May and June at WSMC
A look at what goes on at The Waldorf School of Mendocino County in May and June
- Sweet Pea Playgroup - in conjunction with Roots and Shoots - Fridays, 8:45am - 10:15am
- Roots and Shoots (currently in session) - Fridays, 10:15am - 11:45pm
- Morning Roses - Saturday, June 10th, 10:00 - 11:30am
- Waldorf T-shirts for Sale - $10
- A Week in Class 4 and 5
Sweet Pea Playgroup - Fridays from 8:45am - 10:15am - in conjunction with Roots and Shoots
In this group parents may bring their infants and toddlers, age birth to 3, to our campus for unstructured playtime. This is an opportunity for children to play together, supervised by their caregivers and for the adults to visit, share parenting stories, questions and tips. This playgroup is by donation and no pre-registration is required. Unlike Roots and Shoots, there is no formal program for the children or adults.
Roots and Shoots - 6 Consecutive Fridays - Spring Session in session -
10:15am - 11:45Am
Come together with Shannon Lappin to joyfully sing songs, learn finger plays, and play games. For parents and caregivers, a Roots and Shoots class provides a platform for discussion on child development and parenting and offers sources of inspiration for life at home.
Spring session is currently in session.
Morning Roses - Saturday, June 10th from 10:00am - 11:30am
An introduction to Waldorf Preschool and Kindergarten. This Early Childhood morning includes circle and story time, indoor and outdoor play, a meet and greet with teachers, and a question and answer session.
Adults with children (ages 2-4) are welcome.
Limited space available
Waldorf School of Mendocino County T-shirts for sale - $10
All adult and youth sizes available. Purchase in the front office at the school.
A week in Class 4 and 5
In Fourth Grade, we begin to take an intense interest in our local environment. This is manifest in a study of animals we find locally as well as their various habitats. Whether we’re watching whales or bearing witness to migrating birds, we strive to find a way to be true to the animal in our writing and in our visual artwork. We also look around us at the geography of this place, and look back into the past, wondering who has lived here and how they might have adapted to this environment. Because of their growing independence, fourth graders are keen to make their own choices. Norse mythology--the primary lesson material for this stage--models the process of conscious choice and the responsibility for actions taken. These traditional tales foreground strength of character, courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance while revealing hidden motives, and character fallibility.
In Fifth Grade, the child begins to experience a healthy balance between early childhood and approaching adolescence. It is appropriate, therefore, that the curriculum this year encourages a theme of balance. Study of ancient history begins in India, continuing with the civilizations of Persia and the great cultures of Mesopotamia. A field trip to the Egyptian Museum studying the pyramids and pharaohs precedes the civilization of the Greeks, during which students participate in a classic Greek pentathlon with activities of running, long jump, wrestling, javelin, and discus. In the spring, the class participates in an all day pentathlon festival and competition with other regional Waldorf schools. This is the culmination of the students’ physical individualism before they enter--in sixth grade--the new dynamics of team-based sports.
This week I observed the 4th and 5th grade practicing for their play, "Demeter and Persephone." In Greek mythology, it is believed that this is the reason for the seasons- fall, winter, spring, and summer. In the story, Persephone is taken by Hades and held in the underworld. Her mother, Demeter wept and mourned her daughter's disappearance. During the time of mourning, Demeter would not tend to the gardens and the crops would wither and die. This could not continue, so Zeus sent his son, Hermes, to work out a deal with Hades for Persephone's release. Hades tricked her into eating some pomegranate seeds which sealed her fate - she would have to live 6 months with Hades in the underworld and Demeter would, again, mourn her daughter's disappearance by not tending to the crops. Then she would be released to spend 6 months with her mother Demeter. Every time Persephone is released, Demeter makes sure that the flowers are blooming and crops are thriving to welcome her return. In acting out this myth, students have an opportunity to live into different characters. The Greek gods all have unique gifts and voices. In this play, they come together in council to find a solution that benefits the earth and the humans who live there. This is a powerful experience for the actors, building a new social cohesion and respect for difference within the class.
During painting, the class was was working to create a painting of Demeter. They began on wet paper and were asked to lightly cover the entire sheet with yellow. You can see their different strokes in motion. From there, they began to work on Demeter's body. At this point, I was unable to stay to see their completed works, but I can share with you that the room buzzes with excitement to paint and quiets with intense focus.
