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Jump Rope Success – by Mrs. Crandall

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Blog, Lower School | Comments Off on Jump Rope Success – by Mrs. Crandall

The Human Spirit in Education

One of the tasks of the class teacher in the Waldorf School is to have an unshakable belief in a human being’s capacity to learn and transform him/herself. As we practice believing this, we learn to see the amazing leaps students take in their development. After a few years of experience comes the more challenging practice for the class teacher: to be vigilant of our pictures of others, for we know that our thoughts and feelings about others create a kind of mental picture that has an effect. Think about it: we can feel another person’s love and support, and we know that when bathed in that light, we can achieve more than we thought possible. The opposite is also true, that we can feel diminished under the weight of negativity and unsupportive thoughts about us. This does not mean we ignore what needs support, what needs guidance and work. Imagine if we all took up this practice of vigilance with great devotion; miracles would unfold.

It was because of this challenging practice that I found myself growing very angry at the injustice I felt coming towards Sue in her second grade year from the remedial system the public school uses. In my opinion, she did not need these services any more. In fact, to keep her on the services sent her the message that she is indeed handicapped. She needs to practice daily moving her physical body due to weak muscle tone, however she is not handicapped. This perceived injustice was not coming from others out of any malice. They certainly had very good intentions. But I was being asked to support what I felt was a lie. What and who Sue is was being dissected and the parts that needed support were magnified beyond the proportions of her strengths so as to create a distorted picture of who Sue is. It was as if I had to work with this grotesque picture, like the ones you see in the funny mirrors at the carnival, as if this were the reality named “Sue”. Yes, she had areas she needed to work on, and who in this world does not?

At the end of the second grade, Sue found that she could not yet jump rope by herself. Yet she knew all her times tables, which many in her class did not. The challenge was that we were combining individual jump roping with saying the times tables by ourselves as a way to continue to strive in knowing them. Day after day Sue struggled in front of the class. She struggled to integrate gross and fine motor skills as well as a sense of rhythm and balance. She watched and even practiced at recess and she still could not get it, nor did it seem like she was making progress in any way.

During this time, I struggled with my own thoughts and feeling about the remedial assessment of Sue and one day as I watched Sue struggle, my faith diminished. For the first time, doubt entered my heart. Maybe I was asking too much of her; maybe my expectations were too high. This was the day that my picture of Sue weakened and changed and began to resemble more the distorted proportions projected by others. I was not happy with myself for this weakness. I fought to push the distortions out of my mind. Though I continued to support Sue and offer suggestions, doubt heavily squatted in my heart.

Then one day, without any indication, Sue stepped up to the front of the class with her usual equanimity, and she jumped rope to one of the times tables! The class cheered for her with loud shouts and big smiles, for this was their success as well; their job, as I explained earlier to them, was to be supportive in their thoughts, feelings and in their deeds. Some took time at recess to jump rope with her and offer encouraging words.

I was moved beyond words. Under the insistence of my expectations of her, Sue’s spirit never wavered and remained focused throughout this ordeal. She believed, while inwardly, I was being tempted to stray by a maze of mirrors and illusions. Sue was an unshakeable example of the strength of the human spirit that can tackle a seemingly impossible challenge with consistent equanimity and perseverance. In her time, she learned what she needed to learn.

This experience is close to my heart because of my love for Sue and what she has taught us. But this experience is also an example of the importance of striving, wherever we find ourselves in need of that striving. Sue’s striving was within a physical practice and in her belief in herself to accomplish a task. My striving as a Waldorf teacher, in this story, was in the battle to stay faithful to the “knowing” that the human being has capacities that far outshine our imagination and mental limitations of them. We do not control what can unfold in the human being, we can only give opportunity for what is there to unfold. Sometimes the unfolding takes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. But when we don’t remain faithful in our thoughts and feelings regarding the strength of the human spirit to learn and grow, we get in the way, we become the hindrances to learning, we cut off time required for the spirit to unfold. For example, who says that I child will suffer in life, or that some unimaginable damage will be done to their growing minds, if a student is not reading by a certain age? Doubt and fear swim all around us and we must do our part to remember what to focus on and when to look away from the illusions and distortions. This is especially true in education.

