Early Childhood classrooms in Waldorf schools look different. Some parents are initially surprised by the lack of primary colors and maps and charts that normally festoon the walls of “traditional” preschool rooms. Won’t the kids find this … boring?
According to recent research on the topic of classroom design, they won’t consider it at all, which is exactly the point. The teacher and the lessons – or, in Early Childhood, the play and cognitive, creative, and motor development – is what deserves the children’s focus, not the posters, mobiles, or charts.
And it turns out children do give busy decor a fair amount of their focus. This New York Times article, Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom, reports on a recent early childhood study which found that “children spent far more time off-task in the decorated classroom than in the plain one,” as measured by time spent gazing at the walls and scores on a picture test about stories the teacher had been telling.
There is also concern that the material on the walls is simply part of a larger commercial agenda to sell teachers and schools pre-made banners, mobiles, and posters, when walls might be better served as display space of student work or functional space for teachers and students.
A comprehensive 2012 research study published in The International Journal of Building Science and its Applications conducted an extensive analysis and assessment of 751 students across 34 classrooms in seven different schools in order to isolate the characteristics of classrooms that “maximize pupils’ achievement.”
According to this study, a well-designed classroom:
- Receives natural light
- Is designed with a quiet visual environment
- Uses warm colors on the walls and floor
- Has a large area of free space for building and diverse learning/play
- Has high-quality and purpose-designed furniture, fixtures and equipment
- Allows ease of movement
- Allows flexibility in learning varied activities
- Contains ergonomic tables and chairs
- Is modular, meaning the teacher can easily change the space configuration
While stepping into a Waldorf Early Childhood classroom evokes feelings of warmth, simplicity and comfort, careful analysis reveals that almost all of the above features have been accomplished in its design. Open areas are filled with natural light and materials that emphasize function over primary-colored form. This helps young children feel comfortable and focus on what matters — their creative play with peers, and time listening to and working with their teacher.
At Spring Garden, this means transitioning from the Meadow and familiar Early Childhood teachers to a new classroom, new teacher, and new playground. There will also be a new rhythm to their day.
You will receive a supply list from your teacher, and all the outdoor gear requirements will look familiar if you’ve been at Spring Garden for early childhood. School age children play outside at least three times a day in all but stormy weather. The other supplies will include extra clothes and some other items for class.
The First Day of School:
We suggest you park and walk into school with your first grader. The first grade teacher will give more specific information about first day drop-off specifics, but most parents stay that morning to see the Rose Ceremony, which takes place on the first day for all students. This ceremony accentuates the special significance of transitioning to first grade. The young children are entering a new phase in life — where schooling and community, away from parents, will support their budding sense of self, learning, and individuality.
During this ceremony, Spring Garden pairs incoming first grade students with their responsible eighth grade buddies — a milestone for both young people in the pairing. Eighth grade students will guide their first grade buddies throughout the year in various ways, including helping the first grade during assembly, having a care-giving presence at other festivals and celebrations, and chaperoning and teaching the young children to ice skate during our spring field trip.
After the Rose Ceremony, a regular school day will commence and children can be picked up at 3:20pm.
The First Week of School:
Children can be dropped off or walked into school by their parents between 8:15 and 8:30. Grade 1 and Grade 2 students will always have their teacher present during morning recess. For the first few days, please walk your first grader out to greet their teacher. Once your child is comfortable coming into the school, hanging lunches outside their classroom, and putting on their outdoor clothing to go outside then they may do it on their own. If you arrive after 8:30, you must walk your child into the office to sign in and get a late pass.
Children will wear their outdoor gear every morning, including rain pants and boots, even on sunny and dry days. This is because they are welcome to sit in the wet morning dew and stomp in morning mud puddles! Being dressed in gear first thing means they are ready for play.
After the morning bell rings, children will come inside in a classroom line, take off their gear, and begin their day. For the first grader, Main Lesson begins with circle time, movement, and song. Then, when children are ready, they sit for the day’s lesson on a main subject. The main subjects (language arts, math, history, etc.) are taught in blocks that last for a set amount of weeks. Main lesson is two hours per day and includes many activities to encourage multidisciplinary learning, including music, storytelling, writing, drawing, and conversation.
Once done with Main lesson, students enjoy a snack around 10:30 and then have their second recess time of the day. When they return from the outdoors, they begin their subject lessons with subject teachers; the schedule varies by day but is consistent each week. Your teacher can provide a subject lesson schedule, which will include Spanish, handwork, movement, music, gym, painting, lunch, recess, and in older grades, woodwork and orchestra.
Is there Before Care?
Before Care begins at 7:15. Before Care is located in the Second Grade classroom. At 8:15, children will put on their outdoor clothes with the help of the before care teacher, if needed. Early Childhood students will be walked to their class teacher, while students in the grades will be sent outside for morning recess.
Where do I park?
