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
Dear Kimberton Community,
After 20 years in the news media, training at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto in early childhood education and Anthroposophy, and teaching at Potomac Crescent Waldorf School in Virginia with work in Development, I am thrilled to be able to merge all three passions into my role as Director of Development at Kimberton Waldorf School. In doing so, I am really looking forward to meeting and working with you and developing strong friendships through our work together.
My goal is threefold: to cultivate our past, present, and future of our school. Our relationships with our alumni and all of our friends who have generously supported Kimberton are what holds our school up so that future generations can receive the same inspiring education you fondly remember. It is my hope that you would connect with us through various avenues. Fellow alumni, perhaps even your own classmates, have expressed interest in a newsletter as a way to stay connected with the school and in this spirit we hope to bring Quarterly Issues and Special Announcements to your inbox, and as current times allow, opportunities for alumni gathering in-person and virtual.
For the current children and caregivers that walk the same paths and classrooms you once walked, our school will continue providing inspiring curricula that reflects our diversity and rich festivities and events that have been anchors to our rhythm of learning. The heart of the school is still beating strong with passionate teachers who believe that children are born with innate capacities—and that their responsibility as educators is to hold this space, to nurture this becoming, until each child at their own time is ready.
Our future is clearer when we honor the interconnectedness of the legacy that inspired the formation of our school; the trained teachers who work from these beliefs; our alumni who have given of themselves to the world through a consciousness nurtured by Waldorf education; our current families who continue traditions and bring new energy; and our friends who generously support our school for the immeasurable value it reaps onto our world.
A seed was planted 80 years ago … and together we are only stronger, louder, and more powerful in impacting our world for the better. I look forward to working with you, welcoming your ideas and your support needed to make these ideas a reality.
Editha D. Tendencia
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!
The Board of Trustees of Kimberton Waldorf School is honored and delighted to introduce our new Dean of School, Dr. Brad Kershner. Please join us in welcoming Dean Kershner, his wife Simone, and their daughter Maitreya—who will be joining our sixth grade. The whole family is very excited to become a part of the KWS community.
The Board of Trustees, in collaboration with the faculty and staff, worked diligently for the past few months in our search for a new Dean of School. The Dean Search Committee, comprised of five board members and five members of the faculty and staff, made a recommendation to offer the position of Dean of School to Dr. Kershner. The Board of Trustees then unanimously agreed to select Dr. Kershner, and he accepted with pleasure. He will be joining us on July 1.
Brad obtained his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from John Carroll University, his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from San Francisco State University, his master’s degree in Philosophy of Religions from the University of Chicago, and finally his Ph.D. from Boston College in Education in 2018.
Brad is an experienced educator and school leader who has served as the Primary School Director at Conservatory Lab School, as the Principal of Codman Academy, and most recently as Head of Early School at Carolina Friends School. Brad is also an accomplished write and scholar, with numerous articles, book chapters, and conference papers, as well as his recently published book, Understanding Educational Complexity: Integrative Practices and Perspectives for 21st Century Leadership.
Brad is looking forward to joining our school community as a leader who can help to nurture and honor what he describes as the “sacred legacy” of Waldorf education. In his words, he is “excited to join a close-knit community that nurtures, challenges, and supports young people through relationships of care and commitment,” and those of us who met Brad and his family during their visit to our campus are equally excited that they are joining us.
You will be hearing more from Brad soon. He is eager to meet everyone at KWS as soon as possible. Until then, we hope you will share in our sense of joy and excitement that Brad and his family will be a part of our future at Kimberton Waldorf School!
One can often walk through the class room buildings at KWS and see projects that the students have done in relation to their academic studies. It might be projects related to the history of Ancient Rome in 6th grade, or models of human shelters from the 3rd grade, or painted portraits of historical figures for 9th grade contemporary history.
An invaluable value of the education at KWS is the opportunity that our students have to learn through a variety of activities that engage their creativity, design, and problem solving skills. Imagine how designing and building your own ship or aqueduct makes Roman history come alive, but also allows you to use all of yourself in the learning process: head, heart, and hands. A number of years ago the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article on the benefits of art in education (Closing in on Proof of Art’s Value to Kids, Philadelphia Inquirer. March 23, 2014.) The article was about a study being done by a psychology professor at West Chester University. Her research was on the effects of art on reducing stress levels in young children and involved measuring cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress) in children in learning environments that are arts-based as opposed to those that are not. Her findings point to an association between art classes and reduced levels of cortisol in the children in the study.
In contrast, I am reminded of a friend of mine who had a child in a school that was putting the students through a battery of standardized tests. This friend shared with me how stressed her child was because of the testing. She commented that it wasn’t just the children who were stressed. Everyone seemed to be, teachers and students. More and more, children in school settings are expected to perform academically through high-stakes testing in younger and younger grades. Play is no longer a part of kindergarten programs in many schools. The arts and movement are secondary, and often cut from programs. Recess is reduced or eliminated. Students do not spend time in nature during their school day. Is it any wonder that children are stressed and anxiety is on the rise in children? According to the study noted stress impacts cortisol levels which in term impact learning: “Chronic elevations of cortisol impair cognitive and emotional functioning, as well as physical health. Cortisol is closely related to the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory, and scientists believe that higher cortisol interferes with both.”
