSC_0108

For all Waldorf students, spring is a very special time, even more so for our Grade 5 as they prepare for the annual Waldorf Pentathlon! During the 3-day gathering, more than 115 fifth-graders from Waldorf Schools throughout the Southeast compete in five different events: running, discus, javelin, long jump, and wrestling. Our school is honored to serve as host city for the 2015 event, taking place at Camp Twin Lakes in April.

Francisco Moreno, our Movement Teacher, who spent the year working with and preparing the students, explains the significance of the Pentathlon. “In the Waldorf philosophy, this event is a ceremony – and the children are not necessarily aware of this – of saying goodbye to the baby years and honoring the coming of the teenage years.”

The event is the perfect c4 city states at pentathlon - from amberulmination of their studies of ancient civilizations, and more specifically, ancient Greece. In that context, the students compete in the Pentathlon not as schools but as Greek city-states. Participants are divided among Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. “The forming of each city-state allows them to leave their protective cocoon or circle of home,” adds Mr. Moreno, “and be in a place where they bring something new, the unique gift of themselves to each group.”

Like most Waldorf traditions, each event carries a significant metaphor for life. For example, the jumping event represents life moving forward, while wrestling mirrors the need to face and overcome life’s challenges.

The Pentathlon culminates with an awards ceremony on the final day, when the judges present each child with a medal, wreath and an acknowledgement of that student’s highest moment – some unique way that they contributed to their city-state or the event overall. The children leave the event happy, confident and better equipped to thrive in their teen years.

~by Price Jones

This article was written for the Spring 2015 issue of the Garden Breeze newsletter for the Waldorf School of Atlanta.   For more information about our school, please visit us at www.waldorfatlanta.org .

Little CPR Class Goes A Long Way – Come Learn Free!

The Waldorf School of Atlanta is grateful to have Ben Karp, president and owner of Georgia CPR in our community!   Please read his article below and come to the class on March 30, 2015.

Being a parent is quite a busy job, leaving little time for much else, let alone a CPR class that puts us face to face with some of our greatest fears. The good news is, the odds are against us having to use CPR class skills on our children or on those of anyone else’s. Having said that, learning to save a choking child is crucial, and is a skill that should be included in any CPR class. Children are susceptible to choking emergencies that can turn tragic without a little training. Knowing what to do in an emergency can be crucial, not only informative and fun when taking the CPR class with the right group.

The community CPR class is a non-certification, informational CPR class that teaches the basics and leaves you empowered to help if the need should arise. This type of class will teach you many topics, in a casual way.

Some of the topics include the following:

  • Treatment of a breathing patient
  • Treatment of a non-breathing patient (CPR)
  • Differences in treatment for infants, children and adults
  • How to save someone who is choking

That CPR class for children also includes skills that are much more likely to be employed on adults, including our adult loved ones. Did you know children who are over the age of 9 are generally considered adults in the CPR world anyway. Why? You will just have to take our class and find out.

It is important to know how to help an adult as Sudden Cardiac Death (SCA) is the #1 cause of death in the United States, by far. 350,000 adults die from SCA in the United States every year. Yes, of all the things we worry about in our country, 350,000 adults die yearly from SCA. CPR can double your chance of survival and greatly increase your chance of surviving neurologically intact. This all sounds good, yes?

Come learn for free.Linden Tree Photography B. Karp 005

Georgia CPR is hosting a free CPR class on the Waldorf School of Atlanta campus, in the Hospitality room on March 30th at 8:30am. Come and join us – learn to save a life!




CPR Classes For Faculty and Staff at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

Linden Tree Photography B. Karp 005

Benjamin B. Karp, Georgia CPR, Inc.

Did you know all faculty and staff at WSA are CPR and First Aid certified?

Did you know that few schools even come close to that standard, public or private?

I am the owner of Georgia CPR, LLC, an Atlanta CPR class training company. I started the company in 2004 and have focused on quality CPR training for the Atlanta area. I am also a proud Waldorf School of Atlanta parent. Concern for my child’s education is a priority only matched by advocacy for my child’s safety. I bet you share a similar set of priorities.

Many students of my CPR classes are alarmed to learn that only a handful of staff at their children’s schools are trained to help their child in an emergency.

I would be alarmed too.

Did you know that only 3 out of 50 states mandate CPR certification for teachers? You guessed right, Georgia isn’t one of them. Indiana, Oregon and Virginia are the three that get credit. Without a mandate, schools just don’t make this training a priority. They should.

In most public schools, only coaches, and a few teachers are actually certified and have updated training on how to save a child in a medical emergency. Private schools are sometimes a bit better, but often times they aren’t.

I have personally trained each of Waldorf School of Atlanta’s faculty and staff in CPR, First Aid and in how to use an AED (Defibrillator). I think it is important to give our school’s faculty and staff credit because they deserve it. The Waldorf School of Atlanta makes CPR and First Aid proficiency and certification a top priority.

