Community Eurythmy

We are happy to welcome Audun Smit back to Madrona School for the month of March!  In addition to teaching kindergarten - 8th grade classes, he will be offering community Eurythmy on Fridays at 9:00 - 10:00am in the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church Fellowship Hall at 105 Winslow Way W on Bainbridge Island.  

We hope that you will be able to join us for this rare opportunity to do Eurythmy with an inspiring young teacher.   RSVPs to the school office, 206-855-8041, would be nice, but are not required.  We have Eurythmy shoes or bring your own.

No previous experience is necessary.   Bring a friend! 

Move your body - touch your soul.

Teaching Handwork at Madrona School

To create something with one’s own hands, if only once in one’s life, is surely a healthy antidote to becoming a passive consumer. –Michael Howard

Handwork is one of the unique specialty classes offered in a Waldorf grade school. At their most basic, the classes teach respect for simple tools: needle & thread, sticks and string, the spindle, wool, a knife, and of course, our hands. Handwork classes bring joy, teach practical skills around real work, and offer every student the opportunity to create beauty, along with the intrinsic satisfaction of completing an often long-term project.  

Developed to work in tandem with the curriculum as a whole, handwork strengthens fine motor skills and helps with hand-eye coordination, which in turn help students with writing, reading and math. Knitting, crochet, clay, woodcarving, embroidery etc., all contribute to the formative artistic foundations found within a Waldorf education, fostering creativity, flexibility and independence. 

Michael Howard, a Waldorf educator, and author of Educating the Will, writes extensively about what handwork classes offer our students, and he takes it further with spoon carving as his example, saying, “We must seek every opportunity to develop the feeling will [or an artistic sense or feeling] because the capacity to feel the clumsiness of our spoon and to intuitively feel, step by step, how to make it harmonious is not limited to spoon making. As our feeling will awakens through activities such as the arts and crafts, it will become active in other domains such as social life. …Our feeling will awakens our creative will to be social sculptors who transform dead and chaotic social forms into more living and harmonious ones.” Handwork classes speak directly to a main educational goal at Madrona School, the nurturing and teaching of whole human beings, capable of shaping their own lives beyond the classroom.


What are the handwork curriculum basics here at Madrona School? Our kindergarteners often do a bit of whittling and hand-sewing to create little pocket gnomes (see above), or dolls, but the program begins in earnest in 1st grade with knitting. In second grade, they add to their knitting skills and begin crochet. In third grade, they expand their crochet abilities, and experiment with taking a fleece through washing, spinning and weaving. In fourth grade, they learn basic embroidery, as well as designing and stitching a cross-stitch piece. In fifth grade, it’s back to knitting, this time in the round, making socks. In sixth grade they play with taking two-dimensions into three-dimensions, designing a stuffed animal, first on paper, and then hand-sewing their creation. In seventh and eighth grade, we often expand into working with different materials, including woodworking, carving soapstone, metal work and expanded embroidery techniques. The eighth grade also spends some time with machine sewing, making quilts and clothing. In addition to all of these skills, our students experience other crafts within their main lesson blocks – making drums or cedar baskets in4th grade Native American and local history studies, or stained glass in a 6th grade Middle Ages block.  The breadth of these opportunities adds further dimension to our arts-integrated academic curriculum.

Finally, handwork classes offer students a way to see form made visible. If you’ve had a first grader in our program, you’ve seen the loosely-knit first projects transform through further practice into a second project – often a flute case they can use for years – where the stitches even out and mistakes are seen and fixed. These lessons in learning to see their work echo observational skills grown throughout school, in experiment-driven science classes, in social relationships, and in an awakening self-awareness. Handwork classes ultimately contribute to a healthy confidence our graduates take with them into the world. 

--edited from our weekly school newsletter, February 14, 2017

Open House Images

It was fun to have so many families at our Open House this past Saturday! And, even though we do this every year, walking through the grades with all that beautiful work on display never gets old. Here are some images from the morning....

1st grade math processes illustrated, and presented in story form, with problems written out too (notice the mistake turned into a flower) ; the 2nd grade room with both math and language arts books, flute cases and poetry on the board.

3rd grade showed multiplication table review, liquid measurement studies and the start of their 'Shelters Around the World' block.

4th grade was full of neighborhood maps and animals and fractions.

One more 4th grade image -- a form drawing precursor the geometry to come in 5th grade. And, the 5th grade room with their Ancient Civilization and Botany books out, as well as a wall of recent watercolor paintings.

6th grade was full of geometry, geology and the Middle Ages.

7th and 8th grades showed off their books together, including drawing, Renaissance and revolutions studies, and human physiology.

Sharing AWSNA's Core Principles and Musings On Waldorf Education's Relevance for Today's World

Edited from a letter originally written by our Head of School for our weekly school newsletter, January 10, 2017:

Dear parents and friends,

Over the holiday I took a big break from all things electronic: no email, phone or movies for 10 days.  Instead, I savored the opportunity to sleep and dream deeply, to exercise hard every day with my family, to eat well (if a tad bit too much!) and to read a lot.  I've been wandering through all kinds of books and seeing threads and connections everywhere I go, which I'll attempt to share over the next weeks and months. 

I have been thinking broadly about the role of education in our lives and in American society and the unique niche that Waldorf education in particular occupies.
Recently, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), of which Madrona School is a developing member school, ratified a new set of guiding principles for all Waldorf Schools.  This document was the product of many hours of work by a broad constituency of representatives from all of our member schools.  I am excited to share it with you here, as it articulates in a newly concise language the core principles underlying our educational philosophy.   I am looking forward to using it increasingly to inform, guide and explain our education.

The second principle particularly caught my eye in writing today.  It says: Waldorf schools foster social renewal by cultivating human capacities in service to the individual and to society.  Waldorf schools foster development so that, throughout life, individuals are motivated to serve humanity with strength of will, depth of feeling and clarity of thought, and the ability to work with others.  The educational program is designed to strengthen these fundamental human capacities in our students.

I am increasingly compelled by this statement because of reading Thomas Friedman's newest book, Thank You for Being Late, in which he sketches the almost unimaginably accelerating changes worldwide in digital connectivity, climate change, and globalization.  Its makes for a fascinating (if sobering) read and I highly recommend it if you are interested in trying to understand the many tectonic shifts that are happening on various fronts simultaneously.  

As I read along, the perpetual question in the back of my mind is: OK, so if all of this is true, how do we educate our children for an unknown and increasingly unknowable future? How can we cultivate in them the qualities of character that they will need to succeed in such a new world order?  Can we actually cultivate the flexibility, resourcefulness, confidence, courage and engagement in lifelong learning that Friedman posits will be increasingly necessary for survival?
While there is much still to wrestle with in this book and how it relates to education, I do see a germ of hope in considering these two things side by side: Waldorf education's mission to cultivate a commitment to the service of humanity paired with the vast and turbulent needs that will be unfolding in new, never-before-imagined ways.  

I don't feel I have all the answers, but this is to me an interesting question: How is our education uniquely preparing the children for the rapidly morphing future?  I'd love to open the question for a wider dialogue.  You have chosen this educational stream for your child.  Would you be willing to share with our community what you perceive to be the merit of this style of education?  I look forward to hearing from you, and sharing your thoughts in newsletters to come.