Why are we doing this to children? In large part it has to do with educational systems that are no longer based on an understanding of healthy child and human development, but rather are driven by standards set by bureaucrats focused on test scores rather than healthy childhood development. Adam Winsler, a psychology professor at George Mason University who edits the Early Childhood Research Bulletin and is quoted in the Inquirer article says,“These days people are trying to do reading, science, and math a lot earlier, and a lot of developmentally inappropriate things are happening . . .the arts may prepare youngsters for math, reading, and science better than a pure math, science, and reading curriculum would.”
I believe that there are many invaluable values of Waldorf education and the education provided at KWS, including an education that is firmly rooted in an understanding of healthy child and human development, and an education that makes art and the using of one’s hands and imagination an integral part of the academic learning experience. A number of years ago a graduate of Kimberton and Brown University gave an evening presentation for our community on the business that he started in Kenya after he graduated from college. At the end of the talk he was asked by someone in the audience about his perspective on the value of his Waldorf education at KWS. He spoke about the importance of art in helping him develop creative capacities. Later, in a card he sent to me thanking me for introducing him at his presentation he said, “Remember, it’s all about the art.”
A few years ago I attended a symposium on small independent schools. There were a number of points from the symposium that are worth sharing. The panel of speakers at this symposium included the CEO of a local corporation and the director of admissions for Muhlenberg College.
The perspectives of the panel members and the keynote speaker on the needs for education in the future and what they are seeing in young people today were interesting. They noted that 38% of college students flunk or drop out. They said that when we educate to the test, we are essentially educating robots to be good at tests, but we don’t educate students for life. One of the things they focused on was the inability of young people to work with other people. They noted that the single biggest reason people get fired from their jobs is because they can’t get along with their colleagues.
They stressed the need for education that helps students develop self-awareness, the ability to be flexible and to work with others, and a sense for language. In order to be successful in our world students need to be able to frame and express ideas. They said that as employers they are looking for young people who are able to grow, learn, and develop. They observed that as a society we are educating young people to be paper pushers, but not craftsman or entrepreneurs. We are not educating students to make things. They see that the ability to make something as well as to administrate are skills critical to success in the world today.
A number of times they touched on how young people today have a sense of entitlement, equating effort with success (I worked hard on this, why is it not an “A”?). They expect to be promoted quickly in their jobs. A disconnect exists between where they are and what they have to do to get to where they want to be. They are not equipped to deal with failure. The speakers felt this was caused in part by well meaning parents who limit their children’s autonomy and attempt to clear the way for their children so that they are always successful and never experience set backs or failure. They spoke of how parents today will even intervene in their children’s education at the college or university level, complaining to professors or administrators about grades their children are given.
Of course, my reaction to much of what they were saying was, “I wish they knew about Waldorf Education!” Education for life is central to the Waldorf pedagogical philosophy. Waldorf education is an education that provides students with the opportunities on a daily basis to develop the capacities of self-awareness, the ability to collaborate with others, an intrinsic love of learning that is not grade or test score driven, skill with written and spoken expression, and the experience and satisfaction of making something with one’s hands. It is also an education that focuses on the development of the will, or the ability to apply oneself and follow through on projects. This is accomplished through a project-based approach to academics where students often work on projects related to the topic and make their own books as a record of what they have learned, and a fine and practical arts program and gardening program where students experience first hand the necessity of perseverance, practice, and follow-through.
There has been an increasing amount of information on the health benefits of spending time in nature. These benefits include improvement of emotional and physical health, and benefits for learning for children. Now, a new study in JAMA Ophthalmology and reported by the New York Times points to the benefits of being in nature on healthy development of the eye and eyesight in children, and the negative impact of not enough time spent outdoors in natural sunlight.
The Times article notes that there has been a significant increase in myopia in children since the 1970s, and the research reported in the JAMA study points to behavioral changes in children and lack one time spent outdoors in natural light as a factor.
“The growing incidence of myopia is related to changes in children’s behavior, especially how little time they spend outdoors, often staring at screens indoors instead of enjoying activities illuminated by daylight.” (1)
The article does say that genes and family heredity play a role in myopia, however the rapid increase in myopia is likely not just genetic: “Given that genes don’t change that quickly, environmental factors, especially children’s decreased exposure to outdoor light, are the likely cause of this rise in myopia, experts believe. Consider, for example, factors that keep modern children indoors: an emphasis on academic studies and their accompanying homework, the irresistible attraction of electronic devices and safety concerns that demand adult supervision during outdoor play. All of these things drastically limit the time youngsters now spend outside in daylight, to the likely detriment of the clarity of their distance vision.” (1)
While this study points to the lack of sunlight as the main cause of myopia in children, there have also been studies that indicate a correlation between myopia and sustained near-work activity: “Both genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development and progression of myopia. Near-work is activity performed at a short working distance, such as reading and use of electronic devices. Near-work activity is one of the environmental factors that has been considered to be a potential cause of myopia.However, other studies do not support this claim.” (2)
This recent research on the importance of sunlight on the development of the eye and eyesight is another example in a growing list of evidence supporting the benefits of spending time outdoors in nature. Since children spend a significant amount of their time during daylight hours at school, it makes sense that school programs that incorporate time outdoors in nature will support the healthy development of their students. Additionally, school programs that provide a balance of near-work activity with activities that allow for my distance and varied focusing will also support healthy eye development.
