Here in Kimberton, we are constantly looking for ways to re-enliven our festival life to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to the forefront of our work with even the very youngest children. We do not want to invalidate or judge what has been done before but we do want to find ways to make our festivals relevant for the children in our care here in 2022. An example of this is the festival of St. Nicholas—a much loved and cherished Waldorf festival. How do we make an Eastern European festival relevant to children in America today? St. Nicholas’ message of charity and caring for those less fortunate is an important one, so = in the kindergarten we decided to reimagine this festival and on December 6th we celebrate ‘Star Money Day’. This is a beautiful yet simple story of a child who has very little and gives it all away to others in need. The story conveys an identical gesture to that of St. Nicholas and perhaps because it is the story of a child, resonates more deeply with the young ones in our care. On December 6th, Star Money visited our classes and left little tokens (and a whole lot of stardust!) to acknowledge the kindness and goodness of the Kindergarten children.
Lia attended Waldorf Schools in California for 1st through 12th grade and came to this area through her work at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills. She joined the faculty as a kindergarten assistant in 2011. Lia has a deep commitment and love for nutrition, food preparation, native plants, and fiber arts including spinning, knitting, and crocheting, and completed a 4-year Waldorf Teacher Fiber Arts Training. Lia is also a beekeeper and Rosebud children often enjoy a little of Lia’s bees’ honey on their bread rolls. Lia is an astute observer of children, lauded for her skill and care. Lia is a rest time master and her quite steady manner harmonizes with the children and their environment.
Ona Wetherall has been a Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher since 2009 and has been at Kimberton since 2014. She has her full Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher training, LifeWays training, and full Anthroposophic Psychology training, as well as having engaged in, and sometimes led, a number of short Waldorf training and studies, and continually strives to expand her understanding of Waldorf pedagogy.
Miku has taught at Kimberton Waldorf School since 2018. A native of Japan, she loves to share the songs, stories and traditions of her childhood with her students and the school and has regularly joined forces with the Food for Thought lunch program to make sushi for the school. She has been continually and deeply involved as a parent, staff member, and volunteer with the community including leadership in the annual consignment sale. Miku has a degree in business administration and Waldorf training from Lifeways.
Rosebud Teacher; Parent-Child Teacher
An alumna of KWS, Molly has worked in Waldorf education for the last 20 years and has been teaching in early childhood at Kimberton since 2013. Her love and passion for this unique style of learning grew while working at Camphill Special School upon graduation. Molly has completed her Lifeways Fundamentals and Early Childhood teaching certificates. She is currently enrolled in a Curative and Therapeutic teacher training, and she looks forward to bringing these new understandings and inspirations into her work.
Our two-acre school garden is a very busy place over the summer! Scroll through to see happenings in the garden during summer 2022. – Celia Martin, Gardening Teacher
Anyone who has a yard or garden will tell you that there is a lot of work that goes into caring for it during the summer months. Our two-acre school garden is no exception. When the students leave for their summer break in June, they are leaving behind a freshly planted vegetable, flower, and herb garden that is just beginning to grow. Then, in September, they come back to productive and well-maintained beds that are ready to be harvested. But what happens in our school garden between those two times? During the warm days of summer, plants, including weeds, grow very quickly and it is the job of the garden crew to keep up with them. If it were not for a handful of paid students and a few dedicated volunteers, this would not be possible.
“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” – Rudyard Kipling
The summer starts with the harvesting of herbs such as oregano, mint, basil, chamomile, thyme, parsley, calendula, and lemon balm. We can get several cuttings of these herbs throughout the early summer and the harvested leaves cover all of the table tops in the garden building as they are drying. We dehydrate very large quantities of them for later use in teas, salves, and our very coveted Kimberton’s Own Herb Salt.
The first vegetables to be harvested are the allium family – garlic and onions. Both are dried for a few weeks on the windowsill before being cleaned and trimmed. The onions go to Hilla Haut, the kitchen manager for our Food For Thought lunch program, along with some of the garlic. The remainder of the garlic will be used to make garlic powder with one of the fall classes while the very best ones are saved to replant in October.
String beans and summer squashes are the next vegetables to come into season and we harvest them three days a week. In late July the tomatoes also start to ripen along with cucumbers. Hilla picked up huge amounts of all of these vegetables each week throughout August and processed them for later use in our organic, homemade lunches. Potatoes, winter squashes and dent corn will all be harvested by the gardening classes after school starts, along with fall raspberries, sunchokes, and dried beans. Soon we will be planting the fall crops such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
In between all the watering, weeding, harvesting, and mulching, we managed to put together our brand-new cider press! We used some early ground-fall apples to make a few gallons of fresh apple cider with delightful results. All the fall classes will have a chance to make some cider using our new press and our own apples. It looks like there is a very bountiful crop of apples this year. No doubt that our six hives of bees were very helpful in pollination during the spring.
After much lively discussion and debate with the students over the color, the garden building received a new coat of paint this summer and it now looks brand new. For those who are interested and were hoping for their favorite color – it was painted color choice #5, Cobble Brown, with the trim in Shade Tree Green. Please be sure to notice and admire it next time you are in the garden.
I personally want to thank Aaron, Anika, Jojo, and Sarah for all their hard work and dedication to the garden this summer. This was Aaron’s fifth summer working in the garden and he has been especially indispensable in reminding me of what needed to be done and taking charge to do it. I will miss our conversations but am looking forward to hearing about where his life journey takes him. I appreciated all of Anika’s attention to detail in doing all the little jobs without being asked, being able to find all the beans and cucumbers that everyone else missed, and her incredible ability to clean everything spotlessly afterward. I appreciated Jojo’s fascination with every bug we came across and I’m looking forward to seeing his inspired insect collection. I appreciated Sarah’s positive attitude and her special enthusiasm for our tomatoes which, I agree, have no equal. Kudos to Ram and Luca for being dedicated volunteers who kept showing up and whose contributions to the garden were hugely significant. I especially appreciated Ram’s great enthusiasm for mulching. Honorable mention to Jacob and Tula, who showed up unexpectedly and helped to do whatever we were working on.
I also want to thank Hilla Haut who came one or two times a week to collect what we had harvested to preserve for the lunch program. Tomatoes were made into sauce, peppers were sliced and frozen, apples were made into applesauce or sliced and frozen for future dessert, cucumbers were made into pickles, basil was frozen for future pesto, and many, many, many string beans were processed and frozen for future soup days. Growing and then preserving food from our garden is not the easy way or even the least expensive way, but it is the best way. Growing and eating our own organically grown crops is one of the most environmentally responsible things we can do, and the quality and taste cannot be beaten. We are committed to our very unique, organically grown, garden-to-kitchen program!
Thanks to everyone who helped in our school garden this summer!
610-933-3635 ext 108 | Email Tammi Directly
FPO Waldorf Education gives students access to their fullness of imagination, intellect, and experience and makes them lifelong learners. My 12 years at Kimberton as a student were some of the best of my life, and I wanted my children to have that opportunity to learn and grow in a nurturing place.
FPO I have a background in teaching and I’m interested in supporting educational communities through Administration, Marketing, and Communication. Waldorf Education is still a well-kept secret in many ways and I’m very passionate about sharing how valuable it is and telling the story of KWS.
FPO I love the History through Art, Architecture, Music, and Poetry blocks that I took as a student, and I really enjoy watching new students go through the journey of those studies. They were some of the most impactful classes I ever took including my time in college and graduate school.
610-933-3635 ext 140 | email@example.com
Waldorf Education gives students access to their fullness of imagination, intellect, and experience and makes them lifelong learners. My 12 years at Kimberton as a student were some of the best of my life, and I wanted my children to have that opportunity to learn and grow in a nurturing place.
I have a background in teaching and I’m interested in supporting educational communities through Administration, Marketing, and Communication. Waldorf Education is still a well-kept secret in many ways and I’m very passionate about sharing how valuable it is and telling the story of KWS.
I love the History through Art, Architecture, Music, and Poetry blocks that I took as a student, and I really enjoy watching new students go through the journey of those studies. They were some of the most impactful classes I ever took including my time in college and graduate school.
Written by Ona Wetherall, Early Childhood Section Leader
One of the common threads in Waldorf education, which is especially focused on and talked about in early childhood, is the education of the Will; nurturing the young child’s natural impulse to do and channeling that into purposeful activity that nourishes their growing bodies, minds, and souls. In reflecting on the education of the Will, different approaches and examples can be found. The pictures below all depict moments of engaging and nourishing the Will. Perhaps the first ones are obvious but the last one is as well, for even finding moments of pause, reflection, and relaxation are activities of the Will. Whether for a child or an adult, feeling and thinking cannot balance without an engaged Will. Another way a child’s will is educated is through imitation, with adults setting examples.
In our ever increasingly busy lives, where we always seem to be engaged in something, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, we can ask ourselves, “what is driving us?” Or “where is our Will coming from?” Is it coming from external influences or internal impulses? It’s important to notice this because how we engage ourselves is setting an example for how our children will. External influences will always be in flux and bring positives and challenges, but internal impulses will sustain us, will hold us steady and strong in the ups and downs of life.
As parents and educators, we want to support our children as best as we possibly can to grow up with the ability to feel steady, strong, and positive about themselves and to go out into the world with that influence upon it. We want our children to have the ability to sustain themselves in a positive way and have the heart, wish, and drive to take care of their world and their fellow humans, in part by seeing and knowing the good, truth, and beauty of it. This is how we make the world a better place, this is how we hold on to the goodness in humanity for ourselves and our children, and it starts with the Will to Work. The Will to do something purposeful and good.
When our daughter picked that snap pea that she had planted, watered, and watched grow, she ate it and proclaimed, “it is so good!”, and it is.
