Posts by thewaywardshepherd

What Will You See at Walk Through The Grades?

»Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Curriculum, School News | 0 comments

All are welcome to Spring Garden’s upcoming Walk Through The Grades Day — Wednesday, November 11th, at 9 am.  REGISTER HERE or Email our Admissions Director, Amy Hecky, at

Spring Garden is part of the long­standing Waldorf tradition, drawing attention for what the New York Times calls, “a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands­ on tasks. Waldorf educators strive to implement the right thing at the right time and follow a multi­disciplinary approach to teaching, which is supported by modern­ day scientific research about successful learning.”

Nothing shows the power of this type of education like seeing it in action. Our In Session Class Tours, also known as Walk Through the Grades, provide parents a unique opportunity to see how our teachers employ this innovative approach to education, which gives children the opportunity to learn through a wide variety of experiences, increasing depth of understanding as well as intersecting with individual learning styles.

Early Childhood
People often note the quiet and concentration of our Early Childhood students and their ability to listen carefully to their soft spoken teachers.


Grade 1
Children learn best by doing. Movement is key to teaching math, writing and reading in Primary School children.


Grade 2
Music and art are woven into Main Lesson subjects like reading, writing and math.


Grade 3
Third graders are eager to learn about the world outside of themselves and have the skills they need to concentrate and absorb challenging information.


Grade 4
The Fourth grade day is rich, including special subjects like clay sculpture, gardening and violin on top of regular academic rigor.


Grade 5
On tours of Grade 5 classes and beyond, many parents comment about on the amount of collaboration and vibrant conversation among the teacher and the students.


Grade 6
Spanish, geometry, history, language arts are all taught through engaging and interesting projects. Here is an example of the final result of a Sixth grade geometry lesson.


Grade 7
Our Seventh graders are often encountered in the Science Lab, being led to their own conclusions about experiments taught through Socratic inquiry and interaction.


Grade 8
On any given tour, you may find our oldest students helping their First grade buddies, making a chair in woodworking class, practicing for orchestra, studying algebra, anatomy or physics, or working on a paper for U.S. history.


You will also find, that whatever our students doing, they are not only passionate about it, but engaged with the subject and with one another, and respectful and grateful for their teachers.



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Parent Teacher Relationships

»Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Research | 0 comments


“Can we see the inner radiance, the light that shines within each human being, despite all the shadows dancing around the edges?” – Dr. Torin Finser

The beginning of last week at Spring Garden saw our first set of parent teacher conferences for the school year. The relationships between our teachers and our parents represent the health and warmth of our school community. And, like all relationships, consideration, respect, and commitment to enhance the connection is essential in growing the wellbeing of the personal kinship within the community, the success of our children, and the health of our school.

Hammershus_Castle_2We recently participated in the Parent Enrichment Series webinar on “The Human Encounter: Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Waldorf School Community: A Conversation with Torin M. Finser” presented by AWSNA and the Anthrposophical Society in America. Finser is General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society and Chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England. His discussion focused on school community relationships and specifically parent and teacher relations, using architectural images to represent the social architecture of communities and how they operate.

Finser used the first image of the Hammershus Castle as a representation of traditional “in vs. out” social architecture. Finser noted that we are often “haunted” by old ways of working and must be ever mindful of who, in a given social interaction, might be (or feel) they are “out” vs. “in.” While this does not directly represent the ideal social architecture of a modern Waldorf school, it can apply to relations beyond the teacher and parent and include board and council members, administration, and even cliques of parents.

First_GoetheanumThe second image Finser presented was the first Goetheanum, built 1913-15 by Steiner and others. The wooden structure represents both a newer architectural form and a newer way of understanding social architecture within a community. The building is constructed with two intersecting circles, a smaller inner and larger outer circle that come together to make a third space. The value of the architecture lies within this third intersecting space where those presenting a unique expertise, and those receiving it, come together in a spirit of openness. As an example, Finser discussed a talented musician giving a performance. The musician brings his talents into this third space to have an experience with the audience, and the audience also enters this third space to experience the musician’s expertise. But what matters is that both are sharing a unique moment of openness and engagement. This third space represents a healthy metaphor for parent and teacher communication.

Finser also explored another important aspect of the teacher and parent relationship. Just as the structure and social architecture of a school must be considered, so must the inner dynamics of each person be considered in social interactions. Finser discussed personal gestures, or styles, that influence our communication and asked us to contemplate our own gestures, which are all different and yet all essential. Some of us approach life with a heart gesture, focusing on connection, warmth, and enthusiasm, while others approach life from a kidney gesture, focusing on filtering, organizing, and differentiating the useful. We communicate best when we understand what gesture we bring to relationships and how those around us work as individuals.  

At the end of the webinar, Finser took questions from parents, which included:

How does the biography of a school affect the parent teacher relationship?

He answered: “Just as we know, in child development, how remarkable a 3, 7, 9 or 12 year old is … so also it matters, ever so much, at what stage a school finds itself.

In the early or pioneering stage [of a school], the boundary lines are very indistinct and there are few separations between people. Multiple roles are characteristic of early schools. The parent-teacher relationship in these schools can be amorphous. And one is perhaps mostly a friend with others and that can be warm and lively.

