Season of Light and Warmth

Our annual look at the warmth and light we enjoy in December at Madrona School…. Here, as in all Waldorf schools, we cultivate a sense of beauty in our classrooms all year long, helping us all relax into learning and strengthening the important relationships between our teachers and our students. In many ways, this darkest time of year here in the Pacific Northwest offers just as much warmth and joy as the breezy, flower-filled days of spring or the comfortable mellow-lit afternoons of fall, as we deliberately create opportunities to celebrate. We light candles on menorahs and Advent wreaths, we sing seasonal songs from a variety of cultures as a whole school and in our classrooms, we play and walk outside even in the cold rain because we are all bundled up, we pour fun into Secret Santa gifts, we make seasonal crafts like beeswax lanterns and colorful window stars, we enjoy visits from Santa Lucia and St. Nicholas, and we hold at least two Spirals of Light….We hope you enjoy a glimpse into these celebrations!

Wishing you a joyous season of light, however you celebrate. See you in the new year!

The Purpose of the First Grade Circle

Back in October, at our Experience Waldorf event for parents, our 1st grade teacher, Ms. Hartz, shared the why and what of circle time in first grade. There is a lot behind what looks like fun to these eager students at the very beginning of their grade school journeys!

A first grader’s day begins with a handshake and a greeting to and from the teacher. The mood in the classroom is one of calm and expectation, sometimes with some excitement about something from home, or in anticipation of the day. The class speaks their morning verse together, and then, before moving into work at their desks, they will clear a space in the classroom for some circle time. A circle in 1st grade incorporates movement, music and singing, spoken word, rhythm, breathing, and concentration. It’s purpose includes:

  • Joy and delight

  • Awakening a healthy imagination

  • Wake up! Get out of breath, prepare to sit

  • Immersion in the season or “mood” of a block

  • Incarnation into hands/feet and fingers/toes

  • Creation of artistic and beautiful movement

  • Strengthen uprightness, endurance, coordination

  • Connect hemispheres of the brain

  • Working on body geography and spatial relationships

  • Enhancing a sense of touch, balance, controlled movement

  • Supporting speech development an sound/letter connection

  • Working on rhythm: foundational for math as well as music

  • Flexibility: work between polarities.

Ms. Hartz writes: “A first grader continues to be a being in movement. A first grader imitates out of an attitude of devotion and trust in the goodness of the world. Out of this feeling of goodness (reverence) will come an internal sympathy for goodness, a moral compass that does not need its own direct instruction.”

She shared her autumn circle with parents, including some of the “whys” behind its design:

  • Morning Verse to imbue and experience reverence and silence.

  • Seasonal Songs: Yellow the Bracken; The Autumn Winds; Golden is the Garden (to learn the months, movement crossing midline); Ghost of John (for fun).

  • Form a Ring: Expansion Contraction (to learn to make a beautiful circle); One for the Golden Sun; A Sailor Went to Sea; Tony Chestnut (for slow, fast, quick, slow); Bean bags passed to Hickory Dickory Dock (coordination with your neighbor and the group).

  • Balance boards and beam.

  • Drink of water and move desks back in preparation for the day.

Morning verse, movement circles, music including singing and recorders, and recitation continue up through the grades and develop depending on the needs of the class and the teacher. Often, teachers include some math games and mental math too. Some teachers employ movement as a mid-morning break, while others prefer to begin the morning with circle time. Please ask your child’s teacher if you have questions about how she or he incorporates movement and music into a morning’s lesson!

A Note from Missi About Spiral of Light

Dear families and friends,

We are truly into the darkest days of winter with solstice just ten days away.  Amazingly, it will be lighter when we return from break in January than it is now!  While I find myself longing for the light to return, I am also grateful for the opportunities of reflection that this season offers.  

For me the season really kicks off with the Spiral of Light festival that we celebrated this past Sunday.  For those who haven't had the chance to come yet, imagine a room all in darkness.  In the center of a spiral of evergreen boughs laid on the floor, a candle is lit.  Solitary and dim, it barely begins to light the room.  Everyone sitting around the edges is swathed in darkness.  Our sweet-voiced teachers are singing an array of seasonal songs from both Christian and Jewish traditions: they sing in delicious harmonies in English, German, and French.  Through the singing, family after family walks the spiral to light a candle and set it down on golden paper stars sprinkled among the boughs.  Bit by bit the room becomes filled with a golden glow.  Suddenly, I realize that I can make out the faces of the people sitting across the room from me.  Friends old and new, grown-ups and children.  I am struck by the lovely metaphor that I have just witnessed, articulated in the words of one of the carols being sung: "Each little child shall shed her light, till all the world is warm and bright."

In this season of veritable darkness, I appreciate the unique light that each child and each parent shines into the world.  Thank you for sharing yourselves with this precious school community.

Reflectively yours,
Missi

— From our newsletter, December 11, 2018

Dia de los Muertos Celebration in 7th grade

This year our 7th grade class worked on a special project with Maestra Mabí to mark Dia de los Muertos. They each chose someone to remember through a painting or drawing, and they spent some time sharing (in Spanish, of course) about their choice. The resulting art was hung at our local art museum, BIMA, and helped round out the museum’s community-wide celebration.