– Ona Wetherall
Early Childhood Section Leader
Alumni Spotlight Iona Bruckner ‘99, By Sarah Courtney Tudor ‘98
Iona attended KWS from early childhood and graduated in the class of 1999. Always the artist, she was seen frequently with charcoal smudges on her fingers and her trademark paint brush or pointed sticks tying up her white-blond hair. “Free spirit” may have been a familiar descriptor, but she surprised many of her peers when she revealed her incredible focus and passion for the more buttoned-up title of “Architect” for her career.
I had the privilege of attending high school and college with Iona where I saw her throw herself wholly into her passions. She was the first person that came to mind when I thought of doing an alumni spotlight for this month.
Here’s a brief recap of what Iona’s been up to since KWS. She graduated with a B.A. in Architecture from Bennington and went on to receive her Masters of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. She then spent 2 and a half years as an Architecture Intern at the Philadelphia firm Re:Vision. From there, she went on to teach at Philadelphia University as an Adjunct Professor of Architecture, focusing on Sustainable Technologies in Architecture.
Iona’s first big project was a dream job for her. She had always loved art spaces, having spent so much time at Bennington’s award-winning art space, VAPA (for Visual and Performing Arts) as a college student. She jumped at the chance to work at a new Performing Arts school with a big International Firm in Houston. The final project was 5 stories tall and a full city block in size, housing music, creative writing, and visual and performing arts.
Projects these days are a bit more intimate for Iona. She is a busy mom of 2 young boys and she focuses her efforts on a small boutique firm of about 20-30 architects. She is still drawn to designing schools, theaters, art facilities, and churches. Her current project is a 3-story facility of studios with ceramics and digital arts.
Iona is known for her concept sketches that resolve complex problems in unique ways. She attributes much of this out-of-the-box thinking to her time at Kimberton. “As Waldorf students, we were very used to considering the big picture, and, in many ways, Architecture is the ideal pursuit for a Waldorf student. You are quite adept at pre-visualizing solutions where nothing has existed before.”
For example, on a recent project, she was presented with only a site map. The main feature of the landscape was a hill. In this case, she had to pre-visualize which direction the building would face. Of all submissions, her model was chosen because of how the building interacts with the landscape. This is something 12th-grade classes consider in-depth during their History through Architecture block and on their trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater.”
When asked about what she appreciates most when looking back at her school experience at KWS, Iona remarks how lucky we were to learn and exist in beautifully thought-out spaces where the human experience was considered and we could be surrounded by art and beauty. She also values the big picture and interdisciplinary approaches to learning. It’s no surprise that Iona often looks at larger social issues in her work through the lens of her art form. As a Community Designer, Iona facilitated discussions on Design Justice through Community Engagement and Social Justice through Community Design. She continues to look at her work from all angles and will be forever inspired by how people live, work, and interact with the spaces she designs.
Producer, songwriter, manager, entrepreneur, and self-proclaimed “Waldorf lifer” Jeremy Skaller ’90 (TWS) sat down with John Graham ’97 (KWS Alumni Association) for a conversation about artistic decisions, meaningful musical experiences, and why failing uphill is the only way to live. A piano player turned Producer, Skaller started his songwriting career as a founding member of several bands. Later, he became a successful entrepreneur in the music industry as a co-founder of Orange Factory Music (OFM), the production team that brought Cash Money Records and Cultural Icon, the artist Jay Sean to the forefront of the global musical stage. OFM has also produced, remixed and/or written for many artists including Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Yoko Ono, and Fabulous. To date, as a Publisher, Producer, Manager, Writer and Label owner, Jeremy via his companies The Heavy Group and Orange Factory Music, has sold over 75 million records worldwide.
In the mid-’70s to early ’80s Skaller attended Kimberton Waldorf School and then also attended Waldorf schools in Germany, Scotland, and Canada where he graduate from the Toronto Waldorf School in 1990. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
Your career has so many layers, so many stages, it’s as if you’ve already lived multiple career lifetimes. How and when did you get a big break?
You know it’s funny, it’s kind of the opposite. I never got a big break really, it was always more about failing and learning from each failure. I like the idea of “failing uphill” because I think that accurately describes my life and career. Each loss only fueled me with the energy to continue walking upwards, or taught me a valuable lesson, not to be repeated (hopefully)… in that way, each failed moment has moved me “Uphill.”
I will say that working really hard allowed me to be in the right place at the right time. I remember having the opportunity to work with Yoko Ono in the early 2000s, and of course, she was such a legend, it was extremely intimidating to be working with her. But at the same time, I learned from that experience that I have something to offer that even legends need; I found my place. But I also learned a lot from the experience of being completely dirt poor in New York City, and having to choose whether to buy a bagel and walk to the studio or forego breakfast to instead buy a bus ticket across town. It was either/or in those days and there was no external pressure, it was just me against the city. I had to put pressure on myself to get better and be better. I had very supportive parents of course as well, and they probably wouldn’t have let me starve…but I never REALLY told them how dire it got at times.
But success did come, and you have the resume to show for it! Tell me how you look at success.
You know, I’ve worked with big artists, and I’ve helped them be “commercially” successful for sure. But success for me is about being creative and helping other people be creative. It’s about making a difference through creative-to-creative empathy. Let me give you an example. When I was shopping for Jay Sean, an Indian singer from England, all the major US labels could not or would not commit to the idea of an Asian Popstar. It was too unknown, too risky (in their estimation). He didn’t fit the profile of what they thought could work in America. But together, along with him, we pushed harder because we knew deeply that the stereotypes and racial biases. in the Music Industry needed to be challenged, and now was the time. There had to be some representation and Jay was the one to start it. We finally found the right Label for Jay Sean (Cash Money/Republic Records), and he blew up because of talent, determination, and lots up Failing uphill moments…just because the industry wasn’t ready, doesn’t mean that the market wasn’t! There are always ground-breaking artists, and Jay Sean is one of them. Jay is the first South Asian (or Asian of any kind) to have a #1 Billboard single in America.
Tell me about your own journey into music as a child.
My father is a piano player, and I started playing at a young age. I was pretty serious about it for a while. I also had incredible musical experiences at Kimberton, from Kimberton onwards. My class teacher Gerry LeDolce challenged me to expand my comfort zone, so instead of just playing the usual Recorder, I played piccolo and then Alto, and finally the Bass recorder with the class. He intuitively knew that he needed to push me or I would have been bored. His insight is not lost on me 40 years later. Mrs. Karp was the orchestra teacher, and she was just amazing. I have so many memories of her. One of the most impactful was when I was supposed to play the song “Wish upon a star” on the piano for class recitals. I wanted to jazz it up of course… I was always pushing. But instead of any of the other responses that many teachers might have given, I remember Mrs. Karp just being joyful at my desire to be a little disruptive and hence, creative. “Do it differently,” she told me, “I’ll support you.” It’s those kinds of early support moments that give Creatives like me the confidence to do what I do now. I felt completely safe exploring my creativity. She also told me at one point, you’re not a French Horn player, you need a Trumpet in your hands. And she was right! She knew music, and she knew her students.
I also had incredible music teachers at Kimberton that encouraged creativity! How about musical experiences in your later years?
There were so many. But a couple of teachers really stand out. In Toronto, David Willkenson was my homeroom teacher and he didn’t just encourage me to learn guitar, he wanted to jam with me. I think that was the first time I started to see myself as an artist, not just a player. That level of support absolutely helped me feel safe to start writing songs, which in turn led to me starting some bands (most of which didn’t do much) and then finally having an actual career with my band Belizbeha. (We toured for years sometimes doing upwards of 150 shows per year for many years in a row!) Also, my choir teacher in Toronto, Dorothy Haller is just a phenomenal musician. I mean really world-class. Instead of letting me sing in the bass section (which is where I wanted to be), she put me in the tenor section where I really had to learn to use my upper range. This was another “failing uphill” moment because I was pretty terrible as a tenor at first, But that switch forced me to develop a muscle that I would not have otherwise developed. Mrs. Haller also knew, long before many others that my talk about becoming a Lawyer was nonsense. She knew, even before I did, what journey I was about to embark on.
What else in your Waldorf experience informs your decision-making today as a music industry insider?
I am a Waldorf lifer. I attended Waldorf schools all around the world, finally graduating from The Toronto Waldorf School. My parents were quite engaged with Anthroposophy, so I also experienced something of an immersive home life in that world.
An important idea (certainly not an original one) that I often share, is that ”Art informs Art.” By that, I mean that our experiences with other art, informs and amplifies the creativity in our own sphere. At Kimberton, like all Steiner schools, we had these sorts of artistic experiences on a daily basis. Painting, Handwork, Sculpture… etc. All of these artistic pathways served to inform me of where my music would eventually end up taking me. They also allow you to see things from different angles and perspectives. For example, I find that I am well informed when talking about visuals (music videos or photo shoots) because I understand color and composition. It’s just inside me now. It’s that cumulative exposure to all of these arts as a child that gives me a level of comfort across so many mediums.
Recently, there was a memorial zoom-gathering for Helge Rudolf, one of the founders of the Toronto Waldorf School, and almost everyone who attended brought a piece of handwork that they had created with her. I was so moved by this. The arts have a legitimate and positive physiological effect on us, that in my case they have helped me to remain healthy, mindful, and constantly evolving as a musician and as a result, also as a person.
by Ona Wetherall
Our youngest students’ curriculum is designed to support children’s instincts to be active and social while supporting foundational sensory development of balance (vestibular), touch, movement (proprioception), and well-being in a rhythmical, self-directed, nature-based, holistic learning environment.
In an organic and unique expansion of our Kindergarten programming, we are excited to be revisioning and expanding our forest experience for all our Kindergarten students next year. Erin Byrne, who has been working in our Kindergarten and has many years of Waldorf experience and knowledge, will be attending The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers this summer and will be our Forest Program teacher! We have designed our Forest Program in a way so that every kindergartener gets to experience and enjoy our beautiful campus and forest which supports our students’ development in so many ways, bolsters stewardship of the earth, and brings our students in direct connection to the rhythm of nature which is also an important part of the foundation of our pedagogy. Kindergarteners from each class will come together to form a forest group for 2-week blocks at a time and in this way, every kindergartener will have a forest immersion experience at least 3 times a year and get to fully experience every season during the school year. In addition to updating our forest facilities, which include a yurt, our Forest Program will have its own space on the main campus which is being renovated this summer. This space will also serve to support after-school and summer programming as well.