Respectfully submitted by:

Karen Crandall, Class Teacher WSSS

Summer 2014

4th Grade Woodworking – By Mr. Litts

Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Art, Blog, Handwork, Lower School | Comments Off on 4th Grade Woodworking – By Mr. Litts

As an energetic lad within these very walls, my rambunctious nature was instantly quelled when it came time for handwork, especially woodworking. My love for traditional methods of crafting has grown over the years, and I’m fortunate to be able to bring my experiences to our children. Rather than presenting a more common “shop class” type of curriculum, we’ll focus on working with wood as an artistic medium; carving with chisels, shaping with rasps, and smoothing with sandpaper. To finish each project, we’ll use mineral oil to accentuate the wood’s grain pattern. Throughout the year, we’ll be exploring different types of wood, the way they react to our tools’ exertion, and creating beautiful pieces along the way. We’ll be working with basswood, and other softwoods that lend themselves to carving and shaping. We’ll begin with shaping an egg, then move on to form Egyptian runes, and then fashion a cord-making tool known as a “lucet.”

Buddies Painting Owls – By Mrs. Sabatella

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Art, Blog, Lower School, Middle School | Comments Off on Buddies Painting Owls – By Mrs. Sabatella

Every first grade class gets a buddy in the fifth grade class.  These buddies stay together until the fifth grade leaves the lower school after 8th grade.

The current 4th grade and the 8th grade have spent their buddy time over the past four years together doing a variety of activities.  A few weeks ago we gathered together to sketch an assortment of owls.  Outside the rain fell in a steady stream and could be heard tapping against the windows.  The students sat side by side with their heads bowed and shared ideas and encouragement.  The 8th graders worked with their colored pencils while the 4th graders used their beeswax crayons.  There was a soft contented hum of conversation across the classroom as nearly 48 students sat working together.

The next day, the 8th graders painted their owls with Mrs.Karp.  They used a wet on dry watercolor technique.  The following day, the 4th graders visited the 8th grade classroom to view the majestic owls that they had painted and hung in their room.  The 4th graders then went back to their own room and painted their own owls using the wet on wet watercolor technique.

Here are some of the fruits of that collaboration.

IMG_6944 IMG_6947 IMG_6953 IMG_7060

Painting Genesis – by Karen Crandall

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Art, Blog, Lower School | Comments Off on Painting Genesis – by Karen Crandall

Waldorf schools are nonsectarian. Values such as respect for self and others, universal to all religious and spiritual traditions, are upheld in the classrooms. Spiritual leaders of many cultures are studied through the history of world civilizations. The question of religion is left strictly to the family.  Here is one way we present the Old Testament as literature to our 3rd graders

Painting Genesis

Painting the Seven Days of Creation

Old Testament as Literature in the 3rd Grade Curriculum

Imagine paint pots filled with the primary colors, set beside white painting paper on the bench in front of the teacher.  She allows the water from a sponge to spill over the surface of the paper and soak in on both sides. The brush is dipped into the pot of blue and gently swirled around.  The saturated brush is lifted from the pot and blue paint glides across the white paper.  All the children who stand around her watch in silence as the white paper transforms gradually into different shades of blue.  Red is added for a sense of warmth.Pic 1

Then the teacher swirls her brush in the water jar, wipes it on the sponge, and says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void.”  The teacher lifts the paint from middle of the paper, creating light and pale blues. “And God said, Let there be light. And there was light.”

And then the students quietly walk to their benches and begin to relive the painting experience through their own hands and imagination.

On the second day, a similar experience is provided with blue. A touch of red provides a feeling of warmth and the waters are separated from the waters.

On the third day, the same two colors are used as the ground rises out of the seas.

