Posts by thewaywardshepherd

Children’s Festival 2015 – A Magical Day

»Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in Just For Fun, School News | 0 comments

by Hazel Emery M.Ed.

CFest5DebThank you to Lerryn Campbell and the many helpers that helped bring the 2015 Children’s Festival to life! We are proud to say that thanks to these efforts, we were able to raise a total of $6,300! $500 will be donated to Project RISE to support homeless children in Akron, and the remaining $5,800 will be used to support professional development for our teachers.

The day was a success by many measures. Many new faces visited our school on this day and enjoyed the magic. We enjoyed entertainment from numerous alumni, including Patrick and Anna Fields, Elle Edwards, and Sarah Caley, who shared their vocal and instrumental talents. We also enjoyed the lovely music of Akron native, Zach. Later in the afternoon, our handwork teacher Caty Petersilge shared her talent on the violin with the crowd. Children were captivated by the magic of the Boat Room and Cookie Fairy, and they enthusiastically enjoyed the jump rope, peg people, and felt pouch crafts. In addition to our regular attractions this year, we also were able to offer yoga demonstrations and hosted tours of the new roof.

ZachWe’d like to express our gratitude to John Fellenstein from the University of Akron for operating the Cartesian Diver Experiment. We’re also grateful to Zach Freidhof and Elizabeth Vild, who brought us the zero-waste project, and we’re proud to note that we were able to welcome over 600 visitors for a six-hour event and create only one bag of trash, with all of the other waste being sorted into compost and recycling. A heartfelt thanks goes to Ed Cote, who once again hosted our free rock stacking activity. And of course we are grateful to the many vendors in the Artists’ Market for supporting our school and sharing their wares with us!

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Waldorf Vs. Mainstream Education Curriculum

»Posted by on Nov 22, 2015 in Curriculum, Research | 2 comments

newgoalWhen parents first come to a Waldorf school from a public school environment, they will notice many differences. These often make broad brush stroke impressions such as: “this school seems art centric, it values nature, limits technology and the children are allowed to play and move a lot.”

Processing the depth of difference in pedagogy can be a little more challenging, so we have written several articles to help further define the differences between mainstream public education and Waldorf education.  

We began with our article A Comparison of Waldorf and Public School, where we visually broke down key elements that differentiate the two pedagogies by looking at the way each approaches early academics, curriculum, classroom environment, teaching methods, social learning, individuality, and relation to society as a whole.

From there, we took a close look at child development, testing, and appropriate curriculum for younger students as we delved in depth into a comparison of Waldorf vs. Mainstream Early Academics — A Two Part Series

Now we look into the differences in philosophy and curriculum in later grades classrooms, Grades 5-12, and isolate some of the more subtle differences in approach. By the time a public school student reaches fifth grade, some of the early testing rigors have subsided. The push to be sure students can read and also achieve the basic math standards is now over. At this point, the children have been measured against initial standards and categorized according to their needs.

This can be great news for many students, as their days now incorporate many different subjects. While the younger grades focused on the three Rs, the upper grades now layer in more subjects — social studies, literature, science, art and music (in districts where funding is available), and many electives. In fact, in some more progressive public schools, the differences between Waldorf and public education can seem to shrink somewhat, but the differences do persist.

What are these differences exactly? We have highlighted, in a quick-reference format, the divergence in curriculum and philosophy below:


Core Pedagogy:

Grade8Public School: Standardization is key. The children must learn things in the same way to achieve consistent, equal, and uniform knowledge. Why? Because both personal and national success means ensuring “our future college and workforce bound” adults have a “common” and “comprehensive” knowledge base.

Waldorf School: Variation is key. The children must learn things in different ways, so that their unique talents and interests can be inspired and developed. Why? Because learning to learn and loving to learn is what ensures success in life. Helping children find that love of learning means they can excel at anything they choose to do.


Defining Success:

Public School: The U.S. Department of Education, when it conducts research, defines success in this way: “Graduating with a desired degree is unquestionably an appropriate indicator of a student’s success.” The Common Core Standards Initiative defines it this way: “that all students have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, Graduationand life upon graduation from high school [with skills] aligned to the expectations of colleges, workforce training programs, and employers… to compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.”

Waldorf School: According to The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, AWSNA, success is: “The development of the well-rounded person. Waldorf Education has as its ideal a person who is knowledgeable about the world and human history and culture, who has many varied practical and artistic abilities, who feels a deep reverence for and communion with the natural world, and who can act with initiative and in freedom in the face of economic and political pressures.” Here at Spring Garden, we strive to “yield graduates with remarkable critical thinking skills, so that they can adapt to a wide variety of situations and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.”



kidtechPublic School: The U.S. Department of Education advocates technology use in the classroom in order to “support thinking, stimulate
motivation, promote equity and prepare students for the future.” However, scientific studies have not supported these
teacher and administrator beliefs. While initial results were hopeful, full implementation and scientific study of these efforts have not shown measurable positive results.