Growth, movement, and working together to meet education and our students in intentional, progressive, and relevant ways; this is KWS!
by Esther Walsh
In many ways, music weaves through the daily lives of each and every student at Kimberton Waldorf School. Not only do the students create music in their music classes and ensembles, but they sing and play music daily during their Main Lessons, in their class plays, in special subject classes such as Spanish and German, and during school festivals. Music is an essential, dynamic frequency that uplifts and enlivens the spirit of the school. What sets Waldorf schools apart, is the use of music during the day and the belief regarding the special influence of music on each child’s physical body, feelings, cognitive processes, social interactions, and inner development.
Rudolf Steiner described the human being as a musical being. He also suggested that creating music is essential in experiencing what it is to be fully human. The Waldorf music curriculum follows specific stages of child development. The aim is not simply to teach children to sing and play music, but actually, awaken qualities of the soul at each developmental phase. What is done in each grade builds upon the work of the previous year, deepening and broadening the skills and experiences already acquired. In the teaching of music, as in all Waldorf pedagogy, there is an awareness of the importance of bringing the right thing at the right time.
For example, if we look at the development of music composition through the grades, the reader will get a picture of how we build composing skills through the years. We could apply this to instrumental music and singing as well.
In first grade, the students move, sing, and listen to many songs that have free rhythms and moods of the fifth and pentatonic scales. They are given simple chimes, bells, lyres, and flutes to play. As we sing simple songs, they improvise and create harmonious sounds that blend nicely with the songs and images that I bring them. Although they do not write music yet, they are listening and creating sounds that fit together nicely.
In second grade we continue to work on their instrumental and singing skills. I introduce a simple colored dot and slash system. The students write their own simple melodies for their pentatonic flutes and lyres using this system.
In third grade, the students learn musical notation. The students transition from playing songs using the pentatonic scales to the C diatonic scales. We still color code the notes. Again, the third graders create simple melodies for their C flutes, the 12-stringed lyres, xylophones, and bells.
In fourth grade the students jump into the world of music notation, theoretical rules, rhythms, and they start playing a stringed instrument; violin, viola, cello, and bass. The knowledge learned during this year will enable the students in fifth and sixth grades to write nicely formed small pieces.
In seventh and eighth grades, we look more closely at rhythms, harmonies, themes, and the blues scale. Students continue to work in smaller groups with various instruments creating original works. Amazingly, most students will get to play at the very least ten different instruments from 1st-8th grades.
By High School, many students have the capacity to write their own compositions, especially if they choose to take our electronic music class. We have had students write ragtime melodies, string quartets, vocal songs accompanied by guitar or ukulele, instrumental solo works, orchestral pieces, and electronic-sounding music. The goal is to have our students gain the music skills needed to be creative and independent musicians at all levels. They achieve an aesthetic awareness of beauty, expression, and confidence to bring music forth and share it with the world.
Kimberton Waldorf School is fortunate to have an experienced and talented music faculty. The teachers are passionate about music and strive to bring meaningful musical experiences to our students. A Cooperative work model, allows the students to experience, first-hand collaboration at a high professional level.
Our Music Department Faculty is:
Esther Walsh is Kimberton Waldorf School’s Music Director. She has been a Music Teacher at KWS since 1998. She helped develop KWS’s current music curriculum. Esther teaches general music classes, all choirs, group lessons, private lessons, and orchestras, and conducts many performances. She is an alumnus of KWS and has two children currently attending KWS.
Mike Ruhl is a classically trained pianist and accomplished performer. He accompanies many of the ensembles in the music program. Mib Campbell, Hsiao Ming Chen, and Mike Ruhl also accompany the Eurythmy classes.
Hsiao-Ming Chen is a professional cellist. She teaches group lessons, private lessons, and orchestras. Her son graduated from KWS last year.
Ryan Leaver plays many different instruments professionally. He teaches group lessons, private lessons, orchestras, and electronic music classes.
John Sergovic is a professional violinist. He helps with our orchestras and teaches private and group lessons.
Dan Smith is an accomplished guitarist. He teaches HS guitar. Dan also teaches sciences and math in the HS. He has two children who currently attend KWS.
Susan Schwaneflugel is an accomplished vocalist. She teaches 11th-grade History through Music Main Lesson. She also teaches German, handwork, and games classes. Her two children have graduated from KWS.
“Music gives a soul to the universe,
wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”
by Annaleena Hoffmann
Handwork lessons are one of Kimberton Waldorf School’s distinctive curriculum features. The creative design of workpieces has always been seen as constitutive, even when the first Waldorf School was established. Handwork teachers are chosen with this foundation in mind; they should be artists and educators in the growth of manual dexterity and aesthetic expression. Handwork lessons teach not only the development of fine motor skills, concentration, and willpower – all of which are important and desirable side effects of learning– but also teach the children the joys of creating projects for themselves and having an aesthetic experience with handwork.
During the first 9 years of school, the children sew, embroider, knit, crochet, braid, knot, wash and comb raw wool, spin it into yarn, dye wool, weave, and dye, process leather, knit socks and hats, and much more. Handwork classes allow for internal differentiation, making it simple to modify the criteria for different activities so that any child may participate and be encouraged in their growth. At first, the children are unaware of how instructive the handwork sessions are in terms of aesthetics and sensory experience. However, they quickly realize that they accomplish things in class that they can utilize. “What do you want to make, and what do you need?” I ask the students, and this is how flute cases, shoulder bags, hats, socks, Eurythmy slipper nets, hand puppets, and a variety of other items are made. It is because of this creative nature that children like handwork classes.
The students are empowered in their creations and have the ability to then pass those creations on as gifts to their family members and friends–or keep them for themselves as tokens of their creative and manual capabilities. Hand-knitted or crocheted hats are worn proudly throughout the year and frequently not taken off even in the warm weather! Relatives and friends compliment the students on the visible proof of what they’ve learned and worked for. In the end, everyone holds their final piece in their hands, which was created in a variety of artistic processes. In handwork, children learn to persevere, appreciate the process, learn how art and function can coexist, and gain confidence in themselves through a sense of accomplishment. This not only supports and enriches their entire educational experience but offers them capacities they will utilize for a lifetime.
by: Molly Brett
In Waldorf Early Childhood education, we work to foster and strengthen the young child’s imagination. We do this by focusing on many different aspects of life that support the child’s growing creative forces. Our classrooms are designed to be warm, inviting, and inspiring for the children in our care while intentionally making available simple, natural, and open-ended items that can be utilized in many ways. Our songs and stories use rich vocabulary to stimulate and encourage language development as well as, the ability to create whimsical, internal imagery. Our arts and crafts help to develop the children’s motor skills, self-esteem, and sense of beauty—enlivening both their inner and outer worlds. An artistic practice that is unique to Waldorf education is wet-on-wet watercolor painting. Today we will delve deeper into this artistic practice by looking at what it is, why it is a part of our curriculum, and how this activity builds on itself throughout the years.
Wet-on-wet watercolor painting creates a fluid and dreamy artistic experience for the young child. The colors move, change, and possibly mix creating an ever-changing landscape of emotive color. In Waldorf Early Childhood education our goal is for the young child to encounter the variations of shade, tone, and even mood of all the colors of the rainbow. We start slowly with one color at a time. Beginning in the fall we will paint with yellow mirroring the golden rod we see growing in the fields and then in a few weeks when the apples are ripe and ready to be harvested, we will transition to the color red. We will be singing songs about juicy apples, making apple sauce, and experiencing the gesture of the color of the season thru our wet-on-wet watercolor painting. As the seasons change so does the color. Once the trees are bare, the temperature has dropped, and we are anticipating “King Winter’s” arrival and his bearing of the first snow we transition into the blue of winter. The contrast between the Red of Fall and the Blue of winter is soul-felt throughout our weekly painting time. These gestures are never spoken to but simply experienced as we glide our brushes over our paper. Eventually, the colors begin to “play” with one another, and the children begin a quiet exploration of the secondary colors and how they arise.
The painting sessions in Waldorf Early Childhood are process-oriented and led thru imitation by the teacher. There is little to no talking once the painting has begun. The teacher quietly illustrates the process: sponge dry the wet paper, “dip, dip” the brush in the color, “drip, drip” the brush on the side of the container, and allow the brush to glide across the paper from left to right our eyes following the brush just like when we read. We are not focused on an end product while painting. The nurturing of the senses and the therapeutic gesture of the activity is what we strive to create space for in our weekly painting rhythm.
Not only do our weekly painting sessions create a space for experiencing the gesture of color but they are also a time to develop healthy habits that will carry into grade school when wet-on-wet watercolor becomes more complex. Learning to respect and care for the watercolor materials is woven into our painting time. In my class, a story is shared to invoke the child’s imagination in this process and to develop imagery for the processes of painting. It is because of the intention of creating this form that the space for a quiet and meditative experience becomes available. Hopefully, the skill of learning how to quiet the mind and oneself lives on within the child for years to come.
For young children, the gift of time and space for play and the creative process is foundational for the growth of imagination, the strengthening of originative forces, and the experience of the fluidity of thought. Wet-on-wet watercolor painting embodies these concepts thru a physical and concrete exercise of exploration by a participatory process. This ethereal experience of color deepens the child’s connection to the seasons thru color and offers an inner experience which develops the feeling forces within, all the while honoring where the child is developmentally. When we honor and teach towards the malleability of the young child’s mind, we strengthen the imagination, and just like the malleability of color the birth of the heart forces and critical thinking arise in due time. Like the birth of spring, in the early childhood classroom, when suddenly the yellow of the golden sun meets the blue of the sky making way for the lushness of green on our paper, suddenly the magic of growth and creation is reflected back to us right before our eyes.