If you’d like to walk in with your student, come to the School Store, or speak with faculty or staff, please park in the lot on the right (near the Meadow & fence) or park to the far left against the grass near the Sports Club pavilion property. Please do not leave unattended cars in the circle drop-off area.
Where do students and/or parents walk in?
Please have students walk into the front door only, located under the overhang adjacent to the circle drop off area. The door in the Early Childhood wing is locked and is not for general entry. It is used only to take young children to and from the Meadow, and Early Childhood teachers kindly ask that students use the front door only for entry.
What if we’re late?
Children coming in after 8:30 must get signed in at the office with their caregiver and receive a late pass. Children who are tardy should proceed to their classroom once they are signed in and have a pass. They should knock on the classroom door and wait patiently to be let in. The teacher will not disrupt the morning opening but will let the child in once opening is finished. They may need to wait a few minutes.
We look forward to seeing you on August 27th!
It’s the summer of big improvements for the Spring Garden Waldorf School building. Phase one of the roof is complete and the next phase now begins. Last week the trusses for our new gabled asphalt roof arrived and Delbert Stewart Roofing and Construction’s diligent crew has been preparing the surface of the old roof so it is ready to be covered with the new roof.
Roof construction will continue throughout the summer. Because of this, our summer office hours will be limited and will vary based on the construction schedule, so please call before coming to school.
Meanwhile, our new Building Security System has been installed. The system includes two-way intercoms in each classroom, bullhorn speakers inside and outside the building for fire and tornado alarms, and a remote entry system that will allow us to keep the front doors locked during school hours. As the new school year approaches, we will provide you with more information about how this new system works.
You’ll see a new roof, and we’ll see you, at the end of August!
In order to channel our communities talents for group projects, we have our enrollment contract specify that 20% of service hours (for most families, this is six hours) be fulfilled during scheduled work days.
Spring Garden will have three Work Days this summer in August.
These Summer Work Days will take place in the evenings from 5:30-8:30 PM.
Many hands make light work! You are always welcome to bring additional helping hands to assist in this important work, and their work does count toward your service hours. However, we ask that you not bring children under the age of 10, as we do not provide child care for work days, and most of our tasks are more strenuous than would be appropriate for younger children.
Register Here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0b44aeac2dabfa7-august
Have questions about work days? Check out our Work Day FAQ page HERE.
If you Google, “Summer break with children,” you get two types of search results — a variety of activity lists or articles about the evils of summer’s off. Turns out they call it “summer fade,” which is a one month backslide in learning coupled with an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) for kids.
Many parents counter these issues with a rigorous schedule of summer camps, sport practice and tutoring. While watching television all day with a box of pop tarts is obviously not good, there are some other options beyond a highly structured and scheduled summer.
When planning, or not planning your child’s summer, consider the scientifically proven benefits of boredom, free play and time in nature. These research studies about children and learning support the idea of a summer slowdown.
In a recent BBC news article, Children should be allowed to get bored, Dr Teresa Belton said, “Cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.”
Now couple that reality with studies connecting time in nature with increased learning and emotional capabilities. The positive results of being outdoors for children are vast as seen in this PDF of a decade of Scientific Studies on this topic. Some highlights include:
- “When children engage in authentic play in nature-based outdoor spaces, they develop skills in a variety of domains simultaneously.” – Miller, D.L., Tichota, K,.White, J. (2009).
- “Sullivan has revealed that the symptoms of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are relieved after contact with nature. The greener the setting, the more the relief.” – Taylor, A., Kuo, F. & Sullivan, W. (2001).
- “Children who regularly have positive personal experiences with the natural world show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility.” – Fjortoft, Ingunn (2001).
In addition to the learning benefits to boredom and time in nature, there is also the issue of free play. This article from Parenting Science explores over a decade of studies about the benefits of unstructured play time. The author is careful to note that free play does not mean physcial education classes or sports. Free play is just that. Unstructured play time, which is proven to help math skills, language development, and creative problem solving.
- “Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells.”
- “Psychologist Edward Fisher analyzed 46 published studies of the cognitive benefits of play (Fisher 1999). He found that “sociodramatic play”—what happens when kids pretend together—’results in improved performances in both cognitive-linguistic and social affective domains.'”
And finally, before you schedule a summer of busy stimulation, consider this article and advice from Simplicity Parenting writer Kim John Payne. He says:
“[When Google is hiring they say] ‘we’re less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think.'”
If we rewind to a childhood that makes an adult like that, what do we see? Is it racing around from one prep course to another? From soccer to piano to Mandarin? A childhood on the clock and filling up the gaps with zoning on the iPad and obsessing about making more friends on Facebook?
I don’t think so.
When we really look at what happens for a kid when they slow down, tune in to themselves, take space and get busy in serious play, we can see that what they are learning is how to be create a kind of inner structure that will serve them (and us) well in the world ahead. … Play provides a deep and wide-reaching domain for kids to experiment with the real work of the real world.”