Waldorf School of Atlanta’s Permaculture Food Forest

A Permaculture Food Forest for WSA

Last year, the Grounds Committee, the body tasked with overseeing the care of our school’s outdoor spaces, began looking for a way to better manage our school property. Our goal was to build on our gardening program and sustainable initiatives such as school wide composting, animal care and rainwater harvesting. We wanted our grounds to further emphasize education, human development, and the values of land stewardship inherent in Waldorf communities. This search led us to a partnership with a local company, Shades of Green Permaculture Design, Inc. (SGPD) and together we have begun to form a new direction for our school’s practices that embody the permaculture design principles. Permaculture is a school of sustainable design that integrates human activity with natural surroundings and seeks to create efficient self-regenerating ecosystems. We have begun the permaculture journey by installing a new landscape design in the administration front yard and hosting a permaculture design course at our school.

The Administration front yard is the public face of our school and while we wanted it to be beautiful, we also wanted it to abound with educational opportunities and provide sanctuary to local animal life. We decided to work with SGPD to install an edible forest garden. Forest gardening is the practice of putting plants together in woodland-like patterns. The notion of a food forest guided our decisions to install rainwater catchment basins, use only native plants, and choose plants that feed both humans and local animals and insects. We also wanted to include intentional gathering and meeting spaces and clear footpaths. This project is in its first stage of construction and thanks to the generous donors at the WSA 2016 Benefit Auction, the Administration front yard will be fully installed this April. The installation process has provided an opportunity of involvement by students through the middle school Practical Arts curriculum; students have participated directly through basic stone masonry, plant propagation and other gardening skills.

Perma 827An additional ongoing project is the Permaculture Design Course hosted at WSA, which will result in a master design proposal for the entire school grounds. The plan will include new playground improvements that reflect kindergarten through eighth grade developmental stages and serve as pollinator sanctuaries and rainwater catchment areas.   The proposal also includes a restoration plan that will transform our woodland lots into healthy forests with an understory that nourishes native species and educational elements. It suggests efforts like labeling native trees and planting dye gardens for our handwork classes. The final plan for all the school grounds will be completed by the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, and the initial designs will be presented in Spring 2016.

Many people are familiar with the Waldorf school farm model and often it is considered an ideal setting for Waldorf education. While this is a wonderful framework, in our time and place in Atlanta, a farm school is not necessarily the best answer for WSA. The school’s urban location allows us to serve a larger population and though we don’t have access to acres of food producing fields, we live in an extremely productive ecosystem. If managed properly, we can transform our school into a sustainable food forest that abounds with perennial fruit, herbs, nuts, and vegetables. It would allow us to teach our children the same crucial lessons of a farm – we have a responsibility to care for the Earth, the Earth provides what we need, and animals, plants, and humans working together in balance create an ecological system that is self-regenerative.

~Rebecca Johnson

Gardening Teacher

This article originally appeared in our 2016 Grandparents, Family & Friends Day issue of the Garden Breeze newsletter.  For more information about our school, please visit us in person or online.

 

Spaces to Play at the Waldorf School of Atlanta

front of school compressed

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

creating tree border

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

gateway

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.