Our community knows that the Kimberton Waldorf School campus is a beautiful, tree-filled place, but do we really know the extent of the arboreal diversity on campus? Well now we have a pretty good idea!
The 11th grade in their main lesson time with Mr. Strevig worked to inventory and map the great variety of tree species on campus. The class identified and located on an updated campus map the location and names of at least 49 unique species of trees and shrubs on our campus. The list includes common native shrubs and trees, as well as fairly unique ornamental and imported tree species.
The students also recounted stories of their favorite trees and submitted photos of their favorites for the map. The list and map will continue to grow and evolve, as already several new native species have recently been planted in the riparian area next to Kindergarten Creek and near the track.
In the coming years, classes will work at inventorying and identifying exceptionally large trees in the wilder portions of campus. By measuring the circumference of the trees, we can find a good estimate of the age of known species. As we learn more about the individual trees and water resources on campus, we can come to a deeper understanding of the history of our campus as well as the overall health of the forest and creeks that we love so much.
The positive identification of so many trees would not have been possible without the help of our resident tree experts Celia Martin and Mike Ruhl.
When was the last time you baked bread? If you were a Preschool child at Kimberton Waldorf School, you would quickly respond: Last Wednesday!
Weekly bread day is exemplary of the independent private school’s mission to teach students, from Preschool through 12th grade, to be creative and critical thinkers and unfold their unique capacities to meet the world with confidence. “This education can begin as early as infancy, with parents who seek an intentional, holistic, and progressive education for their child and community for their family,” said Ona Wetherall, Rosebud Cottage Pre-Kindergarten lead teacher and co-administrator. “In a home away from home setting, the two-, three-, and four-year-olds feel secure, and learn in a cooperative social environment that nourishes their senses, builds self-esteem, and lays a foundation for a lifetime of learning and success. The children participate in their day together, following a rhythm they can expect and rely on, spending lots of time outside every day, and flowing naturally from child-led activities of play and teacher-led activities like circle, story, and eating. They help make their snacks and lunch, fold laundry, and help sweep with little brooms and dustpans. This stage is the beginning of their journey to become self directed, conscious, and compassionate human beings.”
The “how” of things is a critical part to a Waldorf student’s 10th grade year. How does the past influence the present in writing, in history? How does ancient history reflect in modern history? Physics class has them examining how force, motion, and gravity work. Waldorf education brings this question of how out of the classroom and into the world with practicums. A practicum is an experience that requires the practical application of theory or conceptual knowledge. These experiences allow students to explore in new ways and see how their learning relates to real life.
Our 10th grade students have the opportunity to participate in an Artisan Practicum. “Traditionally, that has meant shadowing an artisan to learn how something can be created and brought to market. it is becoming more and more difficult to find artisans able to take in students, we have also placed interested students in small businesses, which will dovetail beautifully with the Entrepreneurship block they will begin after spring break.” explains Elisabeth Burgess, German and ESL Teacher & Exchange Coordinator.
We are so appreciative of the businesses who have hosted our students this year:
Bridge Street Chocolates
Birchrun Hill Farm, Cheese Making
Corkum Tree Farm
Realty One Group
Honey Flour Bake Shop
Practicums are one more way that Kimberton Waldorf School helps students acquire skills for a lifetime of learning. Read more about our all school learning goals here: All School Learning Goals – Kimberton Waldorf School
I recently caught up with my classmate Tobias Policha (class of 1997), who shared some reflections on how his education at Kimberton has influenced his life. John Graham, for the Alumni Association
John Graham: Tobias, you’ve led a fascinating life since our time as students at Kimberton. Where to begin? You’re working as an educator of botany and ecological science, can you tell me about that?
Tobias Policha: Well, after finishing my PhD research on orchid pollination in Ecuador, I began teaching here at the University of Oregon several years ago and I’m still here! I’ve just been promoted, and this coming year looks to be my most busy because a number of courses that I proposed to teach were accepted, so now I actually have to do the hard work to create them! But I love the process, I find it is one of the most creative things I do, putting together all of the course material in ways that are engaging and educational even for non-biology majors.
J.G.: What courses do you teach, and who are your students?
T.P.: I teach everyone! I have large undergraduate general education courses, I teach in the general biology series, upper division majors courses, graduate courses. Here are some of the names of the courses: Introduction to Ecology; Systematic Botany, Neotropical Ecology, Field Botany, and Plants and Society.
J.G.: Fascinating, I would love to take some of these courses. You are also an avid promoter and educator in community gardening. Do you still offer public workshops or engage with communities outside of your busy university commitments?
T.P.: Well the pandemic has thrown a wrench in everything, right? But yes, I still help organize the local Wildflower Festival at the local arboretum. I have taught several botany workshops for them too. I give presentations to whoever wants them, natural history societies, science pubs…. I volunteer at my local natural area, ecological restoration, that kind of thing.
J.G.: You published an incredible book, Las Plantas de Mindo: A guide to the cloud forest of the Andean Choco. Are you still involved with Ecuador?
T.P.: As a matter of fact, I am planning a study abroad program for students to Ecuador to study biodiversity and tropical ecology. I was also part of a team that won a grant from National Geographic a couple of years ago to do a biological diversity study in Reserva Los Cedros because the area was being illegally targeted by the Canadian mining company Cornerstone Resources. Our findings were so incontrovertible that it turned into several lawsuits. They worked their way up through the appellate courts and last year I had to dust off my Spanish language skills to testify as an expert witness in front of the Ecuadorian Supreme Court on the case. We actually just heard that we won, which is kind of unbelievable considering the various power players involved.
J.G.: That is incredible! After high school you were a serious environmental activist. Now you’re a science professor and getting a new look at how to protect biodiversity in the face of destructive commercial forces. Did some of these impulses come from your education at Kimberton?
T.P.: Ha! Well if you remember, I was some kind of rebel in high school. We had a whole culture of questioning authority, which in those days was misdirected at our faculty, but in truth was all about developing critical thinking skills and the capacity to question and observe reality. I credit my friends for supporting me in those years, but I also credit Waldorf pedagogy and the courses that we took in literature with Susan Neumann and Mary Echlin and Tom Dews for forcing us to question and think about deeper social questions.
J.G.: What else reminds you of your Waldorf education?
T.P.: I’ll tell you something from yesterday. We were taking our four year old son on a hike, which turned into a really long five-hour hike around a lake. Of course this was an epic voyage for our little guy, but he did it! The motivating factor for him were stories. I realized that if he was listening and engaged in a story, then he could walk all day, so I started telling stories. At first I wondered if I knew enough stories. But then I just started doing the same thing that I do in the classroom, which is describing plants and their relationships to their environments. Of course I made it more accessible for a pre-schooler, but essentially I was describing the environment that we were walking through, embellishing a little here and there with cameo appearances from mice or salamanders or ants. You know as well as I do that in Waldorf school, we were constantly learning through stories. It’s a way of seeing the world. It’s what I do now full time in my professional life, and yesterday I realized, it is also a big part of the way that I relate to my son and his expanding world.
Tobias Policha is a senior instructor in the biology department of the University of Oregon, teaching plant science, ecology, and environmental sustainability courses. He attended Kimberton Waldorf School from 1992-1996, ultimately graduating from the Toronto Waldorf School.
Written by Sarah Tudor
The Kimberton Community knew the late Rev. Charles Rice in his capacity as an enthusiastic KWS Parent, as a supportive Father to Roby and Martin, as the dedicated husband of beloved High School Faculty Member Tonya Rice, as an active volunteer, and as a powerful and dynamic speaker at events like the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Assembly. A charismatic presence in any room, Charles was known above all as an encourager—his great passion and warmth were larger than life, still shining brightly today in the many lives he touched. “Everything he did was out of love,” Tonya shared with me recently.
Charles went by many names, colleague, teacher, pastor, mentor, friend, and advocate. He had a rich history of positive public impact. He went to New York City public schools and is a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He received a Master of Divinity degree in Historical Theology from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School at Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, N.Y., and did his doctoral studies at Syracuse University. Charles worked tirelessly as the chaplain as well as an assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. Charles left a path of love and dedication as he held ministerial and teaching positions at Colgate University and Suffolk University. He also served as interim pastor at the Memorial Congregational Church in North Quincy, Mass., as well as pastor of the United Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Mass. He served on the National Council on Adoptable Children and the National Photo Listing of Children Waiting for Adoption. In addition, he worked with 100 Concerned Black Men as well as the Children’s Defense Funds’ Good Schools Initiative. Charles was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Wissahickon Charter School in Philadelphia, the Charlestown Playschool and the Board of Directors of the Phoenixville Area Positive Alternatives Group in Phoenixville, Pa.
Many students and colleagues at Ursinus College, where he served as chaplain starting in 1997, credited him with helping them find their life path and with greatly impacting their spiritual development. Charles was a magnetizing force in both school communities. He was passionate about education, specifically Waldorf education and helping to make it more accessible. It was clear that Charles made the most of his bold and passionate life in a way that few dare.
“Like Socrates, he was a gadfly in the best sense of the word, always challenging Ursinus to be its best morally, and always challenging students to be their best selves – intellectually rigorous, honest, and kind,” said Christian Rice, no relation, a former student who is now on the faculty.
The Charles Rice Fund
In response to the sudden loss of Revered Charles Rice in April of 2017, KWS established the Revered Charles William Rice Scholarship for diversity in his memory. The Scholarship, a needs-based fund to foster diversity, was established in May of 2017. During the live auction portion of the May event, attendees were given the opportunity to make a pledge and our caring community’s contributions that evening totaled $24,000. Since then, the scholarship has continued to be an important source of funding to further the cause of diversity at KWS.
“We continue to be moved by the generous support for the Rev. Charles Rice Scholarship,” says Editha Tendencia, Director of Development. “This fund continues to indicate what a positive impact Charles had on our community.”