You should know your teachers and staff take the precious time to attend a full course for CPR, First Aid and AED every 2 years. We do this about a week before school starts in August as teachers are getting ready for their year.

A sample of what they learn includes the following:

  • What to do when someone is unconscious and breathing
  • What to do when the patient is unconscious and not breathing
  • How and when to use the AED
  • Choking emergencies
  • Control of bleeding and cuts and scrapes
  • Management and recognition of shock
  • Treating a seizing patient
  • Treating burns
  • Head injuries
  • Recognition and treatment of heat related illnesses
  • Bites and stings
  • Eye injury care
  • When 911 is needed and when it isn’t

The objective of the training is to be able to care for our children in an emergency until the next level of care arrives; whether that care is the loving hands of the parent who picks them up, or professional medical help.

You should know the Waldorf School of Atlanta has a Philips defibrillator and everyone is trained on how to use it. The AED we have is the best quality make and model available – and that really matters. You probably know that an AED can’t possibly due harm and can increase survival in a cardiac emergency from 3% to up to 50%. It’s a big deal that we have one and know how to use it.

You should also know  that as important as the CPR class and the AED, my training goals are to weave these skills into a school response culture. As soon as there is an emergency, everyone is on the same page, everyone responds, everyone works together. There is a Waldorf way of doing things that includes everything from morning drop off and “media-lite” living, to not packing jellybeans in lunches. The Waldorf way of doing things also includes a way to respond to an emergency. Waldorf cares about our kids, and they know how to care for our kids as well.

Teaching CPR at Waldorf

Benjamin B. Karp, Georgia CPR, Inc. – teaching a class at the Waldorf School of Atlanta


Waldorf School of Atlanta Pedagogical Overviews

jim mcclurkin

Waldorf School of Atlanta teacher – Jim McClurkin

This essay was written by Jim McClurkin, a teacher at WSA since 1999.

Pedagogical Overviews

The Waldorf School of Atlanta provides a proven educational program that nurtures students along a continuous developmental path that results in young adults who are confident, poised and have a strong inner focus for life and work.

Early Childhood (Explore Early Childhood)

Our Waldorf preschool and kindergartens nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity in the young child, while encouraging reverence and joy for the goodness of life. The warmth and beauty of the classrooms and the mixed age groupings provide an opportunity for children to play and learn in a home-like atmosphere. The 3-year olds (participating in a 4 hour/day program) and the 4-year olds are engaged according to their age and abilities, while imitating the mood, gestures and work of the classroom teachers (and their older friends). The 5 and 6-year olds develop the independence and sense of responsibility necessary to become leaders in the class. In the loving and creative atmosphere of the kindergarten, these young children acquire the confidence and discipline they will need for the challenging academic work of grade school. The kindergarten experience is rich in storytelling, puppetry, song, poetry, cooking, and artistic activities. Crafts, handwork, games, and regular outdoor play encourage the healthy growth of the child’s body. Toys, art materials, and classroom aesthetics emphasize natural, simple materials, encouraging the child’s imagination. Through play, each child learns a broad range of cognitive, social, and linguistic skills. As in all Waldorf classes, parents are encouraged to minimize exposure to television, videos, and other media that might hinder the free and harmonious growth of the child.

Grade One (Explore Grade One)

First Grade is the commencement of formal schooling marked by the child’s awakening capacities of memory and thinking. The seven-year-old retains a feeling of oneness with the world, and is more able to bring broad awareness than focused concentration to learning situations. Much learning therefore involves the presentation of an image to the child, ensuring her understanding through her own mental picturing. This leads to a pictorial approach in the teaching of all subjects. The rhythm of working together as a class is established during this year, and the students are introduced to all areas of school life. The students are eager to learn together and take their place within the large whole. As new habits are formed, a foundation is being laid for healthy social interaction. Through the teacher’s authority and presence, a sense of reverence, respect, and wonder permeates the mood in the classroom. Throughout the first grade year, the academic tasks of reading, writing and arithmetic are embedded in the rich world of fairy tales. The archetypal pictures found within the fairy tales engage the child’s fantasy in the subject matter that they encounter throughout the year. Through these richly crafted stories, the children are introduced to speaking, writing, reading, and mathematics. All skills are reinforced with practice involving rhythmical movement, recitation and music. Bookwork is illustrated with pictures that reinforce the concepts being developed. Each lesson aims to incorporate a three-fold structure, which fosters the development of the children’s feelings, thinking abilities, and will forces.