Waldorf School:
While some believe Waldorf schools are anti-technology, that is actually not the case. We simply believe
technology can wait until high school, at which point it can be used as a tool, because research does not agree with the idea that technology is the best way to “support thinking.” Movement, art, music, and note taking by hand, however, are all scientifically proven to better support brain development.  



Public School: If one Googles “science in public school,” the topic at hand is not their approach to curriculum in terms of methodology, but instead their approach in terms of subject matter or a materials approach. Scientific subject matter can be steeped in controversy — a mix of political and religious noise in regards to biology (evolution), earth science (climate change), anatomy, and public health instruction — often influenced by local opinion. The scientific community has concerns about public school science curriculum and instruction. Grade7ScienceRegardless of controversy, the overall methodology in teaching is based in memorization of formulas and rules and then sometimes seeing those bear out in experimentation.   In this way, whole to parts instruction tends to be the norm, which takes much of the natural inquiry and deductive reasoning away from students themselves as they simply learn the reasoning of others.  

Waldorf School: The methodology for science instruction in Waldorf Education is based on observation and Socratic Inquiry. We teach students astronomy, anatomy, physiology, health science, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, environmentalism, and climate. Waldorf teachers begin not by lecturing on rules and formulas, but by showing those rules in action in experiments or the natural world. They then guide students to use Socratic inquiry and observation to help them deeply understand the science within our world. These real world examples and applications are used to then guide students to connect logical parts to the whole, which helps them deeply understand the science within our world.



Pphoto 2ublic School: The approach to math is much like the approach to science, except without the controversy on subject matter. Math is taught through memorization of formulas and processes, then practiced via worksheets and classroom repetition until students pass tests of the skills and the next skill set can be layered.

Waldorf School: Math is taught in a multidisciplinary manner. While younger students are introduced to math concepts through stories, students also experience story problems and practical application in mathematics including cooking, music, geometric drawing, algebra, and mathematics in art.




Public School: Art instruction was standardized in 1994. The Department of Education says, “Knowing and practicing the arts disciplines are fundamental to the healthy development of photo 1 (8)children’s minds and spirits. That is why, in any civilization — ours included — the arts are inseparable from the very meaning of the term ‘education.’” Unfortunately, a 21st-century shift in priorities to test scores and standards has sidelined the arts curriculum in many schools to make more time for testable subjects. Also, arts curriculum (class time, teachers, supplies and facilities) often falls victim to budget cuts.

Waldorf School: While Waldorf schools are not “art schools” by definition, our curriculum is fundamentally artistic. Waldorf students do not have an art class. They have art in every class! The best example of this is the textbook creation done by Waldorf Students. Using what they learn in lecture about literature, history, social studies, science, and math, students create books that incorporate their learnings with their own illustrations. This is in addition to classes in handwork, woodwork, instrumental and choral music, painting, eurythmy, sculpture, and drawing.



Class 2atWorkPublic School: Music is part of the arts, as defined above by public education standards. In most schools, where funding is sufficient, music is an orchestra, band, or choir elective. Students are offered one, or sometimes two, of these electives if they are interested. Music is typically not a requirement for middle and high school students.

Waldorf School: Music, like art, is part of every day and many classes at Waldorf School. Students learn vocal and instrumental songs (via flute and recorder) during Main Lesson time. Choral music is taught throughout school as required. Also required is instruction in stringed instruments starting in fourth grade. By the time students reach high school, they can choose to diversify into playing brass, woodwinds, and percussion, along with their choral instruction.


Literature & Language Arts:

hudsonbayPublic School: According to the Department of Education, language arts “is presented as a personal and practical means of communication, and writing skills …including guiding the child to an understanding of the form of good writing and familiarizing him with proofreading procedures.” Literature instruction is also defined in measurable terms in order to teach “careful use of language, including features such as creative metaphors, well-turned phrases, elegant syntax, rhyme, alliteration, and meter; literary genre (poetry, prose, fiction, or drama); aesthetical reading; and weak implicatures somewhat open in interpretation.”

Waldorf School: Waldorf education takes a much less formulaic approach to the study of language arts, instead approaching and teaching topics in historically rich, art-filled blocks, by grade, in chronological order though history. Grammar lessons become more in-depth in grades 5-8. Our fifth graders study the history, lifestyles, and religions of ancient Indian, Persian and Egyptian cultures. Sixth graders move on to study Roman history and the Medieval time period. Next comes the Reformation and Renaissance for seventh graders and so forth. All of this reading, writing, and teaching is done actively alongside the art, music, and theater of the time to bring depth and life to these great moments in history and literature.



