A full Waldorf kindergarten experience, outdoors.
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School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten. Ashwood Waldorf School Hosts Film Screenings
On Sunday, August 10, Ashwood Waldorf School hosts two free showings of the film, School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten. The short film will be presented at the Rockland Public Library at 2:00 p.m., and again at 4:00 p.m. at Ashwood’s early-childhood center at 180 Park St. Childcare will be provided for both screenings.
Ashwood is launching a forest kindergarten program this fall, the first in the Rockport area. The forest kindergarten will offer a full Waldorf early-childhood experience, outdoors. Fall, winter, and spring, in all weathers, children will enjoy seasonal activities, circle time, gardening, forest walks, and creative free play. The Forest Kindergarten movement is growing rapidly in the U.S. after more than 40 years’ success in Europe and Scandinavia.
Both film showings are free. Please RSVP no later than Friday, August 8: 207.236.8021
Ashwood’s Forest Kindergarten program will offer a full Waldorf kindergarten experience, outdoors. Fall, winter, and spring, in all weathers, children will enjoy seasonal activities, circle time, gardening, forest walks, and creative free play. They will delight in stories around the fire where they prepare their snack and warm their tea. Waldorf early-childhood education integrates art, music, and movement into a structured, play-based curriculum. With small class sizes and dedicated, experienced teachers, Ashwood provides active and creative experiences that nurture an enthusiasm for learning. Veteran teacher and outdoor educator Marianne Bockli will lead the program. Bockli has spent the last five years mentoring Waldorf teachers in China, and brings a rich life experience and deep love of nature to the program. The Forest Kindergarten program will be offered on Wednesdays to children enrolled in Ashwood’s regular Early Childhood program. There will be no additional tuition fees for enrolling in the program. Participants will enjoy the traditional course of activities with their regular teacher and classmates on the other days of the week.
It was a damp, foggy, almost springlike day on Friday, January 17, when the Grade 3-4 class left campus to hike Beech Hill in Rockport. We had been studying local geography and it was my hope that we would be able to see and sketch some of the islands and mountains the students had been learning about. It was obvious even before we left campus that the low clouds and thick fog were going to be a hindrance on this endeavor but I decided we would go for it anyway.
Though my plan would certainly need to be modified, the students seemed unperturbed by the conditions. As we hiked/ran/splashed/trudged up the dirt path to the top of the hill, the students sang, talked, and joked with one another in high spirits. As we looked out the blueberry fields faded away into the fog and, before us, the path itself seemed to disappear into nothing.
“It looks like we’re walking off the end of the world” one student observed. I was feeling the same way. I was determined to find some worthwhile experience from this trip since my original plan for the day was being swallowed by the ubiquitous fog so we took a moment to imagine that we were at the edge of the world. Then I let the student run to explore the stone Beech Nut “hut.”
In the first local geography block, I start in concentric circles from our immediate surroundings, the classroom, school building, campus, and gradually work to the range of the furthest students’ homes. Though not very tall or difficult to hike, Beech Hill offers a view of just about that distance and certainly manifest the character of the Camden Hills and Penobscot Bay. The fog however, was forcing us to focus back in on our immediate surroundings so we explored the grounds of Beech Nut and identified some of the plants and trees that we found; black spruce, blueberries, bayberries, wild rose, etc.
“An owl!” called one student excitedly. More enthusiastic echoes came from his classmates. I hurried over to see. About 50 yards from us, almost our total visibility, perched a large bird with a bright white head.
“A bald eagle perhaps?” I suggested.
“No, it’s turning its head like an owl.” Indeed, it was, and, it had the unmistakable face of an owl. But what kind of owl? White face; grey plumage; LARGE body. We observed it as carefully as we could but it had already assessed us far better.
It decided that our romping around was either going to scare up some critters or convince them to stay in their homes. With a few wide flaps it took off into the air and circled right over our heads to see if any of us were small enough to carry off; we stayed bunched together. As it flew directly over us, it was clear to me what we were seeing. From below the owl was as white as the fog it was carving through. Had it not already been reported in the area I might not have known that it was – a snowy owl.
It circled above us for a few more silent moments before disappearing into the fog. I felt my eyes well slightly at such a rare and beautiful sight. The students also seemed to sense the significance of what we had just seen and began to dance and play and recount the experience to one another.
The rest of our visit to Beech Hill was as stimulating as I had hoped it would be. We walked the forest paths and identified any and all of the local flora and fauna that we could. By the time we made it back to the hut for a snack, the sky had finally cleared enough for us to look out and take in Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills.
Our trip to Beech Hill was not as I imagined it would be. The paper I brought to make sketches was damp and we didn’t have a lot of time to identify all the geographical features around us, though we named many. However, the real lesson that I took away from that day, and hope the students did too, was perseverance; we could easily have rescheduled our trip for a nicer day but we stayed committed and were rewarded for it.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
-William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
The fifth grade has been busy exploring a wide range of cultures. We learned about Ancient India and Persia in October, and celebrated Deepavali in mid-November with a big, merry crowd of family and friends. In preparation, the class made oil lamps with Susan Junge, and created rangoli, or colored sand paintings, in their geometry class. For the festival, they dressed in silk costumes from India. The class enacted a ceremony for Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, sang a kirtan to Siva, and performed an Indian village stick dance. Then we ate, drank, chatted, and romped with our families in honor of the lunar New Year. It was very meaningful and poignant to celebrate a ceremony that we first experienced with our dear teacher and colleague, Mrs. Kalmath.
The next day was our first assembly, and the class got to show some of their bookwork, sing a new song, and demonstrate their juggling and plate-spinning skills.
During our geography block, we got into an imaginary clipper ship and sailed from the waters of Greenland down to Cape Cod, then on to Chesapeake Bay, down past the Okefenokee Swamp, around the Everglades, through the West Indies, and on to the bayou in the Gulf of Mexico. We went around Mexico and Central America, then back up the Pacific coast, around Alaska, and into the islands of Northern Canada. I don’t think any of us knew there were so many places where alligators live, nor that there are people on our beautiful planet who don’t ever eat vegetables! We listened to music from different cultures of North America: Quebecois fiddle, Cuban son, Louisiana zydeco, Jamaican reggae… an extraordinary variety of styles. We ended the block up among the Inuit; in the spring, we’ll come home by…balloon!
—Class teacher Lesley Finlayson