Grade Two (Explore Grade Two)

In Grade Two, the familiar routines and observances of the previous year are maintained. This strengthens the rhythm of the class working together, and builds confidence and a sense of belonging in the children. The students continue to learn best when pictorial thought content is presented. Much time is spent consolidating all that was first learned in Grade One. Students continue to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of arithmetic and language arts, and they also develop a wide range of skills in gross and fine motor movements such as jump rope, knitting, and flute playing. The children’s thinking is thus balanced and reinforced by their experience in physical and artistic activity. While in Grade One a mood of wholeness develops in the children, in Grade Two this mood can differentiate into contrasts, with a reverential mood on the one hand, and a temptation for mischief on the other. During this year, the children develop greater interest in the unique qualities of one another and become curious about individual differences. To meet this growing social awareness, teachers introduce stories where contrasting human qualities are portrayed. Wonder tales and legends of Saints from around the world show lofty striving and highlight noble human qualities, while animal fables and trickster tales satisfy the child’s interest in mischief. While the morals of these tales are never explicitly stated, the students derive direction and form from the images they are given.

Grade Three (Explore Grade Three)

Grade Three is marked by the physiological, psychological, and cognitive changes taking place during the ninth year. The child’s walk is firmer and more balanced, and the constitution is substantially stronger. Growth begins to focus more on the limbs and metabolism, and there is an increase in the breadth of the trunk. At the same time, a significant step in self-awareness occurs during this year. The children are developing a strong sense of being separate from their surroundings, perhaps for the first time. A feeling of being alone can contrast with a sense of wonder at seeing the world in a new way. These mixed feelings often lead to confusion and insecurity as questions of purpose and identity begin to emerge. There is a longing for increased independence and autonomy as the child moves into this new phase of childhood. They have a tendency to criticize and question authority as they seek to define themselves as individuals. The images from Hebrew stories, with their laws and guidance, foster inner security during this unsettled period. Practical activities such as farming and house building help ground the children in the physical world. When the whole group works together on these activities, feelings of separateness can be transformed into feelings of responsibility for the whole. With their new interest in the practical, material world, the children can now apply the skills learned in the first two grades to a wide range of everyday situations like measuring, weighing, and cooking.

Grade Four (Explore Grade Four)

In Grade Four, the transition from early childhood is complete. The children emerge with greater awareness, expressed in new confidence and great vigor. They want to experience the world from an individual standpoint, to find their particular place in the world. They develop a sense of where they are in relation to their environment, in both a social and geographical sense. The fourth grade student is eager to learn more about their world, and they embrace new challenges with curiosity and enthusiasm. During the fourth grade year, students are challenged to extend themselves in every aspect of their work. Their growing interest in concrete knowledge is met through natural science, in a study of the animal kingdom in relation to the human being. The children also take up a thorough study of their surroundings in a Local Geography block, in which mapmaking skills are developed. Norse stories, meanwhile, present the children with images of diverse, strong-willed personalities all contributing to the social whole. Throughout this year, students are encouraged to take greater responsibility for their own learning. They complete several independent projects, and give their first formal presentations to the class.

Grade Five (Explore Grade Five)

In the first four years of school there is a strong emphasis on form, both of the class as a whole, and of each child’s habits. In the next four years, there is a subtle and gradual shift in emphasis toward content, in lessons and in the world at large. This shift in emphasis, of course, follows the child’s own lead, responding to his or her changing consciousness. By age eleven, children reach a kind of balance and regular alternation between their awareness of the world and of their own inner lives. There is balance, too, in their mental, emotional, and physical growth. The fifth grade curriculum seeks to extend the children both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly, in terms of space, they expand their horizons of the earth and the plants that cover it. In terms of time, they experience five civilizations spanning thousands of years. Inwardly, they extend their awareness of the math processes they perform, and also of the words they speak and the sentences they write. As their intellectual faculties become stronger, students are able to approach their cognitive work in a more realistic and reasoning manner. By the fifth grade, students have generally attained a certain ease and grace of physical movement intrinsic to their age. The celebration of their unique abilities at this time culminates in their participation in a Greek Olympiad, a pentathlon event with other regional Waldorf schools.

Grade Six (Explore Grade Six)

The twelfth year is the gateway to pre-adolescence and idealism, and although the sixth grader is increasingly able to experience internal logic, their sense impressions can often be clouded by emotion and whimsy. Throughout this year, students are encouraged to develop strong powers of observation, and precision and accuracy in their thinking. As they awaken to the intricacies of human thought and action, they readily embrace the biographies of individuals from ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. In order to ground students in the surrounding world while fostering their fascination with the unknown, sixth graders are provided with their first formal study of natural phenomena. Mineralogy, geography, and physics lessons provide opportunity for in-depth encounters with the physical world while strengthening powers of sense-observation. In addition to being grounded by the lawfulness of the earth, students are also encouraged to develop expansiveness in their imaginative thinking. Astronomy draws students towards the heavens and provides opportunities for them to explore the mysteries of the cosmos. In an effort to recreate the experience of early astronomers, Astronomy is taught exclusively through observation of the unaided eye.