On the fourth day, something new happens. The waters are created with blue, the air with blue, and the earth with more warmth.  After the brush is cleaned, it is dipped into a pot and moved to the sky.  The shocking appearance of the brilliance of yellow after so many days of just blue fills each student with delight.  “Ah…” they breathe in the experience of yellow at the same time.  This was not planned yet through the faithful repetition of the blue in the recapitulation of the creation of the earth, the students’ hearts experienced the birth of a new being: yellow: the sun in their painting.

when the heart is touched learning unfolds

Pic 2Steiner indicated that class teachers should begin in the 1st grade with the idea that form arises out of color.  Painting forms like animals or houses in the first grade is not our goal.  Instead, we move the colors on a thin layer of water, surround color with a different color, all the time using only primary colors.  Only two colors are painted at a time so that an experience of the relationship and dynamics the colors may have can be felt.  The colors become familiar friends.  Their relationships with each other become something we participate in, something we feel in our hearts.  This continues into the second grade.

The birth of a third

Then one day, one color holds hands with another color and something new is born.  Out of the two comes a third.  Where did it come from? It was not there before yet it always had the potential to come to light because of the presence of the two “parent” colors.  Yellow and blue together create the soothing green of grass on earth.

bringing imagination into the world

Throughout a Waldorf education, one has the opportunity to learn to translate one’s imagination through one’s hands and into the materials of the earth.  We learn to bring that part of us that is precious and invisible, our imagination, through the use of our hands into the creation of something beautiful in book form, clay, paint, crayon, wood, etc.  The student who embraces this challenge is striving to do what Michelangelo did with his sculptures: he said that the form was already in the block of marble and he was simply setting it free.  We, too, can have the imagination first and learn to bring it out so that the world may behold it.  We can learn to let that which is invisible speak to us and be devoted to setting it free.Pic 3

By the time the students are in the third grade, we are striving to find the form that arises out of the colors. This requires imagination.  We are learning not only to observe the outside world, but also to learn to observe the awakening inner world.  Every day we are given opportunities to observe privately what our imaginations hold.  We learn to observe skills and practice them so that our capacity to bring our imaginations to light is enhanced.  We can peer into a painting with the intention of finding a fish that swims in the deep, and then create it intuitively with our brushes out of the color and movement already provided.  Isn’t this also an example of bringing to birth something that had the potential to manifest, yet waited a while in the invisible world until declared?

Be they fish or factors, we can learn to leave room for our imaginations to speak to us and thereby learn far more about the world and ourselves than can ever be planned for.

Seventh Grade handwork – by Ms. Bradley

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Blog, Handwork, Lower School | Comments Off on Seventh Grade handwork – by Ms. Bradley

The handwork curriculum for Grade 7 brings new opportunities for linking the work of making something with one’s hands and the reality of day-to-day living.  Many handwork classes in Grade 7 at Waldorf schools focus on making clothing using hand-sewing, a skill that has been lost in recent generations in many parts of today’s world.  Sewing by hand strengthens neural pathways related to speech, overall focus and attention, and according to much research, math skills.  Each class has its own unique nature, its own needs, strengths, and abilities.  This year’s class play will likely be done with puppets and/or marionettes and much of our work in handwork class will be devoted to supporting the play: making figures of both a human and animal nature, making clothing and gear for them, and so on. As the class adapts to its new constellation this year, other projects may be added as appropriate to the class’s presenting needs.

Waldorf Saratoga Video

Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Waldorf Saratoga Video

In case you missed it, here’s the video we showed at the 2014 Voyage of Discovery Breakfast earlier this week


First Grade French – by Mme Hrebenach

Posted by on Oct 29, 2014 in Blog, Language, Lower School | Comments Off on First Grade French – by Mme Hrebenach

I feel that language is a vital means of communication between people, as well as a gateway to understanding and accepting particular cultures, as expressed through meaningful sound.  With each language we learn, we increase our social range, and our understanding of the world in which we live.

In first grade French class, we will explore French language almost exclusively in the target language.  We will sing, play, recite poetry and listen to stories and fables in French, and also do some fun drawings.  We will play games and sing songs with the goal of enlisting the students’ vigorous participation in a group setting.  This immersion style teaching also allows children to become bathed in the sounds and rhythms of the language.  Vocabulary recognition is not stressed, but does tend to occur naturally as the children act out verbal commands such as walking, running, jumping, dancing, and so on. By the end of the school year the children will also be familiar with colors, numbers to 20, and body parts, and will have learned an impressive number of songs and poems in French. Most importantly, I want the children to have fun in French class, and to learn to love the language, as the culture emerges within their beings.