What is happening in your mind’s eye when you hear a story? More than likely, you make pictures of what is being told to you. And the pictures that you create are your own, unique pictures. If you are in the company of other people when you hear a story each of you is making your own pictures. If you could compare the inner pictures that you all created there would be similarities, but there would also be differences, as each of you are involved in an inner generative process. The activity is taking place inside of you, in your mind. Now in contrast, if you were to see a movie or a video of the same story there would be no need for an inner generative picture making process in your mind. The picture would be given to you from outside. Nothing of an inner generative activity would have been necessary. The information would be coming from outside into you, and you would simply remember it, or not.
Some years ago a boy enrolled in our high school. After his first biology course here at Kimberton, in which he studied marine zoology on the coast of Maine studying marine organisms in tide pools and along the beach, his mother, who was a biologist by profession wrote to us and said that in his previous high school his experience of biology had been memorizing power point presentations, in order to prepare him for tests, and she was so happy that at Kimberton he was practicing science and not just memorizing information.
One approach to education is an information based education, and it assumes that students of any age are information processors. The primary method of learning is rote memorization of information or concepts. I call this the movie approach to education. Everyone gets the same information and an inner generative process is not necessary. “The success or failure of this form of education is measured by the student’s ability to give information back on high stakes tests, that do not assess depth of understanding, meaningful application of knowledge, or original thinking.” (Olfman. 2003) It has become the dominant educational model in the United States over the past 30 years through such programs as No Child Left Behind.
The movie version of education, the information centered approach to education is based on a “model of the human mind as a kind of computer, and a view of students as information processors. However, in sharp contrast to a computer, a developing young person possesses a Self which imbues that young person with the desire to give his or her life meaning, purpose, and a moral compass. Children and young people are naturally motivated to learn by the desire to be a part of their community and the natural order, but at the same time to express their individuality and to place their own personal stamp on the world. A young person’s thinking is infused with emotion, sensory and bodily experience, artistry, imagination, and an inner life. It is through this uniquely human prism that a young person processes information; a far cry from a computer. When mere information is what we seek to instill or elicit from students, real psychological growth”, and the development of the whole human being is impaired. (Olfman)
There is another approach to education that we practice in Waldorf schools, that I would call an inner, generative approach, where students are guided to discover concepts rather than being fed concepts. I once walked into our chemistry lab before school started and I found our chemistry teacher and a visiting science teacher from another Waldorf school preparing a demonstration for a 9th grade chemistry class. They were carefully arranging a flame from a bunsen burner so that the students could observe them placing an unlit wooden match into the flame in such a way that the match would be in the flame, but would not ignite. There was a concept that the teachers wanted the students to learn that has to do with various zones within a flame and the ability for combustion to happen within those zones. Now, if their educational goal had been to simply give the students the already formed concept that there is a zone in a flame that does not have enough oxygen for combustion to take place, if their goal was to simply give the students that information, to be tested on, there would be no need for the demonstration. The students could just look that information up on a computer. But, if their goal is to educate in such a way that students have the opportunity to train their inner generative powers of thinking then that demonstration is key, because it is the first step in the process of providing a situation for the students to move from experience to concept; to discover the concept for themselves rather than being given a pre-formed concept. It begins with an experience, with perception, and through questioning and discussion the students discover the concept.
If we simply give the students the concept we rob them of the opportunity to practice the thinking that leads to the concept; we rob them of the opportunity to develop the capacity for independent, self-driven thought. This is a serious concern in the world of education today, especially higher education. College and university professors have complained in recent years that young people today can’t think for themselves, they just want to know what is going to be on the test.
In the Waldorf high school we practice the thinking of various disciplines: the thinking of the scientist, the thinking of the historian, the thinking of the mathematician, the thinking of the writer or the philosopher. Our approach is to give students the opportunity to develop their own thinking capacities through experiences, discussions, questions, projects, essays and other written assignments and artistic presentations. I have given you an example in the sciences. In English or Humanities our students will explore through readings, discussions, projects and essays the nature of truth, or evil, or what it means to be a human being. Our teachers don’t give them the answers to those topics. They lead them through a process of discovery. In History our students might interview someone who lived during a particular period of our nation’s history for example, research primary and secondary sources, and write essays to support conclusions they have reached about historical events. Our focus is not teaching students to get the one right answer on a test, but to test their own inner developing capacity of thought. That’s not to say that we don’t ever give our students tests. We do. But for us, tests are not the be-all-and-end-all of how we assess our students. We provide our students with many avenues for demonstrating what they have learned such as essays, projects, and artistic presentations.
