6th Grade at Madrona School

The middle school years mark an important transition for any child, and there is much to celebrate around developing capacities and growth. 6th grade is often a year "in between" -- bridging the balance and relative ease of late childhood with the transformation of puberty, and as the year goes on there is often a palpable shift in the mood of the class. A 6th grader is often described as having "landed firmly on the earth," beginning to look inwards, even as their capacity for observation of the outside world sharpens. 6th graders want to understand the "whys" behind what their parents and teachers say, and they pay attention to what is fair. Peer groups are increasingly important too, as they begin to seek their place, and at Madrona School where a class has been together for years, there can be an ease and comfort to this process within school.

With the developmentally-appropriate curriculum in a Waldorf school, the subjects brought to the class reflect the shift into adolesecence. Sciences, both physical and laboratory, offer opportunities for observation and keep a sense of wonder in the world growing. History, through studying the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, bring discussion of the spread of systems of law and order, as well as religion and culture. Math has a practical bent to it with business math and an introduction to economics, as well as form brought through geometry. It's a year with a broad and grounding look at the world.

This year our 6th grade, taught by Ms. Lori (with blocks taught by Ms. Toles and Mr. Steegmans), began with a geology block, including what can be observed in our corner of the world through an overnight trip to Mt. St. Helens. Physics, taught by Mr. Steegmans, offered practice making observations, using them as a starting point for uncovering some of the laws of the universe. We use a phenomenological approach to science -- teaching through observation and experience first, practicing careful watching, and then discussing and writing and repeating an experiment. Before the winter break, the class also studied the Roman Empire, including early legal structures and architecture. The class has also had a Business Math block with Ms. Toles, investigating differing types of economies throughout history, as well as some new math including percentages and calculating interest.

Currently, the class is studying medieval history, including both the spread of Christianity and of Islam, as well as a look at social structures. As a part of this block, they look at knighting codes of conduct and honor, and they work towards a knighting ceremony of their own, with an aim towards personal growth and service, celebrating the results with a class gathering.

In the weeks that remain in the year, they will do geometry, grammar, astronomy and perform their class play. Beyond main lesson, they continue Spanish, strings and games classes. This class has long had a particular interest in painting, and this year their work is really developing as they play with new techniques and subject matters. They have handwork, with a chance to not only make something, but experience a bit of designing from paper to a 3-dimensional object. They join the other middle school classes for choir and stay later on Fridays for community electives -- artistic and active classes, often outside the confines of the school building. It is a full year, and just the beginning of a new phase in their personal and school journeys!

Want to know more about middle school and 6th grade at Madrona School? Ask your student's teacher, or contact the school office.

--edited from the school newsletter, January 23, 2018

Parent-Child Classes at Madrona School

What do our youngest students experience at Madrona School? We offer parent-child classes for children and a caregiver, age 12 months (and walking) to 36 months; babies as young as eight weeks can come to our parent-infant class, as well. Many families came to Waldorf education through parent-child classes, and a curiousity about what this type of education might mean for their family and parenting choices. Some simply desire to spend some time in the warmth and beauty of a Waldorf early childhood classroom, and some want to make connections in a community of like-minded families. These classes offer a glimpse into the early childhood rhythms present in preschool and kindergarten when the children move into an independent school experience, where our emphasis on imaginative free play and movement both indoors and out, grows with the child's developing capacities and physical capabilities. 

Our once weekly parent-child classes are taught by Joleen Hollow-Bist and Susie Lockard, both long-time Madrona School teachers. The classes introduce a school setting to a toddler, as well as offering a place of calm and community for caregivers. The classes offer the all important Waldorf early childhood tenet of rhythm, following the same schedule each week of free play, simple circle games, songs and story, bread baking, eating together and outdoor play. The teachers also share readings and invite conversation about parenting successes and challenges. The children have a chance to explore social interactions, they are nourished by a wholesome snack and open-ended play things, and they dig in to bread bun making and dish washing. Songs help frame different activities and offer an idea of carrying similar activities into the home. And, parents can begin to get to know one another, work on simple crafts, explore parenting topics and practice some mindful observation of the children.