Grade Seven (Explore Grade Seven)

As students move into adolescence, they need increased opportunity to feel the strength of their own initiative. The grade seven curriculum serves to ground the students, to inspire them to venture out toward the unknown, and to offer an introduction to their quest in life. Through their own engagement and striving in the world, students are able to develop strong feelings of sympathy and antipathy in relation to their surroundings. These feelings help shape their own perceptions and allow them to stand on their own with increased confidence. Through the exploration of an unknown world, the seventh grade curriculum challenges the thought process of the young adolescent, leading them to discovery, understanding, and discernment. They learn, as the explorers did, that going one’s own way means leaving behind the security and stability of familiar territory.

Grade Eight (Explore Grade Eight)

A Waldorf eighth grade experiences a gradual but significant shift from the presentation of a subject solely from the teacher to the class, to the mutual consideration of a subject by teacher and class together. A sense of community develops in which speaking becomes more thoughtful and listening more attentive. With the awakening capacity for logical thinking and free, independent judgment, the eighth grader now wants to be in the world more than ever before. They want to do, to discover, to know, and to find relevance in their studies by finding connections with the outside world. Throughout this year, the students continue to expand their sense of place in the world. They plunge into the Age of Revolution, and embark on a study of noteworthy individuals who have found the courage to follow their passions in revolt against the status quo. In addition to their continued inquiry into scientific phenomena and experimentation, students study the lives and struggles of scientists and inventors who first discovered chemical and electrical laws. These studies ground students in the human aspect of scientific thought, while providing a picture of the profound effects of modern technology upon society and culture. The eighth grade year marks the students’ final year with their Class Teacher, and culminates in the completion of their Waldorf grade school experience. Given the huge step these students are about to take in the world, the curriculum is designed to inspire passion and highlight the incredible potential of the human mind and soul. It is our hope that our students will graduate with compelling questions that will continue to fuel their love of learning for years to come.

Childhood First.


Media-Lite Living Initiative at the Waldorf School of Atlanta – Alumna Testimonial

In September 2014, parents at the Waldorf School of Atlanta began a Media-Lite Living initiative.  The WSA Family Handbook holds recommendations about limiting media.  This initiative is designed to support parents on this road.  We are archiving the articles, stories and testimonials from this initiative on the WSA blog.  An Introduction article that includes links to articles in this series is here.

Media-Lite Living Column

Student Testimonial:  Jillian Eugene, WSA Alumna

At The Waldorf School of Atlanta media usage is discouraged for young students.  Growing up I never knew about the latest TV shows or funny cartoons, but I did have a big imagination.  Unlike many schools where technology is the base for learning, at The Waldorf School of Atlanta I was encouraged to invent my own stories, read books, play games, and enjoy the outdoors.  Main lesson books were the foundation of much of what I learned in school, where I wrote by hand and drew pictures of what I learned in class.  I truly had a great childhood, which I know not everyone can say.

Many of my friends, when I tell them that I really didn’t watch much TV or play video games when I was younger, ask me questions like, “Well what did you do then?”  They think I missed out on some great times, but I think it’s really the other way around.  So what did I do?  At home I played outside, got utterly dirty while digging for “treasures” or trying to create a living area underneath the earth’s surface.  I experimented in the kitchen, built forts, and played sports outside with my brother and neighbors.  I painted, enjoyed sewing projects, put on puppet shows for my parents, and always used what some call “boredom” to delve into a new world of imagination.

I realize now how fortunate I was to really have time to be a child, without the stress of knowing all of the realities of the world.  Innocence and a bit of ignorance when very young are not detrimental, and with my lack of connection to the media, I developed a happy disposition and love of learning.   From babysitting children from various backgrounds, I have also realized how lucky I was that the media was nearly absent from my childhood.  There was a set of siblings I used to babysit that would always tell me about games they could play on the Wii, but had never done in real life.  They had their video games, gadgets, and favorite TV shows, but they always seemed so irritated and stressed, especially if something in a video game they were playing went wrong.   When I suggested a break to play outside, my suggestion was usually not very thrilling, but it was not long before they were more relaxed and happy.

All of this is to say that the lack of media use that Waldorf schools promote is truly beneficial to the child, as well as to the adult they eventually become.   I was encouraged as a child to be imaginative and had plenty of free play, which has led me to be an innovative adult full of ideas.  Instead of having television define my ideas, I learned to think for myself, which I believe is a true key to success.

~Jillian Eugene, WSA class of 2008


The above article was taken from The Garden Breeze, our WSA in-house newsletter.  For more information about our school, please visit us at the Waldorf School of Atlanta