Our goal in the Waldorf school is to provide for our students an education that guides them to be caring, ethical human beings who can consciously engage their inner generative capacities of thought and creativity, and it starts with stories. In our pre-school and our early grades much of the curriculum is built around stories that enrich our student’s imaginations and engage the inner generative process of picture making that will later develop into an inner generative process of thinking as the students get older. At each age our students have many opportunities to exercise their own inner generative capacities in a developmentally appropriate manner.
Olfman, Sharna (2003) All Work and No Play
The benefits for children’s learning and development from spending time outdoors has been well researched over recent years. At KWS, helping our students to develop an appreciation for the natural world has always been one of our key values, and outdoor education has been a long standing component of our curriculum and program. Children in our Early Childhood program spend a good part of their day outdoors engaged in creative play and exploration of nature. In grades 1-8 our students are able to have experiential nature study by spending time in our woods and along our creeks, learning how to grow good healthful food in our organic school garden and learning about farming on our organic dairy farm. They also have two outdoor recess periods per day on our green campus. When it snows, they get to sled on “Shouting Hill” which is adjacent to one of our outdoor recess areas. Many of our grades classes start taking camping trips and will often take a weeklong trip with one of the outdoor education guiding companies that we partner with. In high school the experiential study of the life sciences are often supplemented with trips to locations like Hermit Island on the coast of Maine to study marine biology, or backpacking on trails in the Appalachians in connection with geology. In addition to the health giving benefits of being in nature, these experiences help our students develop a love and appreciation for the natural world and foster a sense of stewardship. Read more here about the importance of outdoor education from the Association of Waldorf Schools in North America:
At Kimberton Waldorf School the arts are integrated into the whole curriculum and often are part of the experiential approach to academic subjects as well. Research has shown that artistic activity develops important capacities such as problem-solving. Read more about the role of the arts in Waldorf Education here from the Association of Waldorf Schools in North America:
“Becoming” is the third film in a series of short films produced on the occasion of the centenary of Waldorf Education under the direction of the award-winning Californian documentary filmmaker Paul Zehrer, and which provide an insight into the inclusive diversity of Waldorf Education under the most diverse cultural, social, religious and economic conditions around the globe. No age has a deeper impact on the whole of life than the first years of childhood. “During those first seven years, children develop their bodily foundation for life. They explore and experience the world with their senses and through meeting the other. These early encounters in life have a deep influence and long-lasting effect on the making of their own being,” says Clara Aerts, coordinating member of IASWECE and co-producer of the film, which was shot in the USA, Israel, Japan, India, South Africa, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Germany. “The experiences that we make possible—or withhold—for our children at this age form the most elementary basis for their further lives and thus ultimately for the future of humanity.”
Rather than filling students with pre-digested information and concepts to memorize for tests, we begin with experiences and through discussion and other activities help students discover concepts. Our students learn to think like a scientist, a historian, a philosopher, an artist. We teach students how to think, not what to think. By allowing students to discover concepts for themselves, rather than being fed concepts (that someone else has already thought), we are engaging them in the thinking process and giving them the experiences to learn to become independent thinkers.
We believe that learning is naturally an exciting and joyful experience. We seek to cultivate that sense of joy in learning in our students by bringing subject matter to our students in ways that speak to where they are in their stage of development, engage them in their whole being, and avoids teaching to the test, and rote memorization of information geared towards testing performance. We do give quizzes and tests, when developmentally appropriate, and only in support of the integrative learning experience of the students.
The Waldorf curriculum is designed to keep pace with a child’s stage of development, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. We introduce new concepts or new skills when children are ready to learn them. Child development is at the center of everything we do in our program. Rather than following the latest fads in education, we base our teaching on a timeless understanding of child development.
Rather than filling each day with 40 or 50 minutes classes in Lower School and in High School, we start each day focusing on a particular academic subject that we will study in depth for two hours everyday for about a month. During that two hour class our students aren’t just sitting listening to a lecture. They will be engaged in a variety of age-appropriate activities that allow them to learn about the subject from various points of view, and will engage them intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Movement, artistic activities, group and individual projects, research, discussion, student presentations can all be a part of the Main Lesson. Another unique aspect of the Waldorf curriculum is that our students make their own books as a record of what they have learned in each main lesson. These books are filled with the student’s writing and illustrations. We don’t teach from text books. We use text books to reinforce skills in subjects like math, but in general our teachers bring subject matter alive to the students through various activities that speak to the student’s stage of development.
In honor of Kimberton Waldorf School’s 75th Anniversary, we are pleased to offer you, our families and community, the history of Kimberton Waldorf School. Over the next few months, we will be sharing chapters of the book, Stories Related To Kimberton Waldorf School, the First Fifty Years 1941 – 1991, by Edward R. Stone. We are so grateful to Ed for the work he did so many years ago that allows us today to learn about our history and keep the magic of Kimberton Farm School and Kimberton Waldorf School alive in 2017.
