Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

A Visit to Sandpoint Waldorf School

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Student working on a drawing in class.

Today Eve Bowers and I spent the morning, (8:30 – 12:30) at the Sandpoint Waldorf School. I just wanted to take a few minutes to share my thoughts and feelings about it, along with a recap of what took place, and to encourage those of you that are interested or on the fence about Waldorf, to make the trek to the school.

What a wonderful experience it was. We visited just the 6th grade class, taught by Michael Seifert, a truly welcoming and obviously dedicated teacher. The class began right on time, with the students reciting a verse together…by memory. This alone brought tears to my eyes, because honestly, I have never seen anything like it…and they do this everyday!!! The children were standing, and seemed to be very focused on the task at hand. After the verse, they got ready to practice a scene for a play they have to do. They moved desks around to allow for the space to move and rehearse. This was so different from any memory that I have of my school years…the rapport between the students and Mr. Seifert was wonderful…it was respectful while at the same time, the children had a voice, suggestions for each other and for the teacher. They were working together, albeit with moments of “teenage angst”!

After the rehearsal, they did some math problems…all in their heads…no writing allowed. (I was quite happy to get *most* of them right…LOL)…it was just brilliant! Then they pulled out their recorders and the whole class played music together…a piece they had just begun learning the day before…:-)…and it was only 10 a.m….a 15 minute snack time, then recess. For recess, I was amazed that it was not mandatory for everyone to go outside. Some of the children chose to go outside, but it seemed that about 1/3 decided to stay inside. I loved the trust this showed…Eve and I were crazy enough to go outside…the wind was pretty treacherous…but the sun was shinning…The children, (along with other grades) played outside for about 15 minutes…not one issue came up…all the children were happy and having a good time!

After break, we headed back inside and the class did a writing exercise. Mr. Seifert read a paragraph about Monks and Nuns, directing the children to write down key words only, not verbatim what he read…then, after he finished, they had to write a paragraph in their own words, a summary of what was read. Let’s see, there was also some time spent on a grid that the students have to update to keep track of their progress in certain areas…they are doing works of service, so for example, they had to write down how this work of service has changed/affected them…or how in a sport, they had bettered their athletic ability…there were quite a few of them, but these are the two that I remember. Next week, the parents will come to the class, and Mr. Seifert will go one by one, and talk about the changes he sees in each student, in front of the whole class…it was all said in such a positive and loving manner…you could see the pride in the children…the excitement! After this, they worked on their main lesson plan…which consisted of following specific directions, some of which were just verbal, to make a pretty fantastic drawing which will be a basis of the telling of the Middle Ages…This was a pretty long segment and we all worked diligently, (even Eve and I) on our grids and drawings!

Now, came a pretty great activity, which was my favorite. They have been reading a book, (on their own from what I gathered)…each child had to write down 3 questions about the story and the answer to said questions. They then broke up into groups, and had a contest…all the desks were moved out of the way, (this happened on numerous occasions), and a bell was placed at the front of the class, while all the children were seated in the back of the room. Each team of 2 or 3 students went to the front of the classroom and read one question out loud…whomever of the students that knew, (or thought they knew) the answer, ran up to the front and rang a little brass bell that had been placed on the desk, and then had 5 seconds to state the correct answer….I can’t tell you how much fun this activity was…for EVERYONE! There was laughter…and bargaining…and minds working HARD! When there was a dispute, the kids for the most part tried to work it out…with Mr. Seifert stepping in if needed…it was a sight to behold. This had NEVER happened in my education…The kids were kind to each other…there was no fun to be made of a person…just general laughter and great effort…it was really a great way to tackle reviewing what was read! It sure beats having a pop quiz of the teacher’s questions on paper…sitting at your desk! This was dynamic…it was educational and fun!

After this, we all headed to the basement where the children, separated into 4 teams, had to create an obstacle course, that they would all participate in. Each team had to build a segment of the course…so not only did they have to work within their small team, they then had to piece the whole thing together…This was truly amazing…they grabbed all sorts of props…chairs, cubbies, music stands, juggling balls, trampolines, mats, a ladder. a balance beam…and then, after maybe 1/2 an hour of set up, they had to compete to run it…This is what stood out for me…when someone fell or struggled…there were no comments that were of an unkind nature…you know, like, “what an idiot!”…etc…in fact, there was one time that a girl fell on this balance thing, and a boy came up to her and asked her if she was OK! Again, it was as if I was watching Martian children…this is not typical…

As sad as we were, we had to leave and head home….I am so glad I went…no, glad isn’t the right word…I am ecstatic that I went and witnessed such a wonderful learning environment…I didn’t want to leave…I even had a thought about becoming a Waldorf teacher while sitting in that classroom…it was truly terrific.

So, as we begin this process of figuring out if we want a Waldorf School in Spokane…if we have it in us to create this school…I urge all of you that are interested to go and see it for yourselves…it made me want to go to school…again! There was a certain amount of freedom in the classroom…they didn’t have to raise their hands to ask for permission to go to the bathroom…or sharpen their pencils…I know this may seem trivial, but to me it was extraordinary…again, the respect…the trust. I LOVED that!