“We have something special at KWS and this was yet another reminder of the incredibly supportive community which encircles our students and enriches all of our lives,” said Bill Wiedmann, a father of four children who attend KWS in addition to being the chair of the Board of Trustees at KWS.
If you would like more information or to make a contribution to this scholarship, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Fellow Alumni,
Our beloved Kimberton (Farms) Waldorf School turns 80 years old this year. This gift to the world—so generously given by Mabel & Alarik Myrin—still shines with joy next to the twinkling waters of French Creek. In all the eras and phases it has gone through over its 80 year history, the school always strives to be a place that honors and cherishes each child who calls KWS/KFS their school.
The importance of Kimberton goes beyond its students. It extends to the lives of parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends. When one pauses to think of this enormous circle of influence gathered over its 8 decades, the legacy of KWS/KFS is truly inspiring.
With each graduating class, the ranks of alumni swell. We turn to you, the great legacy of KWS/KFS, with an earnest wish. Please look back with gratitude for all that you have been given. Please look forward with hope for all that can be. Please give generously to this magnificent institution so that with each passing year, our dear school can shine even more brightly. The power of your gift could find no better way to help support the realization of what we want the world to become.
Alicia (Warner) & Christopher DeMont (class of 1993)
By the time the first Waldorf school opened its doors in September 1919 in Stuttgart Germany, Eurythmy was 7 years old; old enough to go to school! Leading up to this auspicious moment, Rudolf Steiner offered a Eurythmy performance a few months prior; a performance attended by the teaching staff, the staff of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Factory* whose children would now make up the core of the student body plus other invited friends and guests. He gave an introduction to this new art form and spoke of the clear purpose for Eurythmy to be taught as a core subject from early childhood through to graduation.
It is a formidable task to describe the significance and purpose of Eurythmy in our education in one short article, so I will merely render some ‘brush strokes’ as it were, and hope interest is sparked!
Eurythmy, as an art form in which speech and music are made visible, fully integrates the body, soul and spirit. Willing, feeling and thinking are in constant, harmonious engagement. The Waldorf curriculum, grounded as it is in the knowledge and understanding of the development of the child, details the steps from the earliest beginnings in Rosebud to graduation from 12th grade. This curriculum forms the basis for the Eurythmy curriculum, and the Eurythmy teacher works in concert with colleagues to achieve that end.
For the youngest, the once weekly ‘visit’ of the Eurythmy teacher is a special occasion, as this is the only ‘outside’ teacher that comes into their classroom! A short but highly ‘potentized’ experience is offered in which beautifully, artistically detailed movement using seasonal themes, allows these little children of unbridled movement to hop with joy like the bouncy rabbit; to fly with wings outstretched to the tippy top of the tall tree; to clip-clop like the proud pony across the field to greener grass, or yet to crawl into a soft snug nest to sleep for the winter. Hands and feet are joyously engaged as the powers of imagination are invited into this magical yet relatable world.
In 1st grade, imitation is still relevant but will begin to be replaced by a capacity to ‘dream about,’ inwardly starting to visualize. The pictures must be rich and are drawn from the world of the fairy tales. Each lesson is filled with movement that requires feet to be agile like the nimble deer; firm steps for the child who must go in search of healing water; fingers to show a snail coming out of its shell; or arms stretching out like the glorious rays of the sun. A spear narrow bridge must be bravely walked across, eyes looking straight ahead; the twisting winding river followed to its source! This ‘underscoring’ of the script of our language will be supported and given a wholesome place in the active expression of the child through moving these archetypal form elements: the straight line and the curve. Unbeknownst to these young enthusiasts, the first rudiments of music theory find their expression in the happy stepping of the feet to pulse beat or rhythms, or the rise and fall of a melody allowing the arms to reach up high for those high notes and descend as they tumble downwards.
So, with each step of the way from grade to higher grade the necessary building blocks are used. An amazingly rich curriculum is provided in which the growing, developing child is receiving in the Eurythmy class what allows for an integration of the 3 hallmarks of Waldorf Education: Thinking, feeling, willing- head, heart and hand. The developmental milestones are always the key guidelines for what needs to be worked on as in the example of 1) the ’9-year change’ in which the child experiences a separation of self from the group, from the ‘oneness’ so beautifully represented by the circle. Through an exploration of poetry and music in which polarity of movement is deliberately emphasized, the child is recognized and supported through this necessary developmental stage; 2) In 6th grade, when the natural harmony of the 5th grade year lies far behind, a change has manifested in growth and physical development as well as in the cognitive realm. This calls for a new focus in the Eurythmy class! Geometry is taken up very rigorously by the class teacher and finds full support in the exploration of challenging geometric forms and principles which demand precision, control and collaboration and focus.; 3) In the 9th grade we can observe a tension between the further unfolding of puberty and their studies that now lead more towards abstract thinking. Polarities in the sciences, humanities and arts can be supported again in the Eurythmy class by movement elements that emphasize these differences and require the students to be keen observers in the process.
Accompanied through the years, the child is developing stronger self- awareness while constantly assisted in building greater social awareness and a sense for the rightful place in the circle of activity, the circle of community of life. Ultimately by 12th grade, the last pieces of the puzzle of this curriculum are fitted into their remaining places in this process of ‘synthesizing’ and the students can now look back at and recognize why they did what they did and when!
As I conclude, I need to still briefly address the importance of the Music curriculum in relationship to that of the Eurythmy curriculum. It is critical that a musician is a part of each Eurythmy class in which not one, but two subjects are taught: visible speech, visible music. The accompanist is far more than what that title suggests! This individual has to be involved in the creative process of the shaping of the lesson through intentional collaboration with the Eurythmy teacher. This dialogue is of incredible mutual benefit and the children have the gift of live music which can best represent the foundational elements of music. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the listening component is vital, is essential and is only really allowed to develop when the music is provided in the moment by the nuanced and sensitive hands of the musician. The music tells us all we need to know, but we must listen to it with keen ears and hear into it through repetition and growing discernment.
*Further reading on Dr. Emil Molt and the path that led to his founding of the first Waldorf School at Stuttgart in 1919.
Kayla Hirschfield, 11th Grader
Written by Alicia (Warner) DeMont
Last year, current KWS junior Kayla Hirschfield (class of 2023) was nominated by her rabbi to participate in an anti-racist program through The Chester County Religious Action Center. The focus of the program is on racial equality and social justice issues. Upon the completion of the course, participants are asked to undertake a capstone project. As her capstone experience, Kayla decided to build a website that features a list of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) owned businesses in Chester County. She built “the website to encourage the community to support BIPOC owned businesses as well as for people who already want to support such businesses, but don’t know where to start.”
Through a KWS class on business entrepreneurship and her own experiences, Kayla came to realize just how foundational locally owned businesses are to the overall health of a community. She also knows that BIPOC owned businesses face unique challenges. “Dealing with obstacles like racial discrimination and systemic racism, it has always been harder for BIPOC to move forward with their businesses. BIPOC owned businesses face injustice socially, economically, and systemically whether it be from banks, customers, social problems, etc. While white owned businesses face some of the same hardships that BIPOC businesses face, they never have to deal with the struggle of race. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it’s gotten more difficult for all businesses to stay afloat. We see more BIPOC owned businesses shutting down significantly more than their white owned counterparts as they are the most affected group in business.”
In thinking of ways to connect to and give voice to BIPOC owned businesses in Chester County, Kayla contacted BIPOC business owners and invited them to be listed on her website. Seven businesses are listed on her website – ranging from restaurants, a toy collection store to an organization called Diaspora Community, which is a web-based community aimed at guiding African businesses in Diaspora seeking to do business in Africa.
On August 29, 2021, Kayla launched her website on zoom. She invited the KWS and wider communities to attend. It was a successful launch with more than 20 people in attendance. During the launch party, not only were the business owners recognized and celebrated for their entrepreneurship, but they also had the chance to discuss issues of systemic racism, especially in light of business ownership.
“I care about racial injustice because this issue still greatly affects people of color, and I feel that if I can do something about it, even in a small way, it can make a difference. Systemic racism affects businesses owned by people of color, and if we can support those businesses, we could be a step closer to making that difference. I know that KWS is committed to being an anti-racist community and I’m hoping that students, faculty, [alumni] and parents will see the importance of such initiative.”
KWS/KFS alumni are encouraged to support Kayla in her work to promote BIPOC businesses. She “would appreciate any referrals of eligible businesses in Chester County that might be interested in being included in the website. This would be a great way to participate and potentially make a difference for a local entrepreneur.”
Camp will run 8 weeks from June 20th – August 12th from 8am – 4pm.
Cost is $400 per week with a discount price of $2550 for all 8 weeks.
Campers are responsible for their own morning snack and lunch as well. We provide a tasty organic snack in the afternoons.
Currently enrolled KWS families, please contact email@example.com for special pricing.
What does it mean to be part of a community?
My family joined the Kimberton Waldorf School community in 2008 when my oldest son began first grade with Sally Boyd as his class teacher. We knew we had found something special here that went beyond the amazing education our children were receiving. We became part of a group of parents representing a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences but united in our desire to provide our children with the intentional, nurturing Waldorf education that Kimberton provides. As new first grade parents, we not only had Mrs. Boyd’s wisdom to guide us but the knowledge of parents with older children who had been down this path already. There was also the feeling that we were all in this together and that by supporting each other as parents we were also providing a better environment for our children. Simple gestures such as offers to drive others’ children to parties ensured that the class maintained strong social bonds regardless of their parents’ availability for a weekend event. Happy events, such as the birth of a child, or sad events, such as the passing of a relative, invariably resulted in a meal train being organized to support the family during a challenging period. This is how community works – when someone needs support, those that are able provide it.