The Pennsylvania Background of Mabel Pew Myrin – A Founder of Kimberton Farm School
The Allegheny Mountains run through Central Pennsylvania in a northeasterly-southwesterly direction, heavily forested and dividing rich farmlands to east and west. The village of Kimberton lies to the east, the villages of Mercer and Titusville lie to the west.
The Allegheny River flows south from Titusville, the Monongahela River flows north from West Virginia both meeting in Pittsburgh forming the beginning of the Ohio River which in turn flows into the Mississippi River then on out into the Gulf of Mexico. The goods that flowed down these rivers came from Pennsylvania’s pockets of iron ore, coal, and oil.
One day in the mid-nineteenth century, a man from the East coast by the name of Colonel Edwin L. Drake, visited the vicinity of Titusville. In a small backwoods valley he observed Indians scooping up a liquid-like black substance floating on the surface of a stream. Inquiry brought forth a reply from the Indians that they used this substance for medicinal purposes. A fascinated Colonel Drake realized that the black substance was oil. He drilled his first well with no success. This well became known as “Drake’s Folly” by the local populace. In 1859 Drake drilled a successful well in Titusville that sent news of an oil flow around the world. Speculators from all over the country and England arrived creating an oil boom and the founding of Oil City located between Erie and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
It was during these oil boom decades of the mid-eighteen hundreds that the Pew family lived as self-sufficient farmers in the shadows of the oil region. Joseph Newton Pew was born in 1846 in a backwoods farmhouse that was about two miles south of Mercer, a small farming and lumbering community. He was the youngest of ten children, eight brothers and two sisters. In those days it was customary to have large families for many hands to help operate a farm.
The Pews were solid Christians who unashamedly prayed and tried to live by the Ten Commandments. However, when the Old School Presbyterian Church taught that the keeping of slaves was no bar to Christian communion, the Pews, amongst others, strenuously objected and withdrew founding the Free Presbyterian Church. The Pew farm was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad to Canada.
Newton was eleven years old when Colonel Drake successfully drilled the world’s first oil well forty miles northeast of Mercer near Titusville. As a youth Newton, under the cover of darkness, hitched the horses to wagons to take groups of escaping slaves to their next stop. He also had a very close friend, Isaac C. Ketler, who remained a friend throughout their lives.
Together, Newton and Isaac, taught school in the small community of London. Newton later entered real estate while Isaac remained connected to education. Soon Newton was drawn into oil lands real estate works that was quite profitable. He also ran an agency of insurance as well as a loan service. He soon amassed a fortune of some $40,000 and in 1874 he married Mary Catherine Anderson, the daughter of a prominent western Pennsylvania family.
The Newton Pews moved to Bradford, Pennsylvania where Newton became prosperous in oil dealings and stepped out into the new field of piping natural gas for domestic use into the town of Olean, New York. He was one of the first to tap natural gas.
Newton joined with his Titusville friend Edward O. Emerson, and in 1877 they piped natural gas empowering boilers and drilling rigs thus forming the Keystone Gas Company.
While Newton Pew and Edward Emerson were gingerly utilizing natural gas as a household and industrial fuel, the Haymaker Well at Murrysville, Pennsylvania was being drilled. It was the country’s first big well blowing an estimated 30,000,000 cubic feet per day for four years, the estimated equivalent of 2,000,000 tons of coal. This phenomena attracted the curiosity of thousands arriving on excursion trains from Pittsburgh to view it. Newton and Edward bought the Haymaker Well plus surrounding territory for further drilling. They then formed the Pew and Emerson Company later called the Penn Fuel Company. They obtained permission from the City of Pittsburgh to lay the first pipelines in the world to a large city for natural gas service to households and manufacturing plants. The Pew family then moved to East Pittsburgh.
As more and more received natural gas, the pressure in the pipeline dropped. Consumer demand was great. Increasing pressure in the pipeline was necessary. Newton then perfected a device that he patented and his pump made natural gas as a fuel practical, regardless of increasing usage.
In 1883, George Westinghouse bought the Penn Fuel Company and Newton then formed the Philadelphia Company in Pittsburgh. He and Edward Emerson then continued their oil producing properties in Pennsylvania and Ohio calling their company the Sun Oil Company or commonly known today as SUNOCO. They then began refining crude oil into other products in their various holdings in and around Indiana, West Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. At this point after buying many more companies, Edward Emerson sold his entire interest in the Sun Oil Company to Newton.
On January 10, 1901, Spindletop roared into life, in or near Beaumont, Texas. Newton heard the roar and thus the Sun Oil Company became one of the leading American oil companies to this day.
Newton fondly remembered his youth and thus over the years renovated the old farmhouse. He always kept in touch with Isaac Ketler, now Dr. Isaac Ketler, an ordained minister and educator. So fond of Isaac was Newton, that one day he said, “Now, I’ve come to ask you to go into business with me.” Dr. Ketler was busy building up Pine Grove Academy.
