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

Madrona School Alphabet (K)

Next up in our alphabet-based exploration of what makes a Waldorf education unique...K is for knitting…and our handwork program in general. Handwork is one of the unique specialty classes offered in a Waldorf school. 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 within a Waldorf education, fostering creativity, flexibility and independence.

Handwork is offered in kindergarten at Madrona School with some sewing and woodworking projects, but the program begins in earnest in 1st grade with knitting, providing a foundation for the rest of the program to build upon in future years. And, while students learn to knit, they come to see the beauty and utility that can be made with their own hands, simple materials and some perseverance. Often, the students will make something in this first year that they use everyday throughout their grade school years, like a flute case. Ask any older grade school student and they can probably remember what it was like to finally see their mistakes and fix them, to count the "mountains" in their knitted fabric, and the pride they felt upon the project's completion. There is a comfort in using something they made, even as they grow older and their skills improve.

For additional information, read Patricia Livingston's article "The Importance of Handwork in the Waldorf School", originally published in Renewal 9(1), 2000. Or see our blog post on handwork dated February 15, 2017.


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

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