Looking Towards Our Future: Lowery Farm CUP

In a letter sent out to our school community on May 24, 2017, we were excited to announce that we've cleared one step in the process towards a new campus. This represents a lot of work on the part of many, and we are grateful! As we've lived in to the Lowery Farm property a bit over the last few years, we've grown to love the land and what it might represent for the future of our school. 

Dear friends and fans,

I am delighted to report that this morning we received the Hearing Examiner's favorable judgement on our CUP application.  As you can read below, Phases I and II of the project have been approved (with a host of conditions, most of them exactly as we had expected) and with phase III being "remanded to the City for further investigation of the traffic impacts of the operation of the proposed auditorium." 

We were particularly pleased to be acknowledged in a couple places for our thoughtful design:
"The Hearing Examiner takes notice that schools are more often than not located in residential areas.  The plans presented go to considerable length to assure that during normal hours the new school will fit in.

The proposed school development is part of an overall pattern of growth.  In the larger development picture, the school actually represents the retention of open space, as compared with standard residential development.  92.5% of the property will remain open.  This applicant, a Waldorf school, is particularly sensitive to concerns for preservation of natural conditions because nature plays an important role in its instructional program."

Thank you to all of you who have supported this (lengthy) application process! You wrote letters that became part of the testimony considered by the examiner; you attended meetings; you spoke up in favor of this project.  I hope that you feel as pleased about this as we do!

I will be communicating more about next steps soon.

Missi, on behalf of the board and campus committee

Read the Hearing Examiner's ruling in its entirety here!

Unpacking the Stump Project


Teacher Isaac recently wrote to his families:
Some of you might have noticed the digging project that the kindergarteners began, several weeks ago, around the roots of the old Douglas Fir stump on the play yard. The project grew from a simple question, "I wonder if we could tunnel under that root?" "Hmm... I wonder..." was the reply. The curiosity was contagious and the picks and shovels have been busy ever since.

Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge my own enthusiasm for the project. I too wonder what might lie buried below. (In fact, I forget who posed the original question, and suspect that it could have come from me.) Fortunately for big projects such as this, enthusiasm is contagious and the children will come and go throughout the course of any morning. Some will jump into the holes and move the earth right alongside me. Others will help push and pull a wagonload of dirt from here to there. Still others come to step and leap from root to root, observing the progress and creating their own imaginations.

However, once the work is underway, I like to take a step back and spend a moment observing (with wonder) the many layers of work going on around me.

The children moving the earth with shovels and hands are meeting a variety of resistances as they tunnel through dirt, sand, rock and clay. Their developing proprioceptive system is being stimulated and strengthened with every scoop. Others crawl beneath roots and squeeze through narrow openings. The nerve endings concentrated in the joints receive input from these gross motor activities (like shoveling, pushing, pulling, carrying heavy objects, etc...) that gradually builds an internal map of one's body in space. They are discovering themselves by coming up against the earth.

I see that some of the children try to avoid touching the mud or dirt or sand with their bare hands. I make note that they may be more touch sensitive than their peers, and I try to find opportunities to introduce new sensory input to these children and encourage them to play in a way to help them integrate this developing sense.

The children who are balancing on the latticework of exposed roots are strengthening their core muscles as they work to stay upright, as well as working the vestibular system of the inner ear. Others are hanging upside down or reclining in a hollow. As the fluid of the inner ear sloshes back and forth with the movement of the head (especially upside down!), there is again the gradual inner mapping of the spatial planes and the body's relationship with them (front, back, side to side, up and down). Having these activities available for the young child is important for their developing sense of balance and sense of movement.

Of course, the children care nothing for such adult talk. They instead are pirates, ninjas, otters, cats, birds, princesses and knights. They are making homes and forming relationships and discovering more mystery in the ordinary than we could ever imagine.

Together, the children and I, vigilantly watch each shovelful of dirt and rock for unearthed treasure. We wonder how deep we can dig, how much earth we can move, and if anyone will fit between the roots we have exposed. The fun is in the wondering of the question and in the application of the will to try to answer that question.

With enthusiasm,

What began as a Salmonberry kindergarten project, has captured the imaginations and will of children of all ages!

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