Public School: Physical education is a required class in all years of public schooling. Oftentimes a more general phys ed class may be replaced by participating in a sport or other physically challenging elective, but all students are required to have an active class of some kind each year. The U.S. Department of Education has a well-funded grant program to help schools develop innovative curriculum that “promotes a healthy, active lifestyle.”

Waldorf School: Physical education, eurythmy, recess, and extra lesson movement classes are a mainstay of Waldorf education. We refer to all these subjects under the heading of “movement” instead of, say, “gym class” because the healthy and active lifestyles of our students extends well beyond a set classroom time. While public school fully supports sports and phys ed curriculum, they have not extended the active values to recess, which is essential part of movement curriculum and better academics. In addition to phys ed class, Waldorf students go outside several times a day for unstructured play, learn eurythmy (a type of movement integrated with language arts), and have large motor skill classes to promote sensory movement dominance and midline development.



grade8buddiesPublic School: Behavior and social skills are a consideration for public education, but no formal curriculum recommendations are made at this time for teachers. However, courses and guidelines are offered and special education teachers are well versed in behavioral issues of students. Bullying, however, has been a high priority since the turn of the century, and an active and preemptive approach to bullying education has reduced its prevalence in the last 10 years.

Waldorf School: Instead of targeting social skills or behaviors, Waldorf educators strive for a more holistic social cohesion between classmates, the Main Lesson teacher, and subject teachers. Developing social cohesion is a priority in Waldorf early academics. This can be done, in part because of Waldorf’s one teacher approach to grades K-8, allowing a class to move forward together with the same teacher and classmates year after year. As AWSNA says, this allows “a child to develop the deep human relationship that is the basis for healthy learning.” It also allows the children to bond as a class and learn to appreciate and understand one another on a deeper level, which is integral in learning social skills and learning to work with people long term.


Ultimately, both systems of education seek to serve the children in their care and society as a whole. Choosing which type of education is best for your family will ultimately depend on your values and the values you hope to instill in your children.





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Frequently Asked Questions – Raise the Roof Capital Campaign

»Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in School News | 0 comments

What is this Raise the Roof Capital Campaign all about?

SGWS-RTRcapital_logoRGBA capital campaign is a drive to ensure we have the physical resources for the long-term success of SGWS.  In this case, our campaign is about the roof, which you all know has been leaking for some time.  We have patched it and placed buckets in the hallways, but that is no longer a workable solution.  Not only does the leaking roof impair our ability to provide our children with an outstanding learning environment, but it also impacts enrollment.  It’s imperative we put our best foot forward when prospective families visit, and having them sidestep drips and puddles is not a great first impression.   

We are calling this campaign “Raise the Roof” for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s about putting a new roof on our school.  Second, we are raising the necessary funds to pay for that roof.  And third, the phrase “raise the roof” implies excitement and joy, which is what our school community is all about.


Why the roof and not some other worthy project?

As mentioned, the roof is leaking significantly, and it is critical we address that problem today.  That does not mean we don’t recognize the school has other important needs, and the relationships we are building through this campaign – especially with the charitable foundation community – will be critical in securing support for other projects in the near future.  This roof project is an introduction of SGWS to the local philanthropic community.  It’s also been an introduction to our neighbors, many of whom have swung by the school to see what we’re doing.  Excitement is building, and this will build relationships that will help us with so many of our needs long into the future.


What kind of support have we already received for this project?

The Board of Directors of SGWS were the first to give to this project – and every member made a gift or pledge.  We have received other gifts from organizations and individuals who believe in the work we do and are willing to support it.  Finally, our contractor has been our partner in this project, finding ways to keep costs down and secure resources.  We have been blessed by so many generous offers of help, but we cannot successfully complete this project without the support of our school community.  And your contribution will have a double impact.  Yes, the dollars you give will help pay for the roof, but you will also be sending a message to the philanthropic community that the SGWS family is behind this project.  That kind of endorsement gives us credibility as we seek grant funds.



Can I pledge my gift over a period of time or do you need it all up front?

Annual gifts may be pledged over the period of our school year, and this year’s gift needs to be paid in full by June 30, 2016.  We need these funds during this school year to pay our teachers, provide our children with learning resources, and offer the outstanding educational and enrichment programming that we all have come to expect of SGWS.

Your gift to the roof project can be pledged over a two-year period and will be due in full two years from the date of your pledge.  We have found that donors like this extended payment schedule because it allows them to support this capital improvement project at higher levels than if they had to pay it in full by the end of the school year.

Of course, you are free to pay both your annual and capital campaign gifts all at once as well.


