8th Grade at Madrona School

We talk about 8th grade at Madrona School as a culmination of the grade school journey. Even in Waldorf schools that offer high school, 8th grade marks the end of what has likely been a multi-year relationship between a teacher and his/her class, as well as between the students, some of whom have been together for many years. In our 8th grade this year, there are students who've been classmates since preschool, and others who've joined as recently as last year. Regardless, it feels like a family. 

Our students are eagerly looking ahead to high school and the next step, but they are also nostaglic and may be beginning to reflect on their school journeys (wave a kindergarten bread bun in front of them for a sentimental demonstration, for example). They enjoy the freedom of their basement classroom, set a bit apart from the rest of the school, with its separate entrance and access to an outdoor eating area. They remain connected to the life of the school though, through work with younger grades, morning recess, and a weekly rhythm of choir and strings with the other middle schoolers.

The 8th grade class is engaged in main lesson blocks with their class teacher, Mr. Nottage. They began their year with revolutions -- studying the American and French revolutions, and moving into the foundations and order of our American government that resulted from these historical events. Typically this is a lesson block brought in 8th grade Waldorf classrooms, and teachers emphasize that this study recognizes what is going on internally for an 8th grader as they work through the rich and often radical changes happening as they grow into young adults. 

The class moved into physiology mid-October, examining the skeletal system, and combining science and art, studying the order and beauty that literally carries us around. Organic chemistry and the geometry of solids will also be studied this fall, and after the winter break the class will study hydraulics and aerodynamics, economic geography and civil and labor rights. The curriculum draws on the students' burgeoning capacities for critical thinking, and their ever-increasing sophistication with writing and other forms of communication. The dinner table discussions get ever more interesting, especially as they move into an understanding of current events.

In other class periods, language arts offers more opportunity for self-expression in creative writing, as well as a sampling of biography. Math builds on what has come before, and supports othe theme of transformation, with the class recently exploring number bases beyond base 10, for example. Other specialty classes include handwork (sewing on machines), games, middle school choir and strings ensemble.

Watch for more from our 8th grade as the year develops. Long-term independent projects offer each student a chance to explore something they are interested in and they work with a mentor over several months. The projects end with presentations to the school community (set for April 13th), and you will all be invited, as these students demonstrate a Waldorf education's preparation beyond academics -- with emphasis on self-expression and self-possession. Then, two weeks later, the class play celebrates eight years of creating drama together. Finally, in early June, the week-long class trip offers a final field trip of sorts, this one highlighting the journey and growth of the class as a community. Graduation marks their public celebration of this journey, and you will be invited to come help us send off this amazing group of young people. It's going to be a great year!

--originally published in our October 17 newsletter

Madrona School Alphabet (J)

In our alphabet-based exploration on what makes a Madrona School education unique, 'J' is for joyful learning --the evidence we see in our students and for the joyful intention brought by our teachers.  Of course we all have our days, but notice how the children come through the school gate the next time you drop off. Many of them positively fly into the play yard, shouting a cheerful greeting to our head of school and running off to find friends. On one recent morning, the unique joy of each class was evident -- a peek into the second grade showed the students all at their desks, writing practice books open, listening attentively. In the third grade, they were busy composing themselves, putting lunches away, blowing noses, asking questions about the day's schedule with great excitement, yet assembling quickly when asked to do so. And in the fifth grade, they were standing tall, reciting their morning verse, looking like the seasoned students they've become. Notice these unique class personalities at our next school assembly, where it is abundantly evident that our students are eager to share, taking pride in their classes and their work. A joyful learning environment leads to a lifelong love of learning, and enhances our innate curiosity about the world.

--edited from our Tuesday Newsday, October 15, 2013

Kindergarten at Madrona School

This year, we plan to highlight each of our early childhood classes and grades in our weekly school newsletter -- a chance for parents and our broader community to glimpse inside each classroom. First up, kindergarten!

Sometimes cozy and calm, sometimes rough and tumble, kindergarten at Madrona School is all about learning to love coming to school, with regular and predictable rhythms, connections with teacher, and all the social and emotional learning that happens with play in a classroom full of friends. Our two classes, taught by veteran early childhood teachers, share space both at Madrona School in the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, and our Lowery Farm property in Rolling Bay. Friday adventure kindergarteners visit parks and beaches around the island. The school year is off to a sweet start, and with mixed-age classrooms, we welcome returning and new students each fall and slip quickly into a familiar daily and weekly rhythm. Let's take a look:

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The morning begins outdoors even on days when the class is not up at Lowery Farm, and when the children arrive, they need to prepare for the day. The children look to see how Sally Sunshine dressed for the morning's weather...Does Sally have rainboots on? Then we will put ours on too!

Opportunity for play is at the core of what we offer in kindergarten -- a chance for imaginations and bodies to grow and develop. Play lays a foundation for executive functioning and creative, flexible thinking. The kindergarten play is varied and vigorous and ever changing. In free lay, some children watch for a bit, some ask a teacher to turn a jump rope or get out the whittling knives, while others are off and planning games that can go on for many days. In one recent game, pine needles became both gold and hay, and many wheelbarrow and wagon loads were happily transported around the yard. In another game, climbing led to both roosters crowing and pterodactyls crying at the top of the sandbox structure.

We offer structured group play options too, with bread baking, painting, woodworking and walks, all opportunities to gather together for an activity.

Walks, for example, offer a chance to explore beyond the school grounds and strengthen and integrate young bodies. Both classes visit the Ted Olson Nature Preserve, just up the road from Lowery Farm. The paths, fairy houses, fallen logs and towering trees offer infinite fodder for further play!

Interspersed with periods of play and exploration, the class comes together -- for circle time, for snack and for story. Children delight in learning songs, poems, games and in hearing stories. Teachers know that the children are developing literacy with comprehension practice and inner picture work, as well as developing their attention spans too.

A nourishing kindergarten experience also includes nutrition. And, from mousie treats of seeds and fruit, to huckleberries picked high off the bush by a helpful teacher, to gathering around the table together for warm, organic food and conversation, there are many opportunities for good food in kindergarten!

By the end of the morning, a kindergartener has rosy cheeks from time spent outdoors, time immersed in imaginative play, joy in singing and games, and wholesome food. They are engaged with their classmates and teachers too. These kindergarten rhythms are laying a sturdy foundation for the academic learning to come, and it is just so much fun!

Michaelmas at Madrona School

The weather turned fall-like just in time for our annual Michaelmas festival, and while the grade school had to practice their pageant in the rain in the morning, by festival time, the sun was shining! We had a lovely afternoon. Challenges for all ages, including boat races and an obstacle course for the young ones, and balance beams, pillow jousting, slack lines, tug o'war, giant knitting, and dragon bread roasting for older children. The grade school challenges concluded with a slightly ominous trip through the 7th grade-designed and run dragon's lair (tucked into the woods), where treasure awaited the brave. Then we feasted on potatoes from the garden, and a beautiful dragon's bread offered by the 2nd grade. The afternoon concluded with an all-grade school pageant -- gnomes, shooting stars, royalty, a brave knight and, in the end, a tamed dragon. Happy Autumn!