Having a financial hard time of it, one day Dr. Ketler said to Newton, ”Now, I’ve come to ask you to go into business with me.” Newton did just that, by joining the Board of Directors of Pine Grove Academy which later became the Grove City College.
Newton enjoyed trying out new things. One day he owned a touring car, but was never fond of it. He once chided his driver about excessive speed – the car was doing 15 miles per hour.
On June 11, 1889, Mabel Pew was born, the youngest of four sons and two daughters. Her sister, Mary Ethel, attended the Winchester Thurston School for Girls in eastern Pittsburgh and it is believed that Mabel also attended that school.
In 1904, the Pews moved to their estate, Glenmede, in Bryn Mawr, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because the Sun Oil Company’s Marcus Hook Refinery needed Newton’s constant attention. At this time, Mabel attended Miss Wright’s School for Girls which has since been absorbed by Bryn Mawr College.
Mabel grew up learning philanthropy from her mother and father. A favorite charity was the old German Hospital in West Philadelphia later known to this day as Lankenau Hospital. She grew up with a passion for horses being a fine horsewoman all her life. She regularly sponsored the Devon Horse Show along with others as a benefit for Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Mabel grew up from childhood reading financial statements that later prepared her to be a productive member of the Board of the Sun Oil Company and the boards of many other organizations and companies.
On October 10, 1912, Joseph Newton Pew died of massive heart attacks in his office in the Monis Building in downtown Philadelphia. He was then succeeded by his son Howard Pew. Arthur E. Pew, Newton’s eldest son died in 1916. Joseph Newton Pew, Jr. later became the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mary Ethel and Mabel became philanthropists. Later, Mabel became one of the founders of Kimberton Farms School later renamed the Kimberton Waldorf School.
In honor of Kimberton Waldorf School’s 75th Anniversary, we are pleased to offer you, our families and community, the history of Kimberton Waldorf School. Over the next few months, we will be sharing chapters of the book, Stories Related To Kimberton Waldorf School, the First Fifty Years 1941 – 1991, by Edward R. Stone. We are so grateful to Ed for the work he did so many years ago that allows us today to learn about our history and keep the magic of Kimberton Farm School and Kimberton Waldorf School alive in 2017.
The Swedish-Russian-European-Argentinian Background of Hjalmar Alarik Wilhelm Myrin – A Founder of Kimberton Farms School
The Myrin family can be traced back to the farmer, Olaf Myrin of Myreberg, Locketarps County in the Province of Vastergotland, Sweden. The name Myrin is a derivative of the town name, Myreberg. 0laf was born in 1628 having a great grandson, Claes Myrin, who moved to the province of Varmland where the Myrin family has since resided. Many generations later Hjalmar Alarik Myrin was born on March 7, 1884. His mother died and his father remarried giving Alarik a beloved half-sister, Ella Eva Charlotta. Alarik’s father was a Crown Marshall, heading the district of Sodersyssle in the Province of Varmland.
Alarik was about five years old when his beloved mother died. His father’s second wife, his stepmother, was extremely strict even to the point of cruelty. Alarik’s ramrod strictness could have stemmed from his stepmother’s actions. His kindness of heart stemmed from his mother and his half-sister Charlotta.
Alarik Myrin received his early education in Arvika, an area surrounded by large farms of the fertile Swedish Varmland. This environment of his youth instilled in Alarik a love of the land, its vegetation, and its many products.
In 1891, Johan Wilhelm Myrin moved his wife and five children to the village of Saffle on the northwestern shore of Lake Vaner where he held office as Law Clerk of the Court of Appeals and also as Crown County Sheriff.
It was while the family lived in Saffle that Alarik received a classical high school education, which required a stringent mastery of subject matter. This formality, strictness, and obedience made him wish that education could be otherwise. He often wondered if the education of children could ever be a joy.
Alarik obtained his military training in Karlsbad on the northern shore of Lake Vaner. It was here that Alarik worked his way up to the rank of Lieutenant in the Varmland Regiment.
Then he served in the King’s Cavalry, and in 1904, Alarik became a cadet in the War School, the West Point of Sweden. While there he became an excellent horseman. Many of his associates described Alarik as giving the impression of a knight of old as he rode.
It was in 1911 that Alarik graduated from Sweden’s General Staff Academy and in the same year met the Nobel brothers. He became closely allied with both of them personally as well as in the realm of international business. On behalf of the Nobel brothers, Alarik went to the Baker Oil Fields in Baku, Azerbaijan on the West Coast of the Caspian Sea. . .an area that was also part of Russian interests.
Out of his headquarters in Baku, Alarik developed oil excavation technology for the Nobel brothers. In addition, A.C. Harwood believed that Alarik developed some of his own oil interests, but this is not substantiated. These interests were in the area of the foothills of the southern Caucasus Mountains. Since early in this century this area was highly industrialized and of vital importance to Tsarist Russia prior to 1919. Hence, due to his exceptional knowledge of oil technology, Alarik became quite well known in Russian ruling circles. This relationship was furthered by their mutual love of horses.