We also offer parent-infant classes in shorter sessions, where the emphasis is on mindful parenting and being fully and joyfully present for our children. Parents learn simple songs and lap games to take home, as well as observation exercises and ideas for simple rhythms to shape family time.

New parent-child and parent-infant classes begin in the new year. If you know of anyone with babies or toddlers, please refer them to our website for more information: www.madronaschool.org/parent-child-classes or www.madronaschool.org-parent-infant-classes. Or, have them contact the school office at 206-855-8041.

A Season for Candles and Singing

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper, begins: And so the shortest day came and the year died / And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world / Came people singing, dancing, / To drive the dark away.... 

December at Madrona School brings candlelight and community singing. We gather together for our Spiral of Light festival, and the second grade brings us an annual Santa Lucia celebration. The classrooms sprout greenery and show off colorful windows, too. Our days are short but packed with a sense of festive anticipation. Enjoy this glimpse into this year's December.

1st Grade at Madrona School

What is 1st grade like at a Waldorf school? The 1st grade year at Madrona School marks the beginning of an eight year school journey. The theme of the year is formation: where the class teacher builds relationships between and amongst the children and parents to grow the all important class community; where the children begin to form the habits that will mark their student lives; where the building blocks of writing, reading and math are planted and nurtured. The class teacher is traditionally at the start of their journey too, looping up through the grades, beginning relationships that will grow and change as the children move through many developmental stages.

The year begins with the Rose Ceremony. The whole of the grade school gathers together to welcome in the new 1st grade class. While everyone looks on, our newest students literally bridge from early childhood to grade school, bringing a flower with them to form a bouquet the represents their new class community. As they walk across a wooden bridge, their new teacher is there to shake their hand and welcome them to 1st grade. We also acknowledge the breadth of the journey they undertake with our 8th grade class, whom, while at the opposite end of their school journey, do remember what it was like to be in 1st grade and are there with welcoming roses and a promise to work with the newest class throughout the year. Once the brief ceremony concludes, the class returns to their classroom with their teacher for their first lesson -- a story, and some form drawing.

There is so much to learn in first grade. It is truly hard work to sit at a desk, to stand in line, to raise your hand before you speak, to care for your own self, and learn to see, hear and care for your classmates. And then there is the academic work, and in first grade we focus on writing, reading and math. Letters and simple words and sentences step children towards independent reading; exploring the qualities of numbers and the four basic processes introduce mathematics; science comes through observing nature on neighborhood walks and in seasonal song. There is time to work at your own pace, to practice careful book work, to learn to listen well.

One example of a lesson is the first form drawing lesson mentioned above, a seemingly simple exploration of straight lines and curved lines. Students are encouraged to carefully draw both and begin to observe them in the classroom -- the world we can see is, of course, made up of straight and curved lines, an idea that is foundational to art, to writing, to honing our all important observation skills. This first lesson illustrates how we encourage each student to observe the world around them, to mindfully approach their work, and the deceptive simplicity of truly seeing what underpins how we communicate.

Story is an important element of how we deliver material, and we engage a young student's imagination to teach abstract concepts such as letter sounds, and the qualities of numbers. Stories help make these ideas -- the sound a 'p' makes or what is '1', for example -- concrete and visible and memorable. Movement cements ideas too, and you will often see the first graders moving through a counting game or draped on the floor, spelling out words with their bodies. In addition to self-management and academics, the students have handwork, beeswax, painting, music, games and world language classes. The first grade curriculum is varied and interesting and so much fun, and it is no wonder that the children are tired at the end of their day!

Planning work is underway for next year's first grade class. Please help us spread the word about Madrona School's elementary education and the journey these young students begin together. Madrona School first graders begin a journey that is joyful, artistic, and emotionally intelligent, where each of our students prepares for life and learns to rub along together. What could be better?