In Grade 5, participation in a regional Greek Games is an event that everyone looks forward to attending. A Pentathlon by definition is an event that comprises five athletic components. Most Waldorf Pentathlons include: the long jump; the javelin throw; the discus throw; wrestling; and a relay race. The community of fifth graders are mixed and sorted in to four city-states: Sparta, Corinth; Athens; and Thebes.
As with all aspects of the Waldorf school curriculum, this event is designed to take advantage of the peak moment of a child’s development. At age 11 or 12, in the fifth grade, children experience the height of childhood, just before the symptoms of puberty begin to ripen and while child-like activities are still interesting to students. The study of the history of human beings on the earth turns clearly in grade five from story, legend, and mythology, to written history.
Handwork is an important part of Waldorf curriculum. Some benefits include: hand-eye coordination; basic math skills such as counting; ability to focus on a project over an extended period of time; and ability to understand and follow a process from concept to completion. In Grades 4 and 5, handwork will be more advanced. This year they cross-stitched a pillow, and are knitting a pair of socks.
A childhood rich in varied play and movement strengthens the developmental foundations needed for success in the grade school years and beyond. Through age-appropriate movement, the children master basic skills such as: postural control; spatial orientation; movement coordination; the ability to change sight perception instantaneously between three-dimensional and two-dimensional space; good body geography; and confirmed dominance. For Grade 4 and 5, movement comes in all forms from Greek dance practice to learning how to unicycle. You can see how balance, good body geography, and the ability to change sight perception come into play.
In most Waldorf schools, children start to play a stringed instrument, usually the violin, in the fourth grade. As children approach their 10th year of life, they undergo a transition in which they begin to let go of their dreamier selves and begin to experience the world more objectively. This is often the first time they experience themselves as completely separate from others, particularly their parents. They begin to recognize that human beings, including their parents and teachers, are fallible and mortal. They begin to have their own rich emotional lives with a deeper and wider range of feelings.
Rudolf Steiner said of the experience of playing a stringed instrument: "The human being feels how his whole organism is being enlarged; processes which are otherwise only within the organism are carried over into the outside world... When the child learns the violin, the actual prcess, the music that is within him, is directly carried over and he feels how the music in him passes over into the strings through his bow."
Gardening class this week was all about asparagus and compost. Asparagus can be a tough vegetable to grow and it takes time and energy. There is a certain stage when the spear is around 5-6 inches that you want to harvest it. There were only a few spears left as the garden vegetables have been used by other classes to make their snacks or soup. Once the harvest season is over, it's important to let the plant grow out and even flower. This makes the plant stronger so that you'll reap more harvest during the next season. When the class headed over to the compost pile, they were able to see how all the grass clippings, and rotting fruits and vegetables in the pile had broken down to make usable soil. I watched the class grab a handful of soil, look at it, smell it, squeeze it in their hands, and take notice of the worms and bugs that help the breakdown process.
In Grade 4 and 5, the class learns attention to detail and patience in woodworking class, but the job of a woodwork teacher is to grab the children’s interest in the physical world intensely enough that they get distracted away from their inner life and away from the important relationships to their peers, and they allow a different dimension of their relationship to the world come to the fore; one that is mediated by their will. This is a will, if things go right, that the children over time discover they control.
Now, instead of acting instinctively or impulsively, with the exploration of the conscious will, the children can discover an area in their lives where they can begin to consciously exercise their transformative capabilities. These are the capabilities that at some point will shape their future, and will create their life for them. And I am not talking about using a chisel or a saw here. I am talking about this exceptional opportunity for the children to have during puberty: the experience of creating something or transforming something “at will” - to be in control. For the children to experience this will as a tool, which they can learn to develop into something at their disposal, allows them to experience a profound quality of humanity.
The exercise of a craft in a class brings with it the necessity for self-discipline, self-control, increasing knowledge of ones strengths and limits, experience of other’s struggles and successes and the value of mutual support, striving for and valuing of beauty in all work, and the experience of the possibility for improvement that points into the future. In a multi-year process with many deepening repetitions each child will experience the creative will in a profound way.