Thermal Physics – by Mr. Moise

Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Blog, High School, Science | Comments Off on Thermal Physics – by Mr. Moise

We started our Thermal Physics block by practicing metric measurements in the context of a science lab. In the next three weeks we will define the concepts of temperature, thermal expansion and specific heat through experiments, discussions, and mathematical calculations. The students will continue this block by discovering and learning the meaning of some complex concepts from classical thermodynamics like convection, conduction, phase changes, pressure, etc.

    DSC_0004  Most mornings we will start our class with a short walk around the school building. This is an opportunity for all of us to refresh our blood circulation and the oxygen supply to the brain as students learned in the 8th grade physiology block. I will remind everybody that it is healthy for the students to go early to bed every night to be rested and refreshed next morning.

      David Mitchell, a well-known Waldorf teacher and author, indicates that the end of the fourteenth year is that point in the student life’s when the intellect is being born and the individual begins to find enjoyment in logic. Teachers and other adults become the whetstones upon which the teenagers sharpen this new found ability to reason.  The curriculum of the Waldorf school attempts to meet and exercise these forces. In 9th grade science block the emphasis is on logic. Students are not only observing the phenomena, but they are learning to think through everything they observe and learn in the classroom. Students are working in the lab individually and in groups, they make measurements, record data, graph the results and interpret data (draw conclusions). They learn the fundamentals of the scientific method through a phenomenological approach  

       Regardless if students will study science or not in college, the science Main Lesson blocks build the capacity of students to think objectively in the world.DSC_0008

Parent Study Group – by Katie Capelli

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Blog, parents | Comments Off on Parent Study Group – by Katie Capelli

On Wednesday mornings, bright and early, a group of parents meets with faculty member Abigail Reid both to learn more about Waldorf education and to share our experiences as parents. We began with reading “A Thousand Rivers,” an article written by Carol Black. Ms. Black delves into the murky waters of our current public school system with a historical lens, a multicultural analysis and as a parent who “unschools” her daughter. She begins with a critical review of common widespread educational assumptions and beliefs. Highlighting, “ the available ‘data’ that drives [public education] is not, as a matter of fact, the ‘science of how people learn’. It is the ‘science of what happens to people in schools.’ ” And that “collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World”. With strong opinions about many aspects of schooling from the current reading curriculum to an exploration of learning styles, Ms. Black offered us an opportunity for rich discussions around our own experiences, our expectations, our questions and at times a critical analysis of her particular research.

temperaments2We are now beginning to read “Watching Your Temperament: Advice for Parents and Teachers”, written by Thomas Poplawski, a Eurythmist and Psychotherapist (the essay begins on page 93 of the book). We welcome you to join our lively discussions at our meetings or at other times if you are unable to attend. Please contact Abigail Reid for more information.


10th Grade Odyssey Trip – by Mr. Lytle

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Blog, English, High School | Comments Off on 10th Grade Odyssey Trip – by Mr. Lytle

Deciding between Charybdis’ whirlpool and Scylla’s deadly cliffs; remaining vigilant and open to inspiration in the face of the narrow-minded tunnel-vision of the cyclops, Polyphemus; drawing upon inner fortitude during a trip into the underworld; a match-up of will and intellect versus the awesome forces of nature (and the gods!); and this against the backdrop of an individual’s journey towards home and family.IMAG0039

The first main-lesson block for 10th grade is the study of Homer’s two epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey.  In addition to reading these classic texts and exploring the various historical, cultural, and literary themes that arise in class, we will be concluding the block with a sort of real-world “odyssey” of our own:  a three day guided caving and white-water rafting trip in the Adirondacks.

Day one we will embark on a caving exploration of the Chimney Rock caves.  In the morning we’ll launch our rafts and work our way down the Upper Hudson River, stopping at a half-way point on the river for our second night’s camp.  Along the way there will be lots of opportunity for exploration, adventure, and discussion.  My hope is that, through this shared experience and adventure, we will be able to have a visceral experience of the significant themes that manifest themselves in Homer’s epics, such as leadership, working together, overcoming adversity, using our will and intellect, and of course, returning home after a long and challenging trip!