If I commit my support to the roof project and pledge over two years will you still come back to me next year for the Annual Giving Campaign?

Yes, we will.  Remember, the roof project is an investment in the long term sustainability of our school.  The Annual Giving Campaign funds day-to-day operations.  Both are vital to our success.


Can I pledge my support now for more than one year of the Annual Giving Campaign?

Absolutely!  Please call Amy Hecky to work out the details.


How can I pay my gift or pledge?

All of the standard payment methods you’ve been using for payment of your Annual Giving pledge will be available to you for payment of the pledges you make here:  your MCA, a credit card, check, or cash.  For extended pledges, we will send you quarterly reminders so you can see where you stand.


Who do I call if I have questions?

Amy Hecky is your contact and can be reached at or 330-666-0574.



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Raise The Roof — Capital Campaign 2015

»Posted by on Nov 19, 2015 in School News | 0 comments


Our Raise the Roof Capital Campaign, in its second year, is to raise funds to build a gabled, asphalt shingled roof over our leaky flat roof which has outlived its useful life.  We are actually ahead of schedule, thanks in large part to our contractor who has found numerous ways to save us money over the life of the project.  Through a combination of a long-term loan, cost saving strategies, and donations totaling over $60,000 we are nearly 75% toward project completion.  

Thank You! We are in the home stretch, and we still need your help.






More Information about our Capital Campaign – Raise the Roof:

After much research, SGWS Board of Trustees has chosen to replace the flat roof with a gabled, asphalt roof because it is fiscally responsible, allows for additional storage, allows for future upgrades, and improves the aesthetics of the building.  It will also cost us $736,000. SGWS has secured $400,000 through a combination of a loan from FirstMerit and private donations. We are still tasked with raising an additional $336,000. Please note that no dollars raised through the campaign will be used to repay the loan. All donations will be used to complete the project beyond loan funds.

The project is designed to be completed in phases over 4 years. The work is scheduled for summer months so as to avoid any disruption to the academic year:

Phase 1: $200,000-North Wing: complete and paid for summer of 2014
Phase 2: $280,000-West Wing and Center of building; scheduled for summer 2015. Of the total cost, $200,000 is secured, leaving $80,000 o be raised
Phase 3: $120,000-East Wing; scheduled for summer 2016
Phase 4: $136,000-South Wing; scheduled for summer 2017

Donations of $750 or more over the 3 year campaign will have their names placed on a commemorative art piece created by Frank Vargo (woodworking teacher) and Caty Petersilge (handwork teacher). This piece will be permanently located in the lobby at SGWS. Donations of $100 or more will receive a “Raise the Roof” t-shirt.

Through our Raise the Roof campaign, we will be able to better serve the families and students of SGWS as well as the larger community. Thank you for opening your heart and financially supporting this project…together, we can Raise the Roof!

Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions about our Raise the Roof Campaign.



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Why I Give – Annual Giving 2015

»Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in School News | 0 comments

Each year, parents, teachers, trustees, staff, friends, grandparents, and neighbors are able to impact the lives of the students at Spring Garden Waldorf School by contributing to the annual fund. Tax-deductible gifts to the annual fund go directly toward expenses such as teachers’ salaries, facility needs, classroom supplies, and tuition aid. Our Annual Giving theme this year is “Why I Give.”







Here is a letter from our Administrative Team Leader and former SGWS parent, Tracy Edwards:My husband Rich and I, along with our daughters Caroline and Ellie have been members of the SGWS community since 2002. Our entire family has experienced a tremendous educational experience and a warm and giving community where we forged deep, life-long connections.

Today I am writing to you to ask you to support the Annual Giving Campaign.  Each year we ask our community to support the day-to-day operations of our school by making a gift or pledge to the Annual Giving Campaign.  Last year SGWS parents responded enthusiastically by helping us surpass our goal ahead of schedule.  Thank you!

I have spent much time thinking about why someone would give to support the school, and I would like to share with you what the money supports and why I give.  The money raised through this campaign is vital to our daily work; it is a line item in the budget needed for our day–to-day operations.  Truly, we count on your support to balance our budget.  I also give to SGWS for more important reasons that come from my heart:

I give to SGWS because:

  • I believe fundamentally that we are all connected.  
  • Our children are learning that the way they interact in our world matters.
  • I believe this is the education that should be available to all children.
  • I believe these children will make a positive difference in the world.  
  • I see my donation being transformed by the experience these children are having, and in turn they will transform the world.

I encourage you to consider what motivates you to give.  We appreciate your continued commitment to our mission.  Above all, we are asking you to continue that support.  We are also asking you to consider prioritizing a gift over and beyond your annual giving for the next two years to accomplish our goal for the Raise the Roof Capital Campaign.

Click Here to Donate to The Annual Fund:







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