We have all faced challenges over the last year and a half and KWS is no different. When the pandemic hit in the Spring of 2020 the teachers and administration showed incredible resilience in transitioning quickly to remote learning. In planning for the following 2020-2021 school year the school made the decision to commit to our community. Hard work and creativity allowed for in-person classes and to accommodate as many people as possible the school offered a hybrid model that allowed some to teach and learn remotely. This required a significant investment in technology at a time when our revenue was down due to decreased enrollment. At the same time, we had several families economically impacted by the pandemic in need of extra support. The KWS community responded with extra giving to the school enabling the purchase of needed equipment and the retention of our families. I believe the impact of these critical funds and the goodwill they engendered can be seen in the increased enrollment this year. Before the pandemic hit the school was on a planned trajectory of increased enrollment. This year gets us back on track for that growth. This is the power of community.
My oldest son graduated from KWS in 2020 and is away at college. I have another son that will graduate from KWS this year as well as a daughter in tenth grade and another son in fifth grade. So, you can see that I still have plenty of years left as a KWS parent and have a vested interest in ensuring that this school and its community thrive. Time has made me one of the “experienced” Kimberton parents which is just to say that I know the ins and outs of events and festivals and the rhythms of life at KWS. The Annual Fund appeal is one of those rhythms that can be easy to tune out and assume someone else is taking care of it. After all, the school has been around for nearly 80 years so one can imagine it will always be here regardless of our support. My work on the KWS Board of Trustees over the last seven years has taught me the importance of the Annual Fund in balancing the school’s budget. Like most independent schools, tuition does not fully cover the cost of educating a student and charitable giving such as the Annual Fund bridges that gap. Last year, nearly half of our students received some form of financial assistance. This level of support would not be possible without the Annual Fund. Your contribution goes directly to preserving this incredible community that we all care about. It requires everyone to do their part to make a contribution that is meaningful for them. Please lend your support by contributing to the Annual Fund. Show the strength of the KWS community.
Board Chair and KWS Parent
Seventh grader Jamie DiGiacomo enjoys being outdoors, loves spending time with animals, and dreams someday being a zoologist. At age 7, she had the opportunity to experience archery for the first time at the Phoenixville YMCA. The coach for the class was a Paralympian and was very focused on safety and proper form. Right from day one, Jamie took very naturally to having a bow in her hand.
Age 7 First Archery Experience Hitting Gold
Each week, Jamie was the first to arrive and the last to leave. Eventually, she got her own equipment, and her commitment really took off. Her style of archery is known as barebow. This involves a simple bow, arrow and minimal number of things attached to the bow’s riser. Typically, it is the bow (string, riser, plunger, weight, and arrow rest) along with the arrows and the archer. That is it, no sight, no stabilizer, no other aiming aids. It is up to the archer to put it in the gold!
After the YMCA experience, Jamie joined a local JOAD club. JOAD is the Junior Olympic Archery Development program that helps archers work with coaches to advance their talents. The program offers pins for achieving score thresholds. At the club, archers get to experience indoor and outdoor formats. Indoor barebow archers shoot 40 cm target faces at 18 meters that have 1-10 points available. Outdoors, barebow archers shoot 120cm target faces and again have 1-10 points available. However, the distances change outdoors. Under the age of 14, archers will shoot 30 meters and all other archers will shoot 50 meters. JOAD also promotes local and national completions. At the national level, USA Archery hosts country-wide contest.
In additional to target outdoor and target indoor, there is an opportunity to shoot field tournaments. Field tournaments are a bit like golf in the woods shooting target faces worth points that will get totaled. Jamie probably enjoys field the most although they are not held as often as the indoor and outdoor target contests.
One of the largest and highest profile tournaments on the East Coast is the Lancaster Archery Classic held typically in January. At this tournament, over 2000 archers will compete in their respective classes (Olympic recurve, compound, barebow, traditional). Jamie shot her first classic in January 2019 and won her first major tournament in her barebow female bowman class!
To be successful at archery it takes dedication, a good attitude, knowledgeable coaching and of course the support of friends and family. Jamie has a very strong mental game as it is important to focus on form rather than hitting the gold (9s/10s). By concentrating on proper form, the higher scores will come. Fast forwarding to 2021, Jamie has had the opportunity to shoot with world and national record holders, US Archery Olympians, and World Champions. Here in Pennsylvania, we have a very active archery community, especially the barebow class.
Speaking of records, as of the time of this publication, Jamie currently holds 2 Lancaster Archery Classic first place finishes (2019, 2020), outdoor JOAD bronze, silver, and gold Olympian pins and 8 national barebow female records.
In closing, archery is an excellent sport for children to develop confidence, a calm mind, and get some exercise. With her continued dedication, training, and positive attitude, we, as her parents are very excited for her continued archery journey!
Kimberton Waldorf School’s robust gardening program weaves its way into the curriculum across the grades. From connecting seasons and subjects to providing food for our organic lunch program, gardening provides opportunities to educate the whole child.
The approach of Waldorf Education reflects the prevalent theme in childhood and adolescence of growing and learning through varying iterations of Form and Freedom. This is especially in the forefront of our Early Childhood programs. In these first few weeks of school we are very consciously building the form of our classes through acute observation of what the children bring to us in their freedom, both as individuals and as a group. This is how we meet the children and provide them with an education we bring through a form that can be met by them in their freedom.
Form and Freedom come in many different flavors. In our work with young children form also often means boundaries and those boundaries, however simple, are sometimes the most important as they are laying a foundation for a lifetime of learning and contribution to humanity and the world. These boundaries often come in the forms of living out truth, beauty, and goodness; we learn to be kind and have empathy, to have reverence and respect, and we learn how to be our very best selves. Healthy freedom comes within these boundaries in the forms of child led play with explorations in the social, emotional, and cognitive realms through imagination, intuition, inspiration.
What mighty and important work our youngest students are doing! We want to bring children into the world knowing and believing that anything is possible, to have an awe and wonder for life, and to trust in themselves. We foster this in part through our festival life which connects us to the natural world and it’s ever changing seasons and to representations of spiritual presence which helps, guides, and inspires us.
As we approach the Fall Equinox and the turning point between summer and winter, we celebrate the season of Michaelmas with the children. Michaelmas is a festival of courage that is celebrated in many Waldorf Schools at the end of September. At this time of year, daylight and darkness are very close to their exact balance point and Michaelmas, on September 29th, falls within the astrological sign of Libra, the Scales.
The Archangel Michael and the story of Saint George and the Dragon represents courage and strength – just what we and all children especially need at this time year as the days grow short and dark and the outer world is going to sleep and we need a connection to our and life’s inner fire and growth and strength to meet our own dragons. Michaelmas is a time of finding our courage and acting, it is a time for being thankful for the harvest bounty, and it is the season when we must strengthen ourselves and hold within us the light and warmth that was received during the summer months. Through-out history the Archangel Michael has been given a variety of attributes: hero of the sun, lord of the harvest, helper of human beings, protector of the globe, the ability to decide between good and evil, and to infuse humanity with the power to become effective in deeds. These are all wonderful attributes to embrace and hold for and with the children.
Wishing you all a beautiful and courageous season!
On behalf of the Early Childhood Section
Theresa Thornton, KWS Class of 1981
A self-described problem solver, with a very creative edge, Theresa Thornton, Kimberton Farms School Class of 1981 is a woman of many passions and our alumni feature this month. Theresa is the CEO of her own Caregiver Encouragement business, Miss Kitty’s Care, and the Co-Founder of the Black Light Projects (BLP) a non-profit organization based in Phoenixville, PA. She is a change maker in her community, and it’s evident she has a huge heart for people. On the day of our chat, she was helping a friend with a flooded basement, which was not surprising to me that she was busy lending a hand. You get the sense right away that Theresa is someone who shows up and who knows how to make a difference.
Black Light Projects
Theresa has a passion for storytelling in all its forms. BLP focuses their work on the documentation of African American history makers, specifically in the Phoenixville area. They use research, data, records and local resources like the Public Library and Historical Society, as well as first hand accounts to piece together these inspiring stories. Her organization, BLP has developed Black History Educational programs for area schools like Phoenixville Area High School and Valley Forge College. These programs ask the tough questions, like “what stories were people told that they harbor such hatred?” The ultimate dream is for this method to serve as a model to inspire other organizations to rise up and become the record keepers and storytellers of the vibrant African American heritage and histories of their own towns and cities.
BLP was established by Jay Winston, Co-Founder and Theresa Thornton, Co-Founder and President. Mourning the loss of Jay’s Best Friend, and Theresa’s Brother, Eric Thornton, these two long-time friends began thinking of ways to honor their loved ones along with the many other achievements of Phoenixville’s African American Community. They put a call out to their friends and family within the community presenting their idea and BLP was born. The name Black Light Projects is derived from this inspired light bulb moment. The light is to highlight the achievements of so many, and also to light the path for future history makers and high achievers.
BLP partners with local organizations like Orion Communities for storefront Black History Exhibits, and other non-profits like Diversity in Action on events like Andre Thornton Day, a free community event held in Andre Thornton Park when BLP held its first ever Legacy award presentations and Senator Andy Dimmiman presented. You can find out more information about this year’s event here.
It should come as no surprise that Theresa herself is a history maker. She happens to be the 1st African American from Phoenixville to graduate from Yale University. She received her BA from Yale in 1985. She became determined to make Yale her choice as a 9th grader when someone asked her where she would go to college. When she said “I don’t know…maybe Yale” and the response was “You’ll never get into Yale,” from that point on, Yale became her only choice!
Theresa attended KFS at a time when the school was looking to diversify. In Theresa’s words, “Kimberton staff who influenced me, Ed Stone – his class on public speaking and his overall kind demeanor still lives on in me, Richard Turner – because he really pushed my overall creativity especially when it came to computer science (which I loved). That in turn gave me a sense of fearlessness when approaching new technology to this day. And Ed Matthews – as my guidance counselor at the time, he was impressed that I wanted to attend Yale and even more impressed that it was the only college to which I wanted to apply. He immediately embraced my decision and helped me apply to Yale’s early admission program.
