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.
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!
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.
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.
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,
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.