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!

Madrona School Alphabet (I)

In our alphabet-based exploration on what makes a Madrona School education unique, 'I' is for imagination -- Our students develop and nurture flourishing imaginations, making them wonderful readers, good problem solvers, flexible thinkers and in possession of a rich, creative inner life to take into adulthood. 

Preschool play

A Waldorf school curriculum highlights the importance of imagination with lots of time and room for play in early childhood, both indoors and out. Isn't it magical to see the development of a young child's play, and the richness that happens when the planning and storytelling almost become the play? A well-developed imagination lays the groundwork for academic work, as well as enhances self-discipline. 

Drawing of a fair from a 6th grade student's medieval history work.

Throughout grade school, the curriculum continues to value imagination as a part of a healthy childhood. In first grade, for example, letters and numbers are brought through story, further developing that full inner pictorial life for each student. And storytelling enhances main lessons in every grade, adding depth to the academic work. A well developed imagination blossoms again and again throughout our children's lives.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." –Albert Einstein