Madrona School Alphabet (L)

Next up in our alphabet-based exploration of what makes a Waldorf education unique...L for living education. We've explored this topic in other ways throughout this alphabet, but it bears repeating. Living education happens when you offer learning through experience and discovery, when you have a strong relationship between teachers and students, and when you offer a curriculum that engages all the senses.

As members of the Madrona School community we can all think of the glimpses we have of this education in action. There are the bean bag exercises that combine mental math with rhythm and song, taking practice to perfect. There are the demonstrations of middle school science -- making sound resonance visible with a Chladni plate demonstration or studying mechanics through building simple machines. There are the 1st graders in handwork class, knitting yes, but stopping often to count their rows and look up at the shared pattern posted at the head of the room, mentally calculating and then announcing how many "mountains" remain in their project. There is the sharing of applesauce, sauerkraut and beeswax candles from 3rd grade practical arts lessons, and the understanding of a life cycle as they prepare to plant grains in our new garden space for next year's 3rd grade to harvest and study. There is the focused silence of book work in the 4th grade after an energetic and physical game of energetic sentence diagramming in language arts. Countless examples abound...

In a 2014 interview, Christof Weichert said: [A dynamic lesson] is the essence of Waldorf education. Steiner said that we teach within an artistic process…the experience is that of expansion and contraction. It is shaped by very precise use of oral qualities, visual qualities and interactive qualities, and they have to be in balance. You should always have an eye for what refreshes the children and what tires them. If the children get tired, you change into another mood or another activity so you and the children are in kind of a flow….If you are engaged—and you’ll find that in the third chapter of The Study of Man—if you engage yourself in what you do, you stay alive. You stay fresh.

—adapted from our weekly email newsletter, May 20, 2014



Our Annual School-wide Open House

IMG_3617.jpg

The whole family is very welcome at our annual school-wide Open House, this Saturday, January 26th! Please come walk through the school, meet teachers, see current student work and hear about our early childhood program expansion and new outdoor kindergartens! We are so excited to share a glimpse of our school with you. You are welcome anytime between 10 am and 12 pm, although if you are particularly interested in early childhood, join Miss Mary at 10:45am in the green house classroom to hear more specifically about those changes…..And, plan a trip up to Lowery Farm to visit with Teachers Isaac and Jamie about our plans for that space — the farm is open between 10:30am and 12:30pm.

See you there!

Meanwhile, please enjoy these examples from previous years of the sorts of work you’ll be able to view:


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!