What draws you to the Waldorf approach to education? And in particular, to leading the Forest Kindergarten?
I have been a Waldorf teacher my whole adult life, and my first teaching position was at KWS in the high school. As a young person I was searching for meaning and looking for a new approach to education, found Waldorf education and started teaching when I was 24. This is my 4th time coming back to teach at KWS, as I left to go back to school, then when I had my two boys, etc. I also taught young adults with special needs at the Camphill School Transition Program at Beaver Farm. I was there as program manager, faculty chair, and special education teacher for 12 years and then became Regional Coordinator for the Camphill Association of North America for another 3 years. My job as regional coordinator was wonderful when I was traveling to all the Camphills for meetings and peer reviews, but I spent way too much time in front of a screen. I had always been intrigued with the forest kindergarten approach and was able to visit the forest kindergarten at KWS before the pandemic. When school started up again, I became an assistant in the kindergarten, and proposed the idea a year ago to expand our forest kindergarten program.
Is there a particular highlight from the first year of the Forest Kindergarten that stands out to you?
Every day before we enter the forest, we sing a song together to open our senses, and to have good manners while we walk quietly to our forest program area, as we are entering the home of all our forest friends. The song goes:
Look with our owl eyes
Listen with our deer ears
Smell with our dog nose
Feel with our raccoon fingers
I especially love it when the birds come to our pinecone bird feeders while we are quietly eating our snack. We’ve had visits from nuthatches, blue birds, cardinals, and woodpeckers!
You have sons that graduated from KWS? How have you seen this unique education impact their lives as they leave the nest and create their own lives?
Both my boys went from preschool through 12th grade. I realize now that the things we did with them when they were growing up has had a huge impact on their lives. We spent a lot of time in the great outdoors: bicycling, canoeing, hiking, fishing, swimming in creeks, camping, canoe camping, etc.! They both work in outdoor education: Jackson (KWS class of 2011) worked in wilderness therapy as both a guide and a medic, and now is a back country park ranger in Yosemite. Gabriel (KWS class of 2013) has just left his job as a senior guide in wilderness therapy and is currently working at a Waldorf kindergarten in Colorado. They both inspired me to work outdoors as well.