Attending Kimberton Farms School was not my decision. Kimberton was looking for more diversification. Someone reached out to the late Don Coppedge (a prestigious man in the Phoenixville community who happened to be my mentor). Don contacted my parents and the next thing I knew I was transferring to Kimberton. I did not want to attend because it took me away from all of my friends, it was all white, it didn’t have a marching band and we had to wear dresses! I was not a happy girl. But I met one of my classmates Sally Umble Lipkowitcz. Because Sally’s Mom was a teacher at Kimberton, Sally had come through the entire Waldorf system. She shared insights which helped me understand the “block system” and main lessons, etc. which was completely foreign to me. Unknown to my classmates or anyone at Kimberton, I cried in my room every night when I came home from school my sophomore year. I could not let my Mom know because I didn’t want to disappoint her. But Sally made me feel comfortable in that new, potentially hostile, environment. Sally and I are still great friends to this day.
“One can not erase 400 years of oppression but we can work-now together-to make sure America is home to equity, dignity and justice for everyone.” Curtis Hill
Here are just a few of the stories that BLP has compiled.
Richard J. Coppedge has a fascinating story. As a student at PASD he was the only African American member of the marching band and his talents shone. He felt very much a part of the group and was affectionately called “hot lips.” The American Legion gave him a trumpet and it was an honor for him. Richard was the first African American in Phoenixville to be allowed to play Taps at Veterans services in 1948 during segregation. He fondly remembers being treated respectfully during that time. He later went on to become the first black police officer in Phoenixville but later the condescension of his Chief led to his choice to resign. He was a pioneer in the community that paved the way for others to stand out from the crowd.
Booker T. Barr, Jr. was the first Black Drum Major, in the PAHS Marching Band. His charismatic talents as Featured Twirler and his great determination and talent led him to overcome prejudice on and off the field against his race and sexual preferences to later become the Leader of the Band as a senior.
By placing these kinds of stories at the forefront, BLP is able to welcome new minorities to the area and give them a sense of collective history and hope. They believe that to highlight the accomplishments of those who aren’t the majority fosters a well respected African American community. This is so the next generation can see what’s possible.
Shira Thornton, a member of the board of BLP, mentions that as she grew up before the internet was what it is now and this idea of stories being passed down stuck with her as being so vital. As stories die out and the oral tradition fades, there is a greater need to preserve these precious local histories. In this way, and in so many others, the work BLP is doing is essential.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How Can We Help?
Black Light Projects is a 501(c) (3) Organization
Volunteers are always welcome. Compiling the stories of History Makers is no easy task. The organization is always in need of volunteers for the following:
- Data Collection
- Setup for Events
- Specialized Services (skills in videography, photography, writing, etc.)
Donations are welcome to create Exhibition items, maintain equipment, and sponsor events.
For more information go to:
Dear Kimberton Community,
It is a true honor and a great joy for me to write to you as the Dean of School. After having a lovely visit with my wife Simone and daughter Maitreya, and now having been in communication with several members of the community leading up to my official start, I am feeling overjoyed to have found this precious gem of a school. There is so much that I look forward to sharing with you and talking with you about, and there are so many possibilities for how we can work together to write the next chapters in the story of KWS.
I have been very fortunate in my life to be exposed to many different philosophies, structures, traditions, and practices in education. I served the public in charter schools. I learned from the lineages of Montessori and Reggio Emilia. I integrated practices of silence and social justice in a Quaker school. I researched complexity and leadership and wrote a book about it. But now that I have finally found myself at Kimberton Waldorf, I have a clearer sense of what was missing in my search for the Holy Grail of Education: a coherent, comprehensive, holistic, integrated vision of pedagogy, curriculum, and human development.
This is precisely what we have at KWS. And believe it or not, sad as it may be, most schools do not have this foundation to build on. (I have spent a lot of time trying to understand why, but that is a story for another day). This foundational vision is a pearl beyond price, the precious jewel that we don’t have to search for or reinvent. We have only to cherish, appreciate, cultivate, polish, and nurture. This is easier said than done, and more like an intricate garden than a gemstone, but my hope is that everyone in the KWS community will share two things with me: a deep sense of gratitude for the gift we have been given, to be at a place with so much potential, and a feeling of shared purpose and commitment, to do our best to nurture the possibilities that we all intuit to be present in this community.
I came to KWS because I am inspired by the vision of education – and the vision of humanity – that Waldorf education instills. And I came because I sense that this community has worked to honor what is essential and sacred while nurturing and making room for what is alive and growing. I sense that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, while peering into a distant future that our forebears could not yet see. May we work together to lift each other, so our vision may ever improve, and the road ahead may become ever clearer and well-defined.
These are just some of the thoughts that animate my entry into this role as Dean of School. I hope they resonate with you, and perhaps even light a spark of reflection that we can kindle together in a future conversation.
It’s going to be an exciting year. The pandemic fog is lifting. The path ahead is promising, yet filled with unknown twists and turns. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and I feel blessed to be joining in this shared venture with you.
I have been working closely with Ona Wetherall, the Board, school staff, and the Governing Team, and will continue to do so throughout the summer, as we prepare to turn a new page and start a new year together. In the month of July, I will be in the process of moving from North Carolina with my family, but please know that I am here for you, and you can reach out to me as needed.
There is much more to say, and I look forward to many opportunities to share, listen, and learn with you all in the coming months and years. For now, I just want to share my deep appreciation for the school legacy that I am now a part of, my deep trust in the process that brought me here, and my unshakable optimism about the possibilities and potentials of our work together.
Sending blessings for a peaceful autumn and a wonderful school year.
Dean of School
Historically, early childhood education was developed for nurturing and cultivating a child’s natural propensity to learn through play. The focus of early childhood education was on developmentally appropriate activities for young children as a preparation for schooling when children were ready (around age six or seven). In the 1990s and the 2000s a shift occurred in education through No Child Left Behind and other government programs that changed the focus of early childhood education from a developmentally based approach to one based on academics and testing. The thought was that children needed to learn how to read and perform mathematics at earlier ages in order to be prepared for standardized testing. Unfortunately, this approach was not based on an understanding of child development and how children learn and has resulted in a rise in anxiety in young children as they are pushed to participate in activities and modes of learning that they are not ready for.
Waldorf schools, on the other hand, have remained committed to providing education for children that is developmentally based. In a Waldorf early childhood classroom children are engaged in child-directed creative play, storytime, artistic activities, and time outdoors. These activities help to support healthy development of young children and teach them essential skills they need for future academic learning.
Teaching to a child’s experience and level of development is the key to good education at all grade levels. Pre-Kindergartners and Kindergarteners are no exception. They experience their world with their intrinsic will and self-centered curiosity. They learn most naturally by doing, not be didactic instruction or abstract information. Waldorf educators use this knowledge of child development to teach young children the skills they must master by providing an environment and experiences which support their development.
The opposite approach which seeks to make an active, intrinsically motivated and curious young child sit still to recite or memorize, is detrimental to the child’s emotional and academic development. It is critical at this stage of life that children’s propensity for self-directed creative and imaginative play is nurtured.
When children are busy playing an atmosphere of work permeates the room. Play is the work of the young child. During play activity, children are learning to develop a rich imagination, which will serve their reading comprehension as they take words on the page and transform them into narrative memory. Group play also helps children to learn to compromise with their peers, communicate their desires, carry tasks to completion, and problem-solve with others.
Just as free play uses the child’s self-directed will for learning, structured activities help children master their will in a gentle and natural way. As the class comes together to sing songs, recite verses or listen to a teacher-told story, children are learning how to listen and develop attention. As they repeat and remember verses or songs, they build their long-term memory. The story told by the teacher also exposes children to the beauty of language which supports literacy skills and builds the person-to-person relationship between teacher and child. Artistic activities such as watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, and finger knitting are done as a group activity, although each child is absorbed in their own work. They are learning the joys of bringing a task to completion. They also help to develop the children’s small motor skills.
Our goal in our early childhood program at KWS is to inspire a lifelong love of learning. We want our students to transform their intrinsic curiosity to a desire to learn the academic tasks required in the grades and in life beyond school.
In Waldorf Schools, math is taught in a multidisciplinary manner. When students are young, math is introduced through imaginative stories, movement, and rhythm games. Manipulatives are often used and help to make concepts like division and fractions easier to grasp. As grade school students get older they work with story problems and use practical applications of mathematics processes. Mental math is also frequently practiced to help the students develop their computational skills and flexibility in their thinking. Algebra and geometry are introduced in middle school, and the high school curriculum includes algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, and calculus.
Learn more about how math is taught in Waldorf schools:
At KWS our educational approach is developmentally based which means we introduce skills and concepts when students are ready for them intellectually, emotionally, and physically keeping our knowledge of child development as the guide for our curriculum. Your child will be engaged through a challenging and multi-sensory environment focused on meeting the whole child: head, heart, and hands.
The founder of Waldorf Education, Rudolf Steiner, formed the first school with these principles over 100 years ago. Today there are over 1,100 Waldorf schools and almost 2,000 Waldorf kindergartens in 80 countries around the globe. When people first come to Kimberton Waldorf School they are impressed with our beautiful 430-acre campus and farm, cozy classrooms filled with student art and hands-on work that imbues every subject.
When was Kimberton Waldorf School founded?
Our school was founded by Alarick Myrin and Mabel Pew Myrin in 1941. The Myrin’s were deeply interested in a renewal of education and agriculture and they were inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s ideas for both. The legacy of their interest, commitment, and generosity is our EC- 12th-grade school with its strong connection to gardening, farming, and the natural environment. Our 430-acre campus and farm is bordered by scenic French Creek and has wooded areas and meadows, and a beautiful organic school garden.
What is the philosophy behind Waldorf Education?
Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner held that human being’s capacities unfold in specific developmental stages on the path to adulthood. The guiding principles of Waldorf Education are a developmental approach and educating the whole child: head, heart, and hands.
What is the curriculum and a typical day of an early childhood student?