After devoting some years to the practical aspects of oil excavation, Alarik divested himself of his interests in Russia and moved to Europe, entering the University of Berne, Switzerland to master Russian as well as other languages. He intended to return to Russia but when he completed his studies the borders were closed by the rebels and the Revolution held full sway. In fact, Alarik had left Russia just in time.
Alarik continued his study of languages at the University in Geneva and became an accomplished linguist.
Since there was now no foreseeable opportunity for him to return to Russia, Alarik as Director of the Central Organization of the Nobel Brothers’ oil interests outside Russia, headed the Societe Anonyme d’Armement d’Industrie et de Commerce. The headquarters of the organization had moved from Antwerp to London before the First World War stopped the flow of oil from Russia to the Allies. The import of petroleum products from the United States enabled the Society to remain active.
It was while Alarik was guiding these interests that he was invited by the Argentinian government to come to the southern part of their country and help develop Argentinian oil technology. Alarik accepted this offer and moved to Argentina. This was his entree to the Western Hemisphere.
Soon after his arrival in Argentina, Alarik met two American brothers who represented the American Sun Oil Company (Sunoco). These two brothers of the Pew family took Alarik into their hearts almost as a brother. The friendship was immediate and deep. It was then that Alarik bought into the Sun Oil Company, a very family-oriented company at this time (around 1919).
Trips from Philadelphia to Argentina by the Pew brothers were frequent. On one of their trips to Philadelphia, they brought their good friend Alarik, who stayed with them at their family home, Glenmede.
One night at dinner when the whole family was assembled Alarik met Mabel Pew, the younger sister of his two friends. This first meeting was important, resulting as it did in their marriage. This was the meeting between two of the founders of Kimberton Farms School. Their wedding took place in 1919.
This was a happy marriage as they had many interests in common. Alarik was an extremely clear thinker. He was always conscious of world events so he was also a world thinker. When he spoke, he used precise thoughts to briefly state his thinking on any matter. He was a man of few words, but those well-chosen words satisfied his listeners. He was a most careful speaker at all times.
Mabel Myrin, being rather petite alongside her tall aristocratic-looking husband, tended to be bashful, to not prefer the limelight. She was proud of her husband who could so easily handle the limelight. She very much admired Alarik and his confidence in handling all matters. In turn, Alarik loved his kindly, peaceful, calm, quite collected wife who did not hesitate to remind him of this, that, or the other thing. They were a charming couple, popular with all who associated with them. Their friends were numerous.
For six years after their marriage, they traveled to South America, to the area of the Argentine Pampas, and also to Wyoming in the United States, where oil was to be found. Both were accomplished riders, both loved horses, and both loved the wide-open spaces in the world of nature. Both had ancestors who were considered farmers. Both loved the land and both hoped one day to be jointly involved with the working of the land.
While attending the classical secondary school of his youth, Alarik was strictly required to master his subjects. At the War School in Stockholm, he became an excellent horseman and master of horses. While riding he gave the impression to onlookers as being a knight of old. He was noble in bearing. While in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied Russian and other foreign languages, he became an accomplished linguist. He mastered a number of foreign languages including Spanish, which helped him later in Argentina. Through this great knowledge of oil technology he became quite well known in he aristocratic Russian ruling circles as well as the ruling circles in other European countries. Many of the people within these circles also personally shared Alarik’s love for horses.
Ever since childhood, Alarik had a strong interest in matters dealing with the inner life of man, in the spiritual life of man. The outward difficulties he experienced at the hands of his stepmother resulted in his being inwardly sensitive, to seek that which one can gam in the loneliness of life. This tendency toward an inner contemplation led him to seek solace, to seek a special kind of knowledge that could fulfill his inner longing. He was well read in all forms of eastern philosophy and mythology. This active inner life gave him the strength, interest, and enthusiasm to investigate in a scientific way the chemistry of the earth substances found in rocks, shale, and decayed former plant life basic to oil. It was his love for knowledge, the knowledge that man gains of the earth in his attempt to understand himself and it was this deep inner life, an inner life concerned with the betterment of mankind that drew him into sincere friendship with the Nobel Brothers. It was also their interest to find and develop ways to better man’s life on earth. They shared this impulse together.
Having been raised under the rule of strictness by his stepmother and having been strictly required to master his subjects at all levels of his formal education, Alarik wondered if education could ever be made otherwise. He wondered if it could ever be a joy to learn at levels prior to entry into the university. This question stayed with him all his life.
In 1925, Alarik Myrin became an American citizen. In 1926, Alarik and Mabel traveled to Argentina. There he undertook to develop petroleum and other mineral resources in the province of Mendoza, which is in the foothills of the towering Andes Mountains lying just to the west. To the southeast is the famous Pampas of Argentina. Alarik and Mabel lived only a short distance from the Chilean border but a great distance from Buenos Aires to the east.
It was in these foothills on the Pampas that Alarik and Mabel bought a million-acre ranch. Here they could ride horseback together to their heart’s content. The ranch was so large that it would take many days to ride from border to border by horseback, which was the only mode of travel on the ranch at that time.