Jumping forward as a school grows, more people are involved and there are procedures and processes. How do we navigate that necessary form and evolution? Even in a mature stage, the parent-teacher relationship can still exude the warmth and joy because you can share attention in smaller cultural events and opportunities to rekindle a pioneering spirit.”


How can parents get the answers they need from those responsible for the school?

“That’s an important question as parents can feel confused or express frustration about not getting answers right away. Schools must attend to orientation. There must be a real opportunity to outline how a school functions.  And there must be questions answered at the beginning.  We must also identify clear pathways for concerns and questions.  

On a more subtle level, one of the reasons questions are not answered can be due to the way questions are asked.  We can all remember examples where an emotional or value assumption is posed as a question.  “Why did you not…” questions.

It would be helpful if our schools attended more to inquiry and advocacy in asking questions and listening to what is at the root of a question…. Very often the person answering has a frame of reference that is different from the questioner. We must learn to discern what’s at the core of the question.”

This insightful webinar was a call for us all to consider inner work and insight as we approach one another in communication and relationships. Parents often seek renewal and strength from their association with a Waldorf school, and all the adults in the school must model the social future that we want for our children.

As Finser said, “We must discover each other with a beginner’s mind, a new openness at our parent teacher conference.” And he encouraged us to remember that the relationship between teachers and parents is “not a matter of technique. It’s a matter of learning to work together in the human encounter.”


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Alumni Thespians in the News

»Posted by on Nov 5, 2015 in Alumni, Just For Fun | 0 comments

thoreau_castThree accomplished SGWS graduates — Sarah Caley, Jerome Hume, and Alec Soudry — are performing this week in the Archbishop Hoban High School Theater Series performance of ‘The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.’

WaldoJerome is playing the part of Waldo, Sarah is Ball, and Alec is the voice of the Minister. The play is based on a true event when Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes.  This incident later provided the basis for Thoreau’s popular essay, “Civil Disobedience.”

The play opened November 4th to a packed house of over 250 people.

You can still see the show, tonight, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. or Saturday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. Both performances will be in the Barry Gym.  Tickets can be bought online  at or at the door.
A heartfelt congratulations to Alec, Jerome and Sarah. Break a leg!

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SGWS Subjects: Orchestra

»Posted by on Oct 15, 2015 in Curriculum | 0 comments

by Emily Rode

Violins1Here at Spring Garden Waldorf School, orchestral musical training is seen as a layering of abilities. What is taught in the early grades is built upon each year, as more and more is expected musically from the students. Children are given regular opportunities to perform their music, at monthly Assemblies and also at Concerts and Festivals.

Grade 3: In Grade 3, we are just beginning our violin adventure. The students will have an instrument to use during our weekly meeting. It will be a few weeks after the school year begins before they actually begin to work with one, but they are always so excited and enthusiastic to begin!

Grade 4: Grade Four brings fraction studies, and fractions bring quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes. Student’s are measured and assigned a violin to use at school. Students work with a combination of imitation exercises to learn notes and rhythm, worksheets, and short pieces. They also work within The Etling String Method Book. Having their own instrument is not required at this time, but if they do, they can practice at home to reinforce the skills learned in class. If students have an instrument at home or want to acquire one, I can help with sizing or questions about supplies, care, and maintenance.  

CellosGrade 5: Grade 5 meets on Tuesday and Friday. Students are ready for short homework assignments, which are given on Tuesday and checked the next Tuesday. They should be practicing at home at least 4 of the 7 days for 10-15 minutes each practice. Those comfortable with the lesson measures or scales assigned, can review past assignments or long bows on open strings to produce a clear tone and be comfortable with the bow.

Grade 6: In Grade Six, children can choose to expand their instrumental repertoire by selecting a different stringed instrument to master beyond the violin. Grade 6 meets on Monday and Tuesday and their practice assignments will be given Monday and checked the following Monday. At this age, five additional minutes should be added to the student’s practicing, which should take place at least 4 of the 7 days each week.

Grades 7 and 8: Our Middle School students are now immersed in the language of music as skills are layered upon all that has been learned before. Students can now begin training on woodwind instruments in the upper grades, if they so choose, or they can continue to master their stringed instrument choices. Orchestra class meets on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Assignments are given each Monday and checked the next Monday. Students should now be practicing 20-30 minutes 4 to 5 days each week.

The benefits of music training, and string instrument training in particular, are vast.  Even if student’s choose not to pursue music long term, we know they will experience the proven neurological benefits, such as accelerated brain cell growth in areas related to executive functioning, including working memory, attention control and organisation.

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Coffee & Conversation

»Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in School News | 0 comments

BGardenThis month’s Coffee and Conversation is “Beauty, Reverence, and Truth: The Higher Purpose of Gardening through the Grades.” Teacher, Edward Grimes, will lead the conversation on Wednesday, October 28 – 9:00 a.m.

We are increasingly in a two-dimensional worldview. Gardening through the grades reveals the simple truth that everything on earth is in relationship and that separation is an illusion. The subject of gardening provides for the student an understanding beyond a “me vs. it/them” worldview. It seeks to cultivate a deeper understanding of the relationships and relatedness in the physical world, the feeling world, and the human heart. As Goethe tells us, “we must love nature. It is in our capacity to love (nature) that she will reveal her secrets.” All the earth and all within it is nature.     

Join us as SGWS teacher Edward Grimes discusses the role of gardening in the Waldorf curriculum.

This event is free and open to the public.  Click here to register.


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