We see our Early Childhood Program as an extension of the family experience; a step between home and formal schooling. We offer a pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten program for children that range from age two to six, and a parent-child program for children under the age of two and their parents. In each classroom, the day’s activities unfold in an unhurried way, with each day following the same rhythm, which gives the child a sense of security and consistency. A typical day begins with free-play outdoors, followed by circle time, a structured artistic activity (such as watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, or bread baking), and then the children prepare and eat a healthy, homemade snack and enjoy storytime. From there, they go outside to play, use their imaginations, and experience the outdoor world. Early academic foundations are formed through these activities. As just a few examples, beeswax modeling cultivates small motor skills, puppetry helps children develop memory and language acuity, and nature walks increase large motor abilities and scientific curiosity. The sharing of practical activities such as snack preparation and clean-up starts the child on the path toward personal responsibility and respect for others.
What is the curriculum and typical day of a grade school student?
The focus of grade school is learning to learn and loving to learn. Our curriculum seeks to inspire the artistic, creative, and imaginative life of the child while providing a strong base for academic studies. It also seeks to keep student engaged through relevant, hands-on learning, so that they do not just memorize but learn through an experiential approach, and develop comprehension. The day begins with a two-hour period focusing on an academic topic that we call Main Lesson. The focus of Main Lesson is on an area of study such as Literature and Language Arts, Mathematics, History, Science, and Social Studies. Main Lesson, however, does not consist of children sitting rigidly at desks, listening to lectures, but instead engages them through movement, arts, music, recitation, and other multidisciplinary activities. Part of Main Lesson involves the students making their own books as a record of what they have learned. They fill these books with written compositions and illustrations. After Main Lesson, there is a snack for all grade 1-8 students, outdoor recess, and then subject lessons, which continue through the day and are also taught in engaging and interdisciplinary ways. Subjects typically include math and language arts practice, choral and instrumental music, foreign language, handwork, gardening, woodworking, physical education, and Eurythmy (artistic movement). We also have an after-school sports program that begins in 6th grade. At the end of the day, our students have spent their day immersed in experiential learning while also having time in unstructured recess and outdoor experiences. They go home tired, but joyful, and return eagerly the next day with an inherent curiosity and love of learning.
What is the curriculum and typical day of a high school student?
The Main Lesson format continues into high school as does an interdisciplinary and multi-sensory approach to learning, although there is an increased emphasis on developing academic skills and independent thinking. In high school, students often create projects and make presentations as part of the Main Lesson experience. Subject classes in high school include mathematics that covers algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus; English, language arts, and humanities; foreign language; science; choral and instrumental music; and the fine and practical arts. After-school activities include sports and the high school musical. Students interested in overseas study can participate in our foreign exchange program.
Are Graduates Prepared for College?
Our graduates are well prepared to attend college. Over 94% go to college and most of our graduates attend universities and colleges in the U.S. in a range of academic areas in STEM and Liberal Arts. As examples of graduate employment, we have amongst our graduates doctors, nurses, scientists, psychologists, social workers and therapists, lawyers, engineers, accountants, entrepreneurs and business people, government employees, military personnel, educators, musicians and artists, agriculturalists, naturalists, craftsmen, and many more out doing what they love in the world. Amongst our graduates, we have a National Book Award winner, a Grammy Award winner, and Fulbright and Rhodes scholars.
Throughout human history, festivals have played an important part in culture. In all civilizations, there have been celebrations reflecting nature’s rhythms, important transitions, and significant moments in the life of the culture. For people in the past, the rhythms of the seasons, of reaping and sowing, of dark and light, of birth and death were immediate and tangible experiences. For people today, we can easily become detached from these rhythms in our climate-controlled homes and workplaces with the conveniences of electric light, heating, cooling, and 24-hour grocery stores that provide us food at any season of the year. But the urge for these markers still live in us and remnants can be seen in our modern rituals of Thanksgiving, Halloween, or the markers of the beginning and end of summer: Memorial Day and Labor Day.
In Waldorf schools, the rhythmical element in life is an important part of the education and the school community experience. Every day we honor the start of the new school day by greeting the students with a handshake and saying the morning verse together. Each day begins with a two-hour block we call the main lesson which has its own rhythm of activities within the course of the lesson that calls on the thinking, feeling, or active hands-on doing capacities of the children. The main lesson is also structured in such a way that concepts are built upon over a series of days, as the rhythm of waking and sleeping is an important part of the learning process for the children. During sleep, the students have the opportunity to digest what they have learned during the day. And, at the end of roughly four weeks, or a month (which is another natural cycle based on the moon), we change main lessons, and the previous main lesson is put to sleep in a sense (often to be returned to later).
The rhythm of the year also receives form through our school festivals and celebrations. We begin and end the year with the Rose Ceremony in which we honor our 12th graders who are about to complete their education at Kimberton, and the 1st graders, who are beginning their journey. This is followed by Michaelmas in September, Lantern walks for the younger children in November, Advent assemblies in December, Martin Luther King assembly and day of service in January, and our May Faire in, you guessed it, May.
In the autumn, we celebrate Michaelmas (pronounced mick-el-mas). The roots of this festival come from ancient festivals that celebrate harvest, human courage, and the triumph of light over darkness. In autumn we begin to experience the loss of the vitality of summer. We witness the withering of plant life, the days get shorter and darkness seems to grow, and the warmth of summer wanes. As the seasons transition from the outer light and warmth of summer to the growing darkness and coldness of fall and the coming winter, we turn inwards, towards ourselves and towards our community for inner warmth. The experience of moving from summer to fall and winter is much different than the experience of moving from winter to spring and summer. The latter is an experience of increasing outwardness, while in the transition from summer to fall and winter we need inner courage to face the growing dark and cold. The ease and comfort of summer is fading away, and we must face the challenge and discomfort of the approach of winter. In the Michaelmas tradition, St. Michael, who is an image of courage and what is honorable in us, confronts and tames the dragon, which represents fear and that in us that is not so honorable. An essential part of life is learning to have the courage to step out of one’s comfort zone, to stretch one’s self to try new things, to overcome one’s own inner fears. As educators and parents, we have many opportunities to help our students to stretch themselves, to step out of their comfort zone, or to face their fears. Each time a child or young person does this, they develop strength and confidence. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really look fear in the face…you must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Currently, we celebrate Michaelmas at KWS with a pageant that all the grades participate in. Each class has its appointed role, complete with a fierce dragon, and a courageous St. Michael. Later in the day, students participate in community activities such as bread making and games. Some years we have a speaker for the older middle school and high school students who represent a contemporary version of courage or initiative.
As human beings we naturally live in a world of rhythm; the rhythm of our breathing and our heartbeat, the seasons that surround us, the continuous alternation of day and night, sleeping and waking, unconsciousness and consciousness. Rhythm is part of who we are. It is built into us and affects us physically, emotionally, and mentally. When we separate ourselves from it too dramatically we become ill (try holding your breath, or stopping your heartbeat, or not sleeping). Children are particularly sensitive to rhythm and the lack of it. By providing a rhythmical environment for children, we strengthen their physical, emotional, and mental constitutions. One of the many things that are unique and fascinating about Waldorf education is its conscious application of the principles of rhythm within the educational experience of the children, on a daily, weekly, and annual basis. At a time in human history when we have largely lost touch with the rhythmical nature of life, this aspect of Waldorf education can be of great benefit to children and their families.
Children today often lead highly structured lives with much of their time filled with activities that adults have planned for them. Outside of school they may be playing sports or are in enrichment classes of some sort or other. We also live in an age where we can easily find entertainment and distraction with screens and other electronic devices. While activity is good, there is also a benefit for children to have plenty of time for their own self-directed activities without outside influences or structure, and to also experience the challenge of boredom.
We often view boredom as a negative, but research is showing that boredom has its benefits. In his article The Bright Side of Boredom, Dr. Andreas Epidorou writes that boredom plays a role in helping us to find or set new goals: “Despite its impressive historical backing, the view that boredom is entirely negative should be rejected. Recent empirical work on boredom, taken in tandem with theoretical considerations about its nature and character, suggest a rather different picture of the state of boredom. In broad strokes, the picture is as follows: on account of its affective, volitional, and cognitive aspects, boredom motivates the pursuit of a new goal when the current goal ceases to be satisfactory, attractive, or meaningful to the agent. Boredom helps to restore the perception that one’s activities are meaningful or significant.” (1)
“In the classic story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice chases a white rabbit down a well and then begins a long fall. While falling, Alice’s attention shifts frequently. Alice begins by considering what is beneath her (the outcome of her fall). Next, she notices the cupboards surrounding her, and even interacts with them. She then considers how she will relate this fall to other everyday falls, and eventually simulates the conversations she will have with the people she meets on the other side of the Earth. Alice does not remain afraid and focused on the outcome of her fall (what is beneath her)…Much like Alice becoming distracted from her fear of falling and shifting her attention towards the cupboards and her upcoming conversations; we propose that boredom will motivate the pursuit of new goals as the intensity of the current experience fades.” (2)
Furthermore, boredom can lead to creativity. (2) When one is bored, the mind starts to wander and in its wanderings may make new associations leading to new ideas of insights. Research has shown that the brain is quite active during states of boredom. (3)
In children, boredom can spur them to creative play, and when they get frustrated, to problem-solving. In her article, Boredomtunity: Why Boredom is the Best Thing for Our Kids, Dr. Alison Escalante recommends ways to support and encourage children to deal with boredom. These involve trusting that children can be creative, problem solvers and allowing them to deal with their own boredom without adult input, and leaving unstructured time in their daily schedules. (4)
Instead of viewing idle time and boredom for our children as something to be avoided, we can embrace its positive aspects and even encourage time in our children’s daily schedule for unstructured, self-directed activity, which may, hopefully, include some boredom!
Kimberton Waldorf School is seeking a bus driver to help transport students to sporting events and class trips throughout the school year.
We own a school bus that requires a CDL license with a ‘P’ endorsement.
Hours will vary
Send interest to firstname.lastname@example.org