From this ranch, Alarik conducted what business matters he had to handle. He was only a short airplane flight from Santiago, Chile; a longer flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a major flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – the general area of Mabel and Alarik’s future life together after their years in Argentina.
KWS provides our high school students with opportunities to learn in the world through internships and practicums. In most years of high school students participate in one week off-campus learning experiences that we call practicums. We also have introduced an entrepreneurship program with opportunities for internships.
In Waldorf Education, the creativity of the teacher is central to the pedagogy. Each teacher is tasked to bring their subject matter to the students in a way that is engaging and enlivening and appropriate for the developmental stage of the students, rather than follow a scripted lesson plan developed by someone else. Waldorf teachers approach teaching as an art, developing the inner flexibility in themselves to meet each particular group of students in a unique and fresh way.
Parents across the educational spectrum have been raising concerns about the amount of homework their children are expected to do every night. Even pre-school children are expected to do homework in some schools. Developmental psychologists and educators have sounded the alarm bell about the amount of unnecessary pressure being put on children in schools. At KWS we believe that homework should be a support and not a burden. We don’t believe that there is any value in assigning homework to young children. We introduce homework gradually in the grade school in an age appropriate manner. By middle school and high school students learn to manage homework from a variety of subject teachers. On average, we don’t expect our high school students to do more than two hours of homework a night.
Recent research by developmental and educational psychologists and neuroscientists have confirmed what Waldorf Education has known for years. Play is the most important component of early childhood education, and is needed to lay the foundation for the development of thinking as students grow. The Waldorf Early Childhood curriculum is centered around creative play and socialization. The pressure that is being put on young children to perform academically in other educational systems is not a part of Waldorf Education. While children in the early childhood program are provided with experiences that provide the foundation for academics, academic instruction per se is reserved for the grades when children are developmentally ready to use their memory and other capacities in academic learning.
A considerable amount has been written recently about the important role that nature plays in healthy human development, and as an important aspect of education. The Waldorf curriculum seeks to help students develop a healthy connection to the natural world and to develop a sense of awe and wonder that later can develop into a sense of responsibility for the natural world. Kimberton Waldorf School is uniquely situated to provide a natural education because of our beautiful 425 acre campus that includes French Creek, woods, pastures, an organic school garden, and an organic dairy farm. We offer a nature-based Kindergarten class that we call the Forest, Field, and Farm Kindergarten. In Third grade our students learn about farming, which includes taking care of animals in a small “farm” on campus. Students learn to understand what it takes to grow good, healthful food in our organic gardening program, and they will literally eat the fruits of the labor in our organic hot lunch program. In High School, we have an experiential/outdoor program that includes backpacking and canoeing trips, and study of marine biology on the coast of Maine.
We think that the relationship between a teacher and student is just as important as the material being learned. For that reason we provide opportunities for our students and teachers to work with each other over a series of years. Our easy childhood program is a mixed age program, so a child will typically be in our Pre-K or Kindergarten for at least two years with the same teacher. In the Lower School grades (1-8) the main teacher for a class (called the class teacher) moves with the class from year to year (First grade to Second grade and so on). This allows for the teacher to really get to know his or her students, their strengths and their challenges; and it allows the teacher to also get to know each student’s parents well and to work with them as a team to support the student’s healthy development. Subject teachers in music, physical education, foreign languages, and the arts also work with the same students for a period of years, establishing close learning relationships. A reflection of this relationship is that we do not give letter grades in the Lower School. Instead, the teachers write in-depth narrative evaluations of how each student is progressing. In High School, the class teacher is replaced by a team of class advisors, who shepherd a class through the high school years. We do give letter grades in high school, but continue to write narrative evaluations.
Waldorf Education is dedicated to educating the whole child: head, heart, and hands. We do this through a well-balanced curriculum of academics, arts, and practical experiences with the goal of engaging the students’ intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our students become as comfortable solving a quadratic equation or writing a research paper as they do playing a musical instrument in an orchestra, performing in a play, growing food in our organic garden, or making a beautiful and useful object in woodworking class. They develop confidence in themselves as thinkers and creative doers because they have had an education that asks them to make, to create, to design, to collaborate, and to think for themselves.
KWS is dedicated to promoting the health of our students. Our students do not spend their day sitting in front of computers under artificial lights, but have the opportunities to move and use their bodies in healthy ways, and to spend time outdoors in the natural environment. Our campus is a beautiful, natural environment where children can play and explore the outdoors and breathe fresh air. Providing children with good, healthful food is part of what we value. Our organic lunch program which we call Food for Thought provides our students with organic, locally sourced nutritional lunches and snacks. School families can even buy soups and other prepared foods from the lunch program.
KWS is located on 425 acres of beautiful Chester County farmland. Our organic and biodynamic dairy farm produces the area’s best yogurt. Our students develop an appreciation for the earth and an understanding for what it takes to grow good, healthful food in our organic school garden. The students learn every aspect of gardening from sowing to harvesting and preservation of foods. The even learn how to prune fruit trees and work with honeybees.